CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 1




Founded In


* December 2014 | Volume 62 - Issue 2






MARCH * APRIL 2018 | Volume 65 - Issue 2

David Stern

Jesse Paikin

In the fall of 1973,
Leonard Bernstein, whose
centennial we mark this
year, delivered the Charles
Eliot Norton Lectures
at Harvard. In the first
lecture, he demonstrated
a fundamental concept of
physics and music known as
the overtone, or the harmonic series.

I write this as a rabbinical student with eight weeks remaining in my schooling.
It is an exciting and awe-inspiring time as I look both backward upon the
experiences that have brought me to this place, and forward as I anticipate
what my rabbinate will look like. As I reflect on the five years of my formal
rabbinic education, I note an interesting challenge that many rabbinical
students face: on the one hand, we need to participate in internships and
fellowships that expose us to new experiences, ideas, and mentors, so that we
can grow in our rabbinate. On the other hand, we are also professionals who
need to be recognized for the experience that we bring and need to be hired
for positions in which we can thrive. In educational theory, this sweet spot is known as the "zone of
proximal development," part of a theory developed in the early twentieth-century by the psychologist
Lev Vygotsky.

Here's how it works-if you sit down at a piano
and strike a low C, the hammer hits a string,
and that string vibrates to produce the sound of
the C. But because the string vibrates not only
as the whole string, but in fractional segments
which vibrate faster and therefore produce
higher frequencies, when you strike that note, it
actually produces not only the sound we know
as the low C, but higher sounds as well. These
sounds are known as overtones. So if you hit a
low C, the piano actually sounds multiple notes
simultaneously: a C an octave above the one you
struck, then a G a fifth above that, another C,
and E and so on. Strike one note, and multiple
sounds resonate.
When I first learned about overtones, I thought
about Yizkor. Usually when we remember the
lives of loved ones, we don't remember a whole
symphony's worth at once. We tend to remember
one note at a time, one moment or story or
conversation. But those single notes resonate on
multiple levels. We say the name of someone
we remember, and all the tones come: the love,
the frustration, the laughter, the squabbles, the
strength and fondness and longing. The idea
of the overtone seems fundamental not only to
music, but to our human experience: every word,
every act, every note, is layered with meanings up
and down the scales of our lives.
But the idea that more than one note sounds
at once also gives us insight into the organic
presence of dissonance. Because when I strike
that low C, the vibrations ultimately yield sounds
(Continued on page 3)

My internship at the CCAR has been a powerful example of achieving this sweet spot and has
been meaningful for me both personally and for my future rabbinate. It has given me a forum to
build upon the passions and skills that I have cultivated over the years and at the same time has
introduced me to new ideas of what it means to be a rabbi, a teacher, and a leader.
With a plethora of new and exciting books being released right now, the CCAR Press has astutely
positioned itself as a thought leader in contemporary Jewish life. Reading many of these texts and
developing educational resources for rabbis and congregations has exposed me to new and exciting
Jewish ideas. But more than that, it has expanded the way I think about how rabbis can use new
books as vehicles for spiritual leadership.
Throughout the year, I have been reading these texts and thinking: What do the authors want us to
be thinking about? How might readers respond in ways not imagined by the authors? How might
these new (or old) ideas encourage us to see the world differently? In many ways, these are the very
same questions that I bring when thinking about how to teach Torah, Talmud, or halachah, and so
this work has been an exciting and relevant extension of my rabbinic studies.
Beyond working with the Press, participating in conversations about rabbinic ethics, finances,
congregational support, and broad visioning and strategic planning has been a very real window
into how the spiritual work that we do as rabbis is supported and nurtured by a strong professional
scaffolding. Not every rabbi may be an expert in budgeting, in labor law, or in conflict resolution. But
I have seen how every rabbinate will very likely encounter situations where expertise in these fields
is needed. The more that new rabbis enter the rabbinate with a broad appreciation of the scope of
our work beyond worship, spiritual care, and education, the greater we will succeed in the years to
Thinking about success is not necessarily something I do every day. Lately, however, it is something
that I can't get out of my mind. In eight weeks, I will stand on a bimah in front of my family, friends,
teachers, and colleagues and receive s'michah. In an instant, my life will change forever. As I wonder
what my future as a rabbi will be like, I have the profound sense that, God willing, much of my
ability to succeed will be a direct result of the work and learning I have done here at the CCAR. My
experience this year has been a wonderful opportunity to build upon my own strengths and to see the
Jewish world through new eyes. I am deeply indebted to my mentors and colleagues here and look
forward to a rabbinate that is a testament to their leadership.


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018

CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 1
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 2
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 3
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 4
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 5
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 6
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 7
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 8
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 9
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 10
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 11
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 12
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 13
CCAR Newsletter March/April 2018 - 14