February 28, 2024 -
Cantor Sarah Sager shared the following column which ran in Fairmount Temple’s June/July issue of the Bulletin.
As I contemplate the milestone anniversary of my work with and presence in this congregation, and my transition to the position of Cantor Laureate, I have been searching for a way to express the myriad thoughts and feelings that are filling to overflowing my mind, heart, soul, and spirit. At such a time, it strikes me with some sense of the mystery of such things, that forty is a significant number in our tradition. In fact, after the number seven, it is the most cited number in the Torah! The number 40 is related to a wide variety and the multi-dimensional nature of events, experiences, and characteristics. In many of its iterations it represents, at some level, a journey – one of distance, certainly, but also of discernment, of appreciation, of understanding, and of growth.
Inherent in every completion of a span of forty (days, years, generations even!), is the acknowledgement that the traveler(s) is not in the same place and is not the same person as at the beginning of the journey. One has only to think of the world after forty days and nights of rain, of Moses after spending forty days at the top of Mt. Sinai, of the Israelite people after forty years of wandering.
These are the images that speak to me at this time in the forty-year journey of my life’s work. It has been complex and multi-faceted. It has been challenging beyond imagining and uplifting beyond that! It has required every ounce of ability and talent I might possess and then demanded more. This journey has humbled and sobered me and yet allowed me to expand the resources of my mind and heart in the service of our people and in reverence for God. It has prompted me to hope, over and over again, that I might be worthy to teach, to comfort, to guide, and even, on occasion, to inspire.
Most of all, these forty years have allowed me to share in the lives of my congregation in ways that have honored, inspired, and profoundly changed me.
Even this time of transition is unlike anything I might have imagined. What I expected to be a time of embracing and drawing near, of gathering and celebrating, of light and laughter is, instead, in the era of COVID-19, a time of distance, of constriction, of anxiety, and trepidation.
And yet, and yet…this is another part of the journey, individually, and collectively. It is part of our journey together. That is what makes this time not one of disappointment, but of hope, not one of defeat, but of renewed determination. We are journeying together and in that, if I have learned anything, is our strength and our renewal.
Thus, even in the midst of this pandemic, an experience that is already seared into our souls, I “sing unto Adonai” a song of gratitude, a song of awe and wonder, even of amazement at the gifts of this journey and the blessings I have been privileged to enjoy. I look forward, as well, with curiosity and anticipation, to the next forty years of journeying to untold destinations! I pray, that with God’s help, we might all reach a Promised Land of our dreams fulfilled.
I look forward, eagerly, to a time when it will be possible to exchange hugs once again with all of my fellow travelers!!
In the meantime, I send virtual hugs and love to you all!!