Rabbi Levinsky looks forward to Park City
July 17, 2015
Rabbi David Levinsky used to play guitar and sing in a rock ‘n’ roll band before he decided on a career shift.
"I enjoyed music and loved the connection with the audience, but I felt what came out of that wasn’t necessarily lasting, strong, or would change people or the world," Levinsky said during an interview with The Park Record. "In the clergy, there are small interactions you do every day that hopefully guides people to make choices that will make their lives better and improve the world. That was something that I was looking for and being a rabbi is one way to do that."
Levinsky, who is the new rabbi for Temple Har Shalom, said the decision was an easy one, because when he was a child, growing up in Chicago, he wanted to be a rabbi so he could read the Talmud.
The Talmud is a large collection of laws and doctrines written by ancient Jewish teachers before the 8th Century, A.D.
"It is written in two languages with no vowels and punctuation," Levinsky said. "It’s a big challenge and a way to unlock the way the ancient rabbis thought and that was a huge part of the draw for me."
Levinsky, who has been a rabbi for 12 years, completed his rabbinical studies at Hebrew Union College and was ordained at its main campus in Cincinnati.
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"I also studied in Jerusalem and in Los Angeles," he said.
In addition, Levinsky received a doctorate from Stanford University in rabbinic literature and religious studies.
"I was fortunate enough that when I was a rabbinic student, professors noticed me and shuttled me to the university," he said. "I spent seven years reading ancient manuscripts and doing academic work and all of that is still alive in me. I think that brings a different perspective on the text."
Levinsky hopes to share Judaism with his congregation and Park City residents through personal connections.
"One thing that has changed in my years as a rabbis is that I have become much more open in my approach," he said. "I really believe that Judaism is a transformative force in the world. Of course, it’s not the only one, so why would I want to limit participation in Judaism. However, if someone wants to learn about Judaism, I’m here for them. If they want to participate in our community, I’m here for them.
"This applies to everyone including those who were born Jewish, those who are partners to people who are Jewish or who are curious about Judaism," Levinsky said. "This is a safe place where they can come and pursue their questions or interests, however, no one is going to try to make them Jewish. At the same time, they can take a little of what they learned and, hopefully, use it in the world and improve it."
The rabbi does know that he and the congregation will have to work hard to develop a collaborative atmosphere, to create a rich, vibrant and spiritual community.
"The general challenge in any religion is that we’re all human and we’re limited, which means there is only so much we can do," he said. "In our work as a congregation, not just as a rabbi, we ultimately have to work in the realm of human limitations. Yes, God is there to help, there is no doubt, but much of it is working to reveal what is godly inside of us in order to overcome these limitations."
On a lighter side, one of Levinsky’s limitations is skiing, although he has been a skateboarder for nearly 40 years.
"I’ve only skied twice, but I’m learning," he said with a laugh. "I skied when I was a kid and went out again last winter and I was making it down green runs by the afternoon. So, I’m expecting good things."
Still, the rabbi does take his ordination seriously.
"The most powerfully spiritual thing about being a rabbi is working with people who are hurting," he said. "It happens to everyone. To be there and walk through those experiences together is just incredible. Talk about a privilege."