“. . . And Keeps Looking Back . . .”

Vladimir Kush, "Sunrise by the Ocean"
Vladimir Kush, “Sunrise by the Ocean”

This is a difficult post to write. Oh, not emotionally. Rather, it’s difficult in deciding what to say and what not. I find it necessary mostly because I have been contacted by friends who kept up with the teachings of my home synagogue through our audio streaming who heard the head rabbi state that I had stepped down as associate rabbi of that organization. For the record, I had not stepped down. Nor have I formally been relieved of duty. In fact, the head rabbi did not discuss his statement with me at all before making it, nor has he deigned to approach me to speak with me at all since. I am not, however, terribly surprised, as the tensions due to the difference in vision that I alluded to last month have not been resolved.

And that’s okay. The fact is that I don’t earn my living from the synagogue, and never have. The head rabbi is free to choose another associate who more closely adheres to his vision for the organization. I do have some problems with the way he has chosen to handle this situation. In fact, I’ve lost a lot of sleep over the past few months as I have wrestled with anger over what I perceive to be a series of betrayals–and I’m sure he feels the same.

RtFM_seal_400 (2)At the present time, however, I feel liberated. The fact is that I have an extremely limited amount of time with my full-time job and three kids, two of them still in diapers, and I have wished for some time to devote myself fully to getting Reforging the Menorah off the ground. By removing me from his chain-of-command, the head rabbi has freed me to do so.

Nevertheless, his rather strange action and the events that led up to it has resulted in the majority of the long-time families of the synagogue coming to me to find out what led up to it and to decide what to do for the future.

After the meeting, a gentleman who is relatively new to the synagogue but who has a few years on me and no small amount of experience in the ups-and-downs of ministry himself took me aside (actually, helped me move a table and a few other things for a family member) and talked with me about the dangers of letting ourselves be trapped in the perceived betrayals of the past rather than moving on into the future. In particular, he warned me about the dangers of coming to enjoy the sympathy of others: It can easily become an addiction, one that leads us to wallow in the pain of the past in the hopes of sparking more sympathy.

While I had thought myself already at peace with events, some of the specific examples he pointed to in my way of explaining the situation struck home. This gave me the chance to repent of (what I think is) the last of my anger and put on fully the intent of simply moving forward. This is why, while I find it necessary to make some statement about events, I am being purposefully vague and leaving out all names: It truly doesn’t matter anymore. I will answer any final questions from close friends, but then I ask that everyone drop the subject so that I–and indeed, everyone affected–can move on.

Another also said, “I want to follow you, Lord, but first allow me to say good-bye to those who are at my house.” But Yeshua said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)

plowingWhen a farmer wants to plow a field, he has to keep his eye on the end of the field if he wants to keep his furrow in a nice, straight line. If he keeps looking back, he’ll end up weaving the line all over the place, even destroying the already-completed furrow next to him.

Because of the questioner in Luke’s narrative, we always think of the things that might hold us back as being material or family concerns, but old wrongs and wounds can make our heads whip around to the rear even faster than old comforts. But no enemy is ever wounded by our anger or our bitterness, and if he notices us looking back to glare at him at all, he’s more likely to enjoy our ire than he is to regret it.

Yeshua commands us to forgive those who sin against us, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and to help those we hate the most–not ultimately for their good, for many of those we turn the other cheek to will never repent and turn to Yeshua for their salvation. He commands us to do so for our own sakes and for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.

So this is the last I intend to write here about the situation, barring some major turnaround that will lead to the praise of Hashem:

For now, opinions among those who have come to me are divided about whether to continue to worship in the same synagogue at all, but we have united around building a weekly dinner-and-a-Bible-study group whose schedule and purpose will be designed not to conflict with anyone’s attendance at the synagogue. For the initial phase, membership will be restricted to current and former members of the synagogue, but even in the first meeting, there was a clear intention to grow beyond that, and we anticipate needing to rent a larger space or else to divide into smaller groups as we grow. The exciting thing is that we have several members who are handy with computers and electronics, and we are already planning to both stream and record our studies so that others can join us online. As we work out those details in the coming weeks, I’ll keep my readers posted here.

Shalom, and keep your eyes front, soldiers!

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