Monthly Archives: October 2011

Contemplative chants for morning prayer

Here are the prayers we’ll be using during our Contemplative Chant-Based Service on November 6. Feel free to download, to listen online, and to enjoy! (If you’d like a cd of these prayers, either before the service so you can learn them in advance, or after the service, just let Reb Rachel know.)

1. Prayer for gratitude

מודָה אָנִי! / מודֶה אָנִי!
Modah ani (women) / Modeh ani (men)
I am grateful before You!

Modah Ani (mp3)

2. Prayer for the soul

.אֵלהַי נְשָמָה שְנָתַתָ בִי טהורָה הִיא
Elohai neshama, shenatata bi, tehora hee.
My God, the soul that You have placed within me is pure.

Elohai Neshama (mp3)

3. Ashrei (Happy!)

אַשְׁרֵי יוֹשְׁבֵי בֵיתֶךָ, עוֹד יְהַלְלוּךָ סֶּלָה:
Ashrei yoshvei veitecha, od y’hallelucha, selah!
Happy are they who dwell in Your house;
they will praise You, always!

Ashrei (mp3)

4. Kol HaNeshamah (All That Breathes) – from Psalm 150

כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ הַלְלוּיָהּ:
Kol haneshamah t’hallel Yah.
All that breathes will praise You!

Kol HaNeshamah (mp3)

5. Yotzer Or (Creator of Light) – 1st blessing before the Shema

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, יוֹצֵר אוֹר, וּבוֹרֵא חֹשֶךְ,
עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם וּבוֹרֵא אֶת הַכֹּל:
Baruch atah, Adonai eloheinu, melech ha-olam, Yotzer or u-vorei choshech, oseh shalom u-vorei et ha-kol.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, sovereign of creation, creator of light and former of darkness, maker of peace and creator of all.

Yotzer Or (Round) (mp3)

6. V’yached L’vavenu (Unify Our Hearts) – 2nd blessing before the Shema

וְיַחֵד לְבָבֵנוּ לְאַהֲבָה וּלְיִרְאָה אֶת שְׁמֶךָ.
V’yached l’vavenu, l’ahavah u-l’yirah et sh’mecha.
Unify our hearts in love and awe of Your name!

V’Yached Levavenu (mp3)

7. The Shema

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְיָ אֶחָד:
Shema Yisrael, adonai eloheinu, adonai echad!
Hear, O Israel; Adonai is Our God; Adonai is One!

Shema (zhikr chant) (mp3)

8. Ozi v’zimrat Yah (God’s Song is My Liberation) – 3rd blessing surrounding the Shema

עָזִי וְזִמרָת יָה וַיְהִי–לִי לִישֻעָה.
Ozi v’zimrat Yah, vay’hi li l’y’shua.
My strength is in Your song, and You will be my salvation.

Ozi v’zimrat Yah (mp3)

9. Shalom chant (to end our silent amidah)

שָׁלוֹם, שָׁלוֹם, שָׁלוֹם, שָׁלוֹם.
Shalom, shalom, shalom, shalom.

Shalom chant (mp3)

10. Ana, El Na (Prayer for Healing) – after our Torah service

נפשי חולת אהבתך, אנא, אל נא, רפא נא לה!
Nafshi cholat ahavatecha; ana, El na, refa na la.
Your beloved is sick; please, God, heal her.

Ana El Na (mp3)

11. Ein Od Milvado (There is Nothing But God) – our Aleinu

אֵין עוד מִלבַדו, ה’ הוא הָאֶלהִים.
Ein old milvado, Hashem hu ha-elohim.
There is nothing but God; God is God.

Ein Od Milvado (mp3)

12. Shviti (I Keep God Before Me Always)

שְוִיתִי אָדונָי לְנֶגְדִי תַמִיד.
Sh’viti Adonai l’negdi tamid.
I keep God before me always.

Shviti (mp3)

13. Wordless niggun, to close

Niggun (mp3)

From the Rabbi: lay leadership schedule change

The workshop in lay leadership has been postponed one week, and will meet on Sunday 11/6 and Sunday 11/13 at 1pm at CBI. (Need a reminder on what this class is? Look here.)

This gives those who want to attend Chaim Bronstein’s first Talmud class this Sunday the chance to do so. If there are folks who want to participate in both lay leadership and Talmud classes, let me know and we’ll figure something out by the time the lay leadership workshop begins on November 6.

Shabbat shalom, blessings to all!

CBI book group; Talmud classes

Dear CBI community,

The CBI book group will meet next at 7pm on Monday, November 21 to discuss “To The End of the Land” by David Grossman. All are welcome; there is no fee for participation, and it doesn’t matter if you have (or haven’t) come to previous meetings of the book group.

David Grossman is a prominent Israeli novelist. For more on David Grossman, here’s his Wikipedia entry , and  here’s a (glowing) review of the book for those who want to learn more. Copies of the book will soon be available at the local public library; it’s also available on Amazon for $10. For more information (or to volunteer to moderate the discussion this time around), call Chaim Bronstein at 917-609-6732.

Chaim is also about to begin offering a free class in Talmud at CBI, geared toward adults. All are welcome and there is no fee for participation. The class will meet on Sundays at 1pm, starting on Sunday, October 30; at that first class, the group will read short selections from Talmud in order to decide what subject(s) they want to learn about. If you’ve ever wondered about Talmud or wanted to try learning a little, this is a great opportunity to learn a little bit of this central Jewish text!

Take care and we hope to see you soon.

November 5: chant-based contemplative morning service

Jewish star mandala

join us at Congregation Beth Israel
for a contemplative chant-based
Shabbat morning service!
November 5, 2011 / 8 Cheshvan, 5772

service at 9:30am
text study & kiddush to follow at 11am

What is a contemplative chant-based service? During this Shabbat morning service, we’ll use a stripped-down liturgy. We’ll pray just one or two lines from each prayer, singing each line several times so that we can really get inside the words and the words can really get inside us. The aim is to move more deeply into each prayer’s theme, and to connect with gratitude, awe, light, love, redemption, and more! After each chant concludes, we’ll sit in silence for a few minutes so that the prayers can re- verberate inside us before we move on. Prayers for the sick will be included, as will a brief Torah reading. The only prayer we will recite in full-text form is the mourner’s kaddish.

Here’s a flyer for the service (pdf format) if you want to stick it on your fridge: Chant service flyer

Come learn to lead prayer!

You don’t have to be a rabbi or cantor to lead a community in prayer. All that’s required is familiarity with the basic prayers and an open heart! This workshop will teach familiarity with the basic prayers, and the simple skills required for leading a community in prayer. (The open heart is up to you.)

This two-part workshop will prepare you to lead services: either a part of the service (tag-teaming with the rabbi or with another lay leader), or the whole service from beginning to end. Subjects to be discussed include:

- what is prayer, anyway?

- the basic building-blocks of the service

- the nuts and bolts of leading prayer from Mishkan Tefilah (how to navigate this siddur, how to choose which version of a prayer to lead)

- how to connect with the emotional and spiritual teachings of the prayers

- how to lead prayer comfortably and with joy

We’ll meet on Sunday, October 30 (note date change!) Sunday, November 6 and Sunday, November 13 at CBI from 1-3pm. All are welcome: whether you think you might want to help CBI by leading prayer in the future, or whether you just want to learn more about how we pray in order to enrich your own prayer life.

If you have questions, comments, concerns, or to sign up, email Reb Rachel: rebrachel@cbiweb.org

Avodah: Yotzer Or mp3

Here’s the song the Avodah kids learned this week during our Sunday morning Avodah program.  Since we studied the Torah story of creation, we learned a one-line version of the blessing for God Who creates light; we’ll sing this round next Shabbat at our Avodah service. You can download it, or listen to it online, right here:

Yotzer Or

Enjoy!

Come celebrate Simchat Torah

Come Celebrate Simchat Torah With Us!

the Congregation Beth Israel community
joins the Williams College Jewish community
in celebrating Simchat Torah
7:30pm Thursday October 20
Jewish Religious Center, Williams College

We’ll dance with the scrolls, read the end of one scroll and the very beginning of another, enjoy a few “traditional beverages,” and rejoice in the Torah. Bring a drink (apple cider, schnapps, whiskey, seltzer, whatever you prefer) and come sing, dance, and receive blessings! Questions? Email rebrachel (at) cbiweb (dot) org

Join us for a Sukkot potluck!

Dear CBI members and friends,

Join us for a vegetarian/dairy potluck supper in our beautiful CBI sukkah at 5:30pm on Friday, 10/14. (If it rains, we’ll eat in the CBI social hall.) Come savor the rich emotional and spiritual harvest of the high holiday season during this sweet Festival of Ingathering! Here’s what’s on the flyer we just emailed out to everyone:

Jewish Myspace Stuff

חג סוכות שמח!
Happy Sukkot to all!

Join us for a Sukkot Potluck at CBI
come and celebrate Sukkot

—the Festival of Ingathering, harvest & abundance—

and also Shabbat, our weekly time of joy

with a vegetarian/dairy potluck in the CBI sukkah

5:30pm, Friday 10/14/11

We need a couple of volunteers to help with setup (putting tables and chairs in the sukkah, assembling the food and various potluck supplies.) If you are able to serve in this capacity, please let the rabbi know: rebrachel (at) cbiweb (d0t) org.

Hope to see you on erev Shabbat for this Sukkot celebration.

A note from the Rabbi: we want your feedback!

Dear CBI members and friends,

It was a joy to see so many of you at CBI during the Days of Awe.

I’ve put together a short survey about your experience at CBI during this high holiday season. It won’t take long to fill out. Please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YX3WW2S and give us your feedback.

The survey is completely anonymous. I hope you will speak up about what you liked, what you didn’t like, what moved you, and what you want more of next year.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to let me know how we could make our Days of Awe even more awesome next year. I value your feedback, and I want to know how I, and we, can serve you better.

I hope to see you at our Sukkot potluck on 10/14 and/or our Simchat Torah celebration at Williams on 10/20 — and any other time you feel like dropping by.

Onward to Sukkot!

Three poems of teshuvah: a sermon for Yom Kippur morning

(Also posted at Velveteen Rabbi.)

August Rain, After Haying

Through sere trees and beheaded
grasses the slow rain falls.
Hay fills the barn; only the rake
and one empty wagon are left
in the field. In the ditches
goldenrod bends to the ground.

Even at noon the house is dark.
In my room under the eaves
I hear the steady benevolence
of water washing dust
raised by the haying
from porch and car and garden
chair. We are shorn
and purified, as if tonsured.

The grass resolves to grow again,
receiving the rain to that end,
but my disordered soul thirsts
after something it cannot name.

Those are the words of the poet Jane Kenyon, of blessed memory. August may feel like a long time ago now, but try to remember it. Close your eyes if you have to. Can you recall the scent of hay, the sound of summer rain? I love this poem; I love its imagery, “the steady benevolence / of water washing dust,” the grass “receiving” the rain in order to grow again. The grass knows what it is doing. But the soul…the soul may be another matter.

“My disordered soul thirsts / after something it cannot name.”What do you yearn for? Not water, not coffee, not whatever your bellies are already beginning to crave: what are you really thirsty for? Is there something you cannot name which pulls you forward, which leaves you wondering, for which you cannot help but hope?

Kenyon named her soul as “disordered.” I suspect that each of us has a disordered soul. Our spiritual lives are like kitchen tables which become piled with unopened mail. After a while we don’t even want to face the sliding stack of envelopes: there are probably bills in there, requests for things we don’t want to give. It becomes easier to just look the other way. But not today. Today is the day to sit down at that table, take a deep breath, and take inventory of what’s there. Today we put our souls in order at last. Continue reading

Unexpected Joy: a sermon for Kol Nidre

(Also posted at Velveteen Rabbi.)

I’m going to let you in on a secret: this is one of my favorite days of the year.

It’s not that I enjoy being hungry, or standing up here at the front of a room as my body grows increasingly weary, or reminding myself of all the ways in which I’ve missed the mark over the year we’ve just completed. And yes, all of those are part of Yom Kippur.

But those aren’t what’s truly central to this holiday. Here’s what I love: Yom Kippur is the day when we get to focus most on being in connection with something beyond ourselves.

In my love of Yom Kippur, I’m in good company. We read in Mishna Ta’anit that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said, “there were no yomim tovim (holidays) in Israel like the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.” On both of these days, the unmarried girls of Jerusalem would go out to the vineyards dressed in white, and call out to the unmarried men to join them.

What makes these two days special? Why were they days of dancing and courtship and joy? On each of these dates, God gave us clear signs that God had accepted our repentance. Yom Kippur is understood as the anniversary of the day when Moshe returned from atop Mount Sinai with the second set of tablets of the covenant, a sign that God had forgiven us for the idolatry which caused the first set to be shattered. On Yom Kippur, we experience our bond with God anew.

Most of the time, we have to balance the desire for spiritual life with the mundane realities of cooking, cleaning, taking the kids to daycare or school. Not today. Today, we only have one job: reaching out beyond ourselves to connect with the source of blessing. Jewish tradition, of course, names that source “God.”

The Jewish mystics teach that we connect with God all the time without even knowing it. God’s abundance flows down into creation all year long. Wisdom and understanding, mercy and judgement: we find all of these in God, and we find God in all of these. God is a fountain of blessing, and blessing flows from that divine spigot without ever stopping. Ideally, we receive that blessing every day in our ordinary lives.

But over the course of a year, the channel through which God’s blessings flow becomes shmutzdik. It gets clogged with our spiritual detritus. Our inattention, our frustrations, our mistakes, the hasty words we wish we could retract: everything we do wrong over the course of a year is spiritual sediment which blocks the conduit through which blessings are meant to flow. Our job today is to clean out those spiritual pipes so that divine abundance can flow freely into our lives again. Continue reading

Spiritual Lessons of the Arab Spring: a sermon for Rosh Hashanah

(Also posted at Velveteen Rabbi.)

Last winter there was a revolution in Tunisia. It began on December 17, in the town of Sidi Bouzid.

A policewoman, seeking a bribe, confiscated the illegal vegetable stall of an unemployed man named Mohamad Bouazizi. For years, the police had been routinely confiscating his wheelbarrow of produce, demanding bribes. On this day, he had already gone into debt to buy the vegetables he needed to sell to feed his family. And now his vegetables, and his street cart, were impounded, and he was harassed and humiliated by a city official and her aides. Bouazizi tried to see the governor to beg for his cart and his weighing scales, but the governor refused to see him.

Out of despondency, or out of desperate desire to make a statement, Bouazizi set himself on fire. This was not an act of violence against others, but a way of protesting and showing his despair. On December 17, the day when Bouazizi self-immolated, protesters took to the streets. They posted videos of their marches on Facebook. After 23 years of dictatorship under the rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian people were fed up with corruption and misrule. Al Jazeera broadcast this smalltown Tunisian revolution throughout the Arab world. Less than a month later, Ben Ali stepped down from power.

That same month, a revolution unfolded in Egypt. Protests took place in a Cairo square called Tahrir—“Liberation.” More than a million people took to the streets and the square, rallying behind the aims of free speech, an end to police brutality and corruption, and an end to the state of emergency law which had persisted since 1967. They protested high unemployment and food price inflation. They demanded free elections, a say in the management of Egypt’s resources, and justice.

The protestors faced police willing to use tear gas and rubber bullets to drive them back. Ordinary people who lived near Tahrir opened their homes so that protesters could shower, and showed up in the square to cook food and sing songs. You may have seen news footage of Egyptian Christians linking hands to protect Egyptian Muslims as they prostrated themselves in prayer—a prostration which is akin to what some of us will do, later this morning, during the Great Aleinu.

Within days President Hosni Mubarak stepped down and a new chapter of Egyptian history began. Continue reading

Note to the community re: the Days of Awe

The Days of Awe are almost upon us. Our first service of the high holiday season, Selichot (featuring havdalah, songs, poems, and a contemplative / creative meditation) will take place this Saturday night (9/24) at 7:30pm, followed by a potluck dessert reception. I hope to see you there.

As we enter into this holy season, I want to offer an invitation.

Each of us comes to the High Holidays laden with memories. Memories of what shul was like last year, or the year before, or when we were kids sitting beside our parents or grandparents. Memories which we cherish, and also memories which may cause us pain.

Each of us also comes to the High Holidays bearing expectations. What do you imagine services might be like this year? When you anticipate sitting in synagogue, how do you feel: eager? anticipatory? already bored? (All of the above?)

I’d like to invite each of us to cherish the memories which bring us joy, and to release the memories which bring us pain. To let go of the vision of what we imagined these holidays would be, and embrace instead whatever they actually are.

I want to bless you that you might find the connections, the insights, and the spiritual richness you need in whatever your experience of the Days of Awe may be.

A complete schedule of our offerings for the Days of Awe — from Selichot services, to Rosh Hashanah services, to the pre-Yom-Kippur mikveh immersion, to Yom Kippur services, to the gentle yoga on Yom Kippur afternoon, to the break-the-fast, to Sukkot and Simchat Torah — is available on our website, http://www.cbiweb.org.

I look forward to seeing you, to (re)connecting with you, and to celebrating with you as we move through this beautiful and awesome time of year.

L’shanah tovah tikatevu v’techatemu: may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

Note to the community before Yom Kippur

I am filled with gratitude for the many wonderful gifts of Rosh Hashanah: our tireless ushers (with umbrellas in the rain!), all who set up chairs and prepared our sanctuary, Bob Greenberg’s beautiful blowing of shofar, the way the rain let up on the first day of Rosh Hashanah just long enough for us to trek to the river and do tashlich — and most of all, seeing so many of you here. Thank you for the gift of your presence.

Soon we’ll begin the awesome journey of Yom Kippur. Whether or not you’re coming to the mikveh on Friday (please email Reb Rachel today if you wish to join us), whether or not you’ll be wearing white on Yom Kippur (in emulation of the angels, and in mindfulness of our white burial shrouds), whether or not you’re interested in gentle yoga before mincha in the afternoon, I hope that this powerful day will be everything you need it to be.

We will provide babysitting for children aged 6 and under (please note the age range) in the classroom during the Kol Nidre service on Friday evening, beginning at 6pm, and the Yom Kippur morning service on Saturday, beginning at 9:30am. We ask that parents please accompany children to and from the classroom. The babysitters cannot be responsible for children once they leave the classroom.

CBI member Cheryl Sacks will lead a brief, child-friendly Yom Kippur service in the classroom at 10am; children of all ages are welcome to attend. Children are also especially encouraged to attend our afternoon mincha service, where — if we have enough young actors in our midst! — we will invite the kids to act out the Jonah story as it is told.

Cantorial soloist Shayndel Kahn and I look forward to praying, singing, learning, and just being with you soon.

G’mar chatimah tovah: may you be sealed for a good year to come.

Update re: Tropical Storm Irene and the Spruces

I met this morning with the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Clergy group to discuss our continuing efforts to support those who were displaced by Hurricane Irene last week, and I want to fill you in on the situation and on what you can do to help.

The Northern Berkshire Interfaith Clergy group has hired Robin Lenz to coordinate local disaster relief and to help our aid (clothing, food, money, housing) reach those who are dispossessed. Robin, who is working out of the First Congregational Church in Williamstown, can be reached via phone at 458-4273, and via email at robinlenz@rocketmail.com; if you want to donate gift cards (Stop n’Shop, Walmart, Rite Aid) or if you want to volunteer your time to help Spruces residents, she’s the person to contact.

The most dire need is housing. The 300+ residents at the Spruces are still stuck paying their utilities, rent, and other expenses at the trailer park, even though no one can get back in to their trailers and many of the trailers have been condemned. Current estimates from FEMA are that 70% of the residents there will not be able to return for some time — perhaps ever. Right now the interfaith clergy group is putting people up at several area motels. Hopefully FEMA checks will start arriving soon for emergency housing, directly into the checking account of each of the displaced folks. Meanwhile, we’re exploring the longer-term questions of housing for the refugees. It will likely be necessary to house these folks for the winter and we’re not yet sure where or how that will happen.

Food is also needed. The Northern Berkshire Interfaith Clergy group is planning to begin offering a weekly community meal (on Sunday evenings) to the Spruces community so that they may be sustained both by the food and by the togetherness. If you would like to be part of these efforts, the person to reach out to is Peter Daniels at First Baptist Church – peterdaniels@mac.com. (For now, the dinners will be at First Baptist Church on Thomas Street in Williamstown, with seatings at 5 and at 6pm.)

I’ve been tasked with thinking about the big-picture issues: affordable housing for seniors in our community, what is the town already doing and what’s not yet being done, what else might be the longterm needs of these residents (donated legal time to help them navigate their situation? what else?) If any of you would like to help me think through these questions, please let me know.

If you want your tzedakah to take the form of a monetary donation, I recommend sending it to one of the following two places:

Community Fund for the Spruces
Williamstown Savings Bank
795 Main Street, Williamstown MA 01267

Spruces Tenants Association
memo: disaster relief
c/o South Adams Savings Bank
273 Main St., Williamstown MA 01267

The Days of Awe are fast approaching. This is the season of teshuvah, of re/turning to God, of doing what we can to ensure that our lives are aligned with holiness. A lot of people in our community still need our help. May we each find blessing in helping as much as, and however, we are able.

Take care, and l’shanah tovah,