Happy anniversary TBD!

Happy anniversary TBD! After this Shabbat it will officially be one year since I started working here. I was trying to think about what words would suffice to tell you how much you all have meant to me and my family this year. I want to express the immense feeling of gratitude I have in my heart. However, every time I try, the words just never seem enough. Then a teaching I often use struck me as the perfect way to communicate the amazing feelings I have on this one year anniversary of our journey together.

There is a parable in the Talmud that goes as follows:

Rabbi Chiya bar Abba had fallen sick. Rabbi Yochanan went to visit him, and asked, “Are these afflictions dear to you?” Rabbi Chiya replied, “Neither they nor their reward!” Rabbi Yochanan said, “Give me your hand.” Rabbi Chiya gave him his hand, and Rabbi Yochanan revived him. – a paraphrase of Berakhot 5a

Now let us break down this story. In it Rabbi Yochanan comes to visit his sick friend and cheer him up. When he asks if these afflictions are dear to him, he is trying to cheer his sick friend up by reminding him that if he suffers in this world he will suffer less in the next world (an idea that explains human suffering but we as Reform Jews reject). Rabbi Chiya tells Rabbi Yochanan that his words do not make him feel better. Then Rabbi Yochanan realizes the error of his ways and asks for his friends hand. With that action, Rabbi Yochanan heals his friend.

So, was it the touch of Rabbi Yochanan that healed his friend? Did Rabbi Yochanan have some special power? The answer is yes and no. No, Rabbi Yochanan did not have any magical power in his touch, but he did have the special power of presence. This power of presence is stronger and more effective than any words.

I often use this teaching at funerals to remind the people there that no words will heal the mourners. However, today I am using the same lesson to remind myself that no words will ever truly express the gratitude that me and my family feel for all of you, this community, this town and this Temple. Therefore, I will simply say thank you and happy anniversary. Here are too many more!