Next week we celebrate the official launch of Hillel at Rhodes College with a lively event on the Rhodes campus. We’d love to see you there. Learn more and RSVP via Facebook, or call or email Carrie Richardson: email@example.com
Earlier this month, we were involved in another important celebration at Rhodes, when their new (and Jewish) president, Dr. Marjorie Hass, was inaugurated. Our colleague and Director of Hillels of Memphis Rabbi Jeremy Simons gave a blessing. Here are his remarks.
In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Va’era, we read of Moses and Aaron as they prepare to lead the Israelite people. Throughout the parasha, the Torah keeps repeating their names: Moses and Aaron, Moses and Aaron. The great medieval commentator Rashi says there’s a reason for this repetition. Even as their lives changed so dramatically, the Torah repeats their names so we may remember “they remained always the same in carrying out their mission and in their integrity from beginning to end.”
Millenia later, another Moses emerges, this one by the name of Mendelssohn. He was an academic, in fact, he was a philosopher. He was also a Jew. At the time that wasn’t an easy thing to be. Mendelssohn was brilliant enough that when he surprised the great Immanuel Kant by attending his lecture, it was Kant who rose from his chair and ran to embrace him. But, before that embrace, Mendelssohn spent the lecture suffering through the anti-semitic jeers of Kant’s students. Mendelssohn knew the price of being different. He could easily have disguised who he was. He could have changed who he was. Instead, he followed Rashi’s advice, remaining true to himself in his mission and integrity.
I wonder what these Moseses would say if they were here today. They’d be confused that Memphis isn’t in Egypt. But surely they’d be kind, they’d say our pyramid is just as nice, and offer some advice. Marjorie, may you always remain true to yourself in carrying out your mission and in your integrity from beginning to end. Do so not just for your own sake, but for all of us that we may remember to stand just as proudly as you do. Marjorie, may you be blessed in this role and may your presence continue to bless all of us.
יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
May God bless you and keep you—
יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
May God’s light shine upon you and be gracious to you—
יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
May God lift God’s face to you and give you peace.