Ever since I mentioned my upcoming sabbatical (May through July) in this column, I have been hearing one question from many different quarters: “what if I need you for something?” So this column comes with some answers to that question.
Answer #1: You probably won’t. I do not minimize the load I carry for the congregation, but after all these years, most every situation that can be anticipated has already been handled by other staff members and lay leaders. Services are outlined. B’nai mitzvah and weddings have been scheduled around my absence. Classes that I teach end in April and others that I do not will occur in May and June. As happened during my last sabbatical (for twice as long), the congregation is both able and expert in day-to-day operation. Additionally, our Hazzan, Executive Director and Educational Director will still be on site and doing their jobs.
But what if an emergency occurs?
Answer #2: Someone will be on call. People specifically designated for those purposes will handle both counseling and life cycle. Last time, a local retired rabbi was “on-call.” Similar arrangements will be made this time.
But what if I really want you, no offense to anyone else?
Answer #3: Unfortunately, you will have to make do without me. Flattered as I am by the attachments among us, my sabbatical time will not be interrupted for congregational responsibilities. I know that my relationship with many of you goes beyond a professional one. However, this time away is necessary in order for me to meet my duties as rabbi and my health concerns as a person. And, of course, if I make an exception for any individual, then I must make the exception for every individual.
There really isn’t anyone who can do some of the things you do.
Answer #4: Now that I am firmly ensconced in this position, I can tell you a secret: you can do what I do. In fact, there will be opportunities to discover your talents and skills. Would you like to lead a Torah discussion? Are you interested in giving a d’var torah on Shabbat? Have you always wanted to teach a lesson on a Jewish subject? Do you wonder what it feels like to have the power to make a roomful of people “rise” and “be seated?” You are invited to find out. Please call the office and we will include your name among the volunteers to fill in for me.
Will you at least tell us what you will be doing?
Answer #5: My family is at an important transition time in its life, and I will be spending time with them. I need to pay some closer attention to developing a healthy physical regimen. I have a stack of books you have recommended to me. I have some questions to research and consider, and maybe even write about. I will be doing some traveling. And at least a few times, I will be coming late to shul and sitting in the back.
You will be fine, and I will be fine. I am grateful to the congregation for enabling this sabbatical, as I am for the privilege of being your rabbi.