Rabbi’s Message July/August 2019

Rabbi Allan Finkel

As I put pen to paper for this, my first Rabbi’s Message in our Temple Bulletin, I am still a few days away from receiving smicha(ordination) just north of New York City. So, at this specific moment, I am writing as a lay leader at Temple Shalom. However, by the time you read this, I will already be “on the clock” as rabbi at Temple Shalom.

In many respects, it feels right to speak with you, right on that cusp. We learn from Ecclesiastes, in verses popularized in the Sixties by The Byrds’ “Turn, Turn, Turn” that to everything there is a season. And in this moment, I’d like to speak about our outgoing Rabbi Bill Tepper, a native Torontonian, who has chosen to step deeper into his rabbinical practice in his hometown. Having him with us in Winnipeg for the past three years has been a remarkable experience for all of us at Temple Shalom, and frankly, an inspiration to me as I quietly considered then chose to step onto a path that would lead me towards the rabbinate. Rabbi Bill brought to us the gifts of caring and compassion, and an extraordinarily deep knowledge and passion about liberal Judaism. He also brought with him and gifted us with a real sense of humanity, the difficult circumstances of his son Max’s accident that brought him and his wife Deborah back to Toronto from the States, a journey of pain and hope that he shared regularly with us, a kind reminder that rabbis are people too, people first. To Rabbi Bill, Deborah and Max, our hopes and our prayers are with you on your ongoing journeys.

At the moment, here at Temple Shalom, we have hit “summer quiet mode,” lovely little Friday night services led by a wonderful collection of lay leaders. But in the background, of course, quiet planning is well underway for what September will bring us – the High Holidays and for me, a year of teaching and a year of learning, a year of listening and a year of leading. I will be stepping onto a well-worn path of rabbis and rabbinical students who have served our congregation so well for over 50 years. But between then and now, it’s summer in Winnipeg, a time for all of us to experience the best of what Winnipeg can offer us, a time to recharge our batteries, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and to find the best of ourselves.

This, oddly, is what Judaism asks of us, especially liberal Judaism and our deep emphasis on Judaism as a way of living and its focus on living ethically and on playing well with others. And it is a template for how to answer the questions that the High Holidays will quietly ask of us – an internal calculation, a cheshbon– so, how have I been living this past year? What have I done well? What more can I do? And what hasn’t been going so well? What can I improve and what damage can I repair?

Odd questions for this time of year for sure, but trust me on this: Living well, even in difficult circumstances, is a daily habit, and frankly, my High Holiday lists get a lot shorter if I get on these things way before the High Holidays. So, for now, enjoy each day for what it gives, and be mindful of the blessings in your lives. That’s my plan as well.

Rabbi Allan Finkel