In Featured at HBT, Reflections: Rabbi Zachary Goodman

Entering a Holy Community

I was eighteen years old when I made the decision to pursue the rabbinate. As a senior in high school, I was playing with the idea of becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or a rabbi. My family likes to joke that I must have only been concerned with making my parents kvell, but the truth is, I always wanted to be in a helping profession. Oddly enough, my calling came as I was standing amongst the jagged rocks in the field where the death camp Treblinka once stood. It was in that dreadful place where I came to understand that life is absurdly unpredictable, and I could only truly dedicate myself to a career that would sustain me and bring meaning to the Jewish people; I wanted to be a rabbi.

A decade later, my dream was realized. Before I ever had the opportunity to lead a service, plan a program, or deliver a sermon at Holy Blossom, my wife, Katie, and I were honoured with an Aliyah to the Torah. That Shabbat morning, before the service, Katie and I reflected on how overjoyed we are to be joining this incredible community, and how the honour of an Aliyah truly confirms that we ended up in the right place; a congregation of intentionality, warmth and Torah. My wife and I want to express our gratitude to each of you for making us feel so welcomed and comfortable right from the beginning.

Gathered around the Torah, Rabbi Splansky welcomed us to the congregation by sharing a rabbinic text. She quoted, “Oseh L’cha Rav – Make for yourself a Rabbi”( Pirkei Avot 1:6) and explained, this text can be understood in two ways. First, she spoke to me and noted that I recently received the title Rabbi, and yet, I still have much learning to do before I might personally feel that I merit that title. Becoming a Rabbi is a process, not an instance, and I could not agree more. Then Rabbi Splansky addressed the congregation; “Make for yourself a Rabbi” can also be understood that, as a congregation, each of you will have a role in shaping your new Rabbi. I really resonated with the idea that my rabbinic relationship with the congregation is jointly constructed and mutually beneficial.

This holy moment, standing before the Torah, affirmed why I believe ours to be such a wonderful shitach. One of my favourite Jewish texts is an echo of the concept that Rabbi Splansky imparted. “Ben Zoma omer: Eiza’hu chacham? Ha’lomed mi’kol adam – Ben Zoma says, Who is the Wise One? One who learns from all people.” (Pirkei Avot 4:1). As I encounter so many new faces and personalities, this text remains for me an eternal truth. It serves as a constant reminder that we all have something to teach and something to learn.

When I was eighteen years old, standing in a death camp, I made the decision to become a rabbi. I began walking down a path of life that would allow me to learn and grow from all people. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have the honour and privilege of learning from you.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Denise Gordon

    Dear Rabbi Goodman,
    Welcome to you and to your wife Katie. May your experiences at Holy Blossom inspire goodness and devotion.

  • Rabbi Teri Appleby

    It is an honour and a joy for any Rabbi to serve Holy Blossom. Zachary, I hope you find your service as rewarding and sacred as I did. Your colleagues and the HBT community are the best. I know you’ll find that you receive much more than you give of your head, heart, and soul. Mazal Tov and Kol Tuv.

  • Arlene Roth

    Dear Rabbi Goodman,
    Welcome to Holy Blossom.
    Your warmth and enthusiasm is communicated in your letter to the congregation.
    It will be a real pleasure to meet you.

  • Michael Greenstein

    Dear Rabbi Goodman,
    When you’re kvelling, the whole congregation kvells with you.

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