I became an ordained Rabbi in 1988, but my passion to be a Rabbi began years before that. It comes from a deep seated desire to help people in their spiritual journeys through life. Some people would think this would involve studying and teaching the Torah and other writings, but there is much more to being a rabbi than that. The Torah is a starting point, a foundation from which we build our lives. Most of us do not live "textbook" type lives. They are complicated with issues and problems that make our lives what they are. A human life is not judged by what we do, or what we accomplished, or what happened. Things happen to all of us. A life is judged by how we respond to the "things" of life, and that is what the Torah does. It assists us and guides us to keep our lives focused on the God of Israel in spite of what happens. I see my role as a rabbi as assisting people along their life journeys.
The models for my life have been my parents and grandparents, my rabbis, my peers, and my congregants. From my parents, I learned a love for God. My mother taught me that God loved our people and watches over us, and no matter what happens, we need to trust in Him. My grandmother was a woman of rich wisdom. She taught us that God watches over us and answers our prayers. This was my foundation since I was a child.
My rabbis taught me the Jewish religion, and a love for our traditions. My learning from Reb Yitzhok, my mentor, covered classical Jewish texts, but more than that, he taught me compassion for others who had not studied. He taught we should never write someone off, even if they were crazy, because it wasn't their fault, and we needed to have compassion on them.
My peers taught me through their own faith and struggles, and how they handled their situations. I watched them struggle with their ministries and their lives, and saw how they grew from them.
I learned from my congregants as they struggled with the problems and complexities of their lives and tried to trust God through them. It excited me to see them grow in their faith and in their desire to live lives according to the Torah despite their difficulties. Some came from non-observant backgrounds, yet they slowly took on Jewish values and lifestyles.
The motivation for my rabbinical calling comes from a deep sense of compassion for people. Life hurts, and the deepest hurts can shatter our lives. I try to be there for people, not with words of wisdom, but to comfort, and let them know that God loves them and cares for them, even when it hurts so bad. I let them know that I've been there, and I know it hurts, but that it will get better. Yeshua repeatedly had compassion on people, and made them whole. Like Him, I desire, through my compassion, to bring wholeness into people's lives. It's important that people know they are loved and cared for.
I have never pushed traditional observance on others. As I have lived it, others came to me and asked how they could become more observant. That's how I begin with them, by being a model, not of perfection, but letting them see my journey with its failures as well as successes. My goal is that they will live lives of faith and trust in God, Yeshua, and ordered by the Torah. Whatever I can do to help them along the way, is my task. Nothing makes me feel more delighted than seeing someone grow in their trust in God, in Yeshua, and about living a more Jewish life.
Read more about Rabbi Schiffman on his profile page.