Aspen Jewish Congregation • Farewell Service
Rabbi David Segal & Cantor Rollin Simmons Welcome There’s an old joke about how Jews at a party will say goodbye and never leave.
We’ve been saying goodbye, or preparing to say goodbye, for so long that it’s hard for me to believe we’re leaving now. But here we are, and here we go. Shabbat is a time to forget about the passage of time. Ironic, then, to celebrate a farewell Shabbat. Let us then take this moment to dwell in this moment, to breathe in this moment. Let us celebrate the present, enriched by memories of the past and hopes for the future. Shamor v’zachor – two commands for Shabbat, Keep and Remember. So it is in times of change and loss, transition and growth. Remember the stories that have linked us forever, the joy and pain, the singing and learning, the joining together with spirit over these past seven years. Keep, guard, protect that legacy for future generations. We light two candles now to welcome Shabbat and remind us of those two responsibilities, to keep and remember, and so we take our places as links in the eternal chain between past and future.
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After Mi Chamocha The parshah this week touches on many themes: the Levites’ duties, the marching order of the Israelites, the cloud that lifts and lowers to signal them when to make camp and when to move on. There’s also a moment, almost a throwaway passage, that speaks to me, to us, tonight. Moses says to his in-law (Hobab or Reuel or Jethro, depending on which commentator you prefer):
“We are setting out for the place of which ADONAI has said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will be generous with you; for ADONAI has promised to be generous to Israel… Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness and can be our guide. So if you come with us, we will extend to you the same goodness ADONAI grants us.” (Numbers 10:29, 31)
He says to Moses, “I will not go [with you], but I will go to my land, to my birthplace” (Numbers 10:30). You have asked me to be your guide through the wilderness of life, and you have blessed me with the goodness of your love, support, and generosity. And I have learned over the years the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the seasonal patterns, the demographic diversity, the likes and dislikes of this community. I have learned, also, what it actually means to be a rabbi, in a way one cannot learn in school. I have tried always to be an honest and devoted guide, and I think I have succeeded more than I have fallen short. But whatever success I had here was enabled only by your confidence, support, vision, and participation. Your willingness to grant me a share of the goodness you enjoy has made everything possible. Tonight I am filled with gratitude. Many thanks to the Search Committee who took a chance on Rollin and me, and to the Board of Directors, past and present, for being our partners in this sacred work. To Gideon Kaufman, todah rabah for your wisdom and friendship. I want to say a special thank you, although I can’t say thanks enough, to all the presidents of the congregation during the past seven years: Jordan Sarick, Carol Blumberg, and Marian & Leonard Lansburgh – our beloved bookends, there with us and for us at the beginning and now at the end. Thanks to all of you for inviting me into your lives as we built this community together. Now, like Hobab, I am returning to my birthplace. The Torah doesn’t tell us how Hobab feels, leaving his adoptive family after many years, returning to his land. But I can tell you how I feel. I am sad to leave, and I will miss each of you and this place and this lifestyle in ways I probably don’t fully realize yet. This is a special place, a unique place. You know that. I hope you know that. What I want to leave you with more than anything else is confidence and pride in what you have created here, and what you will continue to create. Soon you will have a new guide to take you through the wilderness. I trust you will share with her from the goodness that God bestows on you, the same generosity and love that have sustained me for seven years. There’s a sadness to Hobab’s farewell to Moses and the Israelites: The story trails off without a proper goodbye, and without any recorded further contact. I trust our story will be different. I know we will be back, one way or another, and we have no shortage of offers of guest rooms! (And if you haven’t offered yet, what are you waiting for?)
Your generosity continues, as do our love and prayers for you. Our lives are linked forever. May God guard our going out and our coming in, now and forever. Amen, Shabbat shalom, and thank you again for everything.