Random Thoughts about this year’s High Holy Days
Tomorrow night I shall conduct services on the High Holy Days. I have been doing it since 1984. Most of the time I engage in a personal cheshbone nefes, a process of introspection of the soul, during the summer. I cannot divorce this self evaluation from the process of writing sermons which I normally do in the summer. But my schedule changed this year what with Linda returning home and moving to a new house I have postponed that process until now.
These are probably the best of years I have had as a rabbi. I am proud to be associated with my congregation. I am engaged and part of a congregation coping with significant growth particularly in the religious school. It is exciting to see more families join this congregation so that our biggest problems are how to handle this growth and the appetite people have to make our congregation a vibrant and harmonious temple. In other words we have good problems at Congregation Beth Yam.
Given some of the challenges I have experienced in recent years, I realize how blessed I am. I am grateful to have Linda back at home and we both miss our daughter Leah who lives in Phoenix,Arizona. She is a lovely young lady. We have two dogs Emmy (bassette at 10 years old with Lymphoma) and Dia who we recently adopted. Dia is a four and a half year old pit bull who looks just like Petey from the old show Little Rascals. I call them the Drama Dogs.
Besides giving my all to the congregation, I am involved in projects that nourish my spirit and intellect. I am currently working on a Doctorate at Hebrew Union College. This is the longest term doctorate any one has probably worked on. I am working on a dissertation topic related to the field of Contemporary Jewish History and I am so grateful that my congregation is supportive of my work and realizes that they will benefit from it all.
This year I fully realize that I have to work on reducing my weight and increasing my exercise. I will work on it. I still slog away at playing the flute and had a performance with a jazz band at the jazz club in Hilton Head. That was cool. I played Gershwin’s Summertime.
I also continue to write poetry where I can express the other side of me which loves to explore, ask question and, frankly, relishes the opportunity to challenge God, myself and Judaism. I will include four poems based upon the first four chapters of the book of Proverbs. These poems were read on Slichot night last Saturday.
One of the issues I think about is all the folks on this blog list. Many of you I miss from previous days in Sacramento, Champaign and just old time friends. So many of you have been supportive of me and I wish I would hear from you a little bit more. Some of you believed in me in the tough times and I want to thank you.
I realize that I am deeply flawed in a variety of ways. I also know that I love my family and friends. I am blessed to have a mother at 91 who is as robust and sharp as any of us. May she have a good year too. I am aware of these shortcomings and I want to assure you, my friends and family, I will work on them too.
Someone recently asked me if I still get nervous on the pulpit for High Holy Days. The answer is yes. When I do not then I it will be time to step down from the bimah.
I realize that I try to look at the glass half full when it comes to living life. At the same time I have a dark side a side of melancholy which inspires me too. It is the side of my creativity and is responsible for me doing some of my best poetry and rabbinical work. It is not a bad thing if one knows how to work it and not indulge that side so that overtakes me.
I will officiate at the services and I shall also pray. So many of you have given me sound advice and been by my side in thick and thin. You have given me so much of your time and compassion. Thank you.
I hope to emerge from these Days of Awe spiritually renewed and feeling robust in my taking on the challenges in front of me knowing I have a lot to do. I pray that you too will take advantage of these special days of repentance and make the best out of it. We shared so many good times together and I hope you will remember them fondly. I would love to hear from you. My cell is 843 422 8439. L’shana Tova Tikatevu.