Reflections on a Year Gone By

Posted on September 26, 2019

By Hazzan Ben Tisser

As I sit in my living room with my Mahzor open, knowing that Rosh Hashanah is but a few days away, I am looking at the text of the Unetaneh Tokef prayer. This, of course, being the prayer in which we are reminded that during these days our acts are recalled and our fates decided. Each time I look at these pages in the prayer book, no matter how many times I’ve looked at them before, I am compelled to stop and to reflect on the year that is coming to an end.

In many ways, 5779 has been a remarkable year. As a community, we have seen phenomenal change. We have enjoyed many new programs and initiatives; we have reinvigorated our Friday night davening through Rinat Shabbat; we have welcomed Hazzan Barbara Barnett as our new Ritual Director; we have celebrated (and will continue to do so throughout the year) Rabbi Schwab’s ascent to the position of our Senior Rabbi; and of course, we are delighted to hear how Rabbi Kurtz and Bryna are so enjoying their time in Jerusalem. Personally, I have enjoyed watching the fruits of my labors at the synagogue—the success of programs, and the joy of watching our b’nai mitzvah share their milestones from the bimah. I have also particularly enjoyed singing in communities across the country, and even in the synagogue in Dresden, Germany, where my late grandfather became a bar mitzvah some 85 years ago. And, as many of you know, I became engaged to an incredible woman.

Even with all of the success and celebration, this year has also had its difficult moments. As a community, there have been illnesses and deaths, and we have held each other up through those challenging and sad moments. I have shared with you my sadness as I lost my beloved grandmother just after last Sukkot, and as well we mourned the tragic loss of my fiancé’s teenage son, as well as her grandmother, in January. There are no words to describe the holes in our hearts, and yet even through these sad and difficult moments we have the opportunity to reflect in ways that will allow us to live a more full and meaningful 5780.

I want to share with you a poem, which you’ll find below this message. It is often read at funerals, but it is an important reminder as we come before Avinu Malkeinu, asking for another year of goodness, of health, and of life.

I want to close first by asking for your individual and collective forgiveness for my misdeeds and shortcomings over the course of the past year. If I was late to an appointment, or if I said or did something hurtful, I am most deeply sorry, and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it privately and to do proper teshuvah.

Robyn, Talia, and Ethan join me in wishing you and yours a most happy, healthy, successful and fulfilling 5780. May we only meet for s’machot, for happy occasions, this year.

See you in shul,

Hazzan Tisser


the poem by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

By Linda Ellis, Copyright © Inspire Kindness, 1996,