Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Contemplating My Naval...

Top of the afternoon to all.

GS - the spelling is correct.  Trust me.

One of my congregants asked me this week about how he might come to grips with his imminent retirement.  There is so much in the question.  Other people, perhaps more capable, are taking over your job.  The routines of life change dramatically.  There is no professional reason to get up in the morning. It requires a complete rethinking of how to view life.

I answered him as follows: I have the same question.  I do not know.

(No sympathy please)

I took my naval commission on October 31, 1994.  By tradition, officers get two runs at the promotion board.  If they fail to make rank on the second look, it is the Navy's quiet way of saying "thank you for your service.  Enjoy the rest of your life in any endeavour you pursue."  In the reserve community, officers usually get a third serious look.  By law, the Navy must consider anyone on active duty for promotion, no matter how many times that person fails to select for the next rank.

I have failed to select for the rank of Commander three times.  The third time would have been my best shot, with a fitness report signed by a 3-star admiral in my files.  Lieutenant-commanders (lieutenants-commander?) are allowed to serve a total of 20 years.  I am not exactly sure when that point occurs.  I have at least one year that does not count.  In any event, it is sooner rather than later.

I have realized the same question that my congregant asked.  I am not the future of the US Navy.  I am the present.  Younger people, perhaps wiser people, are filling the ranks that I will soon leave.  The security blanket that has left me not having to decide how to match my socks to my clothing will soon be pulled away.  The absolute, crystal clear, job description will no longer be absolute and crystal clear.  The loss of something definite, something palpable, is downright scary.

To my congregant who asked this question, I do not know.  Ultimately, one must come to terms with his/her mirror.  One must like the reflection in the mirror.  One must be able to look the mirror in the eye and be comfortable with what looks back.  Torches must be passed.  Mine will be.  Everyone's will be.

The week I interviewed for rabbinical school, the dean's mother died.  I was not the only candidate to interview.  There were probably two dozen.  The dean made a remarkably difficult decision to avoid checking in during the week of shiva.  When he came back, he found that everything that was supposed to happen happened, despite his absence.  He learned that when he is gone, the world will continue, more or less as it is supposed to continue.

So it is for my congregant.  So it is for me.  The world will continue as it should.

Have a good evening everyone.



  1. Very interesting piece. If a part-time option is available it is a nice way to transition to retirement.

  2. My Dad retired last year after being a family doctor until the age of 80. He loved being a doctor and even more, he loved people. If one of his beloved seniors needed a medication they could not afford he would get them enough samples to last them a really long time. He was one of the few doctors who still did house calls and visited his patients in the hospital. But the OMA decided dedication like that was not good enough for them and he was harassed by some younger medical inspector who thought they knew better how things should be done. When Dad retired he took computer lessons and got refresher courses on how to play bridge. I have never seen him more relaxed or happier. He`s now doing a lot of reading for fun and spending time helping out my Mom. At age 80 he even got his first pair of jeans (before he wore a suit and tie almost every day). I think retirement is what you make of it. Rav Sean, for you it would be vastly different because you are so young. Retirement is the time to do what you`ve always wanted to do but haven`t had time to do because of work.