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Transcript of Commencement address by Rabbi Daniel Shevitz

Following is a transcript of Rabbi Daniel Shevitz's invocation, as provided by the MIT News Office.

Good morning. I have good news and bad news. I think I'll give you the bad news first.

The bad news is that they didn't teach you enough. Oh, they taught you how to do, how to make, how to design and construct. Perhaps they even taught you how to think and how to feel. But that's not going to do it for you. You have pulled endless all nighters, done hundreds of problem sets, consumed thousands of pizzas, and it's still not enough.

Did they promise you that they'd teach you what was important? It was half true. What they taught you was important, but what they couldn't teach you was even more important. And your teachers knew it all along.

You are undoubtedly well equipped for your careers, but life is more than that, and our careers will not save us. Redemption will depend less on how many hours you put into your thesis, and more on how you treat those around you when you're under pressure. Your happiness will come not from the recommendations the faculty writes for you, but from how your friends and family love you, criticize you, and forgive you. Your success will be measured not by your publications, but by how you treat the typist. These are matters that are generally not part of the curriculum.

Oh poor, poor MIT; so far from Heaven, so close to Harvard! There just wasn't enough time for everything. So the the faculty made a deal with you: they said, we will teach you what to do; you must figure out who to be. And that is ever so much harder than 6.001.

But the good news is: you're out of here! And now you will begin to see the tremendous value of the education you have received, and the stupendous responsibility of using it well. Only when you know the limits of your knowledge, and of knowledge in general, will you begin to savor the delights of wisdom, and, I dare to add, the possibility of holiness.

My tradition teaches that when he was just beginning his career, Moses had a vision of a burning bush. The bush burned with fire but was not consumed, says the Scripture. Moses is quoted: "Let me turn aside and see this wondrous thing!" I like to think that the bush had been there, burning for years, and everyone else, much too busy doing Very Important Things, glanced at it and hurried off to a meeting or a presentation or an interview or to write a grant proposal. Only to Moses did it occur that he was not so busy that he couldn't stop to check out something that had no immediate use to his career advancement.

There are bushes burning everywhere. All around us. And the voice of God yearns to be heard, calling us to bring heaven and earth a bit closer. You will see these fires if you are fortunate; and you will hear the voice if you merit it.

Some of the fires will be destructive, and threaten a conflagration, and these you must attack with all the cleverness and tricks you've learned in these halls of knowledge; but others burn and do not consume. These are the ones which a busy man or woman will pass by, but the curious of spirit will turn aside to wonder at that which cannot be grasped with mind alone. And in the true humility in your frailty, and in the true pride in your ability, you may hear the voice of God speaking to each one of you out of those flames. That Voice will deliver but one message, as it always has, for prophets, saints, and all those who may listen; that Voice will say: "Go ahead, ... Make ... My... Day."

May you go from strength to ever greater strength, and may the vision of a redeemed world always be before you.