As a second career rabbi, I am frequently asked why I elected to leave the practice of law and enter into the rabbinate. (And I will admit that some days, I ask myself the same question.) When a Jewish person asks the question, the discomfort can be palpable. We’re not always very good about discussing our faith. I often watch as the eyes across from me narrow, and the conversation stumbles and my fellow Jew asks hesitantly, “It’s not like you experienced a calling, is it? Do we even believe in that?”
To which, I usually don’t respond directly.
The truth is tha, while my non-Jewish colleagues speak without hesitation about “receiving their calling” into the clergy, that language doesn’t fit comfortably in our linguistic conventions. We don’t think about Jewish people receiving a calling, even though the first words of the Book of Leviticus are “VaYikra, el Moshe” which means “And God called out to Moses.”
Our tradition does believe in God calling out to our leaders and to us. The Hasidic teacher, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, refers to a Talmudic tradition that each day a heavenly voice goes out from Mount Sinai and identifies for each one of us the spiritual work that will help us to perfect our souls. The challenge is to recognize and to answer that call.
And that’s where our spiritual traditions come in. Jewish practice is designed to help us hear God’s call. Regular prayer places us into dialogue with the Almighty. Halachic observance reminds us that every moment presents us with a choice between heeding God’s call and succumbing to the demands of our egos and the mundane distractions that can overwhelm us. And learning, the heart of what happens at Golda Och Academy, helps us to appreciate that understanding God’s call is a lifelong process.