It is difficult to think about the next few months in my life and also in the life of Temple Israel and to not think about transition and change. Within two months, I will be finishing school, receiving my ordination, and leaving Temple Israel, a place I have called my spiritual home for the past three years. On top of all this I will be packing up my apartment and leaving, not only the physical space I have called home for the past four years, but also the state that has been my home for my entire life — All of this to begin a new job and a new life in Delaware.
As all of these changes occur in my personal and professional life, Temple Israel is of course entering into its own state of major transition: a new student cantor not withstanding, transitions in temple leadership, most notably the transition of new presidents, which is unique to this year, and the installation of new boards throughout the synagogue’s various organizations ensure that there will be considerable change in structure and dynamic in the Temple community over the next few months.
Change is never a comfortable thing and with so much approaching, I have spent considerable time thinking about how to best navigate it – to make sure that the strong emotions that accompany change can help instead of hinder the process. It is no surprise given the complexity of our faith and culture that Judaism has many different processes for helping mark life transitions. From baby namings and b’rit milah to Bar/Bat Mitzvah to weddings to funerals, the best way to transition Judaism says, is through ritual.
While the term “ritual” sometimes seems archaic, summoning up thoughts of ancient practices of sacrifices and purifying incense, a ritual is in its most simple form, an act used to mark a time of distinction. The act of marking a time of change with a substantive and meaningful ceremony of some sorts helps not only smooth the transition but more importantly allows for the important moment of emotional expression and release.
So while there may not be formal ritual designed for the transitions about to take place between myself and Temple Israel, I have been thinking about how I might adapt already existing rituals to help aid in my transition and working to mark the significance that my time with this community has had on my life and on my personal and professional growth. The idea of a Torah reading and aliyah has occurred to me, along with other ideas that may come out in our final service together on June 15 th. While I won’t spoil the surprise, know that there will undoubtedly be a service filled with music and merriment. It will certainly be a special evening and I hope that you will join me. For now, I plan to make the absolute most of the time we have left together – through prayer, laughter, and song.