I was really dreading it. I hardly slept on Thursday night, in fact.
I think it’s is because I feared a repeat of the last time that I left a synagogue. That parting was especially painful because it wasn’t acknowledged in any official way. My final Shabbat service was…like any other Shabbat. Except that the following week, someone else would be in my place. No parting gift from the board. The senior rabbi was unable to muster a single word about my six years with the congregation. The experience was saved by the love and generosity of two friends from that synagogue who made a presentation that evening. And that was that.
This past Shabbat was completely different. In every way.
The sanctuary was overflowing. Nearly every past president of the congregation was present Friday night (and they were all represented at my brunch a fortnight ago). A cross-section of our entire shul community sat in the pews. Singing. And praying. Laughing. And crying.
A great deal of time went into crafting the flow of the service, selecting pieces of music that best expressed my joy of leading this shul — my home congregation — over the past five years. I also chose pieces that my musical partner-in-crime, our incredible accompanist, plays with particular artistry. Though I haven’t spoken much of it, the loss of her constant presence in my life will be great.
I was keenly aware of that inevitable absence as I listened, trying desperately to commit each note to memory. Holding each precious phrasing within my soul. I dread saying goodbye to her. We put it off until the next morning…
I spoke. BossGiraffe spoke. We stepped before the open Ark for a blessing. (Flashbacks of my Bat Mitzvah service…which took place on this very bimah…)
And then, suddenly, the service was over. A beautiful oneg Shabbat, filled with farewells, hugs, tears, and laughter.