Friday, October 23, 2009

A Happy Occasion

I thought I had nothing to say today, then I went to Shabbat services. It was a packed crowd gathered together to officially recognize Esther as our new rabbi.

The featured speaker was her favorite professor at the Hebrew Union College and one of the foremost rabbis and authors in the Reform movement today, Rabbi Larry Hoffman. He was also our senior rabbi Danny’s professor and mentor and he has been a huge supporter of Temple Micah over the years.

So it’s no surprise that he was the matchmaker between Esther and Temple Micah. He described the choice of Esther as “besheret”, a Hebrew word meaning “meant to be, destiny, soulmate...”

When Esther addressed her new congregation, she actually had everyone stand while she offered a blessing, beautiful English words that formed a heartfelt prayer to God over our recent union.

She also read portions of the following poem, which seemed totally appropriate to the occasion:

To Be of Use by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

As proof of Esther’s point that Temple Micah promotes laughter and levity, the gift from the congregation was a book entitled “Baseball for Dummies”, to try to bring this Canadian up to speed with the passion for baseball that has been a hallmark of the congregation since Danny became our rabbi 25 years ago.


Blogger Steve said...

Didn't she read Marge Piercy before? She must be really into her!

Those last two lines really get me:

"The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real."

That's why my job drives me crazy!

2:42 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- Esther apparently has an insatiable appetite for all manner of literature. She does seem to like Marge Piercy and has found the most appropriate poetry to support whatever point she is making.

I think we're all longing for work that is real. I was so impressed after last night's service that I sent her an e-mail offering my services in whatever capacity she might use them. This is a person who is going to do some meaningful work in her lifetime.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the post, B.

And, I have always been drawn to people who are passionate about whatever it is they do.


5:02 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon -- Hopefully Esther's enthusiasm will be contagious! It's interesting how a new personality on the scene can really stir things up (in a good way).

11:27 PM  
Blogger bulletholes said...

I'm stealing the first 4 lines of that last verse.
Hi Barb!

2:41 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Not only do I want to *be* people like that, I love them, too. Your Esther is great.

7:40 PM  

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