Shavua tov; looking forward to Shabbat Noach!

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat Noach. We’ll be reading from parashat Noach, and services will be led by Rabbi Pam Wax.

If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

  • And here are commentaries from the Union for Reform Judaism:  Noach.

Wishing you blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

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Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Bereshit.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat Bereshit. We’ll be reading from parashat Bereshit, the very beginning of the Torah.

If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

  • And here are commentaries from the Union for Reform Judaism: B’reishit.

Sukkot continues through Wednesday evening; feel free to visit our synagogue sukkah anytime! On Wednesday evening we move into the festival of Shemini Atzeret; join us on Thursday morning at 10am for Shemini Atzeret services with Yizkor (memorial prayers).

Wishing you joy as we approach this festival of rejoicing,

Rabbi Rachel

Shemini Atzeret with Yizkor: Coming Soon (10/12/17 at 10am)

126872_pcDear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

On Thursday, October 12 at 10am I will lead a service at CBI which will be the formal close, the “seal,” on our holiday season. Thursday is the festival known as Shemini Atzeret. Shemini means “Eighth” — this holiday is the eighth day, coming right on the heels of the seventh day of Sukkot. But what is an atzeret?

The word atzeret means something like “holy pause.” There’s one other day in our tradition described with this word: Shavuot, which comes as the 50th day after 49 days of Counting the Omer. Shavuot is an atzeret, a day of holy pausing, the culmination of seven weeks of spiritual work. And Thursday October 12 — Shemini Atzeret — is also a day of pausing, the culmination of the seven weeks of spiritual work we’ve done since Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the lunar month leading up to the Days of Awe.

Thursday morning’s service will feature some morning prayers of gratitude and awareness, a guided meditation which will give us the opportunity to remember the last seven weeks of intensive holiday time, and the prayers of Yizkor, the memorial service which we recite four times a year. (I wrote more about that a few years ago.) We’ll also dip into a special prayer for rain.

Our service will be intentionally spacious and uncluttered — in recognition of this special day which is like the silence following the song, the white space on the page which follows all of our holiday season’s many, many words.

Hope to see you on Thursday morning, October 12, at 10am for Shemini Atzeret.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Seeking your feedback on the Days of Awe

Dear all,

We’ve put together a very short survey to solicit your feedback about the Days of Awe this year. If you don’t see the form embedded below, it is online here.

Your feedback is entirely anonymous. Please tell us what worked for you and what could have been better.

Wishing you joy as Sukkot approaches,

Rabbi Rachel and Hazzan Randall

It’s Almost Sukkot!

sukkot_1Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Tonight at sundown we enter into the festival of Sukkot. After the hectic pace of the Days of Awe, Sukkot is a welcome opportunity to relax. The primary mitzvah of Sukkot is to dwell (or at least dine) in a sukkah for a week and to rejoice there.

Sukkot is a harvest festival. In antiquity this was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals when our ancestors would have taken the fruits of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer them to God. Today we harvest memories, emotions, and experiences. What memories from the High Holidays do you want to bring with you into the sukkah this year?

Sukkot is an opportunity to remember the Exodus from Egypt, as the sukkah is meant to remind us of the temporary shelters in which our ancestors dwelled during the forty years of wandering.

Sukkot is also an opportunity to reflect on what’s temporary and what really lasts. We move for a week into these flimsy little houses (which must have roofs made of organic material through which one can see the full moon and the stars) in part to remind ourselves that even a beautiful and stable dwelling is ultimately as temporary as a sukkah… but if we cultivate faith and trust, we can know ourselves to be sheltered beneath the Divine Presence, even if our structures / our lives / our bodies don’t last forever.

And here in northern Berkshire, Sukkot is a glorious opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors during these beautiful days of fall.

Thanks to a group of wonderful volunteers, CBI’s beautiful sukkah is once again standing behind the synagogue. Deep thanks to Ed Oshinsky, Chaim Bronstein, and Orion Howard for corn stalks and frame, to the older Hebrew school kids for so ably working on the corn stalks and siding, and to Jen Burt and her family for fabulous decoration!

Hebrew school students throwing corn stalks onto the roof.

“Our sukkah is your sukkah” — please come and take advantage of the CBI sukkah anytime during the coming week, day or night! Bring lunch to the CBI sukkah and dine there beneath the rustling cornstalks; bring dinner; bring your book group to meet there; bring a bottle of wine and enjoy the moonlight; even bring a sleeping bag and camp out if you’re so inclined! The sukkah is here for you.

And, of course, I hope you’ll join us on Friday night for our Shabbat / Sukkot potluck, where we plan to honor Bob and Barbara Bashevkin for their years of participation at CBI. Please do RSVP so that we know how many people are coming and what people plan to bring.

Chag sameach / a joyous festival to you!

Rabbi Rachel

Prayer after the shooting, by Rabbi Rachel and Rabbi David

Prayer-after

I loved and grieved from the day you claimed your free will,
Knowing that you too would open into infinite love and grief,

Knowing how your hearts would bloom with gratitude and hope
With every child’s every first, and lament every child’s every last,

As I do and always will with My children’s every first and every last
In the raw and wild cosmic dance we began together in the garden.

What else could I do? You must become what you must become,
Like Me infinitely becoming, infinitely capable of love and grief,

So I clothed your shimmering lights in skins and hid in plain sight
For you to seek and find Me amidst life’s sweetness and sorrow.

How fast your lights flickered underneath: your second son’s blood
Cried out to Me from the ground, too soon returning earth to earth.

The guilty wandered the land howling, pining for peace and safety
Denied by the very violence that condemned the guilty to wander,

Setting in motion also the vicious whirlwind spinning through
Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas. Where next?

I did not mean for you to live like this or die like this – in fear and terror,
In trauma’s torrents, in shrapnel showers turning streets into killing fields.

You still can choose life: the free will your ancestors claimed for you
Remains yours even now, and still I gasp with loving pride and worry

With your every first and every last, grieving the countless innocents
Returning to Me in My own image too soon, bloodied and bagged.

But still you choose death. Aimlessly you wander the land howling,
Pining for peace and safety that senseless violence steals from you.

Choose to be My love, My strength, My intuition, My prophets, My beauty,
My healing hands – My living essence in this bloody and weary world.

Only then will this cruelest of your roulette wheels stop spinning red.
Oh, how I long with you for that day when you truly will choose life.

Claimed your own free will – Eve’s “defiance” in Eden claimed human agency for all her successors (Genesis 3:6-7).

Knowing … bloom – An allusion to the Tree of Knowledge and humanity’s “opening” into the knowledge of love and loss.

You must become – God describes God’s self to Moses as אהיה אשר אהיה / Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, “I Am Becoming Who I Am Becoming” (Exodus 3:14). We who are made in the divine image are also called to perennially become.

Clothed your shimmering light in skins – Because the Hebrew words for “skin” (עור) and “light” (אור) both are pronounced or, Zohar teaches that Eden’s first humans were beings of light, before God made us garments of skins. Even so, our skins cover our light, which we still can see if we look carefully.

Your second son’s blood… returning earth to earth. Humanity’s first murder – Cain killing Abel (Genesis 4) – spilled Abel’s blood (דם / dam) to the earth (אדמה / adamah).

Wander – Cain, after murdering his brother, was condemned to wander the land without peace (Genesis 4:14).

Setting in motion also – From Cain comes not only the first murder but also the rhetorical question – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:8) – that continues to reverberate through the generations, and also the first “Why?” (Genesis 4:6), which teaches all future generations the possibility of teshuvah / return and repair (Radak Gen. 4:6).

Whirlwind – An allusion to the סערה (storm) from which God answered Job (Job 38:1). The storm’s circular shape resembles both a roulette wheel and a gun’s rotating cylinder that conveys bullets.

Choose life – “Choose life, if you and your progeny would live’ (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Aimlessly – The indiscriminate shooter, the nation’s inertia.

My love, My strength… – Seven emanations of the divine, corresponding to the seven lower sefirot of Kabbalistic tradition: chesed (love), gevurah (strength / boundaries), tiferet (balance),netzach (endurance / momentum), hod (beauty / gratitude), yesod (foundation / generativity),malchut (indwelling).

Roulette wheels stop spinning red – For the gaming tables of Las Vegas and the ultimate gamble: walking the streets safe and unafraid.

14 stanzas – 14 for יד, the yad (hand) of God: we now are the hand that must act.

332 words – 332 for לבש, lavash (clothed) in divine skins that cover our light.

 

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Evan Markus

(cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi and to R’ David’s website; feel free to reprint, with attribution.)

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Sukkot!

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Friday night for our Shabbat / Sukkot Potluck where we will honor Bob and Barbara Bashevkin for their years of dedication to our community. Please RSVP to cbinadams@gmail.com so we know how many chairs to set up.

Please join us also on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat Sukkot. We’ll be reading the Torah portion for Shabbat Chol Ha-Moed Sukkot (the Shabbat that falls on the intermediate days of the festival.) If you’d like to read some Torah commentaries this week, here you go:

And here are commentaries from the Union for Reform Judaism: Chol Ha-Moed Sukkot.

Sukkot begins on Wednesday night; all are welcome to use our synagogue sukkah anytime during the week of the festival!

Wishing you joy as we approach this festival of rejoicing,

Rabbi Rachel