“It is impossible to do deep Rebbe-work if you have to be the shammes (caretaker) at the same time. If you are expecting deep teaching from someone, you have to give them the time to get there, to connect with the shalshelet, with the chain of their transmission; you have to support them in their spiritual practice, providing an atmosphere and a situation supportive of the result you want.”
I stumbled on this quote in my file from four years ago entitled “sabbatical,” and to my chagrin, I don’t have an attribution for it. Nonetheless, it speaks to me at this moment, the eve of my leave taking in January for eleven weeks of clergy renewal time which the congregation has extended to me (aka Sabbatical).
First, I’d like to express my gratitude for the chance to step away from the day to day caretaking of the congregation – so as to get still enough to reconnect with the “shalshelet of my transmission.” What this means to me is the precious chance to first and foremost rest and renew my mind, body and soul. There is a pace and intensity to rabbinic life. Once my nervous system has a chance to slow down, I am confident I will be able to engage in the work of clarifying the character and shape of the next chapter of my leadership of the temple and recharge my batteries in preparation for returning to it all.
My hope is to take a significant amount of time on silent retreat, which has been a staple of my personal spiritual practice for the last eight years. I believe it would be accurate to say that the opportunity you all have afforded me to do that over this time has enlarged my capacity to be present and attuned to the myriad needs of the congregation. And I expect it will be no different this time around. While sitting quietly with oneself is a challenge in and of itself, I’m also hoping to take on some kind of physical challenge or go on some kind of adventure that will stretch me out of my comfort zone. I feel that every time I get to challenge my muscles, be they my emotional, spiritual or physical muscles, I get stronger. This too, I believe, will serve all of us well.
Finally, as I take this intensive time to pursue my personal spiritual practice, it is a blessing to us all that so many talented and resourceful people have stepped up to serve the temple in caring and concerted ways in my absence (see clergy renewal team members on the website). As Tikkun said at Rosh Hashanah, it is a wonderful time for anyone who’d like to offer their service or deepen their involvement, to do so as well. It is a joy for me to know the congregation will truly be in good, loving hands.