Returning to My Roots - Planting Together for Our Future


 [The ORacle, February 2019 Issue]

The motto of my rabbinic school was “Do what you love.” When people ask, “How did you decide to become a rabbi?” I instantly think of the loving Jewish community that helped raise me. Growing up, I saw my community caring for one another, learning and praying together, enjoying one another\’s company, and most of all, collectively caring for the children in our community.

One of my favorite stories from the Talmud is one you may know. It’s a Jewish Rip Van Winkle tale. Honi the Circle Maker went for a walk and saw an old man planting a tree. “Why would such an old man plant a tree?” Honi wondered, “It takes a very long time to grow. He might not even be around when the tree is big enough to produce fruit.” As Honi walked on past the man planting, he began to feel very tired, so he decided to stop and take a nap. When Honi awoke, he noticed a beautiful mature carob tree and someone was picking the fruit. “Excuse me sir, did you plant this tree?” Honi asked. “Not me, my grandfather planted it seventy years ago.”

Sometimes returning back to the Pacific Northwest after 20 years away feels like I have only just awoken from a really long nap. Working in the Jewish world and having my daughter attend preschool at the synagogue where I grew up, I run into someone I haven’t seen since I was a child about once a week. They rub their eyes, standing in amazement. The shy young girl they knew seems to have grown up into a rabbi just overnight. They share their pride that a child that they helped raise in their community is now a Jewish leader in the Pacific Northwest.

On Friday, February 22, our community will come together for a special Shabbat. I will have an opportunity to offer our Board leadership and Beth Or’s new president, Vicky Romero, a Blessing of Installation, and the community will offer me your Installation Blessing as well. As rabbi of Temple Beth Or, I truly get to “do what I love” as my profession. While there are many blessings I get to enjoy in the moment, I am excited to have this opportunity to move back home and join with you as a community in continuing to strengthen Jewish life here in Western Washington. While I am enjoying this special time being your new(ish) rabbi, I look forward to being together for many years to come. I imagine being together with you in the distant future, rubbing our eyes, and standing in awe and pride of the Jewish community and leaders we have worked to grow together.


Rabbi Rachel Kort