What will you do with your one Wild and Precious Year?


Rabbi Alyson Solomon, Interim Rabbi

In The Summer Day, the late, great poet Mary Oliver writes: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In preparation for the upcoming Days of Awe I ask myself and you, “What will I do with my one wild and precious year?” Said another way: what is my mission for the year ahead: 5780?

What, in this year to come, will I, will you, be at the cause of? What will you author or inspire, give birth to or launch and let go? What mountain will you climb or relationship will you mend? What difference will your presence make in your home, your family and your community this year?

Speaking of community, in my first two months with BCC, I am moved by this very wonderful congregation – your love and passion for our community. BCC’s mission is ever more urgent: to be a safe, loving and vibrant Jewish home and community for LGBTQ+ individuals and the parts of ourselves which are hidden, misunderstood and still to be known. To fulfill this mission, each of us, in our most kind and generous fullness, is needed.

I love co-creating with our talented Cantor, staff and lay leaders. With you we are learning, teaching and creating meaningful services, community experiences to cultivate our leadership, revive our havurot, social action and caring committees. I’m grateful to each of you for your warm and generous welcome and appreciate that it is not always comfortable or easy to open our hearts newly, especially during times of transition. Thank you for taking time to meet with me, call me and call on me, reach out via email and during our gatherings to tell me about yourself and share your vision for BCC with me.
My question about your mission for 5780 is not simply theoretical. I ask it also of myself. I am here at BCC on a mission: to love and support you during this year of transition, pastorally and spiritually, as a rabbi, teacher and vision holder. My mission has three components: pastoral care, teaching, and visioning with you and your leadership.

To inspire us, Torah illustrates this idea of being on a mission, being sent. God says to Moshe in Numbers 13:2: sh’lach!, םיִׁשָנֲא ָךְל-חַלְׁש send out, one person from each of the twelve tribes to scout out the land of Canaan. God says: be courageous and bring back fruits from the land. Each scout was a shaliach, a messenger, with a purposeful task and mission. For decades Tzofim, Israel Scouts, has sent out a shaliach, a messenger to various cities and summer camps internationally to connect youth with Israel and Israeli life. Chabad also sends out shluchim, ambassadors, to live in cities around the world and share Torah. So what is your mission? Where will you go and what will you teach this year?

To me this concept of being a shaliach, a messenger on a mission, has a very unique resonance. This past summer marked my tenth year since my ordination as a rabbi from Hebrew College in Boston. Ten years ago ten classmates and I gathered for ordination, to receive our teachers’ blessings. There were three sifrei torah present as a jury of witnesses and three officiating rabbis, with over a hundred clergy present.

My teacher, Rabbi Arthur Green, the founder and now rector of our rabbinical school, placed my tallit and his hands on my shoulders. Then, the dean of our school, Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, offered each of us a personal blessing and, in turn, each new rabbi shared a few words and completed our remarks with the same exact phrase from the Book of Isaiah, chapter 6 verse 8:
וָאֶשְׁמַ֞ע אֶת־קֹ֤ול אֲדֹנָי֙ אֹמֵ֔ר אֶת־מִ֥י אֶשְׁלַ֖ח וּמִ֣י יֵֽלֶךְ־לָ֑נוּ
And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? ׃וָאֹמַ֖ר הִנְנִ֥י שְׁלָחֵֽנִי Then I said: ‘Here am I; send me.’

The scene in the Book of Isaiah is one we know from the amidah, our standing prayer, during which we go on our toes and say: kadosh, kadosh, kadosh – holy, holy, holy. In the Book of Isaiah, we read how God’s robes fill the sacred space and the angels flutter in awe. Then, Isaiah breaks out of what feels like a mystical trance and speaks these two transformative words: הִנְנִי שְׁלָחֵנִי. Hineini, shlachani. I’m here. Send me.

Every day, and especially as the New Year calls us to awaken, it is an auspicious and urgent time to powerfully take on the words of Isaiah and make them our own. So I ask you, what will you do with your one, wild and precious year? Whether over tea or Torah, on a yoga mat or a trail, I look forward to meeting each of you. Tell me your mission for 5780 and how I can support you. To what quest or purpose will you proudly and eagerly proclaim:הִנְנִי שְׁלָחֵנִי Hineini, shlachani. I’m here. Send me?”
Please reach out – RabbiAlysonSolomon@bcc-la.org

This article was taken from G’vanim Issue 48 vol 1, September/October 2019 Check out the full issue