I looked up from my prayer book. Alan was standing over me, a copy of the Humash, the Five Books of Moses , in his hands , pointing to a particular segment in that morning's Torah Reading.
"Here's a good text to use for your speech to the G 's on their 60th wedding anniversary. " I was a bit taken aback. He then quickly pointed out that because of the celebrant's knowledge of technology,-he was an electrical engineer - the audio equipment in the sanctuary was of the highest quality. He added one or two other pieces of information about Mr'.G's special contibutions to the religious life of the community.
A fleeting thought of "what hutzpah"(nerve, audacity) ran through my mind. After all, I was the rabbi and could very well compose my own competent and appropriate message on an occasion such as this. As a matter of fact, I had prepared something that I considered most apt and meaningful , also based on the Torah reading ,which would be most relevant to the specialness of this event of personal celebration.
I immediately found myself reviewing the suggested passage and realized that indeed it lent itself wonderfully to a clearer and less convoluted charge than the one I had considered independently.
I delivered my words based on Alan's recommendation, interpreting them in my own style and thinking process. The words were enthusiastically received.
Musing on what had transpired, it occurred to me that had this happened years ago, it would have unfolded as an experience of personal resentment and insult. In my inexperience and immaturity, my defensiveness would have arisen, and in all likelihood, even if I would not have demonstrated my displeasure at such impudent interference, I would have rejected the proposal, proceeded to stubbornly share my own thoughts and perhaps have not been as successful in conveying a helpful sense of congratulations and gratefulness for the blessing of this most unusual personal experience.
Gratefully, yesterday I had no such need to repel outside recommendations in order to preserve a fragile sense of self, a brittle rabbinic ego. I thanked Alan and recognized again the extraordinary gift of learning from everyone, how my most meaningful lessons are gained from the wisdom and knowledge of students and peers.
Alone ,we can never grow in wisdom, knowledge and insight . Community is indispensable for the expansion of our mind and hearts. It is no accident that the Yeshiva experience is grounded in the presence of 'havruta,' a study group of peers who argue, debate, disagree, and support one another in the sacred task of grasping for a glimpse of godliness in this world.
Thank you, each and every student who has ever enriched my life and learning with their knowledge and nurturance.
The Grateful Rabbi