The earlier part of the week was all about making the organizational decisions to help put us on the right footing for a campaign to renovate and restore our buildings, including fundraising coffees and fundraising lunches followed by strategic meetings and planning sessions.
And then, just like that, today pivoted, and I'm helping to find housing for a family left nearly homeless in this brutal economy and within moments, sitting with a bereaved woman whose husband of 46 years died and she can't function without him. That's 16,790 days with one person. Try to imagine doing something with someone for 16,790 days in a row and then all of a sudden lose that presence, lose that voice, suffer from the absence of that soul. There is survivor's guilt; anger; anxiety; depression. And an unspeakable loneliness that few of us truly know.
A fire alarm went off during this conversation today and my visitor kept checking her watch. "You must be busy," she said. "I'm not a member of your shul. I should go." "But you are here," I said. "And we're together. So stay."
I thought, but didn't say, "The fundraising and the strategizing is for moments like these, the quiet moments of service." Obligation without fanfare. Just the response.
I'm so tired in those moments. I see only more appointments and more conversations ahead. One kid's parents are out of town; another's got the flu but here they are, in the chair, chanting Torah. Time is collapsing. It's 11 am and 12 pm and 4 pm and 6 pm and it's learning and shelter and a wedding and cremation and hunger and another member laid off from work in this goddamn economy. My kids text me their class pictures. I skip dinner, make copies, prepare for an evening class.
On Chosenness. and the text I choose is Leo Baeck's work on "Election of Israel" from the Essence of Judaism. Like clear water, cool and refreshing, Baeck's prose awakens me, centering and focusing my tiredness into a molecular revitalization. We deal with exclusivity and commandedness; particularism and universalism. And around the room are those who have been members of the shul for 25 years and those who have yet to join. Jew and non-Jew. North. South. East. West.
We read Baeck and I tell the stories about him that I know, learned from Rabbi A. Stanley Dreyfus, of blessed memory. We read Baeck and I attempt to contextualize him and help others understand him and be inspired by him.
And I find myself inspired by being Chosen. To serve God. And my people. And all people. Wherever and whoever they are.
Plural. Like my day. All things at all times. For all time. Amen.