Sunday, he was at the bris celebrating an eight-day-old baby entering into the eternal covenant. Monday, he had entered the eternal realms himself, and his body was being escorted to The Holy Land for burial. Here one day, gone the next. Breathtaking.
Rabbi Woolf was a friend of mine. One of those funny things because we had never spent much time together really, but somehow we had a connection, an understanding between us. And when we did spend time together it was most rewarding.
He spoke his mind, Rabbi Woolf did. He’d get a twinkle in his eyes sometimes before he said something he knew might sound outrageous or controversial. But he called things like he saw them. I found that so refreshing. In a world where people sometimes tiptoe around unpleasant truths or awkward situations, Rabbi Woolf would dive right in to the heart of the matter.
He had little patience for hypocrisy or showiness. Most troubling to him was what he saw as a trend in religious circles towards focusing on the external manifestations of piety (clothing, etiquette, ritual) rather than the inner workings of the heart (kindness, truthfulness, going the extra mile for a fellow human). And he spoke frankly about it.
I also thank him for his advice in developing my relationship with the woman who is now my fiancée. She and I have different religious practices, as well as divergent expectations on how to proceed in a relationship. “Move out to California for six months,” he trumpeted. “Follow your heart.” And I did. And here we are, planning our wedding for the end of October.
So thank you, Rabbi Woolf. I was hoping to dance with you at our wedding celebration, but I will have to content myself with knowing you are there in spirit.
I was sorry not to be able to bid you farewell yesterday at the St. Paul airport, but I was glad to hear that rabbis from all sectors of the community were there. A fitting tribute. From sunny California, I add my tearful wave to theirs. I’ll miss you.
May your journey be a joyful one, to the heights of the celestial realms. I’m sure they’re celebrating in heaven. One of the good ones has returned home.