Rabbi Howard Greenstein was the greatest preacher I have ever known. Part of what kept him great was that he never knew how extraordinary he really was!
He was the only rabbi to ever sing in the chorus of the New York Metropolitan Opera; he knew there was no job security in opera, so he became the rabbi whose speaking and singing voice “pierced the heavens.”
When a rabbi preaches or sings, the question is not, “How well does he play the role?” but rather, “Does he move my soul?” My father’s preaching voice stirred the conscience; his singing voice stirred the soul.
He was even teaching through his preaching twenty days before he died. The title of his final sermon was “When Life Is Worthwhile.” My father didn’t know these would be his final words, but perhaps God did.
“You don’t have to have a particular talent for religion to be a spiritually remarkable person; you only need to be fully human and willing to accept defeat and disappointment. You only need to find the courage to care. In that blessing alone, the courage to care, is the secret of immortality. Forever is the kind of future that can be for all of us. It all depends on what we do here and now.”
On October 22, 2006, my dad died in my arms. Beside the bed was an ethical will which ended with these words. The clearest evidence for the presence of God is the light and radiance deep within you, son. Don’t ever let that light go out.
I guess my favorite preacher’s voice isn’t silent in death after all. It still sings, teaches, and inspires me- every day.