Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tom and Me

I had one of my coolest rabbi experiences ever right before Shabbat started. I was truly honored to be invited to give the closing benediction at the inauguration of the new President of Northwestern University. I had no idea how much pomp and circumstance is involved in the inauguration of a university president!

Here is the text of my benediction (in case you're interested, which you must be because you're reading my blog!):

It is fitting that we gather here today to honor this academic institution on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah – a holiday that celebrates a most sacred book, the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. To truly celebrate knowledge, one must be a lifelong student, as President Schapiro is.

The Jewish sages ask the question: “Which is greater, study or action?” The great Rabbi Akiva answers: “Study is greater because it leads to action.” Through study and learning, teaching and imparting, we become the people that the world needs.

Today we ask for God’s blessings upon President Schapiro and the tasks he is about to undertake. Under his leadership and guidance, may learning flourish and may students and teachers alike grow and prosper. May this institution truly fulfill its motto, to think on the things that are true, honest, just, lovely and pure. And in so doing, may we all be blessed.

Keyn yehi ratzon, may this be God’s will.
Without detracting from the honoree, President Morton O. Schapiro (a really nice, mensch-y guy with a great sense of humor), one of the highlights for me was meeting the Inaugural Speaker, Thomas Friedman. (Listen to his Inaugural Speech here.) You may be familiar with Mr. Friedman's columns and his books, as I am, and I was a little bit starstruck to meet him in person. When asked by my colleague what he thought of the Peace Prize, he replied by explaining that he was planning to re-write his column for Sunday's paper. He explained to us (and by us, I mean the TWO of us who were standing with him - this was very cool) that he would write what he thought President Obama should say for his acceptance speech at the Nobel ceremony. And he did! It's a great column (as usual). And while I don't usually say much in the political arena here on this blog, I think he's got the whole thing spot-on. I asked Mr. Friedman if he would mind if I blogged about that conversation, and he said it was okay. So, Tom, if you're reading this, {{{waving}}} hi and thanks for a great speech and an excellent column!

P.S. Those of you who know me know that I'm a proud graduate of another Big 10 institution. While I was encouraged by many to root for my home team, I did behave appropriately and even wore a purple kippah to the event.


Anonymous said...


Jew Wishes said...

I feel the excitement in your voice, via this post.