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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

June 15, 2018  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

What does it mean to be a good rabbi?

By RABBI JACOB LUSKI Congregation B’nai Israel, St. Petersburg

As I conclude my tenure at Congregation B’nai Israel, the question overwhelms me. It is a leadership role which, though it has changed drastically over the centuries, had its beginnings at least 20 centuries ago. A leadership role whose sole source of authority remains what it always has been, knowledge of Torah.

The questions asked are many: What does it mean to live in God’s presence? How can I know what is right in a given situation or, at least, how should I behave in a given situation so as to feel that I have done the right thing? What are my responsibilities toward family members? How shall I deal with physical or verbal abuse? When is it the right time to die? How can I forgive? What do I mean?

Being a rabbi is to live at the heart of those questions – never by yourself, always with others. Not assuming responsibility for others, but, always being responsible for who you are and what you do, helping others to assume responsibility for who they are. Always being as faithful an interpreter and exemplar of our sacred tradition as one possibly can.

The question I often ask myself: “Am I a good rabbi?”

If knowing what being a good rabbi is all about is important, then I am confident that I have at least begun to answer the question.

… If knowing with Ruth Benedict that “the happiest excitement in life is to be convinced that one is fighting for all one is worth on behalf of some clearly seen and deeply felt good” then …

If the following by Leo Tolstoy is true: “A man should use that spiritual heritage which he has received from the wise and holy people of the past, but he should test everything with his intellect, accepting certain things and rejecting others” then …

If understanding, why I needed to be a rabbi, how I ultimately became one, then …

If being surrounded by fellow hard-working professionals whose moral compasses are steady, who share the same vision of what a Jewish community should be and who can always tell the difference between what is real and what is phony, then, thanks to them …

If having been given the opportunity to create, with others, Jewish schools and educational settings where Torah is taught, counts for anything, then …

If being given the opportunity to work with lay leaders who are supportive, encouraging, creative people who themselves are competent, moral and hard-working, then …

If being part of a community where literally hundreds, perhaps, thousands, have generously supported, often participated and always embraced the vision, then …

So, am I a good rabbi?

My answer: “I am a rabbi. I know that much. Am I a good one? That is not for me to judge.”

Perhaps it is not for you to judge either. God, we believe is the final judge.

One thing I know for certain. I am so very thankful for having had the opportunity to be the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel of St. Petersburg these past 41 years. For that I will be ever grateful.

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board. The views expressed in the column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the Board of Rabbis.


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