The words of Kohelet, son of David, king in Jerusalem:
One generation goes, another comes, but the earth remains the same forever. The sun rises, and the sun sets – and glides back to where it rises. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full; to the place from which they flow the streams flow back again. There is nothing new under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 1:1, 4-5, 7)
My first real jobs were on film sets. A movie crew assembles, works together for four weeks to four months, and then disassembles. You’d occasionally find yourself working with someone you’d worked with before. Most of the time, however, they disappeared back into their own lives.
That early training taught me that no one remains a co-worker forever. While you’re together, you do your best to create something worthwhile and enjoy each other’s company. But you know, like Kohelet son of David, that nothing lasts forever.
Even so, I’ve been powerfully sad in the months since Emily Kaye and Rabbi Jason Bonder announced their departures from Temple Emanuel. These past five and three years, respectively, have been a period of great richness for our community. Emily has brought artistry and beauty to our prayer; as a congregation we’ve learned the power of listening as well as singing. Rabbi Jason has brought gleeful enthusiasm to our classrooms, deepening the experience of our learners, both youngsters and adults. Their presence has allowed me to do deeper, more thoughtful work as a rabbi, to be more present, and enjoy the occasional Shabbat with my family.
Sad though we are to lose them, Temple Emanuel fulfills a sacred obligation: the training of young clergy and Jewish professionals. We send both Emily and Rabbi Jason on their way more skilled and knowledgeable than when they arrived. Their experience is a gift we at Temple Emanuel give the wider Jewish world.
The Talmud tells the story of a man, lost in the desert for many days. Hungry, thirsty, and on the brink of death, he happened upon a date palm growing by a small brook, and was saved. After he had eaten his fill, he slept under the tree’s shade and awoke refreshed. Filling his pockets with dates and his canteen with water, he began the trip home. Overwhelmed with the deepest gratitude, he paused to bless the tree. “How shall I bless you?” he wondered. “You are already tall and strong. You are already situated by a life-giving stream. You already produce abundant fruit. Here is my blessing for you: may your seeds be scattered far and wide, and may many healthy trees spring up thanks to you.”
Emily and Rabbi Jason, you each have so many blessings already, and you have blessed us in many ways. As you continue on your journeys, may you continue to inspire, teach, and raise up new students. May you be nourished and cared for. May you know the blessings of abundance, and may you find your place in the world.