My Final Letter

Dear Friends,

Many years ago, my mother, of blessed memory, told me how old I was when she had successfully potty-trained me. I was exceedingly young. That fact told me everything I needed to know about my psychological make-up and about why I approached much of the world as I did. That is, in part, the Neil Sandler you have seen for most of the past seventeen years – a rabbi who is driven to get the details right and to complete the tasks. In a self-revealing sermon I gave over a year ago, I mentioned that I used to beat myself up over perceived failures. That revelation probably surprised few of you who know me.

But this past Shabbat morning, I shared a very different conclusion I have reached as I approach the end of my pulpit rabbinic career and retire from Ahavath Achim Synagogue. I quoted Rabbi Tarfon in Pirkei Avot. In part, he said, "You do not have to complete the task." Of course, all of us want and seek to succeed. But some things are beyond us. Sometimes, the task is an eternal one, and no one can or will complete it. The key, I have discovered, is the wisdom inherent in Rabbi Tarfon's words: Sometimes it's okay not to complete the task. You did not fail at it. Be satisfied to have engaged in the task in serious fashion. Be heartened by what you have been able to accomplish, and then leave it to others who will find new and uplifting ways to address the task. You put forth your best efforts and accomplished some worthy outcomes? Be content… and I think I am largely content as this portion of my rabbinic career reaches its end.

Next week, I will head up to Virginia, and, on July 1, I will officially join Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon for one year as its Interim Rabbi. I will do my very best to help the congregation "put its house in order," seek to engage a new rabbi and, most importantly, help lay the groundwork for a successful relationship between the rabbi and the congregation. Then, next summer, God-willing, I plan to head home to Atlanta and to Ahavath Achim, as a congregant. After the sanctuary renovation update offered at our Annual Meeting, I am looking forward to finding my seat in our newly-renovated sanctuary. I hope you are too!

Susan joins me in thanking you for a wonderful tribute weekend. It was, simultaneously, a humbling and uplifting experience. Thank you for welcoming me and for engaging with me as your Senior Rabbi for fifteen years and then for two additional years. Thank you for enabling Susan and me to find the place we intend, God-willing, to call "home" the rest of our lives. What a gift you have given to us!

I wish you and all your loved one's good health and well-being. May we be fortunate to share joyous and uplifting moments together in our congregation.