I watched the rabbi at my grandmother’s funeral deftly move the crowd with his words, and facilitate the ceremony. Last night, I watched the six rabbis of Temple Israel navigate two celebrating families through a Shabbat bar mitzvah service.
Rabbis are with people at their highest and lowest moments of life. They celebrate the ordinary in extraordinary ways. They bring inspiration to the diurnal, elevation to the bored. They are the people who put meaning into life.
Clergy of all colors and stripes do this. My whole life, I’ve been fascinated by those who lead us spiritually. While I never aspired to be a politician (except for a brief childhood stint when I believed I would be elected the first female Jewish President), I have long pondered the possibility of becoming a spiritual leader.
The idea of writing and delivering a sermon weekly excites the hell out of me. (Oops – I’d have to cleanse my language to fill this role!) The image of slowly, deliberately deconstructing text with people, holding their hand through the words of their faith, thrills me.
Sitting bedside with a sick person, reciting blessings over every moment, answering questions about Why? and What for? – all of that sounds incredible.
In fact, when I was 22 and living in New York City, I met with the dean of admissions at Hebrew Union College, to see if I might enter rabbinical school. After a long discussion, we both decided it wasn’t quite time for me to do so.
Then I got off that path and rode the train through a decade of religious life, trying on new roles and discarding each one until I ended up here: interfaith junction.
I am wholly, completely, lovingly Jewish. No question about that.
I also have a huge reverence and respect for all of the world’s religions. I love the way people find meaning and honor the moments. I am intrigued by celebrations and rituals and recipes and blessings. We all have them. We just do them slightly differently.
But even in the way we simply observe, we are linked.
So here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to become some sort of spiritual leader and speak from the pulpit, hold hands in the darkest hour, raise hands in the brightest moments. There’s just one little problem: I can’t confine myself to a single religion.
You may think that sounds wimpy, but hear me out. I can’t just say, I’ll become a rabbi, because I believe in everything. Yes, I believe GOD is everywhere, in all traditions, and that we are so incredibly the same. I want to build bridges and inspire others to do so – not build walls.
I also don’t want to be the type of spiritual leader who can tell people you must do this or you can’t do that. I don’t care if you fast on Yom Kippur or if you give up something during Lent. That’s between you and your higher power. It’s not for me to say.
What I can provide, then, is a time and place and open door into inspiration. Lead you to the text. Only you can read it.
And show you how so many different texts are beautiful and inspiring and guiding lights. And reassure you that it’s ok to believe in many things at the same time. It doesn’t make you a “bad Jew” or a “bad Christian” or a bad anything. It makes you human, with a big, big heart.
So what’s that called? It’s not Rabbi. It’s not Minister. It’s not Imam. What is it?
My own brand (big surprise!) of leadership. Hmmm… Not sure where I’ll end up, but I know I’m on the path to something Big. Let’s see where we land. Stay tuned.