Amherst Commencement

I just arrived at Amherst for Commencement weekend.

Last year, pictures of the Baccalaureate Service (10am in Johnson Chapel) were posted almost immediately after the event. Check here for pictures, audio, and more from Commecement festivities.

Below is my Call to Action Text I will deliver at tomorrow's service:

Shabbat Shalom.
We have gathered at a liminal moment in your lives. Surrounding each of you are those who helped you reach this threshold: your family, friends and members of the Amherst Community. Your Amherst education and achievements are worthy of celebration but the college motto of Terras Irradient ("Let them give light to the world") teaches us that your dreams and actions will illuminate our future.

The Talmud challenges us: which is better — learning or action? The spirit of Amherst College echoes the answer to the Talmud’s question: learning is better because your learning at Amherst—both inside and outside the classroom—leads to and informs your actions. Your learning leads to your illuminating the world.

The midrash says:

When they arrive to the World-to-Come at the end of their life, each person will be asked: How did you occupy your time?

If the person says, "I fed the hungry," then the angels say to him: This is God’s gate; those who feed the hungry may enter. If the person says, "I clothed the naked," then the angels say to her, "This is God’s gate, those whose who clothe the naked may enter. And similarly those who raise orphans, and those who give charity, and those who engage in deeds of lovingkindness."

According to this Midrash, we are not judged by how we earn a living but what we do to better the world. Some of us have the priveledge of aligning the way we earn a living with creating a better world. Since most of you are early in the journey of creating your future, I challenge you to do accomplish a similar alignment. There is a way to apply any training to helping others. But all of us have to remember that a job—no matter how passionately we approach it—is only part of our time and identity. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, raising orphans, giving charity, and performing deeds of loving-kindness are the responses that should be offered when our stories are told. That is how you will dispel the world’s darkness.

May the God we call by many names help each of our graduates turn their learning into creative, peace-bringing, celebratory actions in the world. May we, in the words of the Psalmist, “give thanks to God who created the luminaries” for helping us all to reach this joyous day.

May the Source of Mercy and Compassion bless each member of the Amherst College community gathered to honor and celebrate with them. May we all merit to see each of our graduates bring more light into the world over the coming years.


Shabbat shalom and Mazal Tov to the graduates and their families,

Rabbi Bruce

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