Lech L’cha Induction Address to Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers

Induction Address to Rabbi Debbie Young Somers

16th October 2021 EHRS

Today I am going to speak about three people called Debbie not only Rabbi Debbie whom we celebrate this Shabbat morning.

The first is an ancient Debbie – the Prophet Devorah.   Devorah was a wise woman whom people would consult from miles around.  If you think that a prophet is only a person of words think again. Devorah became a leader of her people effective and an excellent communicator, so that we read the song of Deborah as haftarah every time we read the Torah portion Beshallach.

We are introduced to Deborah in the fourth Chapter of the Book of Judges.   She used to sit under a palm tree which became known as the palm of Deborah.  Israelites from all around the country would come to her in the northern hills of Israel for counsel and help to make decisions.

Devorah was a woman of action who teamed up with the warrior Barak to deal with the military threat of the Canaanites which was then threatening Israel’s very existence.   In her song in Judges chapter 5 she sings ‘Uri, Uri Devorah’ get up and get going Debbie.   Devorah’s success meant that Israel was peaceful and contented for forty years under her leadership.

The second Debbie was the extraordinary writer of songs in Hebrew and English and revolutioniser of Jewish music Debbie Friedman.  This Debbie sadly died 10 years ago .  So influential was she over her lifetime that the American institute for training cantors for the whole of Reform Judaism worldwide, based in New York, is now called the Debbie Freedman School of Sacred Music.  One of her songs, which I love for its message, is based on our Torah portion this week:

L’chi lach, to a land that I will show you
Leich l’cha, to a place you do not know
L’chi lach, on your journey I will bless you
And (you shall be a blessing) l’chi lach

This Debbie brings the key messages, values and teachings of Judaism into a means of expression that make them accessible to us all, never dumbing them down and always making them memorable.

So now let’s turn to our third Debbie – but for us our number one Debbie, Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers.  Our Rabbi Debbie joined us in April 2020 right in the middle of the greatest crisis to hit this Synagogue since the Second World War, as we had to close our building, rethink everything and make our synagogue relationships and activities happen in a completely new way.

Like the prophet Devorah her wisdom and counsel made us know that we had with us a Rabbi who could guide us for today and the future.   Rabbi Debbie’s ability to just deal with everything this awful pandemic threw at us with innovation, new technical skills, teaching, leading prayer, building community meant that we were all able to enjoy the song of our Rabbi Devorah, as the Israelites sang the song of Devorah haNasiah.   Her communication and teaching skills, shared with the nation on Radio 2, Three Counties Radio and Radio London, at Leo Baeck College and so many other places meant that not being able to meet Rabbi Debbie in person did not restrict her abilities to make deep connections with our Synagogue members.  And what a treat it has been for us all to be more and more together in person with Rabbi Debbie.

As Debbie Friedman sang, our Rabbi Debbie was willing to get up and go from her successful work as Community Educator for Reform Judaism to come back into the community Rabbinate and work with all generations in this Shul.  Not quite a land she did not know as she been student Rabbi here some years ago – but a very different Rabbinical challenge.  Rabbi Debbie had the courage of our first Jewish journeyers Abraham and Sarah to encounter all the new souls in EHRS and help all of us on our Jewish journeys.

This Shabbat is about our community Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue blessing Rabbi Debbie on her journey with us in the past year and a half and in the many years to come.   But it is of course also about us knowing that Debbie being our Rabbi, our colleague, our teacher, our friend will most certainly be a blessing to us.   Uri Uri Devorah – get up and get going Debbie, Lechi lach – walk on Rabbi Debbie and we will follow.