Message From the Rabbi

rabbigelfand2Life is so often like being on a treadmill—and then we get off and rush to our next meeting, our next chore, or our next errand. When we listen to the news, too often we are given reason to pause and focus on dark clouds on the horizon or to fear when the proverbial next shoe will drop. As if that were not enough, our busy schedules are thrown off course by interruptions, personal or work or health, and on occasion life throws us a curve that stops us in our tracks and shatters or breaks our spirits. Yet, in winter and spring, here in NYC there is no shortage of things to run to and opportunities to take advantage of. The pace of our lives is stunning, but really, how far have we gotten since last summer? How precarious have been our days and how ominous are our nights? Could we not do better with a bit more of the sun’s brightness in these often challenging days?

During the darkness and cold of this past winter, I was privileged to be away from NYC for six weeks for part of a sabbatical for which I am so grateful. I was anxious, as I’ll be again next winter when I absent myself for its conclusion, to see if I could disengage from my life’s passion of 40 years; in the end it came easily. It was a temporary relief not to be on call 24/7 and not to be running, but rather to have enough hours in the day, to know that there was no one sitting outside my door, no intense schedule that is more often than not turned topsy-turvy by momentary needs of others, to not worry when the phone rang or vibrated at an odd hour, day or night. It was a profound opportunity to spend quality time at a more livable pace, even though I do love all the interruptions and the intensity…

Did you miss work?” I was often asked and it was easy to respond, “No, I only missed the people, family and friends who give that added dimension to one’s life and a love that is supportive and genuine.” How blessed I am to be a rabbi, especially here at Temple Israel, and to share my passions, my knowledge and my dreams with you. How grateful I am to work with sacred partners, clergy, staff and wonderful, supportive lay leaders and interested members of a congregation like ours, who are willing to engage to make ancient dreams become new, and new ideas holy, in this great, vibrant city unlike any other.

How I love the change of seasons now upon us here in NYC. At this time of the year, with longer days and summer’s brightness and warmth soon upon, us we all can, as I did in the California desert and in southern Africa this winter, find times to reflect, to playand to share precious moments with others. I realized that the similarity between these two experiences was the brightness of the sun and the pace with which we live. And that brightness comes in all forms and sizes as I loved being away, but was so excited and energized the very next days back at the synagogue because of you, the members of Temple Israel.

Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, tells a story about a medical examination he underwent after becoming the Chief Rabbi. The doctor put him on a treadmill. He then walked at a rapid pace. Rabbi Sacks asked the doctor, “What are you testing? How fast I can go, or how long?” “Neither,” the doctor replied. “What I am testing is how long it takes you – after you come off the treadmill – for your pulse to return to normal.” That is the test of resilience. That is the test of our ability to survive and recover. None of us are immune to winters of discontent or aging bodies or broken hearts or questioning minds or endless spiritual quests. But when we share our joys and our burdens with one another, our hearts and our souls, our very lives, feel the warmth of companionship, tradition and God. We can not only survive and recover, but also be growing, and even thrive. As Temple Israel’s Hebrew name is Yad B’Yad, may we share this summer hand in hand, wherever we are and whomever we are with.

Like summer’s precious moments (or a sabbatical’s comfort zone) with family and friends, Temple Israel, too, gives us so many unique opportunities for feeling the warmth of the sun rather than the loneliness of winter. Our doors and our hearts are always open. We cannot have quality time and experiences without some real quantity of time. Therein is the real brightness, special moments in community with others, and also privately, I dare say, with ourselves, as we share new experiences with others and alone, read new books and expand our minds, and aspire to new heights through our dreams and our prayers. All that is the secret recipe that gives us resilience to live with meaning and purpose, to realize our hopes and give strength to our values. With this in mind, even amidst too many clouds, may we share in the warmth of summer. Get ready, “Here Comes The Sun.”

As a child of the ‘60’s, my prayer for brightness for you, our people, our nation, our world, is affirmed in my daily prayers with the brightness of each new day and new opportunity. At this time of year especially, I believe that George Harrison got it right withelegant simplicity:

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting.
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear.
Here come the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it’s all right. It’s all right.