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.