Monday, August 18, 2014

rabbi (etc.) retires

Today in the local newspaper, a long-time rabbi was retiring after 40 years on the job. I have no clue as to who this fellow is and yet was drawn vaguely to the story in the sense that people retire after long-term service as firefighters, stock brokers, and heavy-equipment operators and seldom bring with them the 'goodness' factor sometimes associated with religious life.

Am I making it up or is there a certain glue-y intensity to the religiously-inclined as seen on TV or depicted in news stories? It's not as if they aren't good people, but there is a solemnity or importance to them that I hardly expect from a back-hoe specialist: This is "God," after all, and "God" brings with it a tip-toe-y reverence that can work pretty hard at not appearing different from the average schmo.

On TV or in news columns, there seems to be a look in the eye and a lilt to the voice and everyone is dressed neat and clean but not exactly fancy ... this is "God" after all.

The whole air may just be something that revolves around belief: I've never met a back-hoe operator who, sotto vocce, insisted on an ethereal payoff, whether good or bad.

All of this may just be my overactive imagination, but the crux of what interested me was this: When someone has devoted long hours and days and weeks and years to their religious persuasion, what happens to that person when it's time to 'retire?' What happens to "God?"

I know there are heaps of spiffy answers, but I think the question is interesting because for anyone interested in what might tentatively be called "God," there comes a time to take the next step if "God" is to have any meat-and-potatoes meaning. If the best anyone can do is believe and believe and believe some more, how credible or consequential can "God" actually be?

Who will pay the bills? When the 'man of God' retires, what happens to "God" if "God" is to have any continuing consequence? Are books and lecture circuit really the next best step? Without the bully pulpit, is the retiree 'lost' or 'found?'

I imagine that any dovotee -- professional and otherwise -- finds his or her own path, but how fresh that path might be can be a sticky wicket. Is there a time -- perhaps in retirement -- when retirement is called for ... a time to give things a rest?

I wonder whether, as a man of God, if "God" too doesn't deserve a rest if "God" is to have a continuing, relaxed, presence.


  1. I used to go scuba diving with a priest from Staten Island who couldn't dive on Sundays because, as he moaned, sighing heavily, "I gotta work."