Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Signing Off

Dear Friends,

It has been a while since I wrote in this column and it has not been easy to be away, but for sheer necessity and lack of time.  I am saddened to now write this column for the last time.

I have enjoyed sharing my life and thoughts with you these past four or so years and in doing so, “Normal is Overrated” has become a part of my life, as you have become my friends, even though, many of you I have not yet met.

This column began as a mailer to around fifty people and has grown to a (usual) weekly audience of some 11,000 in almost every corner of the globe.

I have learned from you as I hope that you have learned from me.  I have also learned from myself; the hardest lesson of all.  At age fifty, I found that I and I alone own the responsibility for my lack of loving relationships with my children; that what they needed more than my presents, was my presence, and in my lifelong quest to give them “presents”, I forgot about the “presence”; my presence.

Even fulfilling my lifelong dream of serving G-d and the Community as a Rabbi took me away from them, if not physically (which it did), but certainly spiritually and emotionally.
I put my vocation (JOB) ahead of my own son’s achievements by refusing to attend a concert that he conducted (on a Friday night); his last as a High School student.  I argued with them about the necessity of keeping Kosher, and tried to dictate their lives from a (more observant) Jewish perspective, not even recognizing what wonderful people they had become just the way that they were raised.  “Living Jewishly”, it turns out, requires one to simply be a good person and to love G-d.  And, by being a good person; a loving and caring person; a person who treats others with respect and dignity, is in and of itself, living “Jewishly”.  I was so removed, that I never really saw what everyone else continues to see:  My kids are great; just the way that they are.  Of course, I have always loved them, but never gave them the proper due respect.  And, in doing so, or as the case is, NOT doing so, I was not living so “Jewishly”.

When my wonderful daughter, now 33, graduated from High School, I stood on our driveway and cried.  Where did the time go, I asked myself.  I had missed her growing up.  I promised myself that would not happen with my boys, but again, it did; because I allowed it to happen again.  Now, I find myself giving all of my time to work, and none where truly important; to family.  I have learned my lesson.

Now comes the hard part.  These past few months, and certainly the past few weeks have shown me something that I never wanted to admit, nor did I wish to even address; I cannot be everything to everybody.  I cannot give my full attention to both my family and the patient who I am called to see at 3am;   I cannot give my “presence” to others and hope that my family will, in its stead, accept my “presents”.  Nor can I be any good to anyone, if I am not good to myself.  It simply doesn’t work.

My friends, I need to live “Jewishly”.

A cherished friend recently reminded me that in order for us as a people to arrive at the Promised Land, we had to wander the desert for forty years.  My youngest son two Passovers ago reminded us at the Seder Table that each of us lives in our own personal “Egypt”.  I agreed then, and I agree now.  The time for me to wander in my own desert and to try to exit from my own personal Egypt, is now.  Therefore, I have made a decision to take leave from the Rabbinate for an unspecified time.

I leave you with three last thoughts:

1.       Never say anything to anyone that you will not own.  In other words, saying something about someone else, and swearing that person to secrecy is simply cowardly and wrong.  If you have something to say to someone, say it to their face.  Lashon haRa, is NEVER a good thing, and someone will ALWAYS get hurt; even by listening.

2.       Do not EVER leave someone you love without telling them; even from a phone conversation.  One never knows if the opportunity will arise again.  Likewise, always say thank you.  They are, but two little words, but they play large; and lastly,

3.       Love each other.  If you don’t now, learn to.  For there is G-d in all of us, and it feels good.

From the Left Coast, and for the last time, I wish you Ahavah u’Vrachot, Love and Blessings…

--Rabbi Alan Abrams