February 13, 1998, 18 Shevat 5758
Yitro - Exodus - Sh'mot 18:1 -20:29 (Chant 18:12 - 18:27)
When I was a teenager in Whitestone, Queens, I was in a good deal of driit and turmoil as was typical in the 1960's. I was somewhat radical, felt that Judaism was irrelevant, and was open to change, for better or worse. Through friends in the United Farm Workers movement, I was hanging out at a nearby Episcopal church. Not for services, but for socializing. There was folk singing at night with candles aglow in the basement social room.
Father Donald E Page was the curate, or assistant priest, at the parish. Father Page was a young, with-it guitar player. We talked a lot about life, had dinner at his house and with my family at my house, and I followed him as he made calls on his parishioners.
One night, while guitar chords and the song "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" wafted through the church basement, I asked Father Page if I could join his church. He looked at me, put his guitar down and said, "Why do you want to do that?" I said "I like it here. I like hanging out with you and the people here and stuff."
Father Page said "So you like it here and think I'm wonderful. But what about becoming a Christian? Are you ready to acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Savior?" I said "What?" Father Page said "What about your religion? Do you know what Judaism is about?"
I mumbled something which I don't remember. He looked at me, smiled in that Cheshire Cat way of his and said, "I'm not about to let you become a Christian just because you think I'm a great guy, although I am that." He finished by telling me to think about my faith and heritage, and then come back to talk with him.
I didn't give much thought to either religion for a while, continuing my profound ambivalence. But eventually, I thought about what Father Page said. My teshuvah, or turning, began then. It wasn't, and isn't, 180 degrees, but maybe a point or two every so often. The revelations I had were more material, getting my heart set on a career and getting out of New York. The turning back to Adonai and Torah was not earth shaking. No burning bushes, no angels to wrestle. More like "Where ya been? Sit down. Want a cappuccino?"
Moses was fortunate to have had a righteous, God-fearing Jethro to offer counsel. Jethro gave Moses counsel that helped turn Israel from a motley crew into a people. And I am fortunate to have had a righteous, God- fearing Father Page, who gave me counsel and helped me on my way to my own land. Amen.