Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Divre HaRav -- Words from Weisman -- September 2010

Divrei HaRav – Words from Weisman

As I sit down to write this column, I am freshly returned from remarkable experiences at both our URJ 6 Points Sports Academy and at Camp Harlam, and could easily spend this entire column gushing on that. For now, let me express my pride in being the Rabbi of a congregation that had 20 people at URJ summer camps this summer, my thanks to the parents (and grandparents) who bought into the vision of what giving their children this experience could mean, and to the leaders of our congregation who allowed me to participate in both of these amazing programs.

I am also preparing for my first Shabbat back in the pulpit after my summer break. This one, however, is fraught with other significance, as it marks my 10th anniversary as part of our congregation, and a rather significant personal milestone as well. Again, each of those is worthy of comment, and by the time you read these words, will have been noted as it passed. My thanks to all of you for your good wishes, and involvement in whatever those festivities turned out to be (what I like to call the “writing now for the future” tense!), and for making these last 10 years so powerful and special for me and my entire family.

Which leads us to the fact that it is already Elul – our month of preparation for the High Holy Days, which come right on time, as they do every year, according to the Jewish calendar, but which begin extremely early in our secular reckoning. As I have aged, and matured (hopefully!) as a person, a Jew, and a Rabbi, I have come to appreciate the month of Elul even more. In many profound ways, its Jewish significance is actually greater than the Holy Days it prepares us for, when we allow it to be.

As Jews, we are called upon to do a self inventory, to become introspective and evaluate how we have lived our lives over the last year. As the Talmud teaches, none of us is required to justify why we were not more like Moses, or any of the other greats from our tradition. Each one of us does, however, need to be personally aware of where and why I have failed to be the best me that I can be, as individuals. To acknowledge sins of commission as well as omission, both so that we can learn and improve from our efforts, and to direct us to those others who have been hurt by our all-too-human shortcomings.

As a Rabbi, my life is lived in relationships – with my family and friends on a personal level; with you, my congregational family, on multiple levels; and with the larger world, often as the representative of our congregation. Each of those experiences has the potential to be profoundly spiritual and growth-inducing; each also has the potential to be a time and place where, because of my human frailties and limitations, I come up short or do harm. If I were to live in fear of the latter, I would never have the opportunity to experience the awesome benefits of the former.

Likewise, in doing that self inventory at this season of the year, if we focus on the personal nature of the exercise, or let ourselves be overwhelmed by the number of people to whom we owe thanks or apologies (and often both!), it would be remarkably easy to crawl inside ourselves and stop there. However, the beauty of Elul, and our Jewish preparation, is that it doesn’t merely call upon us to emerge from that cocoon of the self and rejoin the larger communities of our lives. It provides us, through the structure of the Holy Days, starting with S’lichot prior to Rosh Hashanah, with the opportunities to make that reunion with the Jewish and larger worlds around us. If necessary, it can even sometimes force us back out into the world when the enormity of our humanness makes us tremble.

I can guarantee you that my experiences at 6 Points and Harlam this summer, the insights of introspection as I turn 50 and start my second decade as our spiritual leader, have all been a remarkable preparation for my Elul this year. They leave me excited and energized for what the New Year 5771 might bring for all of us. They lead me to offer this blanket apology to all those who feel that I may not have done all that I could have for them in this past year – not in place of the individual acknowledgments that are deserved and still necessary, but as an insurance policy in case I missed anyone. I am truly sorry, and hope to learn from my mistakes and do better in the New Year, and ask for your forgiveness and your guidance in helping me to grow. And they lead me to invite all of us to embrace the tradition of Elul – for ourselves and each other – and gain as much as we can from what this uniquely Jewish tradition has to offer.

From my house and family to every member of the Solel house and family, Loren, Emily, and David join me in wishing for you that 5771 will be a year of health, peace, prosperity, joy, and growth for us all. L’Shanah Tovah Tiqateivu v’Tichateimu! May each of us be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a good and sweet New Year!

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