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Parashat  Terumah

02/08/2019 10:03:16 AM


Rabbi Robinson

Rabbi Yair Robinson

Parashat Terumah


Several months ago at a Rotary meeting a woman, a past president of the club who I know pretty well, came up to me and asked “which synagogue is yours?” Now, I’m used to this question. I get a variation of it all the time. “you’re the one on Baynard Boulevard, right?” No, that’s Beth Shalom. We’re on Lea and Washington. “Right, the one with the big ten commandments out front!” No, that’s Adas Kodesh. “Oh, I know! You’re that blue and white building! Near the Home Depot!” No, that’s a Ukranian Catholic church. So I was prepared for some version of this litany, with my usual answers, like “we’re behind the music school” and the like, but before I could she continued: “you’re at Rabbi Drooz’ congregation, right?” Now, I’m used to people asking me if I’m at Rabbi Grumbacher’s congregation, and when I get a question about Rabbi Drooz, it’s from someone closer to my grandparents’ generation than my parents, or mine.

She then took out a little pamphlet. She told me of how, when she joined Rotary, and joined the chaplain’s committee, she had met Rabbi Drooz, and loved his invocations at the beginning of meetings. She told me of all her fond memories of him and handed me the booklet. It was a collection of his invocations from his time at the Wilmington Rotary club, and she felt I should have it.

I’ve kept that pamphlet and have looked through it a few times. It is very much a product of its age and of Rabbi Drooz’ generation; typed on a typewriter and not a word processor, with a lot of male language for God. Some of the prayers were clearly from the Union Prayerbook or Gates of Prayer; some were his own words. This little booklet, not more than a few pages, was clearly not meant to be something preserved forever, but something to be used by the chaplain’s committee for a time, and then put aside, perhaps in the archives, if that. But the fact that this woman—not Jewish, by the way—kept this collection and spoke so glowingly of him, as if he might walk into the room at any moment, was very moving to me.

Now, I’m fully aware that I could be reading too much into this; that it’s just as likely that she was cleaning out her house, Marie Kondo style, and she decided this was a nicer way of throwing out this old pamphlet than just tossing it in the recycling bin. And yet, she must have kept it for some reason, and gave it to me for some reason—a gift, a free-will offering of the past, assuming that it would mean as much to me as it did to her. Of course, it can’t.  I did not ever get to know Rabbi Drooz in person; he had passed in the 1990s, long before I got to Wilmington, and so I only know of him from his writings, the stories told about him, and his portrait in the hallway. But it does mean something to me that I was entrusted with these memories. That is, on a certain level, what it means to give a gift—that we entrust something precious to us to someone else, in the hopes that they, too, will find it of value, even if it’s different. Could Rabbi Drooz know that his little booklet and the words in it would have such an impact twenty years after his passing? Probably not, but he sent those words out into the world hoping that they would make a difference, that they would be received as they gifts they were.

I suspect many of us wonder whether or not our actions, our choices, our gifts make a difference in this world. Most of the time, we don’t know how our actions impact others, or even if they are remembered. But if I learn anything from this chance encounter at Rotary, our actions are remembered, and our gifts make a difference. So give that which is precious to you, freely; offer them as gifts to those you encounter, and know that when you do so, you have made a difference.

Tue, September 26 2023 11 Tishrei 5784