Responding to the Call

“Blessed is the people who know the sound of teru'ah.” – Psalms 89:16

The sound of the shofar is that primal, gut-wrenching, heart-piercing sound that has the power to change us, rouse us into life and action, demand our full and present attention, and command us to respond to a shattered world that is in profound need of healing. The sound of the shofar is a not-so-subtle reminder – a flamboyant awakening call – to choose and decide what it is we must do with our precious lives. It’s as if the voice of Creation is sounding out instructions for us, since we don’t come into the world with a Get Started manual. The sound of the shofar demands a response on the human level – a response in the form of both intention and action. It’s a call to return to our unique “deployment” in this world – the work we were meant to do. 

In Rabbi Daniel Siegel’s blog post below, he shares a process that he initiated over a year ago, a labour of love and respect in which he invited Renewal clergy and others to identify their callings – their “deployments” – some from Reb Zalman, some from other sources. Each person who responded is someone who has responded to the call of the shofar at some point – someone who has carefully considered their calling and who has been able to articulate it. It is remarkable that over 70 people responded to Reb Daniel’s invitation. We are certain there are people who have not yet identified themselves or who wish to stay anonymous, like the thirty-six tzaddikim. And there are others who are just now emerging into their calling, whose calling is not yet fully formed but is in process. Below, Reb Daniel shares the unfolding of the process, and the living document that resulted, a work in progress. Wishing us all a wakeful, vibratory, heart-opening High Holiday season filled with love and generosity and compassion. 

Rabbi Sherril Gilbert, Executive Director, ALEPH Canada


Dear Friends,

In the weeks preceding the OHALAH conference last January and continuing through the conference itself, I explored the idea of developing a list of the spiritual gifts members of our chevre were willing to share with others. I received overwhelming support and encouragement, both from “formal” entities including the boards of ALEPH and OHALAH, as well as from many individuals.

This project originated in the concerns we had as well as our experiences during the first years after Reb Zalman’s passing, which included confusion over this question of where our spiritual leadership is located. In my humble opinion, to the extent that Reb Zalman was our spiritual guide, he performed this function from just outside our formal structure.

While Reb Zalman often told us that it was not his deployment to determine who, if anyone, would be his successor, it turns out that he was interested in influencing the process. He did this mostly in private and so one of my goals was to discover how many people he had deployed and in what capacities. In addition, I wanted to know who else felt a sense of deployment that they wanted us all to know about. Finally, all this is based on the assumption that, however we may view Reb Zalman’s role and leadership, none of us wanted to have only person in that role.

Here, then, is a brief overview of how I understood this process as it became revealed over about a year. Reb Zalman offered to give me semicha as a dayan, which I accepted only after learning the basics of gittin including how to write a get. This happened in public at the OHALAH conference in 2007. Then, in 2008, Reb Zalman gave a “rebbe” semicha to five people in private. Sometime after that, he gave the same semicha to three others who did not know who the other five were nor did the five know about the three, and this he also did in private. In 2012, he sent a private letter to about 40 people, including those who had already received a second semicha, in which he urged them to “hold the center of Aleph and Ohalah together so that the work might continue without being taken off its right Kawanah.” For various reasons, this group did not congeal.

The deployments list which you can access below is the result of this project to uncover other charges which Reb Zalman gave to individuals as well as making public those whose callings come from other sources to which they feel deeply committed and willing to share with others. I am grateful to everyone who replied (and who may still reply). I am amazed that 70 people came forward and even more amazed and grateful that our movement has generated so many spiritual guides in a few decades.

The list is now on my Google site. You are invited to view it and use comments to let me know what changes you might want to make in your own listing as well as letting me know if you want to add your own name and focus to the list. For now, I will maintain the list.

I believe that Reb Zalman was correct in saying that rebbe is a function rather than a person. This list provides a resource for finding colleagues and teachers who can function as rebbes for us when we need them over the coming years. At the bottom, you will see that the list can be sorted both by last name and by category.

May 5779 be a year of healing for us all, for ALEPH, OHALAH, the ordination program, our boards, and for our countries and the human species.

With love and in gratitude for living to see the expansion of our chevre


The List of People and Their Deployments