Ideas flitted about my head, but avoidance is a powerful force. Suddenly it was Thursday and I truly thought about writing something on Thursday. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It felt as though the tear in my heart would suddenly burst open, unable to stem the emotional flow any longer.
I think I’ll read a Chelm story, I told BossGiraffe on Friday morning.
Um…you know, I’m going to be speaking, he countered.
So Friday afternoon, I sat and forced myself to write what was to be my final d’var Torah. I turned to text. I turned to it because, for me, that is my natural starting point. And because I have often found it soothing to play hide-and-seek in the spaces between the letters.
Here. I tossed it on BossGiraffe’s desk. If it’s no good, I’m reading a Chelm story.
“Well…I like the ending.” (Which is the equivalent of saying, “Well…she has a great personality.”)
BossGiraffe offered some wise counsel.
Ten minutes. Ten minutes is all I need…
Several times in the book of Deuteronomy, the text indicates that Joshua will be succeeding Moses as the leader of the People Israel. Though God has made the line of succession known to Moses and Joshua in chapters 1 and 3, the news is not made immediately public. It is only near the end of Moses’ life, in chapter 31, that Moses names Joshua, son of Nun, as the one who will “go with this people into the land that the Eternal swore to their fathers…” With the endorsement of Joshua by their beloved leader, the people readily accepted him as they moved forward on their journey towards the Promised Land.
Transitions, by their very nature, are fraught with unease, mistrust, and anxiety. We humans dislike change and are wary of new situations and new people. But future success of a new leader, as our text points out, is heavily influenced by the way in which the individual who previously occupied a position handles the period of transition.
Many chapters before the announcement that Joshua would succeed him, Moses positioned the younger man as his assistant in several settings, the most recent being in the parasha of last Shabbat, when Joshua was one of the twelve scouts sent to report back on the Promised Land. By the time that he assumed leadership and seeing that Moses had placed his trust in Joshua, the people willingly followed him to claim the land.
Many of you have already had the opportunity to meet our new Cantorial soloist, Plonit bat Plonit. What you may not realize is that I was intimately involved in her selection. And as painful as it is for me to leave, it was a pleasure to take part in the process. For you see, I have a vested interest in this place. It has been my spiritual home for all of its thirty-five years of existence. Who I am as a Jew is due in large measure to the values, practices, and rituals I learned here. I met my husband here. Like my siblings and me, our children have received the entirety of their religious education here. I have worked hard to help our shul flourish and I do not want my efforts to be for naught.
Plonit and I have spent many, many hours together in advance of her assuming her new position. I have shared our traditions, our customs, our eccentric practices. What things ought to remain and areas where change will be most welcome. But she is not me and, ultimately, will make the role her own. Plonit has a stunning voice and a good heart. You will be served well by her.
With every beginning, there is an ending. Chazak v’amatz – Be strong and of good courage. And may the Holy One continue to bless the works of your hands.
Keyn y’hi ratzon — May this be God’s Will.