A couple of weeks ago I received an email from my rabbi. It was not directed to me individually, but to the entire congregation. After 17 years with our synagogue, he was leaving.
I wasn’t entirely surprised. But I didn’t know how I felt about it, or what to say, either. So I did nothing. No email. No phone call. Which, for this rather impulsive person, is growth.
Except that I continued to do nothing.
I skipped a part of Rosh Hashanah tradition, tashlich – joining the rabbi and cantor and other congregants at Lake Michigan to empty my pockets of the residue of the past year. That which I no longer needed. And considered skipping second day Rosh Hashanah services too.
This was highly unusual.
I’ve been blessed with a close, personal relationship with my rabbi. He led me through my conversion and through my get, my Jewish divorce. I traveled to Africa with him and other congregants during the summer of my divorce, and I have met with him more or less monthly for the better part of the past five years.
And it hit me. I was avoiding. Or at least I think I was avoiding. Rather than facing the pain of change, of uncertainty, of not knowing what to say, I chose to ignore it, ignore him – telling myself I would say something eventually. When I had the right words.
I wondered if these were the same thoughts that The Chef and Mr. 700 Miles had when they chose not to further pursue a romance but didn’t or couldn’t say anything about it.
I was doing what had (potentially – I’ll never know for certain as I do not live in their minds) been done to me.
I first had the realization I was not free from this behavior a couple of weeks ago. Just before returning to San Francisco, my home for 14 years.
I had a friend there I knew I owed an amends to – I just wasn’t sure what it was.
About four or five years ago I told her I needed space. Without warning. Without lead up. I did not return a couple of her phone calls in a timely manner, and when she called me on it – in a voicemail, simply asking if she had done something wrong and if, in fact, I was ok – I responded with an email, something along the lines of “I need space. I’m sure you understand.”
She replied that she did not understand, but would honor my request. And, with the exception of a single message wishing me well I was moving to Seattle, and my thank you in response, we had not spoken since.
Until a couple of weeks ago.
When, preparing for my trip, I realized I had done to her what had been done to me — almost. I left without explanation – almost without a word.
I phoned before my visit and asked if we might meet. If I might right my wrongs. She graciously said yes, and we did.
My amends was simple. That I had walked away when she needed me most, with barely a word or an explanation. That I had been selfish. That I had been wrong.
And then we talked.
About who she had been in my life and who I had been in hers. How she remembered things and how I remembered them. About why I had not been able to be there for her – because of “my stuff” and how it and I got triggered. Things I had never told her.
There were tears. And there was healing, for both of us.
I found myself thinking that perhaps The Chef and Mr. 700 Miles had come into my life, at least in part, to be my mirrors. To show me my behavior.
Mr. 700 Miles finally did make contact with me. His words were simple. That he had “left” because he fell in love with someone else. That he was sorry. And with those words that last bit of wondering, that last bit of residue, was gone. Like the residue I would normally rid myself of at tashlich.
I wanted to write back, “Thank you,” or “Was that so hard?” But I did nothing – other than thank him and wish him well in my heart.
However, I did make contact with my rabbi. I sent him an email that night after the tashlich that wasn’t. I apologized for having been so silent. I told him I had assumed he might be overwhelmed by the response of congregants and others to his news.
And I told him I didn’t know what to say. But that I honored his decision. The graceful way he was moving through this transition. And that I hoped we would find our way to a new chapter in our friendship.
I did go to second day Rosh Hashanah services, where we talked briefly about what I had written. My tears drowning out my words.
I let them flow, rather than trying to talk through them. No longer avoiding. No longer doing what I thought had only been done to me.