All your questions for Naomi Adler answered! This week’s question:
What does Shavuot mean to you?
Shavuot falls at a time of year when there’s a lot of life-cycle changes, so for me, Shavuot represents so many reminders of transition.
Shavuot is Confirmation season for some Jewish denominations, when our tenth graders have finished an important part of their religious educations and participate in special public service to affirm their commitment to Jewish life. How many of us have showed our kids the picture of our Confirmation class which hangs in a long line of pictures on our synagogues’ walls?
As we know, education never stops. Your relationship with Judaism is different in tenth grade than it was on the day of your bar or bat mitzvah, and the Confirmation ceremony is a way of noting and honoring that growth and change. For those in our community who are celebrating with their new Confirmands, I applaud your commitment to ongoing education and send our congratulations to all!
This is also the time of year when new Rabbis and Cantors are ordained, graduating into the next phase of their lives. It’s a time of great excitement and anticipation. This year, for Reform Jews connected with this annual transformative moment, there is also a great deal of grief over the recent death of Rabbi Aaron Panken, z”l, President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). Rabbi Panken contributed so much to modern Judaism’s vibrancy and inclusion.
His loss is a heavy blow to many of us, including the members of my family, as it is at his invitation that the Adler clan will gather in Cincinnati on June 1st to see my father receive an honorary doctorate from HUC-JIR. As Rabbi David Stern said at Rabbi Panken’s funeral: “V’lo ner b’yado – like a priest without a lamp, even as we stumble in this valley of shadow, we walk by other lights. May Aaron’s example guide our way. May his soul shine like the splendor of the heavens. May we know God’s comfort. These are dark days — but if Aaron taught us anything, he taught us how to sail by a night sky. Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”