Sunrise, Sunset: Transmitting Jewish Leadership
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is a faculty member of the Wexner Heritage Program. He is the Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, where he is Vice President. He is the author of 6 books, most recently Gift of Soul, Gift of Wisdom: Spiritual Resources for Leadership and Mentoring. Rabbi Artson can be reached at www.bradartson.com
Our Judaism is not merely learned. It is lived. The foundation of Jewish belonging is built one brick at a time, person to person. The key component is one Jew willing to share time and wisdom with another seeking soul.
The Torah portion “Hayei Sarah” begins with the statement that “Sarah’s lifetime—the span of Sarah’s life—came to 127 years. Sarah died in Kiryat Arba.” A few verses earlier in the Torah, we are offered the seemingly unconnected information that “Milkah too had borne children to your brother Nahor: . . . (including Bethuel), Bethuel being the father of Rebecca.” Why does the Torah tell us about the birth of Rebecca (Sarah’s future daughter-in-law) prior to informing us of the death of Sarah? The sages of the Midrash explain this by referring to a line from Kohelet: “The sun also rises and the sun sets.”
Rabbi Abba said, “Don’t we know that the sun rises and the sun sets? But the meaning is that prior to causing the ‘sun’ of one righteous person to set, the Holy One causes the ‘sun’ of another tzadik to rise. . . . Before the Holy Blessing One allowed Sarah’s sun to set, God caused that of Rebecca to rise.”
So it is in every generation. We are Jewish today because of the loving coaches we encountered along the way.
How can we ever repay those mentors? We can pass their gift—the gift of soul—to those whose lives we touch. We can become a mentor to someone else. Before the sunset fades, the new sun rises. Someone reached out to involve each one of us; now it’s our turn to reach out to tomorrow’s leaders. Your warmth can light their path. You can be their role model and friend. You can be their mentor.