A few weeks ago, the Israeli Rabbinate granted their coveted Rabbinic ordination to several dozen new rabbis. A cousin of mine was among the celebrants and I was very happy for him upon this great achievement. This cousin is an American born charedi learning in Kollel. He kind of defies stereotypical categories – yes it runs in the family – but if you saw him, you would assume he was an idealistic charedi who is living a very simple Israeli lifestyle for the sake of Torah study. And that sort of fits.
When I saw photos of the event, I could not help but notice something remarkable that also defies stereotypes. The people celebrating their ordination that day were from every walk of Orthodox Jewish life. It was uncanny. If you dream up almost any type of Orthodox Judaism, there was a guy from that version of Orthodox Judaism who received semicha that day. Truly, it was as much a celebration of ordination as it was a celebration of the diversity within Orthodox Judaism.
The beauty of a rainbow is found in its vibrant colors. Each color stands out on its own and also bleeds into the next color so that it is impossible to say where one color starts and another ends. But all those colors are just refractions from the same light. That makes it even more beautiful. This ceremony celebrated one light that refracts into many colors and styles too. The light of God, Torah, and Judaism refracted into vibrant Orthodox Jewish communities. It was a beautiful rainbow.
I can think of no message more important and more powerful as we prepare for the High Holidays. Superficially, there are many ways to do Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The packaging is different but the content is the same. The body may appear to be different, but at the soul level, it is all one. The packaging is flexible and malleable. The soul is eternal.
We approach the Days of Awe with an awesome responsibility for ourselves, our families, and each other. Everyone has different favorite colors. Color preferences are like opinions, everybody has them. But the colors themselves cannot bicker and fight about which is the true light. They are all just a sliver of true light. None are the light on their own and the light needs all of them.
Same goes for us.
Mazel tov to the varied recipients of Rabbinic ordination. Mazel tov to my cousin. Mazel tov to all of us. Their celebration is our celebration too.
Here is a small selection of the many photos from that day illustrating this point in living color. Photo Credits: Ministry of Religious Services
Enjoy the photos and see it for yourself. (Click for maximum enjoyment.)
A Remarkable Rainbow of Rabbis http://t.co/opjzUFD9Z6
— Eliyahu Fink (@efink) September 23, 2014