Friday, June 12, 2009

I am a D.P. in My Own Home!

Displaced Person...I keep going into the Dining Room to work at a table that does not exist there. I keep opening a drawer to remove a non-existent fork and spoon. I go to reach for a Sefer that is no longer on a bookshelf, that is no longer there either. I feel displaced under my own roof. It is strange. This afternoon, I was not feeling well, so I was laying on my "bed" (a mattress on the floor) and contemplating all that has transpired this week! The packing up of all of our posessions, the lift being packed, Ayelet's graduation, getting our Entry Visas to Israel and, most recently, the Farewell Dinner from KJBS and the Community last night.
I must tell you that the dinner was a wonderful success. Due completely to the hard work of the dinner committee and the adbook committee, the dinner was a fabulous event! Over 250 people were in attendance and all of the speakers spoke so beautifully!

I want to express my thanks to the Dinner chairpersons:
Adina Aaron, Iris Bass, Dena Broekman, Judy Daniels, Aliza Frank and Leo and Sylvia Feigenbaum.

And to those who worked on the ad book: Mrs Debbie Kahn and Mrs Shoshana Benditzson. Thank you also to Mike Nussbaum for his eloquent words and to Judy Daniels for her wonderful tribute to Andy. Also, my Hakarat HaTov to Craig Frank and Rabbi Leonard Matanky. I was thrilled to receive a Flip video camera which will enable me to post VIDEO to my blog now, as well!

Below is the text of my speech from last night.

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen:

I find it very difficult to believe that I am standing before you tonight addressing a gathering of people saying good bye to us prior to our Aliya. It is a very surreal moment in my life and that of my family.

Before I begin, I would like to say a few words to one other individual here tonight who is also going through a very exciting time...Rabbi Aaron Leibtag. As you know, Rabbi Leibtag was just elected as the new Rav of KJBS. Rabbi, I want to offer you my sincerest wishes of Mazal Tov to you and to your Rebetzin, Ayelet. The responsibility is huge, the days are long and the demands are many. However, being a Rav of the Shul indeed is one of the most rewarding things you will do in your entire life. I pledge to you publicly that which I have told you privately...I will do whatever needed to help smooth your transition to the Shul and offer you whatever aid and assistance you may wish to have. I am grateful to Rabbi Frank who has helped me over the years, and I hope to be able to do the same for you. Mazal Tov and much Hatzlacha!

I want to express my thanks to the Dinner chairpersons:
Adina Aaron, Iris Bass, Dena Broekman, Judy Daniels, Aliza Frank and Leo and Sylvia Feigenbaum.
And to those who worked on the ad book: Mrs Debbie Kahn and Mrs Shoshana Benditzson. This evening did not happen overnight, and I want to publicly thank ALL of you for all of your hard work and hours spent putting this together.

At the beginning of Parashat Lech Lecha, HKBH tells Avraham Avinu:
Lech Lecha Me’artzecha U’milodetecha U’mibeit Avicha el Ha’aretz Asher Ar’eka
The Or HaChaim comments on the order of this Pasuk in the command that Hashem gives to Avraham to leave his homeland to go to a land he did not know of.
He points out, that the command to leave his homeland was easier than to leave his birthplace and leaving his birthplace was easier than leaving his family. Finally, leaving his family was the toughest part of all.

In that vein, I would like to address three audiences tonight. I want to speak to the community at large; I want to speak to the members of KJBS and finally, I want to speak to my family. Rather than being a “farewell” speech, I want tonight’s words to be a form of Hakarat Hatov to all three of these groups.
To the members of the Chicago Jewish Community...we have shared so much together. You have enabled me to not only share in some of your life cycle events, both good and bad; not only to allow me to serve the greater community in some of the various organizations with which I was proud to be associated; But you also enabled me to grow beyond the four walls of the Shul I so dearly love. As a member of this community virtually my entire life, I am so grateful that I have been afforded the opportunity to be a part of this thriving and growing Torah-based community. Whether I am sitting with the Rosh Yeshiva of Telz or with the Rosh Kollel of the YU Kollel Torah Mitzyon, I have always felt welcome and appreciated in every place I have been.

I therefore turn to the entire Chicago metropolitan community and say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

To my home away from home...Congregation KJBS. Ten years ago, you took a chance on someone with no pulpit experience and someone who many of you knew as a little kid. BOTH of those were also risks taken by ME. Would I be up to the challenge...would those who knew me as “little Zev” from the early 1970’s come to see me as the Rav of the Shul. Perhaps this is the area in which I feel the greatest sense of Hakarat HaTov. There was not a minute over the last ten years that I felt someone was looking at me as the little kid who grew up in the shul. (If you did, I never felt it!) The respect with which I was treated from Day One until today I imagine is the envy of other Rabbanim of Shuls. What I lacked in experience, there were plenty of people to give me advice along the way. Sometimes, that advice proved VERY valuable while other times, it proved EXTREMELY valuable!

Over the years, I have watched as our shul and its members have grown in their level of Torah and Mitzvah has been a beautiful journey to behold. I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address so wide a variety of issues both in the shul and outside the shul. I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to teach at Ida Crown. I thank you for allowing me to bring so many groups to Israel. I thank the officers and board of KJBS whose names are too numerous to list. I thank each and every one of you for being a unique individual, who collectivley make up a DYNAMIC and thriving shul. Without YOU, I would not be who I am today.

And finally, to my family. I want to repeat something I said from the pulpit on the Shemini Atzeret before I became Rabbi. While the shul was without a Rav, I was asked on a few occassions to pinch hit and speak. For various reasons on that day, I chose to quote filmmaker, Steven Speilberg. After winning another of his dozens of awards, I watched him take his trophy in hand and declare: “All too often, I have watched people stand at this podium and say their thank you’s. And all too often when they mention their parents, they look heavenward and say thanks mom, thanks dad. And I,” continued Speilberg, “ I am able to thank G-d look at my parents HERE in the audience and say to THEM: Thanks mom...thanks dad.” I am grateful to HKBH that I too am in that same position. Mom and Dad, your unconditional love for all of us and your emotional support can never be re-paid. Katonti Mikol Hachasadim...but do know how much we love you and will miss you!

To my brother, sister, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews and neices...It has been phenomenal to have been able to live in the same city and to have been able to be so involved in each other’s lives. MY Hakarat HaTov to all of you is boundless, as you actually CHOSE to daven at KJ, in spite of the fact that I was the Rav! We will sorely miss all of you, as well.

To my three beautiful, precious daughters: Daniella, Ayelet and Eliana. No words could truly express how grateful I am to you for YOUR support, not only as the Rav of the Shul but also as your father. I have told you on literally hundreds of occassions that YOU GUYS come first, and I hope that I have been able to keep my word. I have learned so much from the three of you. I make a promise to you that our family’s dream of Aliya will not become our family’s nightmare. With Hashem’s help, Mommy and I will do all that is in our power to make our Kelitah (our absorption) into Israel as smooth as possible. It will not be easy...but who said that fulfilling any mitzva was easy!?

And finally, to my eishet chayil, Andy. What can I say? To say thank you sounds to trite. Your support of me and your constant encouragement have made all the difference in the world. It never amazes me how you are ALWAYS right! It makes me crazy, but you indeed are always right. Your suggestions and your critique of anything I do has literally helped to change lives, not the least of which is MY life.

Your involvement for TEN YEARS as Sisterhood president has set the standard for the next president...there will be a “next” one I hope! Whether coming in every week after Shabbat to package leftovers for the needy of the community, staying on top of every single simcha, or lending an ear to a needy person, you are the quintessential Rebbetzin.

Andy, many women marry Rabbis and become a Rebbetzin. I married a Rebbetzin and became a Rabbi. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As I said at the outset, tonight was not about a “good-bye” speech. For that you are all invited to KJBS in two weeks, on Parashat Korach. Tonight is about gratitude to ALL of you. Once again, let me say thank you to all those who are here tonight; those who could not be here tonight and to all who made this evening possible.

May Hashem repay your kindness a hundred-fold and may He shower His brachot upon you all in health for 120 years.
Thank you!