Rabbi Arnold Goodman, of blessed memory, was not only my immediate predecessor as Senior Rabbi of Ahavath Achim Synagogue. He was my rabbi. He was an important mentor to me. I have written at length about the relationship Rabbi Goodman and I shared from the time I was ten years old. One of the most valuable lessons Rabbi Goodman shared with me occurred in one of our last conversations. I had already begun the process of planning for my retirement and senior rabbinic succession in our congregation. Rabbi Goodman and I talked about his retirement in Israel and what my retirement might reflect as I began it. I’ll never forget what Rabbi Goodman told me he had learned about retirement many years earlier.
“Retirement is not a time to relax,” Rabbi Goodman said. “It is a time to redirect one’s energies. At the time, I’m not certain I understood what Rabbi Goodman was saying. Now, several years later, I have begun to understand. Today, I find myself quite busy. While I do some things just for fun, most of what I do is “rabbinic work.” The rabbinic work I now do I thoroughly enjoy and gain soulful satisfaction from it. I serve a congregation in south Georgia. The people are wonderful and so appreciative. I teach in our senior adult program at AA. Under the aegis of JF&CS, I do chaplaincy work in several local settings.
These are the parts of the rabbinate I have always loved, and I continue to enjoy them, now largely as a volunteer. I now recognize the wisdom of what Rabbi Goodman shared with me. I really have redirected my energies in the very best ways! How about you? If you are of retirement age, it’s easy to apply Rabbi Goodman’s lesson, to your own circumstances. But these High Holidays represent a time for all of us to reflect on our lives irrespective of our age and stage in life. Set aside the word “retirement.”
As you reflect on your life in the days ahead, is it perhaps time to redirect your energies? Is it time to see the world differently? Is it time to engage with that world to order to better it? As we enter the new year of 5784, I pray that all of us will redirect our energies for the betterment of ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. Susan joins me in wishing you and your loved ones a year of good health and well – being.
Neil Sandler is Rabbi Emeritus of Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Buckhead.