Thursday, June 26, 2008

A week in the life of a rabbi....

Wow - this has been a crazy, busy week for me. I have barely had a chance to slow down, and I am really looking forward to some free time this weekend.

Since last weekend, I have officiated at just about every Jewish lifecycle event possible. What did I do?

Last Saturday - I officiated at a baby naming ceremony. We held this ritual during our usual Shabbat morning service. I invited the parents up for an aliyah, the honor of blessing the reading of the Torah portion. They recited the blessings before and after my short reading from the week's Torah portion, and then we transitioned into the baby naming ritual. I began with a short introductory reading, then the parents read a list of attributes that they wish for their one year old daughter. I then announced her new Hebrew name in front of the congregation. Everyone wished the family a BIG mazel tov!!

Sunday - I officiated at an unveiling ceremony. This ritual usually takes place about a year after the death of a loved one. Judaism identifies a few stages to our mourning: Shiva, the first seven days following burial; shloshim, the first thirty days following burial; and then the unveiling. The unveiling involves literally uncovering the permanent headstone that will mark the grave. Seeing this tangible proof of a loved one's death is often difficult, but can also provide a sense of closure following the first year of mourning.

Monday - I officiated at a conversion ceremony. I had worked with this gentleman for the last year; I was his guide in his journey towards Judaism. He reached a point of feeling Jewish, inside and out, and was ready to make it official. I convened a Beit Din - a "house of justice" - which was two other Jewish clergy and me. The three of us asked him questions about his journey, encouraging him to reflect on different points of the process. Then we witnessed his immersion in the mikveh, the ritual bath that provides the purification and rebirth into a Jewish life. It was a beautiful morning - inspirational to all of us!

Tuesday - I officiated at a funeral. Luckily, it was for a 99 1/2 year old woman who had a long, full life. These are the least upsetting funerals to perform. Yes, there is certainly a sense of loss, but there is also celebration of a life well-lived. The family and friends present honored her memory with wonderful stories and remembrances. It was a very moving experience.

Wednesday - I led a lunchtime Bible Study group. This group is working its way through the Books of the Prophets in the Hebrew bible, and is currently in I Samuel. We discussed the kingship of Saul, and why he is often thought of in such a negative manner. A very exciting, lively group!

Thursday - my day off. Thank God.

Friday - time to get ready for Shabbat. I truly love Shabbat, but, as a rabbi, it is not quite the day of rest that it is for everyone else. It is more important, I believe, that I am helping to facilitate the sabbath for the congregation. I will be leading the service with our cantor and also giving a sermon. Not sure yet what I will preach about....hmmm......

Saturday - I get to sleep late this weekend (thank goodness for the summer schedule!). Yet, on Saturday night, I will be officiating at a wedding. I love seeing the love sparkle in the eyes of the bride and groom.

Well, as you can see, it has indeed been a full week. I have had almost every single lifecycle event from birth to death in just 8 days. But, boy, does it keep things in perspective! So much to live for, so much to celebrate, so much love to share with others.


ZILLA said...

This was interesting, Marci. I enjoyed reading about your duties and your feelings about them.

I'm wondering after reading the paragraph about the unveiling ceremony, whether, in Judaism, cremation is forbidden? And if it is forbidden, what are the reasons?

I mean this question to be in no way challenging to your faith; I'm simply interested because I don't know the rules.

How wonderful for you, to be so intimately involved in every aspect of the lives of the people you serve.

I also have another question which you may or may not be able to shed a little light on. It might be better if I ask via email. Would that be okay with you? It has to do with the Jewish rite of purification before marriage, which I don't even know is in practice in modern times.

Lindsay said...

Very few people in the world are forced to think of every single stage of life within one week. From birth to death and beyond...

It is a strong individual who can put things in perspective and fully appreciate each event.

Sarene said...

Is there anything you cannot do? My goodness, you're Batwoman!


Phyllis Sommer said...

great post. i both love and dread those kind of weeks....i love when it all comes together and i get to share each part of the lifecycle all at once...and yet it's so exhausting! thank heavens for that day off:-)

i beati said...

This and the fact you are off painkiller is soooo uplifting