On February 3, 2024, I had the privilege to lead the service and hear the oath of a new priest. While this is not the first rite of passage or even clergy oath I have facilitated, this one is definitely different, and these moments, these memories, reframe the perspectives and method of engagement for my future endeavors as a mentor and spiritual companion.
I have been serving as Z's mentor for a few years now, and we've connected through our parallel study. As he was working on his courses for the first circle and Ordination, I was managing the third circle and requirements for Elevation to Senior Priest. As the events of the weekend retreat where we hosted the ordination rite begin to fade, I am left with key takeaways regarding the depth of this experience.
For me, serving as Z's mentor has been different than previous and other existing relationships I have. While Z is perfectly capable of managing the study program work on his own, the types of questions and topics for discussion we've had have been more deeply spiritual and wholistic in that the way this work changes us as a person held position in the forefront. What he sought in our mentor relationship was (and is) different than other relationships I have. If I am honest, I wager I have received more lessons, insight, and learnings from our work together than he likely gleaned for himself.
The biggest item, and one that makes this whole experience feel different, is our communal dedication to growth through study and experience. Rev. William Ashton talks about a type of relationship in the Jewish tradition known as Chavrusa, or Havruta. According to My Jewish Learning, Jews seldom study the Torah or Talmud alone, preferring to study in pairs or small groups. Havruta translates to “fellowship,” and it is in this fellowship relationship where the pair wrestle with the meaning of the passages of the texts, filling the hall with the sounds of discussion and debate to create an atmosphere known as beit midrash, a holy study hall. As it states in the Talmud: “Two scholars, through discussion and debate, help to sharpen each other’s insight into the text” (BT Ta’anit7a). While this is a recent phenomenon, the concept sings in my spirit, and I haven’t had this level of intensity in my own religious study with another so close to what I was doing. While the actual events are technically different, working toward a rite of passage with another changes the perception of the work and creates a connection not as accessible in those who are further removed from that experience. I have seen the magic of this type of Havruta study partner relationship before in watching Rev William engage with one of his closest companions on the path. Now that I am seeing this in Z, I am beginning to understand.
I bestow many blessings on his new journey, his continued success, and most of all, if I may be selfish, on our continued study and growth together as peers. Congratulations, Z!