Shalom Aleichem – Farewell blessing

July 3, 2017

Aspen Jewish Congregation • Farewell Shabbat

 

Benediction

 

It is fitting to close with Shalom Aleichem tonight because it is a song about transition. We invite the malachei hashalom, the Angels of Peace, to join us for a time, and we relish their presence, and then we bid them farewell – even as we look forward to the next visitation.
 
So too with transitions. We open our hearts – as we have opened our hearts to each other – and become part of the fabric of each other’s lives. And then there comes a time, as tonight, when we open our hands, to let go. 
 
We say tzeitchem l’shalom – depart in peace – knowing that we will always be connected. This whole congregation will always be in my heart. You have everything to do with the rabbi I am today, which means you have much to do with the rabbi I will be tomorrow and forever.
 
Torah offers wisdom for times of change. In Deuteronomy, when Moses prepares the Israelites for Joshua to take his place, he says chazak ve’ematz, be strong and resolute, v’lo tirah v’lo teichat, do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.
 
God expands on this advice when Joshua takes over, in the first book after the Torah ends:
 

Chazak ve’ematz – Be strong and resolute… Let not this Book of the Teaching (Sefer HaTorah) cease from your lips, but recite it day and night, so that you may observe faithfully all that is written in it. Only then will you prosper in your undertakings and only then will you be successful. (Joshua 1:6-8)


It is welcome advice tonight. During this leadership transition, with its stress and uncertainty, trust in your Torah. Recite it day and night: what called you to join this community, your passion for Jewish living, the mission of this synagogue – “building relationships and enriching lives.” Dig into those reservoirs of purpose, and you will prosper, and this community will prosper, and Rabbi Emily Segal will prosper as your next spiritual leader. She will take you to new and beautiful places, Promised Lands that we’ve only begun to glimpse together.
 
God ends the charge to Joshua with familiar words, as well as words of comfort:
 
"Be strong and resolute. Do not be afraid or dismayed. For Adonai your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
 
My prayer is that God be with you always, wherever you go. May you be strong and resolute in your faith that within you – each of you, and together – dwells all the Torah you need to prosper in your undertakings. Your Torah has inspired and empowered our success over the last seven years, and your Torah will continue to take this community to new lands of promise.
 
Tzeitchem l’shalom – let us go in peace, let us go in wholeness, our hearts overflowing with the blessings we have shared and open to embracing change, to being filled and fulfilled once again.
 
Shalom Aleichem, we sing together...

 

 

 

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