Every wonder what the rabbi does right after Yom Kippur?
Following weeks of preparation – writing sermons, preparing kavannot (meditations to introduce prayers), meeting with potential new members and organizing Torah readers, Shofar sounders and more – what does the rabbi do with his first “down time” in a month?
Thank You’s: Putting on the High Holy Days is the result of the collective efforts of hundreds of volunteers. Led in our congregation by Debi Young (officially, High Holy Day Transformation Chair, and Or Ami president Susan Gould, the crew of volunteers are the real angels of these Yamim Nora’im (Awesome Days). If Rabbi and Cantor are the face of the services, these volunteers are the body! So I spent the first hours of the morning compiling a list of everyone – chorale, musicians, paper-putter-outers, ushers, prayer readers, donated SOVA food bag schleppers, “will call “ticket hander-outers, and … Each deserves to be recognized; each deserves a letter in the weeks that follow. (Even better: at Or Ami, once we publicize this whole list, I get to sit back and watch the thank you emails go flying around from members to the volunteers.) At Or Ami, saying thank you, for gifts big and small, is central to our vision. Because at Or Ami, people matter!
Baseball with the Boys: Being part of the rabbi’s family means that in the month prior to the High Holy Days, you have to share your daddy with hundreds of other people – potential members, new lay leaders who want to move forward on projects, and High Holy Day organizers – as well as the all consuming “sermon writing” process. Then, while others squirm while sitting next to mom and/or dad, you watch your daddy from afar as he stands on the bimah and leads. You might be proud of him. It is cool he tells good stories. But it doesn’t stand up to the opportunity to spend time with him while he’s focused.
So on the day after Yom Kippur, I give my kids well deserved attention. The boys wanted Daddy time, playing baseball. So off to the park we went where I spent three hours hitting the ball to my star first and second basemen. One of the boys said how great it was that we could play baseball together. Truth be told, it didn’t matter what we did. It was great just that we could be together!
Dirty Sexy Money: It was a night off but we still found ourselves schepping nachas (sharing pride and joy) about Or Ami in Hollywoodland. My wife and I went out Sunday evening to attend a premier showing of the ABC TV show, Dirty Sexy Money. Or Ami congregant Matt Gross executive produced this highly engaging drama about the Darlings, a wealthy quirky family. “The absurdly wealthy Darlings of New York have asked humanitarian lawyer Nick George to take over his father’s job as their personal lawyer, but the money that will allow him the freedom to be an altruistic do-gooder is only part of the picture. That same money pulls him into the dubious doings of the Darling clan. Power, privilege and family money are a volatile cocktail.” We loved the show! I think its a winner! I’ll be in front of my TV on Wednesday night, pulling for Nick’s humanitarian values to win out over the materialism and privileged attitude of the Darlings.
I thought it would be just a relaxing, adult evening out. We had fun meeting the stars, watching the red carpet walk, sitting in Paramount Studios’ theater watching the pilot, sampling the food from the delicious buffet spread. While Matt was shmoozing the adoring crowd of stars, crew and Hollywood type guests, his wife Hedi and her sister Michelle Feinstein (membership co-chairs) were recruiting film editors and others for Or Ami. Between bites of those tantalizing mini-chocolate souffles, we were kvelling about the High Holy Day services, Or Ami’s warm community and inviting people to our upcoming campfire Sukkot service. (Truth be told: I was eating the souffles; Hedi was kvelling). My favorite picture (even more than those of Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh, Billy Baldwin and others) was the one of the two clergy – Glenn Fitzgerald (who plays the Reverend Brian Darling) and me. I hope I am a nicer guy than he!
What does the rabbi do after Yom Kippur? Give thanks. Spend time with the kids. Reconnect with my wife. And, watch a show whose name alone probably set me up next Yom Kippur for a few more Al Chet’s (prayer asking forgiveness for sins).