Reflection Upon Ordination – January 2007

Who would have thought a knock on the head would guide me to my life’s work? It is true! My parents of blessed memory are Hungarian Shoah survivors. They wanted their children to be part of Judaism’s chain of transmission, so I attended Yeshivah as a child. The school’s philosophy required adhesion to rigid, patriarchal, and ethnocentric rules. We were taught that deviations from the school’s rules would anger an intolerant and stern G-d resulting in punishment. This was painful and caused me to engage minimally from Jewish tradition.

The Shoah impacted every facet of my life – it was the trauma that shadowed all. Survivor’s guilt is a powerful driver. It also highlights the point that popular belief is distinct from truth. People believed the Nazi claims were true and in their best interest. Many acted on them in the most horrific ways. This is why I am wary of mainstream beliefs to this day.

I worked diligently and tirelessly as a young woman to become an electronics engineer. I wanted to prove myself worthy of being blessed with this life. I was looking for work to get me through the next phase of life, electronics engineering made me employable. I also enjoyed pushing beyond what society believed women could accomplish and joined the “boys club” of the engineering world.

I believed that financial security would mitigate the fear gnawing in my belly. There was a resonance of the “work will make you free” philosophy modeled and taught at home.

Shabbos, that is a cessation from work, was not in my consciousness. I was “wed” to work. My life was fully scheduled and programmed.

On what turned out to be Shabbat Tisha B’Av 5755/1995, on mile 49 of a 50-mile bike ride I fell and sustained a serious head injury. My friend, Linda Eaton, rescued me from physical danger. She lived in Santa Cruz, about 120 miles away from the hospital taking care of me. Linda drove to the hospital in Sonoma and to fly to Los Angele with me and get me home. I was unable to care for myself at that juncture. Four months passed before I was able to return to work.

As my health improved my schedule had space in it, for the first time in a very long time.- I had been curious about studying mysticism. My brother, Rabbi Ivan Ickovits, shared that Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man was offering a Kabbalah class on Sefer Yetzirah with Yoseph Ashkenazi’s commentary.

A big wow! It was so delicious! This text taught me to recognize the breadcrumb trail, as it were, Spirit leaves. The Holy One wants to be seen! I had never before encountered this depth anywhere, and certainly did not expect to find it in Judaism. And here it was in my own tradition. The spark within was ignited. I wanted to know more.

Ivan introduced me to Reb Zalman – a Rebbe deep, wise, steeped in tradition and a twinkle in his eye. Reb Zalman comes from the old country and he appreciated diversity and birthed an egalitarian, universal and Torah based Judaism.

It was an epiphany! It continues. I yearn to learn more and help others become aware of this approach to Judaism.

I am called to follow in Reb Zalman’s footsteps and work the boundary conditions and help others integrate an egalitarian, universal, and evolving Judaism into their life. I am passionate about text study as a spiritual practice. I experience the wisdom from Hassidic and Kabbalistic traditions organic integration within the context of Gaia’s cycles. Today, I love to lead prayer and ritual, and have the privilege to serve a Mashpia Ruhanee- Spiritual Guide.

I am grateful for this life and privilege.

I am deeply grateful to my family; My beloved parents, Andy and Eva Ickovits, of blessed memory. You made sure Yiddishkeit was implanted in my being. Thank you for your generosity, bountiful gifts on so many levels, and for teaching me to be a deep thinker. Rabbi Ivan Sandor Raqib Ickovits, my dear brother, beloved hevrutah, and Kabbalist, joy and gratitude for the thousands of hours we shared engaged in the sublime mystery of Holy text study, B”H.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l thank you, for revitalizing Judaism with a universal, egalitarian, earth-aware, open, and joyful perspective that makes me proud and eager to be Jew. Rabbi Daniel Siegel; my program director, you are a wise and kind Rebbe. Thank you for taking me under your wing and generously guiding me with your knowledge and insights. Rabbi Marcia Prager, thank you for your tireless dedication to the sacred task of developing a new paradigm of leaders for Yisrael. You taught me to confidently and competently lead prayer with joy and vitality. Thank you, Emilie Conrad for guiding me to see mysteries hidden within the tissue of my body.

Thank you to my teachers; Rabbi Victor Gross, Rabbi Shaya Eisenberg, Dr. Moshe Idel, Rabbi Jonathan Omer-man, Rabbi Shlomo “Schwartzie” Schwartz, Rabbi Shohama Weiner, and my teachers from the Morei Derech program: Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Linda Thal, Anne Brener and Alan Moranis.

There are more teachers and friends who have guided me on this path than can be named here. Sometimes a simple passing comment has made a big impact. Most of all, thank you, Ribbono shel Olam for Your Presence in my life.

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Tmimah Audrey ickovits