I come to the CCAR Convention every year for many reasons. I want to learn, refine, rediscover and build rabbinic skills, and I want to spend time with my colleagues and friends. And this year especially, I not only wanted to but truly NEEDED to be with my colleagues and friends.
It’s been a long six weeks since the fire at my congregation TBS that not only destroyed our kitchen, but also brought our building to its skeleton because of the smoke and soot damage. For me, my entire staff and amazing lay leadership, days have been long and involved, and to be honest, we are all exhausted. Coming to CCAR was a welcome moment to step away and hope to fulfill the goals I set out with every year. But this conference would become something more.
As in this week’s Torah portion during which the priest is called to the house or bedside of someone with tza’ara (a visible growth or skin disease) he was expected to investigate if the person was in fact clean once again, in other words cured. This portion is one of two that is challenging because we automatically fall into the “gross factor” and challenge the portions relevance. However, there are positive blessings as the priest was not only the spiritual practitioner for the people, he was also the physician, seeking healing for anyone in his community. He brought support and strength.
This year’s CCAR is filled with many “priests” (aka, colleagues and friends) who seek to bring healing and invite me, and actually all of us to recognize that the tza’arot that plague our lives are not insurmountable. That they can be cleaned and we can be made whole and able to embrace a new normal.
I have been overwhelmed by the love and support of every CCAR colleague and friend who read my post about our TBS fire and have offered support on all levels. Many of you I know and some are new to me. Each of you are a part of my rabbinic family and your compassion is felt deeply. Everyone of you have overwhelmed me in the most amazing way and I am feeling inspired, healed, whole and ready for the next chapter of our congregations journey toward recovery.
And the support knows no boundaries. Last night, 54 rabbis shaved their heads, participating in St. Baldrick’s 36 Shave for the Brave in loving support of our colleagues and friends Rabbis Michael and Phyllis Sommer and in memory of their son, Sammy, z’l, who lost his battle to leukemia in December. Last night we gathered to support those who shaved (and I even wielded the shears for one shavee) as we celebrated raising over $575,000 (and that number continues to grow) toward childhood cancer research. We also mourned because this event reminds us that too many children are dying. While some may say this is only a drop in the bucket, we know that every drop counts and eventually the bucket will be filled and we pray no family will ever have to lose another child to cancer.
We come to the CCAR Convention to learn, grow and yes, to heal. And together, we find it and create the moments. And tomorrow, we will leave stronger, more whole, and blessed. I know I am.
Rabbi Heidi Cohen is the rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Ana, CA. This post originally appeared on her blog, ravima.com