T

he time: 1953.

I am the recently appointed rabbi of a shul in Atlanta. My father, a veteran rabbi in Baltimore, comes to town to visit us. On Shabbos morning, he walks into shul just as we are beginning the davening. I am already sitting at the pulpit. A young man in the congregation, seeing a stranger, approaches him, greets him, hands him a siddur, shows him a seat, and asks him his name.

“Feldman,” my father replies.

“Feldman! Are you related to our rabbi?”

“Yes. I’m his father.

“Are you also a rabbi?”

Not quite,” replies my father with a smile. “I am a rabbi. My son is also a rabbi.”

Fast-forward.

The years have flown by and it is now 2018. My father has gone to his eternal reward, and I am no longer the rabbi of that shul, having retired to Israel several decades ago. Our son has succeeded me as the rabbi, and a new generation of laymen now holds forth in the shul. I do not know most of them, and most of them do not know me.

During a recent visit to the community, I walked into the shul one Shabbos morning just as they were beginning the davening. Our son the rabbi is already sitting at the pulpit. As I walked in the door, a young man in the congregation, seeing a stranger, approaches me, greets me, offers me a siddur, and introduces himself: “Welcome to our shul. My name is Seinman.”

“Nice to meet you. My name is Feldman.”

“Feldman! Are your related to our rabbi?”

“Yes. I’m his father.”

“Are you also a rabbi?”

My mind spins, whirls, goes into reverse. Time crumbles, the years telescope together, and suddenly it is 1953 again. I have become my father, and my son has become me. My father’s classic response echoes across the 65 years.

I open my mouth to answer, but words do not come forth.

I hesitate.

The young man looks at me expectantly, waiting for an answer.

I hear myself murmuring, “Yes, I am also a rabbi.”

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 738)