Today, on the bimah of the synagogue where I am a rabbi, I stood beside the other rabbi and the cantor and formally welcomed 10 new wonderful souls into the Jewish people. As I offered them blessings, and heard their pledge to take on the Jewish religion, and officially gave them their Hebrew names, and handed them the Torah to hold in their arms to take as their own, I had the pleasure of seeing the looks on their faces as they entered this final moment of the process of their conversions.
I was struck by the love that I saw there–for the tradition, for the process, for Judaism, for the Jewish people, for Torah, for each other, for the community that surrounded them, for this moment at which it all became official for them.
And I remembered that moment when I stood on a different bimah and received blessings, took on a new role within the Jewish religion, received an additional title as part of my Hebrew name, having recently been handed the Torah to hold in my arms. And I remembered the feelings of love that I felt in that moment.
And I had a moment of realizing that the feelings on the receiving end can be just as powerful as what is felt on the part of the one offering blessing, It brought me back to this moment:
And this one, the year before:
And I thought about all those who helped me arrive at those moments, the teachers (of all sorts) from whom I learned:
And the folks with whom I got to share it all:
And as I looked back, I wondered what these guys were laughing about:
And I smiled.
And I realized that it’s only from real relationship that such moments can happen.
And I realized that even now, years later, it’s the people with whom we are standing that make all the difference, on either side of the open ark.
The teachers, the students, the friends, the classmates, the family, the community, the leaders, and perhaps even The Divine.
They are the ones that make the blessings a reality and they do it out of love. And they help to empower us to feel love, as we are embraced by the blessing, and as we pass the blessings on to another.