Posted in Rabbinical School

The Big Day

I’m no longer a rabbinical student!

After 5 years, I am now allowed to call myself rabbi. After thinking that such a thing was never possible, it is now real!

It was not easy and there were a lot of tears that came with these past years. A lot of fighting. Of standing up for myself and others. Of finding ways to push myself and prove that I am able to do this job. Of being broken, really broken, and finding ways to slowly put myself back together again- maybe into something else. I am no longer the same person I was (although I do hope to get back some of my old optimism and drive).

Even though this was not mentioned at the chag hasmicha, one of the things I am proudest of is being able to study at a high level in Hebrew. I was able to learn and interact with the text in their original language. I was able to write exams in Hebrew, and still be able to pass. My teacher saw me as someone who was smart and capable.

I was seen even as a student as one who can be a halachic decider. I was encouraged to take my skills and think through problems, and give my own answers. I learned from my teachers not only to look at the law but to also look at the person, to look at the situation. I know that my drive is to be lenient, but I have been able to prove why those leniencys  are legitimate.

The Chag Hasmicha was beautiful and full of joy. There were 400 people that attended in person and an unknown amount that attended virtually. The room was buzzing and just excited to be there. All the anxiety that I had going into it left. Each of us graduates spoke, each in our own voices.

I had so many friends that were there. My friends were finally able to meet one another. I had teachers there. My family was there. I had students there. I did feel like certain people were missing, but I knew that they would not be able to attend as they were so far away.

I’m still in shock that this actually happened. And now I have the summer to explore NY. I have nothing really planned until I start my job at the hospital (minus finding a new apartment).

One of the rabbis who spoke gave one word per person- my word was vision (or visionary. He added after the ceremony that other words he thought of were confident and poised). After so long of hearing what I wasn’t good at, it was interesting to hear this very positive and strong qualities being called out in front of others. That it is not just myself who notices my confidence, that it is something that comes through. And that he and others see my vision- which I really hope I never lose.

I really do hope that all of the pain and hurt lead to something positive. I hope that I don’t fully loose my hope, ambition, vision or drive. I hope that I don’t lose my love and ability to work with the law.

I’m still a bit overwhelmed, and it is weird to be going around with this newness about me. I both want it to change me and I still want to be me. But for now I’m just going to see what happens.

Here is my speech:

In a bracha that I wrote for last year’s musmachot, I said “none of us got here by chance or because it was expected of us. We are here because we felt the desire or the need or the compulsion to do this with our lives, even if when we were children it was not a possibility. “  

Each of us here today felt the need to fill this role. We pursued our studies of Torah, despite all who said we can’t and shouldn’t. We chose to be pioneers, going into unknown, potentially dangerous territory, knowing that we will forever be creators and innovators. We follow in the paths of the “firsts” who came before us, those who chose to defy what is expected of them, those who were strong enough to ask why not, those who also were blessed with support from their family and friends.

Recently I completed the tractate of Baba Batra. I wanted the completion of a mesechet to coincide with my receiving of smicha. Today I am both marking the completion of my formal studies and committing to continuing my studies.In the text of the siyum, we say:

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אלקי, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁעֲזַרֽתַּנִי לְסַיֵים מַסֶּכֶת _____, כֵּן תּֽעַזְרֵנִי לְהַתְחִיל מְסֶכְתוֹת וּסֽפָרִים אַחֵרים וּלְסַיֵימָם, לִלְמֹד וּלְלַמֵּד, לִשְׁמֹר וְלַעֲשׂוֹת וּלְקַיֵּם אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי תַלְמוּד תּוֹרָתְךָ בְּאַהֲבָה

We, thank God for helping us complete the tractate, and in the same breath we ask God to help us “to start other tractates and books, and to complete them, to learn and to teach, to observe and to enact and to fulfill all the words of the teachings of your Torah with love.”

So this afternoon, I say to God, thank You for helping me complete these years of study, and may this not be the end of my Torah learning. May You help each of us start new books, forge new paths, begin new jobs, and dream up new dreams, so that we will be able to complete, learn, teach, enact and fulfill all the words of the teaching of Your Torah with love.

My thoughts I shared on Facebook:

OMG (I can’t think of something better to start with) I’m a Rabbi!!
Way back when in college people would joke (mostly seriously) that I should become a rabbi. I always said that it wasn’t possible, and everyone would tell me don’t worry, you’ll find a way. Well here I am, 9 years after graduating college celebrating receiving smicha. [According to my father, in my 8th grade year book they said that I would be a rabbi- I don’t remember this though, I’ll have to go into the storage unit and check].
Even at this hour, I am still in shock and awe that today happened. The ceremony was beautiful and full of joy. I am so happy and lucky to have sat on the bima with such amazing women, and now join the women who have come before me, who will continue to do great work in the world.
There are so many people that I feel I need to thank (sorry if it is a bit rambly). Thank you to my parents who encouraged me to dream big and to try- even when it doesn’t exist. Who encouraged me to learn and engage in Torah, even if it wasn’t the norm. Who were the first ones to seriously suggest that I pursue such a path. Thank you to my siblings who put up (mostly) with my craziness and the craziness that comes along with having a sibling that “everyone knows”.
Thank you to my teachers- even those from way back in elementary school who taught be and showed me how to love Torah and learning. Thank you to those who pushed me and challenged me to try harder, to think more, to ask questions. Thank you to those who started me out on this path of smicha and those teachers who I was able to learn from, in the last few months. Thank you to the many chevrutot throughout the years- I know I would not think the way I do now if it wasn’t for learning from you.
Thank you to everyone who came in person today. It was amazing to see so many people from so many different parts of my life. [it was also the first time some of my closest friends from these different parts of life met each other, which is also crazy and cool].
I had a high school teacher there [who reminded me, that he said he taught us that in our life time we would see women receiving smicha) and a teacher from college. Friends from almost every place I have been since middle school, there were people from middle school, high school, college, Pardes, Australia, Midreshet Lindenbaum, Israel- and probably people I am forgetting.)
Thank you to everyone who sat by their computer and watched a live stream of the ceremony (or at least tried to). I know that you wanted to be there in person, and it means so much to me that you took out part of your day (or even the middle of the night) to celebrate with me [also, thank God for the internet].
Thank you for all of the amazing brachot, well wishes and support that keep on coming through on Facebook, email, text and calls. Thank you being with me during these past 5 (or 7) years of intense study to do this crazy thing. I don’t think I can ever express how thankful I am and how lucky I know I am, to have so many people, all around the world, from so many parts of my life- supporting me, encouraging me, and just being my friend.
As I said this afternoon, “I say to God, thank You for helping me complete these years of study, and may this not be the end of my Torah learning. May You help each of us start new books, forge new paths, begin new jobs, and dream new dreams, so that we will be able to complete, learn, teach, enact and fulfill all the words of the teaching of Your Torah with love.” May whatever is next only be for good.

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Author:

I'm not always the greatest at sharing what is in my head. Here is a place that I am experimenting with sharing my ideas and thoughts. They are about my life, my experiences in becoming a rabbi, things that I see going on around me, and sometimes words of Torah.

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