Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Last Derashah

[Haveil Havalim is here!]

I don’t know whether I’ve been in denial, or just too busy to think about it, but it finally hit me, just this Shabbos, that I have six weeks remaining in the pulpit rabbinate (at least, for now). That’s six more derashos (sermons, speeches, talks, whatever).

When you know you have only six more opportunities to address a mass audience, what topics do you choose? And in particular, what do you say for the last speech of all?

I’ve had times, during my dozen rabbinic years, when I’ve mentally drafted a parting speech. Those tended not to be the best of moments, though… so I’m starting from scratch here.

I’ve thought about not delivering a derashah that Shabbos. I’ve never done that, never taken a Shabbos ‘off’ like that, so why not take advantage and do it now? Fire me, pal.

I’ve thought about using it for mussar, to speak about things I believe should change within the community, but I can’t think of too many things I’ve omitted over the years, that I would want to include on that last day.

I could make it a personal talk about my own feelings, but, frankly, I do that a lot already.

I could give general life-advice, lessons I’ve learned, but that’s the sort of thing that could come off as rather pompous. Randy Pausch could do it because he was speaking about facing death, and it’s a topic on which he had a personal expertise. It doesn’t work as well for a retiring rabbi speaking about life.

My current inclination is to speak about my regrets – things I didn’t do within the shul/community, that I wish I had done (and maybe someone will do in the future...). Gd knows there’s plenty of material in that topic; I could probably give the next six about that topic, alone.

But what would you do?


  1. I'd summarize the joyous moments you'll treasure after leaving the community.

  2. You shouldn't put things in the negative. Why regrets? Opportunities for growth and imporvemnt! 'Life' for those of us fortunate enough not to be in the position of Randy Pausch is a work in progress, which means you get to make improvements.

  3. I'd take the moment to give public Hakoras HaTov for all the good things that came to you and your family because you were living in Allentown. I'd reassure the congregants that you aren't leaving them because you needed better than they can offer but that you needed different than can be offered. I'd tell them it was a hard decision but one that needed to be made for your family. And I'd tell them that you will still care what happens to this place that has been your home, that it wasn't just a job and out of sight out of mind.

  4. Fruma, Risa, ProfK-
    Thanks for commenting. I do plan to comment on all of those things. In fact, I make sure to give at least one derashah per year on the things I value about the shul and community.
    But I feel like there should be more to it.

  5. it sounds like you're not going to pull a marcus jastrow.

  6. If your goal is what's best for the community I'd go with your vision when you came, how if at all, its changed, and what's left to do (but prioritize)
    KT and Hatzlacha
    Joel Rich

  7. Lion -
    Nope. First, I love my shul. Second, despite the famous Rashi about saving mussar for the end, I don't see that it would be productive.

    Yes, that sounds like something along the lines of what I'll end up doing... Thanks.

  8. Thanks, thanks, and more thanks. Buring bridges is usless and I'd emphasis the importance of building/maintaining a Makom Torah.

  9. former allentownerJune 29, 2009 at 7:49 PM

    make sure to mention the chofetz chaim prefers bottle rockets for fireworks (see laws of simchat torah) after discussing technical halachic issues of firewiorks.

    i'm sure the crowd will love it, and you'll get your legacy forever!

    note: does muhlenberg stadium still have fireworks?

  10. Rabbi -

    Whatever you say, will be the rightthing to say. And we still will standby and listen. Wether it be regrets, mussar, improvements, visions for the future, hakaras hatov, etc... whatever it maybe, we will sit with awe listen to last words are rav will speak to us.

    But whatever you say, just remeber to bring 2 tissue boxes - YOUR GONNA NEED EM!

    The better question is - what night are we doing the "ROAST the RABBI"????

    After all - it's not too often that we can proclaim our Rebbe is Mashiach (Purim reference for those who weren't around).

    - Your Chaver

  11. Neil-

    Yes, they do. Visible from my home, actually.

    The roast is every night, no?

  12. Rabbi _

    May you should let the community give the drasha one week, and we can talk abou all the good that you have done for this commuity.

    The 5 minute introduction at the federation meeting just didn't do you justice.

    You do it all - and words just won't be enough to express our gratitude when you depart Allentown (that is not to say that you will be receiving behind-the-glass seats to the Rangers either).

  13. "words just won't be enough to express our gratitude when you depart Allentown..."

    You're that glad he's leaving, huh? :-P