Student Rabbi Matt Derrenbacher: Let’s heal relationships with others, and ourselves

By Student Rabbi Matt Derrenbacher

Hello United Hebrew Congregation of Terre Haute!

Brittany and Matt Derrenbacher with their bulldog, Violet Rose.

My name is Matt Derrenbacher and I am a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

I am super excited to spend this coming year with you all, praying, learning and creating meaningful Jewish spaces together.

Along with my status as a rabbinical student at HUC, I serve as a chaplain candidate for the United States Air Force, as well as rabbinic fellow for Hillel at Ohio University.

At home, my wife Brittany and I run a rescue called Luna Bell’s Moonbows for dogs with particularly challenging medical conditions. I love to read, sing, play piano, garden, run outside and anything/everything Jewish!

How is this year different than other years?

Right now, we are in the Hebrew Month of Elul, which is a journey toward the High Holy Days.

During this month, we listen to the beautiful blasts of the shofar and begin to look inward and evaluate the past year.

Mah nishtanah ha-shanah ha-zeh? How is this year different than other years?

During most years leading up to the High Holy Days, we evaluate relationships with one another, in hope of mending broken relationships and beginning on a path of healing with those we may have wronged, or those who may have wronged us.

This year, however, with the pandemic completely changing our Jewish and secular lives, I invite all to not only look inward for healing in our relationships with others, but also in relationship with ourselves.

Let us ask ourselves some questions:

  • What was challenging for me this past year?
  • What good things from the previous year do I want to bring into the coming year?
  • What lessons have I learned from this past year?
  • What challenges and struggles do I want to leave behind in 5781?

One of our Torah portions for the High Holy Days is Kedoshim, where we read, Then God said to Moses: “Speak to the entire Congregation of Israel, saying to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I, Adonai your God, Am Holy.”‘ (Leviticus 19:1-2).

Our sages teach us that each of us is created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. So to be holy like God, all we need to do is let the best in ourselves shine through.

While we welcome 5782 together in a multi-accessible way, it is my prayer that we can create and enter holy time and space as our full, true selves.

Shanah Tovah u’metukah! May we each have a healthy, happy and sweet New Year!

Student Rabbi Matt Derrenbacher will serve UHC Terre Haute during the 2021-22 academic year.

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