Cycle of Jewish continuity

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

A few weeks ago I had a very busy Sunday. It started at religious school then moved east to a funeral. A baby naming followed. I concluded the work day with a lengthy meeting involving High Holiday preparations.

At dinner that night I reflected upon the sadness I felt at the end of an era for a family, the tears of joy I witnessed as a new child was welcomed into the Covenant with God. I had hopes that my congregation would rejoice in the soulfulness that the soloist and I were trying to bring to the membership. And I wondered what the children and parents were thinking about as they continued their Jewish journey.

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I knew the family at the funeral felt at peace. A nephew had delivered a poignant and moving eulogy. Their loved one had bravely battled his disease. They would miss their beloved one who had lived a full life.

What can I say about baby namings? They are always filled with hopes and dreams. We thank God for the gift of a new life and shower the infant with kiddish cups and a mezuzah to begin her Jewish life. Bestowed with Jewish names in memory of loved ones who meant so much to the family, the baby cannot help but know she is loved.

It was the religious school experience that I was most concerned about that day. Would these youngsters continue to embrace all the meaning behind the prayers recited at their naming? Would they learn to speak comfortably about God and pray within a Jewish community? Would they follow principles of Torah? Would Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Passover be times of family gatherings and visits to the synagogue? Would hockey practice or dancing take precedence over their Jewish learning?

Avinu Malkeinu – calling out to our Father our Sovereign – I pray that our children will continue to cherish and remember the covenant that began not so long ago.