As a pulpit rabbi, I look out each High Holidays at a different congregation. The year before we chanted, “who shall live and who shall die.” I see absences — people who were there the year before who are no longer there. Bereavements have left spaces in our community.
The congregation is also different because I have learned about many of my congregants in the interim. Some have married or had children; others divorced or suffered some sort of personal setback or tragedy. Some have come to speak to me and confided something about their lives or the lives of those close to them. I do not see the same people I saw the year before. Everyone changes with increasing intimacy.
When you have been a rabbi in the same congregation for over 20 years, the boundaries of family and friendship, community and congregation become porous. We are a Beit Knesset, a house of gathering. And each year we gather to reflect on losses and gains, struggles and strains, joys and blessings that time has brought us all. Another year has passed: Shevach L’el Boreh Olam — Praise to the Source of all. Shana Tovah.