Small people talk about other people— Average People talk about things—Great people talk about ideas—
(A sign on hanging on a wall at a Jerusalem Kiosk)
By my reckoning this will be not only my last note to the Congregation’s Temple topics, but my 200th offering. I thank so many for the journey that we have taken these past twenty years. It was a journey filled with study, prayer, and charity. (Scholars in residence, Thanksgiving interfaith services (3) that helped to raise funds for various charities, caring committee visits, life cycle events, musical events, and some estimated 1200 and more Sabbath and holiday services etc.) In past notes I have offered accolades to a few members, often at the risk of not noting many others as deserving. Some of those sadly are no long with us in body, but still remain so in spirit. They include those steadfast attendees of our services who have made up a minyan and those who gave of their resources to sustain your temple. Others, still alive have moved away from Spartanburg, including some of the children, now grown whom I had the great joy of officiating at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah and subsequent weddings.
Many who are members presently may have only heard of these men and women from the past. That sometimes saddens me as some have lost sight of them. It is fair to say that the Temple has been like a turnstile with some new members en- tering and others exiting. It is now my time to exit. I do so with a sense of gratitude to many and a bit of self-imposed amnesia to the very few who were in conflict with me.
Recently I was given a nationally recognized award by Wofford – The Algernon Sydney Sullivan award for humanity. At first, to quote Groucho “I would never join a club that would have me as its member!” Such is my self-deprecating humor, which one dear colleague noted to me and to which I then said, “Yes, but I don’t do that all very well!” He then added“Worry not! Others will surely deprecate you instead!” Such is a reality that every rabbi without exception knows to be true. As one touching Israeli song would have it “accept the bitter with the sweet!” I want you to know that with all sincere modesty that the award is a tribute to this Jewish community. There are hundreds of Churches and other religious institutions with their religious leaders who have not been so honored. It is clear to me that through your communal support, the award was yours.
The quote shared above is an aspirational one for me and should be for all an incentive to become better Jews and better human beings. How well we spend our three score or more years on this plane of existence may be assessed by how we have pursued greatness in those ideas and deeds that have been placed before us. In our Midrashic tradition we as a people were bid to become “a nation of scholars and saints!” Easier said than done!
I wish one and all continued fulfillment as B’nai Israel – Children of Israel
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz D.D.
P.S. Thank you, Jan for being my right arm, my wife Carrie and my children for their forbearance and love.