Rosh Hashanah Arrives, I Review My Year

It’s been a bit of a year.

Over the course of this year, I looked for rabbinic work, with no success (no one can remember quite so dead a rabbinic job market as this year). That being said, I hit the summer, and decided it was time to make something happen, and founded a congregation here in Southeast Portland. And while that’s dominated my thinking for the last few months, it wasn’t really what the year was about.

The spring was entirely about death. Over spring and early summer, three people in my life died. I spent all Spring in Boston with my grandfather, accompanying him on his final journey. I wrote about that here and here. In the midst of which my friend Paul Bingman died.

When thinking about this year, that’s what really stands out for me: the spring.

Yet there were other parts of the year as well: I started out the secular year by heading to Spokane to speak at a Unitarian Universalist Church, and meet up with a college classmate I hadn’t seen since college. During June, just after my grandfather’s death, I returned to Portland in time for the college’s Centennial Reunion, with a chance to get to see lots of faces I hadn’t seen since, and meet people’s children and spouses (those few who didn’t marry other classmates). It was a chance to look back over the longer-term, and see who we are now, and how that related to who we were then, in the first blush of adulthood.

It was a year I spent quality time in the garden.

It was a year our car got totalled.

It was a year. And perhaps I was less productive than I would have liked, but I think it was a year of growth for me. A year of figuring out some pieces. And I’m looking forward to the coming year, and to seeing what it brings.

Fear and Trembling

In the Jewish tradition we are taught to face the High Holidays, the Yamim Nora’im, with fear and trembling as we evaluate our actions and failings. Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah is a time of spiritual preparation for the High Holidays.

For rabbis, Elul is also a time of preparation, both spiritual and logistical. It is our busy season, during which we are preparing what expected to be our four (or five) best sermons of the year, at least five distinct services, not to mention the logistics associated with that (facility setup, making sure the various committees are ready to do their thing, etc.).

For me, this year, I’m also organizing a new congregation, which means figuring out things like opening up a bank account, initial meetings with potential members, finding insurance, creating marketing materials, borrowing machzors, and desperately wondering what else I’ve forgotten. All in all, it’s a somewhat daunting prospect.

Which brings me back to fear and trembling. This year, I’m awfully close to outright panic.