I arrived in Charlotte having spent three days on the road with my good friend, Mike Sims. Mike is the Vice-President of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, my previous congregation. Over the last nine years, we partnered together on many projects. We taught confirmation and led the annual class trip to Washington DC. When Mike learned that I was going to drive to Charlotte, he graciously offered to deliver me safely to Temple Beth El and my new home.
Mike and I drove across Arkansas and wound our way through the limestone grandeur of Tennessee, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. While driving over the Smokey Mountains, Mike asked to stop at an observation point on the side of the road. We saw a sign for the Appalachian Trail, which explained that Maine was a mere 1100 miles north.
The horizon had rolling green mountains kissing mist goodbye as it rose skyward. A perfect send-off. On our way back to the car, Mike pointed to a sign by the road that we hadn’t seen while entering the parking area. The sign marked the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina. “Welcome Home,” he said.
I’ve always had a particular perspective about “home.” Buildings and belongings can provide comfort and safety. But the physical space is less important to me. I am more interested in the human potential to live with integrity, generosity, mutuality, equanimity and love. Whatever home we build (virtually, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or ethically), I believe that it should reflect a sense of Sacred Encounter, where we feel goodliness and Godliness through the ways we relate to one another.
Consider the text that adorns Temple Beth El’s Ark. The words come from the book of Genesis and the moment when Jacob dreamt in the desert, “God is in this place, and I didn’t know.” Perhaps God was in the desert expanse. Perhaps, the desert and a rock pillow unlocked the potential to realize the Godliness embedded within each one of us and the ways in which we live. Surely, God is in this place. We have the agency to experience God through the ways in which we welcome and continually make a home for one another.
My arrival in Charlotte begins the process of rabbinic transition. Transitions and changes can be challenging and scary. Like any good road trip, there will be curves, and bumps, and potholes ahead. Change will take time. The transition process will require getting to know one another and learning from one another. Through the journey ahead, we must remember what our ancestors learned on their journeys: we have the ability to build our community by living with respect, generosity, patience, love, joy, and gratitude. Thank you for all the ways that you have welcomed me home. Thank you, in advance, for all the ways we will partner together on the journey ahead.