Rabbi Fuchs Reflects

Without question, working with Cantor Murray and Toby Simon has been one of the true highlights of the five years I have served as your rabbi. Cantor Simon’s knowledge, spiritual presence, menschlikeit and, of course, his amazing voice have been a priceless gift to Bat Yam Temple of the Islands.


Toby’s ability as an accompanist allowed everything to flow smoothly as she played for us during the pandemic and whenever Abbey Allison had other commitments. It will be a special blessing to hear from Toby during our Congregants’ Hour on Yom Kippur.

It goes without saying that their retirement marks a significant turning point in the history of our congregation. Their decision to retire drives home one of the most important lessons of our High Holy Day season: Nothing lasts forever.


Rabbi Milton Steinberg, in one of his most famous sermons, presents the image of, “to hold with open arms.” His message is that as precious as life’s joys are and as passionately as we embrace them, we must always understand that at some point we must let go of them. We cannot hold onto them — as much as we might wish we could — forever.


All of us who have lost loved ones have faced this reality. The Psalmist reminds each of us (Psalm 90:10): “We bring our years to an end like a tale that is told.” No one, no matter how powerful or important, escapes time’s final toll. But through this stark and unwavering reality, our tradition urges us to write the “”tale of our lives” with purpose and meaning. Knowing nothing lasts forever encourages us to appreciate every bit of knowledge we can attain and every moment of joy we can experience.


Knowing that nothing lasts forever teaches also that the acute pain of loss can give way to fond memories we can cherish. The pain never goes away but it abates, and our Jewish teachings urge us to look to the future with hope and courage. “One door closes and another opens,” we have learned.


One year ends, and another begins, bringing with it hope for forgiveness for our wrongs and the hope for renewal. So, as another new year dawns, I invite you to savor these last High Holy Days in which Cantor Simon will lift our prayers to the heavenly throne. Knowing that he and Toby will then embark on another chapter in their remarkable careers will add depth and texture to our worship and seal in our hearts the indelible impact they have had on Bat Yam Temple of the Islands.