At my core rests the belief that God answers prayers for courage, the courage to act despite our impulse to withdraw, to embrace despite our wish to withhold, and the courage to reach beyond limitations despite the instinct to remain safely within. That God is the Source of Courage has for years been a centerpiece of my faith. And I am equally convinced that courage can be soulfully discovered if not actually revealed to the clearly intentioned heart. Put perhaps more practically, we become better people when we find the courage to ask for help. It is that clear act of becoming better people that Judaism so powerfully offers, and it is the process of becoming better that I have always worked to discover both for myself and with my congregants. Here’s how.
My life drive compels me to bring peace, or shalom, between those who lack it and wholeness (the root meaning of shalom) to those who want it. I have always worked to help others discover for themselves exactly what I have tried to discover for myself, that single and indispensable ingredient required to bring shalom where none exists: courage. The courage to speak, the courage to remain silent, the courage to act, the courage to do nothing, the courage to walk out front, the courag eto stay behind. I’m the guy who is willing, willing to at least seek a way toward what at first seems implausible. I have developed the ability to say the hard truth that needs saying in a way that’s always respectful, always caring and always forward moving.
Fortunately for me, I love people. I love being around people, discovering new people, and discovering new things about people I have known in abiding relationships for years and years: brilliant people, stubborn people, people in pain, people in love, addicted people, addicting people. When I am with you, I am your loyal listener. I listen completely, totally and with great care because the act of listening, in and of itself, brings repair. A committed listener leaves the other feeling better, richer, and more alive. That is why Hear O Israel never stops telling me what to do right now.
There also comes a time when, after careful listening, we must act. I stand up for parents struggling to raise caring and cognizant sons and daughters; for the indigent Honduran lacking medical care for his daughter at the Texas border who every day breathes in fracking dust illegally dumped by truckers; for the single mom at the back end of a nasty divorce trying to raise her children as Jews; for the hospice patient and her son still struggling to forgive one another for ancient hurts, the source long forgotten but the sting lived daily.
I work to preach through deed and to stand up for the Jewish People by bringing as many as I can to Israel. I lead these trips over and over, for newcomers, repeat visitors, and anyone willing to go. It will potently remain my core mission to always, always, always plan trips to Israel because when it comes to Israel I am not free to desist.
I love dancing with Jewish texts as much as I love dancing with the Torah itself. And just as much, I love opening the scroll for hearts willing to enter that elusive and often hidden doorway to the Sacred. I open this door with those willing to delve
deeper into each word and letter and, as a direct result, into themselves. I am a witness when others take ownership and mastery of our tradition; and what a source of joy it is!
Whether I embrace them or not, I have always been fascinated by ideas beyond the outskirts of my comfort zone. I always try to discover why something makes me feel awkward or anxious as opposed to avoiding it. For me, the treasure is in understanding. Reconciling my thinking with an unexpected backdrop creates not only rigor, but simultaneously the ability to consider new lenses through which to see a complicated world. I love discovering how things work, perhaps because my dad was a fearless dis-assembler. As a result, I love to visit the workplaces of friends and congregants, to see how things work under the hood and behind the curtain. Discovering how others spend their time helps me see the world anew and keeps things fresh for me.
An equally important source of wisdom for me are the mistakes I have made in my life. My scars are my teachers, and I am proud of how they daily inform me. Given the opportunity, I’m more than willing to discuss my errors and the critical lessons learned as a result.
My spare time reflects my two great loves: music and my family. I have played the piano for as long as I can remember. More than a leisure activity it’s another language of expression altogether, a doorway into the place where melodies breathe and rhythms have a living pulse.
Congregation and rabbi, like great musicians, create amazing sounds together, far, far beyond their abilities to make music alone. Through this partnership, synagogues build the sacred communities that are the driving force of Jewish living.