A prayer for graduation

Thank you.

Thank you for this day and the countless days leading up to it. And thank you, in advance, for not making me say goodbye, but rather see you later.

Thank you for all the things we’ve taught one another, most of which are so deeply embedded in our souls that we don’t even know when or how they got there.

Thank you for noticing me beyond the classroom, for assessing me beyond the curriculum, for challenging me to climb to new heights.

Thank you for lighting a fire within me. Thank you for showing me what passion can create. Thank you for shattering my idols, stirring me from complacency, and making my mind race with new ideas and my heart beat to the rhythm of the possible.

Thank you for helping me to see with fresh eyes, to hear with new ears, to experience the invigorating feeling of discovery.

Thank you for showing me all that I am capable of both on my own and when I join my voice to the voice of others.

Thank you for reminding me that my learning is only transformational when I let it transform me and use it to transform the world around me. Thank you for allowing me to grow, setting me free, and creating a space where I can flourish and blossom.

We are all teachers. We are all students. Life is our classroom, our curriculum, our most enduring understanding, and our essential question.

Amen.

A Wedding and A Funeral

In the last week and change I’ve…

…attended a conference in New York

… co-officiated my youngest brother’s wedding in Los Angeles with my wife, also a rabbi

…watched my daughter walk down the aisle as flower girl

… spent quality time with family that I rarely get to see including cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, parents, and grandparents

…spent time in the recording studio working on an album of original Jewish music

… had the worst case of food poisoning I can remember

… and attended a funeral of a colleague who lost her mother.

Weeks like these have a way of opening our hearts. Conferences remind us how much learning there still is to be done. Food poisoning makes us appreciate health! Creating and recording original music nourishes the soul. Spending time with family helps ground us. And life cycle events bring the past, present, and future into conversation, reminding us how much we all share as human beings.

Most people won’t ever know the feeling of officiating at their youngest brother’s wedding. It’s a profound privilege and deeply moving. To know that he’s found his life partner is really a joy.

I’ve attended a number of funerals in my life but something happened at this funeral that I’ve never experienced. The eulogy was delivered by the deceased’s grandson. And it was delivered entirely in Spanish.

I don’t speak Spanish. But even without speaking the language I felt like I knew exactly what was being said, or at least what emotions were being conveyed. A number of people around me also don’t speak Spanish and many of them were crying along with the bereaved. How can a eulogy in a language I don’t speak for a woman I didn’t know be so powerful and stirring?

On the plane back from Los Angeles I watched “Dallas Buyers Club.” I wasn’t prepared for the power of the narrative– the story of a man, who when faced with death, decided to reject the premise of his diagnosis and live out the rest of his days to the fullest of his being. The lead character was a complicated individual to say the least, but at the end of the day his humanity and his desire to live a meaningful life are the enduring legacy I took from the film. How often do we connect to our purpose(s) as human beings? How often do we look ourselves in the mirror and ask whether we living meaningful, purposeful lives? Do we speak in these terms to others? Do we help others in their quests to live meaningful lives?

In the rabbi’s eulogy he shared a few of the lessons we could all learn from the life and example of the deceased. Honoring tradition, overcoming obstacles and having grit, and others. What are the lessons that others will learn from us?