On Blessings: My Rabbinic Smicha Remarks

Presented at my rabbinic ordination ceremony on January 8, 2023

I became a mom on October 3, and today, I’m becoming a rabbi. “Mom” and “Rabbi” are two pretty big names to earn within three months. While my journey to motherhood included five years of infertility, pregnancy losses, and IVF, my journey to the rabbinate included five years of stumbling through Hebrew, wrestling with God, and finding my voice as a spiritual leader. I learned so much from both journeys. I can’t tell you which was harder. I can tell you that both have been worth it. 

I can also tell you that having ALEPH community to support me through both journeys has been a powerful blessing, especially when I felt most isolated and uncertain. I found out I was pregnant at my first Ohalah Shabbaton in 2018. Reb Marcia was reading “Blessing for A New Beginning,” by John O’Donohue, and I teared up thinking about the two new beginnings that were “quietly forming” for me: the beginning of my life as a parent, and the beginning of my rabbinical school journey. I miscarried a few months later. 

And since then, these two journeys have been deeply connected. At our last in-person Shabbaton in January 2020, ALEPH friends surrounded me with song and prayer in a private blessing circle for my IVF process. We recorded the songs, and my friends’ voices accompanied me to my doctor appointments. My daughter, Ella, who is watching from home with her daddy right now, came from an embryo transferred 10 days after the 2021 Ohalah Shabbaton. From January to January, from injections to hospital visits, from beginnings to blessings, we have been in it together.

For my ALEPH capstone, I put together a book of my original rituals and blessings. Many of the pieces were written in response to prompts from my teachers – holy homework assignments. And many of them are connected to my experience with infertility. A mikveh ritual for after an IVF miscarriage. A blessing for starting an IVF cycle, which I shared with ALEPH friends on Zoom the night before an egg retrieval. 

In moments of pain and in moments of joy, blessings remind us that the world is holy. The Baal Shem Tov taught, “God is garbed in everything! No place is devoid of the Divine.” We do not make something sacred by blessing it. Blessings help us elevate the holiness that already exists. If there was anything holy to be found on my IVF journey, my ALEPH community elevated that holiness through blessings of love, presence, and compassion. I am grateful for the blessing of my daughter, for the blessing of this smicha, and for the beautiful neshamot who blessed us along the way. 

As we take the next steps on our journeys, may we all be blessed with communities like the one I found here. May we be surrounded by people who remind us that holiness is pulsing through the universe, as close to us as our own heartbeats. And may we be blessed to be that blessing for others – elevating the Divine Sparks that shine around and within us, and reminding others, every day, that they are not alone. (Amen) 

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