by Rabbi Shefa Gold
On May 23rd, I was to receive an honorary doctorate from RRC, marking my 25 years as a rabbi. Many of my colleagues joke about this and say that D.D. (this Doctor of Divinity) really stands for “didn’t die.” And yes, I am happy to be alive to see this moment. I wanted to take it seriously, though, and see this moment as an opportunity to honor the WORK that has emerged through me over these last 25 years.
When the scheduled ceremony was cancelled, I realized that I did indeed need a ritual. I am experiencing an important inner shift, stepping into the void that leads (god-willing) to something new.
I felt that it is a good time to look back at these last 25 years, with the support of my friends, students and colleagues, so that I can learn from this journey, be humbled by it, and step forward.
If you know me, you know that this was not easy for me to do. You know I’d rather do this for others. I was feeling very emotional, vulnerable, yet certain that I must ask for help and mark this moment with a ritual.
Many years ago, a spirit who called himself, “The Spirit of the Work,” came to me, and I gave him my loyalty, my pledge to believe in the possibility that however small my contribution was to the transformation of my world, I would give it my all. The glimpses of Oneness that I have received have come to me with the responsibility of living and creating from that Oneness.
On June 19th we began the ritual with these words from the Song of Songs that celebrate Unity consciousness:
אַחַ֥ת הִיא֙ יוֹנָתִ֣י תַמָּתִ֔י אַחַ֥ת הִיא֙ לְאִמָּ֔הּ בָּרָ֥ה הִ֖יא לְיֽוֹלַדְתָּ֑הּ
Achat hi yonati tamati, achat hi l’imah bara hi l’yola’d’tah,
One alone is my dove, my perfect one,
One alone so luminous in her mother’s heart. (S.of S. 6:9)
I had gathered a minyan of my neighbors to join me along with many of my students and colleagues on Zoom. We chanted, entered a delicious moment of silence and then I said:
“As I celebrate this milestone of 25 years since my graduation from RRC and my smicha from Reb Zalman, I wanted to pause in sacred space with you my beloved friends, to reflect on the journey and give thanks for what has emerged through this Mishkan that we have built together.
This body of work that I draw on every day and then build upon, has emerged in the space between us. The work emerges out of my love for you and out of our commitment to the ‘One alone so luminous in her mother’s heart.’
We gather to pause in gratefulness, and acknowledge a miracle that is flowing. I already feel well-appreciated. I am in the process of healing the old places in me that have felt misunderstood and marginalized. With your encouragement I can step beyond some of my neurotic patterns of worry, hustle, and scheming that come from “survival brain” and step into a celebration of the miracle of flow, with grace, relaxed confidence and heart supported.”
Then, I handed the ritual over to Rabbi Phyllis Berman, who artfully and gracefully called on ten people (including herself) who each expressed some aspects of the WORK and its impact.
You can check out the ritual here if you’d like.
I was left breathless, inspired, embraced and filled with grateful awe for the community of Jewish Renewal that has inspired, held, birthed and received this amazing WORK.
May we all continue to serve God with joy and outrageous courage, leaning into friendship and loving support.