General Jewish Spirituality

Entering Congregational Life

I’ve been absent for a while, in part because I was waiting to see how some things turned out, and in part because I’ve been busy, and in part because…well, I’m sure there’s another part. In any case, the longer I let it go, the harder it seemed to get back into the blogging thing. But here goes.

The big news: apparently, starting a  business wasn’t enough of a challenge for me, so I’ve accepted the job I interviewed for almost two months ago now (see previous blog posts). I will be the interim-rabbi for Temple Beth Sholom in Salem, Oregon for the coming year. This is a part time position, so I’ll still be at CubeSpace, roughly full-time. It’ll be a fun adventure.

I was thinking this morning that it will be sort of like having two separate lives, one as a business owner, one as a congregational rabbi. Sort of like Clark Kent and Superman.* And this week, I start this dual life, running back and forth to Salem several times a week, while still tending CubeSpace.

I’ve discovered a number of new things, already. First, a number of people seem to have been under the impression that I was just pining away for a congregation to be the rabbi of. I haven’t been. In fact, life has been quite busy, full and fulfilling over the past few years, nor was I particularly looking for congregational work at this point in my life.

Second, I’m quite excited to be working in a congregation. I’m not sure whether I’d ever want to do it full-time, but working with a congregation in an ongoing way is very different from the discrete lifecycle events I tend to do with individuals and families at this point. You get to experience more of the fullness of life, rather than just being present for the highs and the lows of weddings or funerals.

Third, I’d forgotten how many random questions are generated by the congregational rabbinate. Appropriate questions, but ones which I need to think about and come up with an answer for, whether relating to…when does one go to the ritual bath or how many ritual objects to acquire for the congregation to use to how long should people allow when scheduling appointments for me. But I’m very much enjoying the questions, and can’t wait to spend my first day in Salem on Thursday.

*Which raises the question of which identity is the superhero. After all, you can’t really have  two mild-mannered identities, can you? So after much thought, I realized that congregational rabbi must be the superhero…because a tallit (prayer shawl) is somewhat like a cape. That’s my best answer, but I’m open to other solutions.