Thursday, June 30, 2011

Some Day the Rabbi Will Retire

Some Day the Rabbi Will Retire

From the Heart

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor


In the mid 1960's the author Harry Kemelman began writing a series of eleven books about a fictitious Rabbi Small, clearly a Conservative Rabbi, in a town in New England. Seven of the books were connected to the days of the week. One title he did not use was: "Some Day the Rabbi Will Retire." If he is still alive and interested, I can now write the book for him.


While it is probably true for most professions, when I thought to become a Rabbi and when I began my student pulpit two years before I was officially ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary I had no idea what it meant to be a Rabbi. Since I was in fourth grade I grew up in synagogue and watched "my Rabbi." I saw a little of what he did on the bemah, his teaching in religious school, and standing in the church pulpit for interfaith Thanksgiving services.  Now looking back from this vantage point, I had such little knowledge of being a Rabbi and yet, that much inspired me to follow in his footsteps. Only upon daily living this path does one really know. I am glad that long ago I chose to be a Rabbi..


Thirty-seven years ago this summer Ruby and I returned from a year of study in Israel the small town of Maywood, New Jersey and I began serving as a student Rabbi. I did everything a Rabbi did while I completed my last two years in Rabbinical School at the Seminary. There was a lot of "on the job training." There and then I knew that I had made the right choice. I have never swerved from that belief. I have always kept the faith.


Being a Rabbi is a privilege. The title spans two thousand years of history. It was held by scholars and saints, visionaries and dreamers, authors and preachers. That I have two shingles on my wall, Hebrew and English, that proclaims that I follow in their path, is humbling.


Being a Rabbi is an honor. The title permits me to represent Jewish tradition, our faith, to those far and near, young and old, Jewish and not, publicly and privately, in synagogue and in the public square. When I am called by that title I represent all my colleagues of all the ages; I represent the God of Israel, our wisdom of the ages. It is personally uplifting to have this opportunity.


Being a Rabbi is being entrusted to advise, counsel, and comfort a community of Jews along the path of life. I have learned that as much as anyone sees publicly what the Rabbi does, there is a myriad more of the unknown that has been the largest part of my life. I am thankful to be trusted by the six communities that I have shepherded.


By the time of my retirement I will have worn this title for nearly forty years, the span of time that it took the Israelites to traverse the distance from Egypt to Israel. It is the length of Moses' ministry. I am in awe of this path. I have been and am still blessed in many countless ways.


What does a Rabbi do when he retires? Study, pray, teach, have a little more time to look at the stars and at the flowers, play with grandchildren, see games at the Diamond and root on VCU. Walk hand in hand with Ruby, as we always have, and keep the friendships that have been the substance of my life.


Yet we have quite some time ahead to learn, pray, celebrate, and enjoy. I have privately said one Shehecheyanu. We have some time and then we will say the next one together.


Have a wonderful, refreshing and blessed summer. And give thanks to God. This is from my heart to yours.



Rabbi Gary S. Creditor

Temple Beth-El

3330 Grove Avenue

Richmond, VA 23221

Phone 804-355-3564

Fax 804-257-7152

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Anthony Weiner & Sexting

Anthony Weiner and Sexting

June 17th & 18th, 2011

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor


[This past Shabbat through Q&A I taught about Jewish values that reflect on the disgraceful situation surrounding the recently resigned Congressman and the subject that is of tremendous importance. It is not only about teenagers. The misuse of electronic media spans all ages. I offer these Jewish teachings in the fight for what is decent and right. I cannot reconstruct the delivery of the remarks. These are just the points that I shared.]


Erev Shabbat [Friday evening]


1. Moses' greatest value/characteristic is humility – Hebrew – Anavah. We see it in the episode where his brother Aaron and sister Miriam attack him (Numbers 12:3) and he will not defend himself by attacking them.


2. When God first revealed Himself to Moses He did it at the Burning Bush, which is a very low plant. (Exodus) This is expanded in the Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 2:5 to stress the humility of God when revealing Himself and the proper physical posture as a spiritual model.


3. When God created mankind He said: "Let us…" which the Rabbis take to mean that God consulted the angels before creating us. (Genesis 1:26). Again, this illustrates God's humility.


4. The parallel Jewish value/characteristic to humility is modesty. It is sometimes translated in the Hebrew with the same Hebrew word –Anavah, but usually the Hebrew word is tzni'ut.  It comes from the meaning "hidden." It only occurs twice in the entire Bible, once referring to wisdom and intelligence and the other "walking modestly with God." (Proverbs 11: 1-2 and Micah 6:8)


5. Tzni'ut is connected to holiness. When Moses first encountered God's holiness at the Burning Bush, he covered himself. (Exodus 3:6). Clearly Judaism enunciates an attitude that our holiness derives from God's holiness, as we are made in His image, and in reaction to His holiness we act with modesty and humility in all ways, our behavior, speech and dress.


In preparing these remarks I founding the following quotation:

"Hiddenness and privacy are the reaction to holiness."


6. In looking at the window in our Main Sanctuary from the prophet Ezekiel, we see that the angels had six wings. When they encountered God's glorious holiness they proclaimed: "Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh…Holy, Holy, Holy…." Accordingly, they used two wings with which to fly, and two wings to cover their legs, and two wings to cover their faces.


Clearly, where holiness exists, modesty and hiddenness exist.


7. We rarely open the Aaron HaKodesh, the Holy Ark, out of a sense of modesty and respect to the Torahs, God's words to us. Modesty and respect is shown and seen by being covered and not revealed.


8. Traditionally, when the reading the Torah, between aliyot when the Torah is not being read, it is covered by a cloth called the 'ben gavra' which means 'between each person'. The Torah is covered out of a sense of respect and modesty. We use the ben gavra when the Torah is not being read for a prolonged time.


Another quote I found:

"We are to imitate God in His Holiness and Hiddenness – leading us to humility and modesty.


[After mentioning the title for these remarks I never mentioned his name or the subject again. I stressed the cardinal Jewish values of modesty, humility, privacy, being covered, as how we connect to our holiness and to God. While these values might be counter-culture, they are our authentic and core values of Judaism. We must enunciate them to our children and grandchildren. They are vital for all of us.]


Yom Shabbat [Saturday morning]


We learn from the laws of Shabbat that there are two main realms – domains, with one of them being subdivided into three parts.


There is the private domain, namely our home. Within its precincts we may carry items that are Shabbat-permissible. The private domain is distinctly marked by either being the house, or the perimeter of our property.


There is the public domain, which is all the space outside our private domain. The public domain is subdivided into the general public space that is frequented by the public, a road, a square that is totally open. There is also the karmelit which is public space that is unfrequented. It is governed by all the rules of public domain. Lastly, there is free space which is a small part of the public domain and airspace above it.


On Shabbat, for reasons not to go into here, one does not take things from the private domain into the public domain. There is a clear separation between these two realms that is not to be violated. While the laws of Shabbat reflect the idea of 'doing business,' embedded in them is a value that particularly addresses the usage of electronic media.


In the private domain, behind closed doors there can be things appropriate for that realm, that domain, which are not appropriate for the public domain. Not all things are appropriate every. There is a difference. There are boundaries. There are things that should remain private and personal and there are other things that may be disseminated in the public domain. Through the laws of Shabbat we see how our Jewish values separate these two spaces. This Jewish value system has something to teach everyone, young and old. It is not just about carrying things from our homes on Shabbat. There are different reshuyot, spaces, and what is private should remain private. What is personal should remain personal.


These two teachings should be understood as two pieces of one whole teaching on the subject of the use of electronic media. Today, Monday, June 20, 2011, I listened to a discussion on the radio whether or not youngsters should have access to social media. While it might be impossible to disconnect them, we must connect them to a value system that puts forth a cogent, coherent rationale for specific behavior. I share this with you.


Shalom uv'racha,


Rabbi Creditor



Rabbi Gary S. Creditor

Temple Beth-El

3330 Grove Avenue

Richmond, VA 23221

Phone 804-355-3564

Fax 804-257-7152