March-May 2017

The three months of the first half of my Sabbatical have flown by so quickly. As I write, I am preparing to return the congregation in a few days. By the time you read this, I will be fully immersed in our work together to build up and share in our wonderful Beth Hillel community. It will be a very busy four months until I embark upon the second half of the Sabbatical on June 1.

As I wrote when I departed, it is hard to express strongly enough how appreciative I am for this opportunity and how grateful I am to the many, many people who stepped up to keep our community going while I was away. From service leaders to event planners, to substitute teachers, to our Leadership Council and committees and Temple staff, I know that the good work we do at Beth Hillel has barely skipped a beat while I was gone. I also know that there must have been times when my absence created some challenges. But, I hope those challenges will be mitigated by the new energy, ideas, teaching and perspective I hope to bring to the congregation upon my return and by the growth the congregation experienced in having to “go it alone.

At his final press conference before leaving office, President Obama said: “I want to be quiet a little bit, not hear myself talk so darned much.” This puts into words, precisely, the primary goal of my Sabbatical. I wanted to set my brain on “input” rather than “output.”

While I did not have a clear set of goals back in October when the Sabbatical started, looking back over these past months, I am pleased at the amount of learning and reflection I have been able to accomplish along with tending to personal and family life. Elsewhere in this issue of Achshav, I have included a summary of the learning I pursued during my Sabbatical time. I know you don’t expect me to account for my time, but I thought some of you might find this summary interesting or may wish to discuss some of the areas of study with me. I would welcome that conversation.

I will be presenting new ideas for future programming, gleaned during the Sabbatical, to our committees and school. Some of my Sabbatical undertakings will enhance services and sermons. And some things will not directly influence what happens here at BHT, but have enriched my life and my rabbinic skills. I can only hope that this too will improve the way I serve the Beth Hillel community.

Most of all, I hope that by taking this time for Jewish and personal self-enrichment, I can inspire more of our Beth Hillel members to take time to do the same. We offer many such opportunities here at Beth Hillel. In the coming months, we will have fascinating speakers on world religions and the worldwide refugee crisis. We will have film nights, “Great Decisions” mornings, Taste of Judaism classes, “Lunch and Learns”, Purim, Passover and Shavuot celebrations, B’nai Mitzvah and Confirmation, a concert with the Israeli group Mikolot Mayim, led by Rabbi Or Zohar of our Domim “twin” Jewish community in northern Israel, for Israeli Independence Day in May. And of course, weekly opportunities for prayer and Torah study.

And perhaps the closest each one of you can come to a Sabbatical, if your profession or place of employment does not allow it, is to take that weekly Sabbatical, the original Sabbatical that God took after six days of Creation: Shabbat. Of course, the semantic root of the term Sabbatical is Shabbat: A day to “be quiet and not hear ourselves talk so darn much.” To renew ourselves and reflect. To think and not decide. To rest and not act.

I look forward to reconnecting with all of you in the days and weeks ahead.

Rabbi Dena A. Feingold