When Reb Shlomo invited me to chant Shir haShirim-Song of Songs one erev Shabbat, and called me up to the Torah for an aliya the next morning at a Ruach-Spirit retreat in the early 1980″s, he changed my life. I stood trembling by him at the bima, encompassed by my tallit, engulfed by his tangible affirmation and love. Having grown in an Orthodox community, I had struggled to be permitted to learn Rambam, to study gemarra-Talmud. This was the first time I had witnessed a formidable religious leader respect, include, and celebrate women at the core of Jewish practice, as full participants and as leaders. Shlomo welcomed me, affirmed my desire for public Jewish practice.
Reb Shlomo was quick to support Women of the Wall during tumultuous months in 1989. While so many threatened and violated, he strengthened us with music and teachings. He knew well the anger and cruelty as well as the sweetness and ecstasy of Jewish souls. Through years and tears, Reb Shlomo nurtured my spiritual unfolding.
He once sat on our metal filing cabinet, in our Jerusalem living-room holding our 8-day old babe, his tallit draped over his lion head as we incised the brit-covenant of our People in blood and flesh. He stood for my father Yakov ben Chana and Aharon haKohen, may his memory be for blessing. In his great hand the overflowing massive pottery cup over which our wedding blessings were recited under our chuppa, he blessed our newborn child, Amitai Shalev.
At a concert, he dedicated Adir Hu – a redemption song – to our youngest, AdirChai – now serving in an IDF combat unit. May Reb Shmomo’s brakhot protect him and all of our soldiers for whom he prayed fervently. And may his sublime prayers also bless our foes to turn their hearts to love for life, theirs and ours, as Reb Shlomo loved every human being.
To Reb Shlomo’s great memory and the holy joy he brought to earth, I dedicate my own heart and work. I aspire to the birth of our People and humanity out from the channels of oppressing one another toward better fulfilling our finest selves in the divine image that shone in Shlomo’s being.