In June 1978, at the historic Plum Street Temple in downtown Cincinnati, I received my rabbinic ordination from the Hebrew Union College -- Jewish Institute of Religion.
Thirty-six is a significant number in Jewish lore, given the number 18 stands for life.
On that day, Alfred Gottschalk, the college president, asked my classmates and me if we were prepared to become "rabbis in Israel."
My treasured smicha (ordination certificate) hangs on my office wall proclaiming I am "authorized to perform all Rabbinical functions in the name of God and Israel."
I have many memories of that day, of course, of the service itself (Anne Frank's father was guest of honor), of celebrating with my family and friends (including my parents; Mom died seven years ago), of the exhilaration that came along with the realization I had finally achieved my greatest professional goal: I was a rabbi!
My thesis adviser, the revered Jacob Rader Marcus, who lived to the age of a few months shy of 100, gave me a bear hug I shall never forget. And off I went, inspired by and rooted in Jewish tradition, and hopeful about my opportunity to do good, constructive and meaningful work in the Jewish world.
Twenty-five years later in 2003, along with a smaller number of my classmates, I became a doctor of divinity, accepting the honor bestowed upon rabbis who have served the Jewish community for 25 years. This time, the college president read a description of the work each of us has done as a rabbi. The bright crimson and yellow academic hood was carefully arranged over my shoulders.
In these intervening 36 years, I have been blessed to do the type of work that still excites me, still inspires and motivates and sometimes frustrates me, but always reminds me of my place in the chain of rabbis and teachers who have contributed to the Jewish world for thousands of years.
One thing, however, is different now.
I am keenly aware I did not achieve my goal 36 years ago; I am still working every day to bring, through Torah, depth and meaning into our lives and to make this world of ours kinder and more just. I am blessed and I am thankful.
"Fulfilled are those who walk in simplicity, guided by the Mystery.
Content are those who are mindful of what is important
And go forward with an open heart."
-- Psalm 119: 1-2
Rabbi Harold Caminker: 941-755-4900 (Temple), 941-806-9925 (cell), email@example.com (email). Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.