Saying a Prayer

Seven years ago, I had the privilege to serve on the Rabbi Search Committee that was looking for a candidate to succeed Rabbi Gold.  After many resumes, phone conferences, and one-day visits, the committee sent members to see candidates in action at their current congregations.  I went with a small contingent to Dallas to visit one of the finalists, while another group went to Baltimore that weekend to visit Rabbi Nosanchuk. When the committee met to make a decision, those of us who went to Dallas made our pitch for that candidate, whom we were able to see in action for an extended period.  Those who went to Baltimore advocated with the same zeal for Rabbi Nosanchuk.  Both were fine candidates, and it was a difficult decision.  It has been a long time since that committee meeting, and I don't remember most details of the discussion, but I do remember one item that made me jump on board the Nosanchuk bandwagon.  During the final candidate visits, he was the only candidate to start the proceedings by saying a prayer. Here was someone who, in the anxiousness of the moment, didn't forget one of the reasons we were there for in the first place.  As I was later to learn, it was driven by an innate spirituality which he would share with us often. Last year in a Davar Acher to a weekly URJ Torah commentary, Rabbi James Gibson made the following observation during the economic crisis:  "Although we often get excited over inspiring programs and initiatives, our tradition calls us to remember the down-to-earth tasks that keep our communities spiritually whole .... In the traditional Mi Shebeirach for the community we pray:

May God bless those who dedicate synagogues for worship
And those who enter therein to pray
Those who provide lamps for lighting
And wine for Kiddush and Havdalah
Those who give food for the wayfarer
And charity to the poor
As well as all who faithfully occupy themselves
with the needs of the community

(Ha-Siddur Ha-Shalem, The Daily Prayer Book, translated and annotated by Philip Birnbaum) In the last six years, Rabbi Nosanchuk has embodied the principles of that prayer.  He has faithfully occupied himself with the needs of this community in every imaginable way.  He has provided us with superb leadership, meaningful teaching, inspiring programs, and has been the spearhead of outreach to the community.  I thank him for all that he has done for us.  But most of all, it will be his heartfelt spirituality that will stick in my memory. I thank him for sharing that special gift with us during his time here at the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation.  He has successfully continued in the tradition of those before him who worked to ensure that this community continues to be spiritually whole.  I know the decision to move was a difficult one, made in the best interests of his family. We say a prayer that the Nosanchuk/Berger family finds the same kind of happiness in their new congregation, that they shared with us.  B'hatzlacha.