When purchasing material items, we like customization. Some of us have our names engraved; others of us like personalized features that make the products we use more functional. Why is it that we don’t maneuver through our religious life in this manner? Having a relationship with a rabbi in the community helps us identify with our Judaism on a personalized level.
Having a rabbi actively participate in your life can provide clarity that we need as Jews with limited religious knowledge. Websites like Google and Wikipedia are both handy and convenient. They provide many of us with immediate answers to questions that we may have religiously or otherwise; however, they lack personalization that our generation craves.
There are limitations to turning to a rabbi for assistance. Rabbis have the rest of the community to cater to, and they usually have their own family. But if you can resist the urge of instant gratification, the answers you get from a rabbi can be much more beneficial than placing your faith in the hands of the Internet. Rabbis can explain Torah and religious laws to an individual and place these ideas in proper context. Their job is to guide us as Jews to making informed decisions. Rabbis have the ability to make Judaism palatable and engage you, two things that a web resource will fall short of accomplishing.
How many of us have been to a wedding where the officiant has said the wrong name of one of the newlyweds? Surprisingly, this has happened at two weddings I have attended. It made the wedding feel uncomfortable as well as impersonal. No bride named “Catie” wants to be called “Catharine” if that’s not her name. A close and personal wedding, with a rabbi who knows the couple is a simple solution. Just like other things in our lives, the rabbi can customize the ceremony and tailor it to the style of the couple. The beauty is this relationship can continue to other simchot, having the same rabbi to be at your child’s Bris or Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
Although we only want simchot (happy occasions) in our lives, cultivating a meaningful relationship with a rabbi can ease a burden when life presents a challenge. Major illness or a death in the family can be unbearable, but having someone who knows your family personally can provide a sense of familiarity.
In the face of mourning, losing a loved one places the rest of our families in a state of uncertainty and momentary chaos. Developing a relationship with a rabbi in the community can provide your families with an outside party who will help you navigate through the traditions and customs that will honor your deceased loved one. A close family rabbi makes services emotional, meaningful and valuable; a rabbi who knows the individual can personalize a service without asking basics that leave us feeling like an outsider is taking the helm. It seems easier to have our loved ones talked about by someone who has experience with the family, not a stranger.
Rabbis have been much of the foundation for Jewish life and culture throughout our history. Ultimately, the rabbis of Orange County are accessible resources who should not be overlooked. Between the educational programming, the pulpit and non-pulpit rabbis and the different streams of Judaism in Orange County, there surely will be a rabbi who can address your particular religious and cultural needs. It serves us as a community to engage in conversation and utilize our resources rather than outsourcing our religious questions and needs.