In our studies during the second semester we looked at Rabbinic sources from the Gemara, the halacha / the code of law, and even some Chassidic sources that dealt with models of leadership. It was a means for us to understand how we stand in the world as rabbis, and what the strengths and challenges of the multiple paradigms are. It was also an opportunity for us to look at ourselves and question 'how is it that we, individually, see our path in leadership?'
Hiding among the plethora of sources is a line from the Tosfote Yom Tov, Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller, who was a student of the MaHaRaL of Prague and a Rabbinic Leader in the first half of the 17th century. He is most known for his extensive commentary on the Mishna.
The second chapter of Bava Metzia, "Elu Metzi'ote", deals with returning lost objects to their owner. At the end of the chapter we're taught that after one tends to their own lost objects, primacy goes to lost objects of their teacher. While the Mishna uses the phrase "Rabo" / "his Rabbi," the Talmud and Rashi on the page clarify that we are speaking of a special Rav - the one, that a student "has learned most of their wisdom from"/. It may be wisdom in Torah, or Talmud, or Codes, or Philosophy or even Chassidic thought (without being too personal...). The unique phrase that is used is "Rabo Ha'Muvhak" - one's outstanding teacher.
But the Tosfote Yom Tov takes on the hat of a linguist and says that Muvhak doesn't mean outstanding but rather derived from the word Bohak / shining. That a Rav Muvhak is a teacher that makes their student shine. This is the Rav that takes primacy in the life of a student. The teacher, the Rav that makes their student shine.
Over the years I have allowed myself to expound on this teaching and speak also of the concept of a 'Talmid Muvhak', not in its original Rabbinic meaning - a designated student, one that carries the Torah of their teacher in an outstanding way - but rather, paraphrasing the Tosfote Yom Tov, a Talmid Muvhak is a student that makes their teacher shine!
When standing exactly one week from Israel's 63rd Independence Day my mind drifts in two directions. The first is that Gilad Shalit is sitting in captivity since most of you started rabbinical school five years ago. Not that I'm comparing the two... And second, of a story that I, like every other child growing up in Israel, grew up with - Chanaleh and Her Shabbat Dress.
It is a story of Chanaleh that receives a beautiful new white dress for Shabbat and in her excitement she goes outside, waiting to greet the Shabbat queen with her new dress. Subsequently an old man, carrying a sack of coal is sitting by the side of the road, tired from the heavy burden that he is carrying. Chanaleh offers to help him, and only after she parts from him does she see that her new dress is stained with coal spots. She starts to cry and the moon tries to console her. He asks if she is sorry that she helped the man, to which she responds "No." The moon tells her to go home, and promises that he will help her. When she enters her home, the moon shines upon her the most glorious rays of light, that make her dress shine even brighter than it was when she left the house!
I know you are thinking, why is Reb Mimi sharing a story of a girl and her dress to an ordaining class of only men???
Dear ones, when you come up to the Bima in just a moment, you will receive a shinning new talit; one that will hold you in prayer, and distinguish you in your service of God. I pray that it doesn't stay white for long! I pray that you walk in the streets of God's world, and your rabbinic cloak carries the many stains of all those that you help along the way, easing their burdens. That you find those sitting on the side of the road, and help them find their way Home; that you return them to their owner, bring their souls back to God. That you walk with them with such sincerity, that you forget, for a moment, about your beautiful talit. And that when God asks you of the challenge of not being able to study more, to learn more, to write more because your time has been 'tainted' by demands of others, that you, like Chanaleh, are grateful for the gift of being a helping hand and soul, and do not regret the time spent with your sojourners.
I pray that you yourself become a Rav Muvhak, one that makes others shine, that you find ways to illuminate their beauty. And I pray that those you encounter along the way are your Talmidim Muvhakim - those that make you shine, as you walk the path of your Rabbinate.
Dear ones, I part from you as Reb Shlomo, my teacher, taught me to bless our children every Shabbat: when you entered Ziegler we sang to you / "shalom aleichem" - we greet you in peace / "bo'achem l'shalom - may your presence with us bring you peace and clarity of your vision and mission in God's world; / "bar'chuni l'shalom" - may you bless us, your teachers, with the wisdom and insight to walk with you, as you need to be escorted; / "tzetchem l'shalom" - may your journey into the rabbinate, and the unfolding of your divine work, be blessed with peace; and last, as in the S'fardic tradition that I hold by for decades, / "shivt'chem l'shalom" - may you sit in peace, may you find communities and partners that will support you in your work. And in an improper grammatical reading - may you return in peace - may you come back to visit, to call, to write. May you never forget, that for us, your rabbi's and teachers at Ziegler you are always connected to us, and always have a home in our hearts.
Mazal tov and I love you very much.
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This Shabbat, we journey through the desert / Ba'Midbar. It is crucial to know that we are all teachers and students. In the wisdom that we share what we have to share, in our questions we have what to learn. I pray that as a community we find those in our lives that we help shine in God's world, and I pray that we find those that enable us to shine. May it be a peaceful and bright Shabbat for all of us.