My Turn

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I&'ve been a cantor/rabbi for more than 30 years. You can imagine the
hours: 24/7 for decades. People asking for everything from weddings
and funerals, hospital visits, speaking at community events,
committee meetings, b’nai mitzvah tutoring, plus my regular duties at
Talmud Torah and services. My wife and I have taken some vacations,
including congregational trips to Israel, but now I want time for me.
Unscheduled, uncommitted time to figure out what I want to do more
of, which includes playing my cello and perhaps taking up watercolors.
I love Friday night services but don’t want to feel obligated (note: the
new rabbi doesn’t sing as well, sshhhh). How can I convert myself
from a public citizen into a more private one?

My Turn

Dear My Turn:

By learning to say some simple phrases like: I can’t commit to that
right now. I’m sorry, I’d love to, but I am practicing saying “Not this
year, even for you.” It’s the new rabbi’s turn. And so on.
The classic dictum for new retirees is to take the first year without
making any big commitments. Most people, fearing big stretches of
time looming, over-commit too soon and find themselves as busy after
retiring as they were before. Perhaps even more so. I suspect your
wife will echo what I am saying, as she’s probably sacrificed a lot of
family time over the decades.


Plan a trip for the two of you (and your children if you have them) for
shortly after you retire. When you return, tell people you are taking a
three-month absolute sabbatical and will make zero commitments when
it is over. As you ease back into regular life, spend some time each day thinking
about what you miss and what you do not. Offer to sing at services perhaps once a
month, so that you have access to that well of good feeling. Resist any
attempt to get you to commit to other regular commitments. Revisit
your priorities ever few months. The big picture will emerge and
people will adjust.