Tonight is my “farewell service” with Temple Beth Sholom in Salem. I’ll be co-leading services with my successor and there is an Oneg Shabbat (dessert after the services) in my honor. I’ll be giving the sermon this evening, though it will be more a “thank you” than a sermon.
I’ve only been with the congregation for a year, but in that time I’ve come to feel so much a part of the community. I’ve been with community members in the hospital and at funerals. I’ve been with them at bar and bat mitzvah celebrations. I’ve counseled people looking for spiritual meaning, and people where the best I could do for them was tell them to go see a psychiatrist (and was later thanked for changing their lives). I’ve given sermons about Torah, and sermons about my life. I’ve become a part of the congregational community, and gained deep satisfaction from it.
I’ve also put 20,000 miles on the car, and I don’t know how much wear and tear on my body. I’ve been tired much of the year, trying to do two jobs at the same time. But being a pulpit rabbi this year has been a privelege and an opportunity for me to learn so much about myself.
Going into this year, I didn’t know whether I’d be a good congregational rabbi. Having done it, I know that I am good at it. I didn’t know if I’d like it: now I know that I do. It doesn’t mean I’ll be looking for another pulpit right away: that’s not the path of my life right now. But I do know that it’s an option I would look at seriously in the future.
It’s been a year, and it feels both longer and shorter. On the one hand, it feels like the year has flown by. On the other, it feels like I’ve been involved in the congregation forever, and it’s hard to remember a time before I was splitting my weeks between CubeSpace and Salem.
I leave the congregation knowing that I did the job I was hired to do, and that the congregation appreciates the job I did. I am very lucky to have had the chance to do work I am good at and enjoy. I am even more fortunate that those for whom I worked appreciated the work I did.
I will miss the congregation and I will miss the work. But it is time for me to move on, to give my successor room to work and make this his community. Yet I will visit, and this year will always be with me, having shaped who I am.