William Shakespeare wrote: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. So why do we need to have an induction for a rabbi? Why call him rabbi at all, wouldn’t he or she teach Torah, give sermons, perform ceremonies exactly in the same way if it would be “just Mijael”? I think it is not so.
A Jew becomes a Rabbi when he receives smicha, a rabbinical ordination. In my case, I got my smicha from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem after my teachers were satisfied that I have mastered enough the basic sources of Jewish knowledge in order to join them as a colleague. This happened on the 30th of November 2010, a week after my wedding to Raya. It was a very meaningful day in my life, one that I carry always with me.
I believe, however, that there is another kind of smicha, an older one and one more difficult to obtain. That’s the smicha that happens when the members of your congregation accept you as their rabbi, when they go from referring to you as “the rabbi” to call you “my rabbi”. You, the members of the community, you are the ones that make us your rabbi when you open your soul to us and enable us to care for it. When you share your happy and sad moments in life, when you connect with us and share your dreams and wishes for your Jewish life, for the Jewish life of your family. This kind of smicha you don’t earn in one ceremony, it is a process that takes time. I know that some of you have already give me this smicha, I know that many of you haven’t yet and I hope to be worthy of your trust, I hope to be worthy of being your rabbi.
When I look behind, 10 years, maybe even 5, I think I would have never believed someday I would be living in the UK, working as a rabbi in a British community. I always had an interest for England and especially for London, as a place that has been so central in the history of the World. I hope it will be as meaningful for our personal history as a family as well. At this point, I want to thank the Search Committee, headed by Neil Kaufman, who chose us to lead EMS. Neil, congratulations on an excellent choice… well, I hope so. I believe the match between a community and a Rabbi is like a shidduch, a marital engagement. It is hard to find the correct rabbi for a congregation as it is to find the right man for a woman, or the perfect woman for a man. But then, as we know, there is no such a thing as a perfect marriage, so there is no such a thing as a perfect rabbi for a congregation. Like building a successful marriage requires hard work, patience, humility and especially love, it is the same to build the relationship between a community and its rabbi.
And if we are talking about love. I have met many communities during my life and there is always something that binds them. I have seem communities bound by tradition and some bound by pride. I have seen communities bound by opposition to other communities and some bound by determination not to close. I have seen communities bound by hope and some bound by the memory of the Shoah, the Holocaust. I believe all these binding materials are important, none of them is enough. A community, to be truly a kehila kedoshah, a holy congregation, has to be bound by love. Actually three loves:
Love to G-d, as we learn from the Shema Israel “love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength”. Loving G-d to me means loving every human being, created on His image. Loving G-d means loving his Torah as the path that the people of Israel has received and developed to live meaningful lives. As Masorti Jews we don’t believe the Torah is only the voice of G-d, but as Rabbi Louis Jacobs taught us: “We hear the authentic voice of G-d speaking to us through the pages of the Bible
[…] and its message is in no way affected in that we can only hear that voice through the medium of human beings”.
Love to our neighbour, as we learn from Vayikra, Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as your love yourself”. This is the true meaning of community in my eyes, from the smallest community in our lives, that’s our families, where we are commanded to love each other and help each other to be always better in life. Through the community of faith, in this case EMS, where we must learn to love each other, not despite who we are, but for who we are. To invite each other to our homes, to be there in times of happiness and times of sorrow. To share together the sanctuaries in times that are the Shabbat and our Holidays.
The third and last love is veaavta et hager, your will love the stranger. Last, but not least important, this is about the larger community of Edgware and beyond, where we must be active members, bringing our specific views as Masorti Jews to the rainbow of faiths and communities in our neighbourhood. I want to take advantage of this opportunity to thank our brothers and sisters from other faiths or denominations that have come to share with us this important moment to us. I invite all of you, as well as the elected representatives headed by our Mayor, to find places to work together, to make our neighbourhood and our Borough a better place. To show that people of faith can bring love and healing and not as we sometimes see in the news where religion is presented as a source for violence and hate. We are all sons and daughters of the living G-d and our faith can bring light to a dark World. Let’s do it together.
To finish I would like to address specifically the members of my faith community, Edgware Masorti Synagogue. I need your help, I cannot do justice to this wonderful community without you. So I would like to present to you the three “P” of how I, a member of EMS, can help Rabbi Mijael:
Prayer. I hope you pray regularly as part of your personal relationship with G-d, but now I want to ask you to pray for us, for me and Raya… ok for Hallel too. I want you to pray and ask G-d to help us, to guide us, to protect us, so we can be the best we can for Edgware Masorti. This is a prayer you won’t find in the Siddur, but it is a much needed one.
Patience. We are flawed people, we have defects, you only have to ask my wife… we will do mistakes, we will make bad choices, sometimes we will be slower that you would like in making the right choices. I ask for your patience, for your understanding that we are all in the same side and we all want the best for the community. Come to us, talk with us, let us know your mind. Mistakes can be fixed, but have to be known first. Our ancestors took 40 years to get to the Promised Land, I am not asking that much patience, but good things require time.
And last Participation. Everything we do, myself, Raya, the volunteers of the Shul, we all do it for you. We organize youth events for your children and grandchildren. We organize social activities for you. We organize Adult education for you, so you can learn and engage in Jewish knowledge. If you are not here, then there is not purpose to anything we do. An active community is a living one and WE WANT TO LIVE!
Prayer. Patience. Participations. Three “P” that can and will make a big difference for our community and what I as a rabbi am able to do for you.
I want to thank all of you for coming today. I want to thank the past and current leadership of the community, as well as all the members, for the trust you place upon me and my wife. For giving as the legitimacy of feeling that we have your mandate to work and improve your community, to take care of the spiritual life of you and your family. Thank you for letting me be your teacher, your pastor, your spiritual guide and specially, your friend.
Thank you very much and Shanah Tovah, may we all have a blessed year!