Thursday, 01 Jul 2021

Written by Etienne Kerber

                                                             The Last Waltz

This is my very last D’var Torah as a student rabbi. This Sunday (4th July 2021), I will become a rabbi. And after Rabbi Pauline Bebe will give me semikhah, I will not be a full-time student anymore. Needless to say, though my heart is filled with joy, it is going to be hard saying goodbye to those past 5 years as a student at the Leo Baeck College.

During this time, I have lived very exciting moments and met amazing people between London, Paris & Brussels. Thanks to the college community, I even found Agata, my wife, and we have been blessed with the birth of our baby daughter, Mia, last year in London. I could not be more attached to Albion and the time I have spent on this magical island.

Thus, as I am spending a lot of time writing the speech and sending mails to invite people watching the ceremony, I am thankful that my past-self chose to write the D’var Torah during this specific week. And while I am trying to say something meaningful, I have to deal with some rather strong thoughts and feelings…


Because indeed, it’s about to be the end

Someone is about to turn on the lights

But if I was to be honest for a second

I would say what’s on my mind!


I look like everything is ok

But very deep down inside

What I would truly like to ask is

Can someone take me back?


They say I am a fool

Who probably wants to be funny

But they don’t have a clue

I am only half joking!


Please God

Now that I have been taught

I have come to realized

Again, I want to start it all!


Please God,

Take me back five years ago

When I was an innocent young man

But with the brain of one who knows!


I want to sit again in those classes

And without the fear of exams

Re-listen to everything my teachers taught

Please God take me back!


I want to bring smarter answers

I want to explore even further on

I want to take the time to read

Every single secondary source!


Please God

Let me pass the quizzes again

You know how much they made me suffer

But despite the holy pain

I swear I won’t complain!


I will enjoy even more

I will be delightful

I will read the handbook

And won’t ask for even extensions!


Dear God,

If you let me go back

I will go to the library

And bring back every book on time!


If you let me go back

I promise I will learn

Every single rule of grammar!

And all of the dictionaries’ words


I know it has to do with stress

I know big changes are coming

But it seems fair to ask

Why does time have to be

…so systematic?


Thus, I wonder about Joshua…

In this parashah, Numb 27:18 & 23.

When Moses laid his hands upon him (semikhah)


Did Joshua feel nostalgia?

Did he want to go back?

While remembering the crossing of the sea,

And the melodies of Miriam?

When the manna first appeared,

And the thunder around Mount Sinai?


While we spend our lives

Re-enacting those moments,

Before his semikhah I’m sure

Somewhere down his memory

All these extraordinary moments

Joshua must have missed them all


But what are memories compared to the promise of a land?


Thus indeed, it’s about to be the end

Someone is about to turn on the lights

But, it is ok if you don’t take me back dear God

For I understand now that nostalgia

Is only the proof that

The time that passes…

The time that passes…

The time that passes

Is only love


I am going to become a rabbi! What do rabbis do? One of their mission is to accompany people to go through life. But this week, I am the one in need of spiritual accompaniment. As I was wondering how can I help myself? The answer came pretty quickly.

One of the first lesson I have learned is that before any event, from Shabbat to Huppah, one needs to prepare him/herself. Thus, I should create a ritual to get ready for the ritual.

Therefore, here is my program for the next seven days:


  1. Yom Rishon: Establish the preparation.


  1. Yom Sheni: What does semikhah mean for me? What are the different significations of the root? The required qualifications in the progressive world are different from the traditional one. While it is something I used to think of before starting my studies, I want to be in touch with the meaning of it now that I am arriving at the end of the student rabbi journey.


  1. Yom Shelishi: what does it mean to become a rabbi in terms of engagements and responsibilities? Can I wrap my head around all the ramifications it implies?


  1. Yom Revii: What does it mean in the story of my family? A funny anecdote is the fact that both of my great grandfathers have left rabbinical school during the last year of their studies. One in Poland and the other in Tunisia. As it seems I am about to break that rule, I want to spend some time getting in touch with the spiritual heritage they left me.


  1. Yom Hamishi: what does it mean for the history of my country? As student rabbi Iris and I are going to be the first progressive rabbis to get smicha in France for the past 53 years, it is quite something! I will try to call the last rabbi who was ordained in France, Rabbi François Garai, who has created a wonderful community in Geneva.


  1. Yom Shishi: What do I want to accomplish? It is something we have approached in class, but as I am going to start working on a daily basis, I need to have a big picture before summer starts. The dreams I had when starting my studies are not the same ones anymore.


  1. Yom Shabbat: Rest & Enjoy.


  1. Semikhah



This is the Last Waltz,


Etienne Kerber LBC 5th year student

The views expressed in this D’var Torah do not necessarily reflect the position of Leo Baeck College.