I received my rabbinical ordination (s'micha) on Sunday, 3 July 2022 / 4 Tamuz 5782. My Presenters were Rabbi Jeremy Gordon & Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers. I was ordained by Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh.
This was my address.
I was raised by loving parents in a small shtetl called Hendon.
My childhood home was a beacon of Jewish practice and my formative years bathed in the glow of the richness of Jewish ritual and theology.
However, around the time of my Bar Mitzvah - my Jewish coming of age - I began to find the former cumbersome and the latter archaic and dogmatic.
I might never have re-immersed myself in Jewish life had it not been for one other vitally important thing ever present in my life - chesed.
Sometimes English speaking Jews translate chesed as kindness, but this does not do justice to our tradition.
The Hebrew root for chesed - ח-ס-ד - appears in the Tanakh (The Jewish Bible) around 250 times and these can be translated in almost as many ways!
However all Biblical uses of chesed have one thing in common - they always express a deep-rooted, ethically binding relationship between two groups.
To be human is to be connected to each and every person.
In Judaism rules and regulations are the practical expression of chesed.
And therein lies another tension - between chesed and Jewish law & ritual (i.e. mishpatim & chukim).
As has been well observed, our challenge is to find a successful balance between personal autonomy (anarchy) and adherence to the Covenant (orthodoxy).
Whilst rules and regulations are essential for society’s functioning it is primarily chesed that is needed in order for individuals and communities to thrive.
Chesed is a form of supportiveness demonstrated in community, good friends, and a loving family; for sure, one may be able to exist physically without these forms of relationship, but what type of existence would that be?
I have been fortunate enough to be born into a family filled with chesed - strong relationships based on ‘loving-covenantal-kindness’.
Over the last 5 years my teachers and colleagues at Leo Beack, in particular the gang of 2022, have likewise been an immense source of spiritual nourishment.
Of course, I must thank my wife Robin, and our children Aviva and Ora, for helping me to be a kinder person and, in-turn, a better Rabbi.
The Divine spark lives within each and every person - those with whom we have much in common and those with whom we (initially) find little that connects us.
As I step out of the Beit Midrash and into the Beit Knesset it is my hope that I will continue the legacy of my peers and family through continuing to practise a Judaism that is firmly rooted in chesed - reaching out and making meaningful connections with others.