Sabbatical Column #1

By Rabbi Neil Sandler

Sabbatical is agreeing with me… wow, what a surprise…

Truth be told, it is a bit of a surprise to me and to those of you who know me well. I wasn't certain how I would take to this temporary, albeit significant change. I could have done without dropping the TV on my big toe that has changed my exercise routine. But otherwise, I have welcomed the slowing down. It has brought in some much – needed "light."

I have traveled a lot during the month of December. It's been wonderful, on the one hand, to be on the go to different places and, on the other hand, to be able to sit back without specific time-sensitive responsibilities.

Here's the "light" that this first month of sabbatical has brought:

  1. The opportunity to think about the relationship between communal Shabbat/Holiday worship and community itself. In the congregations I have visited I have seen some number of "those are good ideas that I would like to bring to my congregation." But, in a larger sense, I am seeing how the experience of worship itself nurtures community and the congregation's commitment to its mission.
  2. I had an experience at a congregation in suburban St. Paul that captured the richness of my life and my good fortune. In the span of a Shabbat morning service and Kiddush, I saw and reconnected with people from many stages of my life, growing up in Minneapolis and from later stages of my life (including seeing someone who was actively involved in my first congregation!). Each re-connection was a pleasure. But the cumulative effect was to bring into sharp focus just how fortunate I have been. By the way, some of you will appreciate that at Kiddush I spoke with a relative of our former beloved member, Marian Perling, of blessed memory who was born in St. Paul.
  3. In the span of less than a month's time I have enjoyed several special times with my family. In Minneapolis, my father was able to see all of his grandchildren from both coasts over the course of a single weekend. Minneapolis, New York and Colorado – Special time with all of our children in the span of a few short weeks! What a joy, and a very rare one at that! Susan and I count our blessings without end!

On the High Holidays this year I used the opportunity of my (then) upcoming sabbatical to encourage each of you to reflect. Unlike me, you may be unable to have a sabbatical. Yet, I said, each of us has the ability and needs to take our "steps back" for rest, reflection and renewal.

We have just passed the winter solstice and our shortest day of the year. External darkness still pervades. Yet Chanukah begins this weekend to dispel the darkness. However the light that Chanukah brings, the light of rededication and renewal, provides us with another reminder to act to bring "light" into our lives and the lives of our loved ones. One way I hope you will do so is in the manner I described on the High Holidays. May doing so bring you "light" – happiness, well – being, recognition of your blessings and renewal.

Chag Urim Sameach – Have a Happy and wonderful Chanukah!

A Message from the President

Dear Friends,

Many of you know that Rabbi Neil Sandler will soon depart for a four month sabbatical commencing on December 1, 2016. He will return to the congregation on April 1, 2017. In his recent Beineinu column, Rabbi Sandler shared many of his sabbatical plans with us. This will be a time of respite, learning and growth for him. Rabbi Sandler plans to periodically communicate with our congregation while he is away and we wish him well during his sabbatical.

We look forward to Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal's leadership during this period. Rabbi Rosenthal is clearly a significant presence in our congregation and community. I know this time will also be one of growth for him. However, we want to assure that it will not also become a time of exhaustion for him!

To that end, we are fortunate to welcome Rabbi Chaim Listfield, who will assist Rabbi Rosenthal and provide us with additional rabbinic support during Rabbi Sandler's sabbatical. Rabbi Listfield was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary and has served several Conservative congregations as their spiritual leader. He and his wife Leslie Parker are members of our congregation and Rabbi Listfield now serves part – time as Rabbi of Congregation Etz Chayim in Huntsville, Alabama.

During the four month period of Rabbi Sandler's sabbatical, Rabbi Listfield will serve our congregation in the following ways:

1. Offer sermon and Torah comments monthly
2. Provide pastoral care
3. Teach one TuesdAAys@AA class
4. Officiate at a lifecycle event if Rabbi Rosenthal is unavailable
5. Provide Rabbi Rosenthal with opportunity to take days off/short time away

We are grateful to Rabbi Listfield for accepting this invitation to provide Rabbi Rosenthal and our congregation with support while Rabbi Sandler is away. We look forward to getting to know him better and to learning from him.

We wish Rabbi Sandler and Susan safe travels and a meaningful sabbatical. We look forward to their return in April.

Thank you.

Rob Wildstein, President