Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My Back Pages


I spent the weekend in Billings, Montana, as rabbi-in-residence, which was quite serendipitous, because I was a student rabbi there from 1985-1987. That was my first taste of living in the "real West" and I doubt if I would have come to Boise without having had that Montana experience . My time in Billings really "launched" me as a young rabbi-to-be.

Well, returning after a quarter century was much like going to a reunion. I saw lots of familiar faces: how had we all aged so much over the years? One congregant, Liz Barnea, gave me a picture taken at her daughter's baby naming. We were all so young: shining faces, full heads of hair. When I looked up from the picture, wistfully, Liz went on to introduce me to her daughter, Avital--the baby in the picture, now a beautiful 24-year-old grad student. When we live our lives day to day, aging happens so gradually. And then a blast from the past like this reveals the true passing of time. It's a bit of a shock, and makes one want to really value each moment, cliche as that may be.

I have to share one story from the weekend, which was a real highlight for me. On Saturday night, after havdallah, I did a program on Jews and Jewish influences in American rock music. A lot of my focus in this learning is on Bob Dylan, who is the all-time preeminent Jewish rock artist and a personal favorite, almost to the point of idolatry.

As I went on and on about Dylan, a congregant interrupted to tell me that one Billings resident grew up with Dylan's family in his home town of Hibbing, Minnesota. Her family was very active in the synagogue there. So when that small Conservative shul closed up shop a few years ago, this Billings resident asked if they would donate their Torah to Beth Aaron, the synagogue here. They agreed to do so--and as result, it turns out, I read Torah last Shabbat from the same scroll that Bob Dylan (then Robert Zimmerman) used on his Bar Mitzvah! If only I had known before hand, I could have chanted in the proper nasal tone. . .

Ah, but I was so much older then. . . I'm younger than that now.