Rabbi Orenstein —
In the early ’90s I accompanied my late grandparents to Rosh Hashana services at Cong. Beth El, and that’s where I heard you give a sermon which went so deeply into my heart and mind that it has – and continues – to change me. Discussing the story of Hagar leaving the dying child Ishmael in the desert, you focused on the words, ‘God heard the child “ba-asher hu sham” ‘. You spoke from such a heartfelt place about God’s care and compassion and closeness to us, no matter where we’re at — and that’s just what I needed to hear right then. I absorbed and started to use that understanding.
Some time later, when I began 12-step recovery, “ba-asher hu sham” was aleady “programmed” in me, and I took it even deeper, into my daily recovery process, where it fruited by giving me endless hope and self-acceptance. Shortly thereafter, I adopted it into my extended meditation on laying tefillin, and it is literally alive and active within me every single day. On Shabbat and holidays I often do the meditation even without the tefillin, because it is so “juicy”! Thank you so much for your lasting gifts of the heart and soul.
As an afterthought: Communicating with you around your conducting my grandmother’s 2010 funeral was such an inspiring thing because I was able to realize how you used speeh and language and intention to make me and my family feel better, to feel acknowledged with your compassion and attention and care. And I’ve started to think that part of the beauty and depth of your words is the place of caring connection that they’re coming from, like maybe the old song: “‘Tain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It; ‘Tain’t What You Say It’s The Way That You Say It.” There are precious few people in my experience who live and speak this way; you seem to be one of them. As the late Rabbi Albert Lewis (as made famous by Mitch Alboum) might have said, perhaps this is your glory.
By: David Schwartz