Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Balak

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to you! This week we’re reading the Torah portion called Balak in the book of Numbers. The name of the Torah portion is a hyperlink; click on it to be taken to the Torah portion in English if you want to read the portion before coming to Shabbat services.

Traditionally, we spend each week studying a new Torah portion, and then read from that portion on Shabbat, the culmination of the week, before beginning a new portion on Sunday again. If you would like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are some which Rabbi Rachel has shared over the years:

And here’s a link to the Union for Reform Judaism’s page for this Torah portion, which contains several different Reform commentaries:

return-to-shabbatThis Shabbat, our shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader) for morning services (July 5) will be Rabbi Rachel.

We extend a hearty thank you in advance to this week’s service host, Rabbi Pam Wax, and also to everyone who is bringing a vegetarian / dairy dish to our brunch after Shabbat morning services honoring the Ranzers. If you would like to join the shamashim (“helpers”) who welcome people to our Shabbat services and who host our light kiddush afterwards, contact Pattie Lipman.

We also thank our member Helene Armet for the home-baked challah!

We hope to see you soon at CBI. Have a great week!

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Chukat

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to you! This week we’re reading the Torah portion called Chukat in the book of Numbers. The name of the Torah portion is a hyperlink; click on it to be taken to the Torah portion in English if you want to read the portion before coming to Shabbat services.

Traditionally, we spend each week studying a new Torah portion, and then read from that portion on Shabbat, the culmination of the week, before beginning a new portion on Sunday again. If you would like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are some which Rabbi Rachel has shared over the years:

And here’s a link to the Union for Reform Judaism’s page for this Torah portion, which contains several different Reform commentaries:

return-to-shabbatThis Shabbat, our shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader) for morning services (June 28th) will be Rabbi Pam Wax.

We extend a hearty thank you in advance to this week’s service host, Wendy Penner. If you would like to join the shamashim (“helpers”) who welcome people to our Shabbat services and who host our light kiddush afterwards, contact Pattie Lipman.

We also thank our member Helene Armet for the home-baked challah!

We hope to see you soon at CBI. Have a great week!

The CBI July-August Newsletter is here!

newslettercoverIn This Issue:

From the Rabbi, Service times, Thanks to Jewish Federation, Shabbat and havdalah times, A song for the month of Elul, You’re Invited…to the Ranzer Brunch!, What does z”l mean?, Never Forget Exhibit , Looking Back: Shavuot, Monthly Spiritual Discussion Group Coming Soon to CBI, Psalm 100 in a new translation, High Holiday Schedule , Introducing Days of Awe, Co-Presidents’ Column , Meet Our Members: Information Needed, CBI Book Group (upcoming titles / meetings) , Lunch Bunch Dates, CBI Co-Presents Rabbi and Scholar Haviva Ner-David, author of Chanah’s Voice, Happy occasions, Thanks to our donors, Seeking Shamashim, A poem, Reprint: The Power of Do-Overs,and Other Great Jewish Happenings in the Berkshires This Summer: from Rimon and JTS.

If you’re on the CBI email list, you should receive a digital copy soon; if you’ve asked to receive paper newsletters or don’t have access to email, you should receive a printed copy soon. Extra printed copies are always available at CBI. Meanwhile, you can download the digital edition here:

CBINewsletterJulyAugust2014 [pdf]

Monthly spiritual discussion group at CBI

soul circle soul proprietor 25Starting in late June, a spiritual discussion group will meet at CBI, once a month, on a Friday afternoon at 3pm. This group is growing out of the weekly spiritual discussion group which took place at CBI during the Counting of the Omer, but is not limited to those who participated in that group. All are welcome to join!

Unlike the Omer group, which functioned on a drop-in basis, this is envisioned as a group of people who are interested in meeting regularly together to talk about spiritual life and to do some learning. We ask that participants sign up in advance, so that over the course of the year we can build closer relationships and rapport among the participants, which will in turn deepen our conversations.

At each meeting we’ll explore a text together — perhaps part of the Torah portion, to see how and whether it speaks to our own spiritual journeys; perhaps a Hasidic or Kabbalistic (mystical) text about an upcoming holiday; perhaps a Mussar (ethical self-improvement) text — and we’ll also talk about our spiritual lives as they continue to unfold. No previous experience with any Jewish subject matter is required.

Here are the dates for the next several months:

June 27
July 18
August 29
September 19
October 17
November 21
December 19

Each date is a Friday; we’ll meet at CBI at 3pm in my office.

I know that we all have busy lives and that any individual participant may not be able to make it to every session; that’s okay! If this is something in which you are interested, please sign up by June 25 so I know how many copies to prepare for our first meeting.

Wishing you blessings for a Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Rachel

A Shabbat of healing, melody, and memory

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

We’ve come down from the mountain: Shavuot is past, and now our task is to integrate whatever revelation we’ve received and to weave it into the fabric of our daily lives.

During tomorrow morning’s service, I’ll teach a simple new setting of the first line of the psalm for Shabbat, set to a melody by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, as arranged by Rabbi Shir Yaakov. You can hear the melody here:

As Reb Shlomo writes, “The whole wide world is waiting to sing a song of Shabbat” — join us in singing.

This Shabbat we’ll mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day at CBI with a moment of silence to remember the Jewish soldiers who gave their lives at Normandy.

In this week’s Torah portion we’ll read the story which gives rise to Moses’ fervent prayer of healing: “Please, God, please heal her!” May our prayers for healing reach those who mourn the losses sustained on D-Day, and all those in need of healing everywhere.

Shabbat shalom –

Rabbi Rachel

Shavuot is Almost Here!

Dear Congregation Beth Israel community,

Shavuot is almost upon us! Tomorrow (Tuesday) night we’ll convene at 8pm at the Williams College Jewish Religious Center for a short-and-sweet festival evening service followed by an evening / night of amazing learning together with Congregation Beth El (Bennington) community and a few folks from Williams College. We have an amazing line-up of teachings on a wide variety of subjects — the list is enclosed, and I hope it will entice you to join us.

On Wednesday morning we’ll convene again at CBI at 10am for a festival morning service led by Rabbi Pam Wax, which will include Yizkor, our quarterly opportunity to connect with the memories of those whom we love who have died. There will also be cheesecake!

Jewish tradition holds that we were all present at Sinai when Torah was revealed — and that Torah continues to be revealed in our lives even now. May our Shavuot celebration open our hearts to the revelation we each most need.

I look forward to seeing y’all at Sinai!

Rabbi Rachel


Tikkun Leyl Shavuot 5774 / 2014:

  • Rabbi Pam Wax: “Sinai without Torah. Dayenu!?”
  • Chaim Bronstein: Distribution of land in Torah: is it relevant to today’s wealth disparity?
  • Anne Hartheimer: a short play based on a story by Agnon (“The Sign”) which takes place on Shavuot; we’ll read it aloud.
  • Professor Jason Josephson: Buddhism and “rules.”
  • Karen Kelly: a teaching from Pirkei Avot 6:6
  • Deliah Rosel: a poem and a L’Chaim Qigong practice on receiving Divine energy and inspiration
  • Cantor Bob Scherr: Zionism – Jewish Peoplehood Revealed
  • Jen Burt: The Afterlife in Judaism
  • Rabbi Jarah Greenfield: You’ll Eat Your Words, Prophet!
  • Rabbi Rachel Barenblat: poems of revelation – as interludes between other teachings

 

Shavuot is almost here!

Dear friends,

Today is the 44th day of the Omer (the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot.) Shavuot is almost upon us!

Shavuot is one of the shalosh regalim, the three great pilgrimage festivals when our people used to convene in Jerusalem to connect with God. Our tradition regards it as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Sinai.

On Tuesday June 3 we’ll meet at the Williams College Jewish Religious Center (along with the Beth El Bennington community) for a tikkun leyl Shavuot, a late-night study celebration. We’ll begin at 8pm with a brief festival service (probably only half an hour long), and then we’ll do some learning together.

All are welcome to join us — even if you aren’t likely to stay until the small hours of the night; come for as much as you can!

And all are welcome to teach: to share a poem which speaks to you (on a subject relating to Judaism or Torah), or a quotation, or something you found in a book which resonated with you, or some piece of Torah learning which is meaningful to you. Teachings can be as brief as a few minutes, or as long as half an hour.

We usually go until about 2am, fueled by espresso milkshakes and by our love of learning. There is something special and sweet about studying Torah (broadly defined) in the middle of the night. Our sages tell us that midnight is an especially auspicious time to study Torah, because something special in us opens up at that hour, allowing us to receive Torah in a new way. Join us and discover how that feels for you.

And on Wednesday morning, June 4, we’ll convene at 10am at CBI for a Shavuot morning service led by Rabbi Pam Wax, which will feature Yizkor, the memorial prayers which we recite four times a year. As dairy foods are traditionally eaten at Shavuot, there will be fantastic cheesecake brought from New York City at the oneg after services!

I hope you’ll join us for one or both of these delicious Shavuot experiences.

Wishing you blessings as we continue to move through the Omer,

Rabbi Rachel