Friday, May 18, 2012

You Say Goodbye, And I Say Hello

NOTE: This, my final blog posting for Temple Solel and, will be double posted as the inaugural entry on my new blog ("Seventy Faces").  Please take a moment to explore the new blog and companion website (still under construction!).  I welcome your feedback about how I can improve it.

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All endings birth new beginnings.  And all new beginnings start with endings.

I have lived those dual realities since my new friends at Scarsdale Synagogue (in Scarsdale, NY) invited me to become their new rabbi (as of July 1, 2012) this past fall.  I am honored and overwhelmed to be taking this next step in my career and in my rabbinate.  And my family and I are most excited to be returning home to the East Coast to our family and friends.  And yet: there is also much sadness: Because this new beginning of our's necessitates a certain 'ending' to the life we have loved and known here in San Diego.

As we prepare to wish everyone in California farewell, my family and I have been struck by a profound sense of gratitude. And so, if you will permit me in this final Solel blog posting, I'd like to briefly reflect on the Jewish notion of gratitude, as I say to you all: thank you. Allow me to begin by recommending Alan Morinis' chapter on gratitude in his book Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar.  Morinis is a master teacher who has breathed new life into the practice of mussar over the last few years. All of us can benefit from the practical wisdom that he distills.

He opens his chapter by quoting from the Talmud (my own adapted translation): "Ben Zoma used to say: A good guest says: 'How much my host has toiled for me!  He put so much meat in front of me, so much wine, so much bread - all his exertion was just for me!'  A bad guest says: 'What did my host do for me?  I ate just a tiny roll, a single piece of meat, and I drank just one cup of wine - all of his exertion was on behalf of his family.'"

With tears in my eyes: I look back over these last seven years, and I proclaim: "How much my host has toiled for me!"  There are no words to describe how grateful I am to my fellow staff members, and the lay people I was privileged to work, partner, study, celebrate, and mourn with...for sacrificing a bit of yourselves as I learned from you what it means to be a rabbi.  My new community at Scarsdale Synagogue will be the ultimate beneficiaries of your chesed.  Though the gifts you have given me are far too numerous to mention individually, please know that I cherish each and every one of them - as I cherish each and every one of you.

The only thing that has amazed Amy and I more than the professional kindnesses showered on me as a rabbi has been the way that the entire Temple Solel family welcomed and extended itself to our family.  How blessed we feel that Temple Solel was the place where we had the chance to begin our family.  When I think of our building, I will always think of it first as the place where Siona was named in 2006, and where Avi's bris was held in 2010.  It was in the midst of those rituals that Amy and I learned the essence of what Solel is all about: a place of deep love and warmth.  Like you, we came to intimately appreciate the presence of Rabbi Frank, Cantor Robbins, and more recently Cantor Tiep as we marked those two holy moments in our lifecycle.  What else can we say, but thank you for those memories.

Most of all, I remain humbled by the fact that the temple's Assistant Rabbi Search Committee saw a glimmer of potential in the "green" graduating rabbinical student they met in the winter of 2005.  For the faith that you had in me in that season: I will forever be in your debt.

That same sense of humility is something that I am very much aware of, as I look forward to beginning my new tenure in New York...and as my family excitedly looks forward to our coming move, and the new life that awaits us there.  While it is true that I know much, much more now about what it means to be a rabbi (as compared to seven years ago), I am also aware of the new responsibilities and expectations that await me in Scarsdale.  And so it is that I am in Scarsdale Synagogue's debt as well, for the sacred trust you will shortly place in my hands, and for your belief that we can work together to write the next chapter of SSTTE's history. To my new friends there: I can only say how privileged and delighted I am to be able to begin to dream big dreams with you about what a vibrant 21st century progressive Jewish community can look like.

So, to friends old and new, I say: THANK YOU.

Morinis concludes piously by quoting Psalm 92: "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High, To proclaim Your goodness in the morning, And Your faithfulness at night."

But equally appropriate would be the words of the The Beatles.  To my Solel friends: You (We!) say goodbye....And to my Scarsdale friends: I say hello!