Shavua tov! Looking forward to the remainder of Pesach and to a bar mitzvah.

Shavua tov – a  good week to you! And chag sameach, a joyous festival. I hope that everyone’s Pesach has begun with sweetness.

CBI is both part of the ALEPH Network, and affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism. As a Reform-affiliated community, we observe seven days of Pesach. (All communities in Israel do the same. Outside of Israel, Conservative and Orthodox communities observe eight days of Pesach… but at CBI for the last several years we have followed Reform custom of observing a seven-day festival of Passover.) Therefore, following Reform custom, we’ll divide the Torah portion Acharei Mot into two halves, and will read from the first half this coming Shabbat as we celebrate the bar mitzvah of Jeremy Guy, and from the second half the following week.

Please join us on Shabbat morning as we call Jeremy Guy to the Torah as a bar mitzvah! If you’re looking for commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

return-to-shabbat

May this week of Pesach be meaningful and sweet for all of us!

As we move from Pesach to Shavuot, we enter into the journey of counting the Omer — the days which connect our festival of liberation with our festival of revelation. If you’re looking for Omer-counting resources, there are a few more copies of Rabbi Rachel’s Toward Sinai: Omer Poems available at the synagogue. There are also a variety of places online where one can sign up for daily Omer teachings via email or Facebook — I especially like the Omer teachings at A Way In at Mishkan Shalom.

Don’t forget to register for the Shavuot retreat at Isabella Freedman! As members of an ALEPH Network community we receive a substantial discount; include the registration code VELVETEEN and you’ll get a $150 discount on that retreat.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Pesach!

Shavua tov – a  good week to you! This is the week which culminates in Pesach. There will be no Shabbat / Festival morning services at CBI this coming Saturday morning, but we hope you’ve already RSVP’d to join us at our Second Night Community Seder on Saturday night.

If you’re looking for Pesach resources, here are a few:

return-to-shabbat

  • The Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah for Pesach – free, downloadable, print and bind it yourself! Interweaves traditional text with contemporary poetry and meditations on liberation.
  • Prayer for Dew. On Pesach morning we recite a special prayer for dew; and from now on until the end of the fall holiday season, our daily amidah prayer features a request for God to bring the dew, rather than a request for rains and snow.
  • Matzah; open space; constriction. “To those caught in a constriction which will not let go, I offer this prayer: that this Pesach may offer you an expansive breath through that tiny open space which turns hametz into matzah…”

May this week leading up to Pesach be meaningful and sweet for all of us!

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Metzora

Shavua tov – a  good week to you! Join us this coming Shabbat morning for services led by Chris Kelly.

This week we’re reading parashat Metzora from the book of Vayikra (Leviticus)

return-to-shabbatIf you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, some links follow:

And here’s the URJ’s compilation of commentaries on this week’s Torah portion: M’Tzora at the URJ.

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact Pattie Lipman.

Flourishing Project, Mitzvah 2: Havdalah

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Some of you have been joining me in a mitzvah experiment this month — trying to remember to bless the food that we eat every day. We are doing this as part of a nationwide project called The Flourishing Project. The Flourishing Project’s goal is to explore a simple question: How do mitzvot function, if at all, to help us live more flourishing lives?

The lunar month is drawing to its close — Adar II will end this Friday. These are the last few days of our month of assessing the impact of blessing regularly before eating.  Once Adar II is over, the Flourishing Project will circulate a survey asking you to reflect on your experiences.

During Nissan (April 9th – May 8th), the next mitzvah we will be testing is Havdalah.  (Here’s a short post I wrote a few years ago explaining what havdalah is, how it works, and why I love it. At the bottom of that post there are links to other havdalah resources, including the text of the blessings and recordings of the blessings being sung.)

If you’re interested in participating in this havdalah experiment, before Nissan begins, we ask that you complete this very short survey (1-2 minutes) about Havdalah.  We encourage you to invite members of your community to participate.  Please pass along the survey to anyone who is interested in partaking.

Wishing you blessings, now and always —

Rabbi Rachel

 

Don’t miss the ALEPH Kallah!

Dear all,

I’m writing to share this Flyer for the 2016 ALEPH Kallah [pdf]!

KallahFlyerImage

The ALEPH Kallah is Jewish Renewal’s biennial gathering. If your summer plans permit travel to Colorado, I hope you’ll consider joining us. The list of courses and workshops is amazing, and it’s going to be an incredible week — and a great opportunity to experience Jewish Renewal learning, community, and prayer. I can guarantee that a week at Kallah will enliven your Judaism and awaken your spirit!

Early-bird registration (5% discount) is in effect until April 14. And if we can gather a minyan of CBI participants, we’ll get a special discount, so if you’re planning to go, let me know.

Take a peek at the flyer, click on the ALEPH Kallah link, and let me know if you might be able to come.

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Tazria

Shavua tov – a  good week to you! Join us this coming Shabbat morning for services led by Rabbi Jarah Greenfield.

This week we’re reading parashat Tazria from the book of Vayikra (Leviticus)

return-to-shabbatIf you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, some links follow:

And here’s the URJ’s compilation of commentaries on this week’s Torah portion:Tzav at the URJ.

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact Pattie Lipman.

Attuning to the Presence

WIT-922AThe verse which leapt out at me this year when I sat down to study this week’s parsha is this one (Leviticus 9:6):

ויאמר משה זה הדבר אשר צוה הויה תעשו וירא אליכם כבוד הויה

The JPS translation renders that verse as follows:

Moses said: “This is what the Lord has commanded that you do, that the Presence of the Lord may appear to you.”

And then the text goes on to share the details of ancient sacrificial practices designed for that purpose. What struck me this year was that final clause, the one that speaks about us seeing the Presence of the Divine.

Here’s another way of rendering those same Hebrew words:

And Moses said: “This is the thing that Havayah (the One Who Accompanies) offers as a connective-commandment, in order that y’all may be attuned to the Glorious Presence of the Divine.”

We may imagine that seeing God’s Presence was something which was only available to our ancestors in Biblical times. Torah tells us that as they wandered in the wilderness they saw a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, but we don’t get that kind of assurance. We don’t get that kind of connection.

Except that we do. Or we can. That’s what the mitzvot are for. The mitzvot are like tuning forks. The musicians among us know that when you strike a tuning fork it resonates at a particular frequency. The mitzvot help us attune ourselves to the presence of God, to the presence of something beyond ourselves.

The purpose of lighting Shabbat candles isn’t just to kindle a couple of pretty lights on a Friday night — it’s to arouse our ability to be conscious of God’s light in the world.

The purpose of making havdalah isn’t just to give us a nice bookend for the end of Shabbat — it’s to tune our inner instrument so that as we enter into the new week we resonate at God’s frequency.

The purpose of blessing our food before we eat isn’t just to remind us to be grateful — it’s to awaken our awareness of the sparks of divinity even in the thiings we consume.

The purpose of feeding the hungry isn’t just to relieve their suffering — it’s to recognize that God’s Presence is present in those who hunger.

The purpose of studying Torah isn’t just to learn about our tradition — it’s to tune our inner radios to the divine broadcast which is still ongoing.

God’s Presence is all around us. Every moment can be infused with awareness of divinity. That’s the lesson of hashpa’ah, spiritual direction, which asks: where is God in what is unfolding in your life right now?

Spiritual direction is a tool for becoming attuned to God’s presence.* Prayer is a tool for becoming attuned to God’s presence, and it’s one which is available to us here every week in community — and is available to each of us on our own every day.

And every mitzvah is a tool for becoming attuned to God’s presence, a tuning fork which rings out a sweet, clear note. When our hearts resonate with that note, when our hearts are attuned to God, then we can find the Divine Presence in everything we do.

 

This is the d’var Torah I offered at my shul during our contemplative Shabbat morning service yesterday.

*and it’s one which I’m blessed to be able to offer to our community because of the three years I spent in ALEPH’s hashpa’ah program.