As I move more deeply into my third year of working with the CCAR to provide companionship and guidance in the area of self-care, the Yamim provided an opportunity to reflect upon my tremendous gratitude for this privilege and the gifts it brings me every day. Among those – the opportunity eight years after leaving pulpit work to offer something to those of you who continue to shoulder that rich, rewarding and challenging responsibility. I also find myself reflecting upon the toll the work and all that goes with it can take upon us, and how that has played out in the lives of some with whom I have worked since entering into this role with the Conference. One thing that rises clearly for me is the awareness that a primary source of the pain I encounter in some of our colleagues is the result, in no small part, of inner personal work set aside in the face of professional demands, which feel more immediate and – often – overwhelming.
And yet, dear friends, we all know somewhere in our gut that the external work will eventually suffer for inner work not done. Last year I posed to you the question, “What am I doing or should I be doing to set my own spiritual and psychological house in order and to make sure that it is a Sukkot shalom?”. The last couple of years, sitting with ever more of you, confirm me in the clarity that the cheshbon nefesh in which many of us feel there is no opportunity to engage during the Yamim must, nonetheless, happen – v’im lo achshav, eimatai? If we fail to do it, the apparent security of the structures we have erected in our lives – families, marriages, careers – are at risk of rot and ruin. Those external sukkot are, ultimately, only as strong as the inner sukkah of our souls.
So, once again, I invite you into conversation. This can come about through the possibility of one-on-one work in short-term spiritual direction or counseling or through participation in offerings I coming forth over the course of the next year, such as the online Mindfulness Class beginning October 26th. As we head into this Shabbat Sukkot, we remember the oft-told tale of Zusya, lamenting the fact that he wasn’t Moses. Neither are we, and if even Moses couldn’t do it alone, as we read in the parashah this Shabbat, how can we hope to do so. We need those quiet moments, to be sheltered in the sukkah of the cleft of that rock, to hear and feel the message of companionship and support which is a manifestation of Holiness in our lives. It will be my honor to share such moments with you. Hoping to hear this year from many of you, I wish all of you a joyous, healthy and fulfilling 5777 in which you are able to set free sparks of holiness and healing for all, Mo’adim l’simchah and Shabbat shalom.
Rabbi Rex Perlmeter, LSW is the CCAR Special Advisor for Member Care and Wellness, providing short-term counseling or spiritual direction to rabbis in need. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-207-1700. Rex will be leading “Building a Jewish Mindfulness Practice” webinar series with CCAR, starting Wednesday, October 26 — sign up now!