I have been asked by several people why I am going to Rabbinical School. It's a long answer, so I'll try to make it as short as possible. Basically, it goes all the way back to 1985, when I was 8 years old. I was hit by a car while waiting for the bus. There were about 20 kids at my busstop, and seven of the Moms were nurses. In the history of the stop until that point, none of the parents had stayed at the busstop. But, on that day, all of those nurses stayed at the busstop, and kept me alive until the ambulance arrived. Weeks later, the doctors told my parents I shouldn't have survived as the injuries were so severe. Those moms kept me alive. With over 180 stitches in my head and a broken left femur, I was in intensive care for 2 weeks. I also lost 4 pints of blood, and was in a coma for 4 days. So, let's fast forward a few years when I was 15, and was introduced to the director of admissions at Hebrew Union College as my Rabbi's successor. I think that was then when I really began to seriously think about becoming a Rabbi.
But, I had to think about why, why a Rabbi. I began to think about my life, and all of the things that had happened. It came to me one day. I was reading the story of Jacob when we fled his brother Esau, afraid for his life. He stopped for the night, and slept, laying his head on a rock. When he awoke the next morning, he realized that God had been in that place, and it was a holy place. He promised his life to God if he stayed with him and protected him. So, that's it. God kept me alive that day for a reason. I have thought long and hard about that reason. I faithfully believe that my life journey to first become a Rabbinical student, and now to start the process of becoming a Rabbi is my calling. I pledge myself to the Jewish people, to continue to learn and study all that I can to give back to the Jewish people and all people for as long as I am alive.
Science shows that people who are in a coma for up to 4 hours can lose great amounts of their memory. I was in a coma for 4 days. While I did lose almost all of my episodic memory (situations in my life), I retained all of my semantic memory (knowledge). This is something else I have to be thankful for.
I will end in two ways. First, although my relationship with my mother wasn't always perfect, I am sure she is in heaven looking down on me and proud of my accomplishments in life--my beautiful wife, daughter, and my journey to become a Rabbi. It might have taken my mom dieing to kick me into gear to finally start this journey. Who knows? But, I think of her often and every day. I hope I can continue to make her proud.
Second, I was asked to write a personal version of Tefillat Ha'Derek---the traveler's prayer. As my family begins this journey, it's only appropriate to begin tomorrow with this:
Adonai, Guide my steps, my thoughts and my actions. Help me to create within my home and Kehillah a community without strangers. Help me to live Betzelem Elohim. Help my family and community to always live in peace, caring for one another. Protect us along the way, healing us in time of need and helping us to enjoy our time here with our community.
Until next time....