Can you judge a book by its cover? In my right hand in the photo, I am holding the Rabbi’s Manual I have used since 1988 to welcome baby boys into the Covenant of Abraham; consecrate individuals who have chosen to convert to Judaism; celebrate the marriages of husbands and wives; and officiate at a funeral when a loved one has died.
It is a small, slender book. Yet it holds so many memories of life cycle moments when I have been with people in times of joy as well as sorrow.
However, I am very pleased to now have in my possession the new Rabbi’s Manual published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. It is larger and thicker than my old manual. However, it is not a bound volume like the 1988 version. In fact, all the pages are arranged in a three ring binder, which allows me to add or delete whatever pages I wish given the particular occasion.
Unlike my older manual, there are far more choices of readings for each life cycle moment. Much like our prayer book, Mishkan T’filah, the English and Hebrew readings are evocative and allow me to shape the liturgy to best match the individual, couple, family, or community I am with.
This new CCAR Life-Cycle Guide is far more expansive than the older version. There are services to welcome baby girls into the covenant of our people, as well as wedding services for same sex couples. There are prayers for Healing; for Communal Milestones; and for the mitzvah of Study. Included in the latter section is a prayer for teachers, which is particularly appropriate since tonight, at our Shabbat service, we will be honoring our teachers and madrichim (teaching assistants). The words of this prayer, as with so much of the new Rabbi’s Manual, gives expressive voice for sacred moments.
Mi sheberach avoteinu v’imoteinu
May the One who blessed our sages and teachers in every generation,
Bless and guide the teachers of our congregation.
Sustain them in their dedication and diligence to our school and its students.
May they be ever curious and inspired to learn as well as to teach,
And may they inspire their students with the love of Jewish learning throughout their lives.
May the congregation always support its teachers so that they can be a light to our community and effective messengers of Your Torah.
Grant them openness of heart for each and every student who comes their way.
Guide us all in sharing with them our appreciation for all they do,
For they are holy vessels in Your service, and guardians of our future.
Baruch Atah, Adonai, hamlameid Torah l’amo Yisrael.
Blessed are You, Adonai, who instructs our people Israel in the ways of Torah.