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I wanted an outside view of the service on Friday night, and asked Eva to write a guest post about it. She, instead, focused on me. So, without further ado, here it is:
Normally I leave my thoughts in the comments section where they really belong, but this time I took advantage of David’s exhaustion to hijack his actual blog. The occasion is two-fold. The first is that David and I celebrated 10 years together. The second is that David just finished his first post-rabbinical school stint at a congregation. The combination has led me to reflect on the evolution of David into the person he is today.
I first met David in 1989 when he was a young, immature, and very argumentative freshman. We reconnected in 1998 when he had matured considerably (although he remains argumentative—which is alternatively both one of his strengths as well as a weakness). At that point in time he was heading off to rabbinical school and while I knew he had the intellectual chops to thrive, I did wonder a bit about how well he would connect with congregants.
At the end of David’s first year of rabbinical school I attended the school’s graduation ceremony and was incredibly impressed with the rabbis who were graduating. I assumed it was an exemplary class and left it at that. But I was wrong. Over the course of 5 graduations, I learned that rabbinical school was a transformational experience and that rabbinical school somehow turned people into rabbis.
By the time David reached his final year of rabbinical school, he too had gone through an impressive transformation. Part of it was through trial-by-fire with his student congregations, part of it was the self-reflection and personal development he gained through his education. By the time of his ordination, David was a rabbi for all intents and purposes. Well, except to himself.
When David graduated from rabbinical school, the congregational opportunities were pretty slim and we were really homesick for Portland. So we made the choice to return home with David picking up weddings, funerals and other life-cycle events as opportunities arose. David went through the identity crisis that every recent rabbinical graduate seems to go through, but he had the added challenge of being a freelance rabbi and therefore lacked the inherent validation that comes from being a congregation rabbi.
Fast forward 2 years. David was offered an opportunity to serve as interim rabbi for a congregation in Salem. He had already done some sub work for them previously and had liked them as a congregation, so he eagerly accepted the position. The position was fraught with challenges. David was facing a 55 mile commute to Salem (each way) 2-5 days a week, we had just started a business together and our schedules were now completely opposite each other.
Not too long after he started his new position, it became very clear that he had made the right decision. He would often come home and tell me about great conversations he had had or the progress of one of his students or even how a challenging meeting had reached a reasonable conclusion. When I made the (all too infrequent) trip to Salem with David, everyone was eager to tell me how much they loved having David as their rabbi and I enjoyed getting to respond that the feeling was mutual.
Unlike rabbinical school where I was able to attend David’s services regularly, I rarely made it to Salem because I was either completely exhausted and/or working. That made David’s farewell service all the more remarkable because this time I had missed the transformational process. What I saw on Friday night was that David had truly become a rabbi. At his ordination he had become a rabbi because the dean of the college said so. Over the past year David has become a rabbi because he can now recognize that is who he is. And there is a world of difference between the two.
I have watched David grow through three very challenging transitional periods in his life. He has used each one as an opportunity to grow and build on his strengths and try to address some of his weaknesses. You might say that given my love for David I am giving you a biased perspective.Given the tears on Friday night (both from David as well as many of his congregants), David’s transformational experience has been meaningful for everyone involved.