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Farewell to Rabbanit Alissa

03/10/2022 09:01:03 AM


Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

בתר צלותיה אמר הכי, “after his prayer he would say as follows”. This phrase introduces a series of stories on Daf 17a of Brachot. Each of the stories presents a “post-prayer prayer” that various Talmudic sages composed and personally appended to their daily Amidah. One of these post-prayer prayers is actually the one that we all append to our Amidah to this day. Others of the post-prayer prayers have found their way into other places in our siddur and even into our Yom Kippur machzor. And as fascinating and significant as these specific liturgical contributions are, what I have always found to be equally fascinating and important is the very concept of the post-prayer prayer. On the face of it, the idea seems a little redundant, maybe even obsessive. What was it that moved so many of our Sages to compose and recite them?

I’m going to propose that another interesting passage found at the bottom of the very same daf suggests an answer, specifically that it was the emotional difficulty associated with departure that moved them to add just one more prayer to the end of their prayer.  Yes, the Amidah may be relatively short and there’s invariably another one scheduled within the next few hours, but these facts did not make the Amidah encounter any less intense or deep for these sages. In each Amidah, they opened their innermost hearts in order to speak, and opened their innermost spirits in order to listen and hear. And now when it was time to take those three steps back, the three steps through which they’d be exiting the Presence of God, and departing from the Encounter. They found it emotionally difficult to do. A post-prayer prayer created a moment’s transition for them, before the departure and farewell.

What passage is it at the bottom of the daf that suggests this explanation? Two stories that begin with these words:  

כִּי הֲווֹ מִפַּטְרִי רַבָּנַן מִבֵּי רַבִּי אַמֵּי, אָמְרִי לֵיהּ הָכִי ... כִּי הֲווֹ מִפַּטְרִי רַבָּנַן מִבֵּי רַב חִסְדָּא, , אָמְרוּ לֵיהּ הָכִי

When the sages who studied in the Beit Midrash of Rav Ami departed from one another, this is what they said… When the sages who studied in the Beit Midrash of Rav Hisda departed from one another, this is what they said …   The thread that runs through the daf is the desire for words that in one way or another will soften the impact of the moment of departure.

I will borrow the words, the departing blessing that the Sages who studied in the Beit Midrash of Rav Ami, and share them this morning with my friend and my teacher, Rabbanit Alissa.

״עוֹלָמְךָ תִּרְאֶה בְּחַיֶּיךָ, וְאַחֲרִיתְךָ לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא,

May you see your world fulfilled in your lifetime, and may your passionate work merit you your share in the World to Come.

וְתִקְוָתְךָ לְדוֹר דּוֹרִים.

and may the hope that you brought forth, the hope that you inspired, the hope that both men and women will serve as spiritual guides and leaders in Orthodox institutions of all kinds, and in particular within this holy Kehilla, may this hope find concrete, living expression over many generations.

As you and your family cross the continent to begin the next chapter in your service of our people and of all people,

לִבְּךָ יֶהְגֶּה תְּבוּנָה, פִּיךָ יְדַבֵּר חָכְמוֹת וּלְשׁוֹנְךָ יַרְחִישׁ רְנָנוֹת

 May your heart be filled with intuition, your words be filled with wisdom, and your mouth be filled with songs of joy.

עַפְעַפֶּיךָ יַיְשִׁירוּ נֶגְדְּךָ, עֵינֶיךָ יָאִירוּ בִּמְאוֹר תּוֹרָה, וּפָנֶיךָ יַזְהִירוּ כְּזוֹהַר הָרָקִיעַ,

May your vision produce a straight path before you. May your eyes shine with the light of Torah, and may your face reflect the brilliance of the heavens.

שִׂפְתוֹתֶיךָ יַבִּיעוּ דַּעַת, וְכִלְיוֹתֶיךָ תַּעֲלוֹזְנָה מֵישָׁרִים, וּפְעָמֶיךָ יָרוּצוּ לִשְׁמוֹעַ דִּבְרֵי עַתִּיק יוֹמִין״

May your lips express knowledge, and your kidneys rejoice in upright teachings, and may your feet always carry you to hear the words of the Holy one, the Ancient of Days.

According to Talmudic tradition, God instituted the otherwise curious festival of Shmini Atzeret because after the intensity and intimacy of Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, God looked upon the Jewish people, who were now preparing to depart and to travel to their next destinations, and God said to them עַכְּבוּ עִמִּי עוֹד יוֹם אֶחָד, קָשָׁה עָלַי פְּרֵדַתְכֶם. Stay one more festival day, Parting ways is hard for Me.

Both this morning, and in the coming weeks, we will be experiencing a difficult parting of ways. Each one of us, without even a single exception will miss your passion, your pastoral insight and care, your Torah.

This morning, as a Kehilla, and as individuals, we wish you success, happiness, and blessing. Tzetchem l’shalom, and when you return, to visit your family and friends here, and we look forward to saying Bo’achem l’shalom.    

For the many ways in which you have changed the lives of both men and women over the past 8 years,מעומק הלב, תודה

Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784