You Can Go Home Again

Last fall our caring and erudite President Barry Fulmer, here at Bat Yam Temple of the Islands sent a wonderful reminder to the congregation regarding our service for the Shabbat during Sukkot, which was based on the book of Ecclesiastes.  Ecclesiastes (like Esther for Purim, is the Megillah read in synagogues during Sukkot.)

In his letter Barry included a quotation from Thomas Wolfe’s posthumously published novel: You Can’t Go Home Again.

I had never read this American classic, and since I was soon to “go home again” to the first congregation I served Temple Isaiah in Columbia, Maryland, I decided I should. We left Columbia for Nashville in 1986.

For 13 yearsI served the congregation  as its first full-time rabbi. Since they were beginning to celebrate their 50th year, they invited Vickie and me back for a weekend to begin a yearlong series of celebratory events.

The book was much longer than I realized, but in the beginning of chapter 6, I found the perfect quotation to use as the introduction for my Friday night sermon. When after traveling the world, Wolfe’s protagonist George Webber returned to his boyhood home of Libya Falls, (Asheville in disguise) North Carolina for the funeral of the aunt who raised him he felt as I felt when I returned to speak at Temple Isaiah after 33 years:

“Something far, near strange and so familiar, and it seemed to him as though he had never left … and all that had passed in the years was like a dream.”

When the invitation first came to Vickie and me well over a year ago, I was delighted to accept, but I wondered, “Who will remember us? Who will care and who will come?”

To our delight, the service was packed, and many of those in attendance were students from years ago with whom I had studied for Bar or Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation. Some had traveled from as far Rochester, NY, Boston, New York City and North Carolina to be there. It was a joy to see them, and have some share the lessons from their B’nai Mitzvah portions as they fit into my teaching session on Shabbat morning.

Then on Saturday evening the present and past Presidents of the synagogue hosted Vickie and me for dinner in a private room of a lovely restaurant. After the meal the presidents took turns sharing nice memories they had of us.

With one exception they did not speak about memorable sermons or other “public acts” that stood out in their minds. Rather they spoke of specific things I did for them personally that made a lasting impact on their lives. To be honest, I could barely recall some of the instances they recounted.

But the lesson of the evening is one I shall always remember.

As Maya Angelou once wrote: “People will forget what you say … but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

I am glad we could “go home again” to re-learn that vital lesson.

 

 

 

At Last

Today I got word that What’s in It for Me! Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives was available for sale on KINDLE and NOOK. What a thrill it was for me to see my book’s link!

It will still be some time before it is available in hard copy other than through my web page, http://www.rabbifuchs.com, but no matter!

Now the ideas I have been studying, teaching and developing for more than 40 years have a chance to reach and influence a significant number of people. It is welcome news as Shabbat approaches.

It is especially meaningful that this milestone occurred while I am in Columbia, MD where I will teach some of these ideas at Temple Isaiah. TI is the congregation that welcomed me as it’s first rabbinic intern 41 years ago, and TI is the congregation which installed me as it’s first full-time rabbi a year later.

Temple Isaiah is the congregation that celebrated my marriage to Vickie and rejoiced with us in the birth of our three children, gifting each with a beautifully engraved Sterling Kiddush Cup. Now that my children are adults, those beautiful symbols of Shabbat joy mean so much to them and to Vickie and me!

I served Temple Isaiah for thirteen years in all. The congregation is my first professional love, and the bonds are enduring. So I am back to teach Torah with the same enthusiasm and joy as I had when I arrived 41 years ago. I come with the same hope I cherished then: that my message will have meaning for those who hear it and inspire at least one person to use his or her talents to make on this earth a more just, caring and compassionate society!

I feel very blessed!