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The Enduring Power of Relationships

05/01/2023 09:30:00 AM


Rabbi Liora Alban

As we inch closer to summer, I am reflecting on my three years as your Assistant Rabbi and Director of Education. I was ordained as a rabbi and began this role at the beginning of the pandemic. While one of my priorities for my first few months on the job was to start forming relationships, this proved nearly impossible. 2020 included backyard meals, walks, virtual meet & greets, and endless conversations about physical distancing and Zoom. How strange that my first high holiday season as a rabbi included leading worship for an empty sanctuary!

Today, our world and our temple have come a long way with regard to COVID. We have adjusted to a new normal and I have had the opportunity to spend time with you in-person. The contrast between how I initially experienced my rabbinate to how I get to experience it today has taught me that relationships are everything. While yes, I made meaning out of an imperfect initial situation and gained invaluable professional experience during the pandemic, something was missing. My work lacked the warmth of hugs, the connection felt when looking into a person’s eyes, and the rush of preaching to an energized sanctuary. There is no substitute for being present with others. Further, being present with you is what made me appreciate this community and is what I will miss most come July.

Rabbi Harold Kushner included a story in his book, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough. It goes like this:

I was sitting on a beach one summer day, watching two children, a boy and a girl, playing in the sand. They were hard at work building an elaborate sand castle by the water’s edge, with gates and towers and moats and internal passages. Just when they had nearly finished their project, a big wave came along and knocked it down, reducing it to a heap of wet sand. I expected the children to burst into tears, devastated by what had happened to all their hard work. But they surprised me. Instead, they ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands, and sat down to build another castle.

All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships to other people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up. When that happens, only the person who has somebody’s hand to hold will be able to laugh.

On the precipice of a new step in my career, I realize the truth of this story. The last few years have brought hardships to American society and to the world at large. Being a leader during this period has been exciting, albeit challenging. That being said, when I look back at my time at PTS, the pain of these challenges is not what I will most remember. Instead, I will remember that we persisted through this period together. I will smile with fondness when picturing your warm faces, loving embraces, and the wisdom you shared that gave me hope for a better world. You made me fall in love with this community and with the incredible work I get to do as a rabbi. These feelings and memories are what will endure. Thank you. I cannot wait to keep in touch!

Wed, December 6 2023 23 Kislev 5784