As this post goes online, the movers are packing up our apartment, and soon Ari and I will be driving to our new home in Cambridge. I now want to share these words I offered last Shabbat, the words of thanks I shared for my time at The Community Synagogue.
This past Rosh Hashanah, I spoke about encounters.
I spoke about how there are people who come into our lives for a time, and we into theirs, and the meeting leaves each party changed forever. I told the story of the biblical Joseph, who goes searching for his brothers and is given direction by an unnamed man—and because of that encounter the rest of our story is set in motion. And I quoted the sappy-yet-moving line from Broadway’s Wicked: “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
I was speaking to you all that night, but I was also speaking to myself. I knew then that this would be my last year at Community, and it was the sermon I needed to give because, selfishly, I needed to start processing what it would mean to part ways…and to start taking stock of the immense impact you have had on me. I can say, with a great deal of gratitude and humility, that these years together comprise a life-changing encounter.
It’s hard to say goodbye in any circumstance, and it’s particularly sad to me not to be able to say it in person now. But I do feel your presence. And, fortunately, our tradition offers a frame for saying goodbye to an experience that has brought learning and growth.
There’s a custom that when one completes a course of study, such as a full tractate of Talmud, one recites an Aramaic prayer called Hadran Alach. Hadran alach v’hadarach alan. May we return to you, and may you return to us. It’s said directly to the material that has been learned, acknowledging the relationship that is undergoing a change. Da’atan alakh ve-da’atekh alan. Our mind is on you, and your mind is on us. Lo nitnashei minakh, ve-lo titnashi minan. We will not forget you, and you will not forget us. Lo be-alma ha-dein ve-lo be-alma d’atei. Not in this world, or in the world to come.
The Hadran marks a conclusion, but it also gives form to the desire that what concludes does not vanish. Paths join for a time, and then go their separate ways, but those that travel them do not forget one another, and they may cross ways again someday.
These years have indeed been for me a joyful, challenging, life-giving course of learning and growth. And for that, I say to you, Community Synagogue, hadran alach, da’atan alach, v’lo nitnashei minach.
I will return to the confidence you gave me, when you invited me to be your rabbi.
My mind will be on the feeling of standing before you, at the open ark.
And I will not forget the faces of your children, as we smiled and sang together.
I will return to the times you allowed me into your most intimate moments of grief and sorrow.
My mind will be on the stories and wisdom you shared with me.
And I will not forget the joy with which you celebrated becoming bar or bat mitzvah, at any age.
I will return to the feedback you gave me, as I hope to learn from both my mistakes and my accomplishments.
My mind will be on the trust you showed me to teach and learn with you.
And I will not forget the partnerships we formed to create a more inclusive community.
I will return to the lessons I’ve learned from my staff colleagues and lay leaders.
My mind will be on the friendships we have formed.
And I will not forget the kindness you’ve shown me every step of the way.
Not in this world, or in the world to come.
Though I am excited for the next chapter, moving closer to family and starting a new role where I can continue to express my passions, I am also sad to leave. Ari and I have enjoyed living in this beautiful town of Port Washington, and we are grateful for the welcome you’ve shown us from the beginning. I cannot adequately capture in words the depth of appreciation I have for all you have given me, nor can I hope to name now all those who have made an impact on me in one way or another. All I can say is: thank you. I hope I have served to the best of my ability in return.
Thank you to the search committee who brought me on three years ago. Thank you to Deena and the board and all those who volunteer on the committees with whom I’ve worked, for allowing me to add my voice to your important work. Thank you to the maintenance, teaching, and office staff whose guidance helped me find my feet every day—and especially to Jean, for your daily friendship and support.
To the senior staff, with whom I worked the closest, I am deeply grateful. Shari, Jeff, and Gail, you’ve each taught me about leadership and how to be a supportive colleague. And Cantor Franco and Rabbi Z, Claire and Irwin, being your clergy partner has been transformative. Thank you for guiding me, pushing me, hearing me. I feel so blessed to have begun my rabbinate with you, and I will miss you dearly.
The Community Synagogue has certainly changed me for good.
Eloheinu v’eilohei avoteinu v’imoteinu,
Our God and God of our ancestors,
Bless this congregation, The Community Synagogue,
With wholeness, health, and peace.
Guide its members and all those who enter its doors (physical or virtual)
With a vision for inclusivity, for growth, and for good.
Fill them with the courage to meet the challenges of our time
With humility and grace.
Help them hear and lift up the voices of the unheard,
In their midst and in the wider world,
To work for justice and repair.
Place in their hearts the knowledge that they have helped me become a rabbi,
And let them feel the gratitude I have for them.
I offer my thanks to You,
O Source of Blessing,
For this encounter
Along the path of life.
Hadran alach v’hadarach alan
May we return to one another,
May we keep one another in mind,
And may we never forget one another,
In this world, or in the world to come.