I was in the Emergency Room at South County Hospital while my congregation was observing Rosh Hashanah up in East Greenwich. Without me.
It was down to the wire, but I was all set. Sermons done. I'd practiced davening Shacharit and blowing shofar.... We had our first service Sunday evening, the first evening of Rosh Hashanah, in the beautiful sanctuary of the East Greenwich United Methodist Church . . . and then I fell ill that night and wound up in the ER within hours.
While I was hooked up to a saline drip, the president of my congregation was teaching herself how to blow shofar; our Cohen School second grade teacher was reminding himself of how to daven Rosh Hashanah Shacharit . . . while leading Rosh Hashanah Shacharit; our guest cantorial leader for musaf was stepping in conducting and managing the service and davenning at the same time; the sermon I had worked on for so long, crafted so carefully, was read (beautifully, I hear) by my now shofar-proficient president. The team running the honors kept everything moving smoothly. Our kids services were so large the pastor of the church had to move them into a larger room.
And I'm in the ER . . .
So what did I learn on Rosh Hashanah?
These are very good lessons to learn. It would have been nice to have learned them an easier way, but I am grateful to have learned them at all. I am grateful that my son and daughter-in-law could be with me through all this: wouldn't you know they'd wind up in the States exactly the year I'd need them? I am grateful to the Torat Yisrael member who is a physician and, at 7 am, gently drilled some sense into me: "You know, Rabbi, in your heart of hearts, that you're not leading service today, right?"; I'm grateful to the Torat Yisrael member who dropped everything at 7 am to drive me to the urgent care facility and the next Torat Yisrael member who dropped everything a few hours later to pick me up from the urgent care facility and drive me to the hospital; and to my president who, learning that she now had a crisis on her hands with no rabbi and a service starting in an hour and a half only cared about my health and welfare; and to all the members of our community who have since written e-mails and called expressing concern for me.
Not only have I learned some good lessons, I've also been granted some wonderful blessings. What a wonderful way to start a year!
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.