Echoes of Elul, Day 28: Change

Alan Shebroe
As the Maharal of Prague said, “All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, a person should look into his soul and search his deeds, that he may make confession.”

Well, here’s mine… I do not do well with change. It’s uncomfortable. It’s different. It makes me nervous. It requires effort – all of which requires an acceptance of things that are for the most part beyond our control, but are ultimately inevitable. In short, I HATE CHANGE.

Given change happens whether or not we want it. At age 68 I am beginning to embrace the concept as I look back and realize all of the good that has happened – because of change.

When I was 20, I lost my dad to cancer. But that made me a stronger person and my life took a turn for the better.

When I was 23, I made a major career change, reluctant and scared, but it was the best thing I have ever done.

When I was 25, the first of my two children was born. A happier change I could not have hoped for. And again, my life took a turn for the better.

At 30, Joy and I found a new synagogue in Orange County. It was a reform congregation, a serious change from what I was used to, but I found a new spiritual home and again, life took a turn for the better.

At age 49, I sold my share of my business. How ironic as my partner always embraced change and I did not. But as scary as that was, it turned out that decision was actually a good thing.

In the past 16 months, I, like the rest of us, have been inundated with change. Nothing is the same as it was, and I am not sure it ever will be again. So many lives lost, so many customs that have had to be modified, so much turmoil in the world. Perhaps it was God’s way of waking us up. Who knows…

Throughout my life I have always been fairly close to my temple’s clergy, a real blessing to be sure. Perhaps it was because I was the Bar Mitzvah teacher, or my reading of Torah, or perhaps it is because it was important enough to me to make it a point to get to know them and interact with them. And throughout time, I have seen many a change of clergy.

When Rabbi Stern left, that ultimately brought Rabbi Donnell to us, a change I did embrace almost immediately, as many of us did. A good thing, as a result of change.

Recently, our TBS family became somewhat splintered when we decided to part ways with our spiritual leader after 20+ years, a change in which we are still finding our way forward.

But, some time ago, our synagogue decided to make a similar change which was at first also uncomfortable. Yet, that change brought Cantor Reinwald to us, and that change is one that has had such a positive effect on me. It has also been one of the most fulfilling changes in my spiritual life. I thank God that he was here to help us through one of our most difficult changes in our temple, and I, like so many of us, will miss him as he embarks on a change of career in June. But I am no longer afraid.

And as I reflect on the impending change of clergy in our synagogue over the next few years, for once in my life I am actually optimistic about our future, caused by change. Rabbi Lipper has been a wonderful bridge as we transition to our next seated Rabbi. While I am so sorry to see Cantor Reinwald leaving, I have no doubt that this change too will ultimately bring a positive change, for him and for us.

I have always been exceedingly slow to accept change and after the next sentence my wife will surely want to know who this really is and what did I do with her husband. I am only now beginning to see that change can actually be a good thing, and if we embrace it together, we will all be stronger and better for it. Or so we can hope.

With that, I am changing my confession: Perhaps, change is not so bad after all…

May you all be blessed with positive changes in your lives, and have a healthy and prosperous new year.

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