Monthly Archives: January 2014

Shavua tov; looking ahead to Shabbat

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to you! This week we’re reading parashat Terumah. (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.)

return-to-shabbatThis Shabbat, our shalich tzibbur (prayer leader) will be Rabbi Rachel. On this Shabbat we’ll enter into Adar I (the first month of Adar); we’ll sing a few of the psalms of Hallel in celebration, and during our Torah study we’ll look at some nifty texts which focus on this unusual “extra” month which comes only 7 times during every 19 years.

We extend a hearty thank you in advance to this week’s service host, Darlene Radin. 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!

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Kosher, organic, humanely-raised meat in the Berkshires

Dear Congregation Beth Israel community,

A local Jewish farmer is trying to ascertain whether it would be sustainable for his Berkshires farm to become a source for kosher, organic, humanely-raised meat. He is considering raising beef, lamb, veal and possibly poultry for this purpose. In order for him to proceed with these plans, he would need to know that there is a market for meat which is both organic and humanely-raised and kosher according to traditional standards.

I know that some of us at CBI maintain a practice of traditional kashrut. Others among us may focus on “eco-kashrut” issues such as sustainability and humane farming practices. In recent years the Jewish world has been rocked by incidents where major national kosher meat conglomerates were revealed to be behaving unethically with regards to their animals and their employees. This local farmer’s meat would be an alternative to factory-farmed kosher meat — sustainably farmed and humanely treated, as well as slaughtered in a humane kosher manner.

Please consider whether you would want to be part of this kind of meat share, whether or not you maintain a practice of traditional kashrut. If this farmer’s project is able to move forward, it would make kosher meat available in the Berkshires for those who do require kosher meat but would prefer ethical and sustainable meat over factory-farmed kosher meat.

If you are interested in possibly participating (if there is enough interest to make the project viable), please email Rabbi David Weiner at Knesset Israel – rabbiweiner (at) knessetisrael (dot) org – and he will share more information with you and will add your name to the swiftly growing list of potential customers for this sustainable, organic kosher meat share.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov; looking ahead to Shabbat

Shavua tov – a good week to you!

This week we’re reading parashat Mishpatim. (The name of the Torah portion there is a hyperlink; click on it to be taken to the Torah portion in English.)

return-to-shabbatThis Shabbat, our shalich tzibbur (prayer leader) will be Rabbi Pam Wax, spiritual Care Coordinator at Westchester Jewish Community Services and formerly the rabbi of this congregation.

We extend a hearty thank you in advance to our service host. 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!

Tu BiShvat and self-care: a mini-d’var-Torah for Yitro

Here’s the very tiny d’var Torah I offered during Shabbat morning services at CBI yesterday. (I kept it brief because I wanted plenty of spacious time for our Tu BiShvat seder after services!) (cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)


In today’s parsha, Yitro, Moses receives some of the best self-care advice in the Torah: you can’t do it all yourself. You will wear yourself out, and then you won’t be able to help those whom you serve.

We’ve all been where Moses was: overworked and stretched too thin.

Self-care matters. If we don’t nourish ourselves, then we can’t do the work we’re here to do in the world. Whether you think of that work as “caring for your family and community,” or “saving the planet,” or “serving God” — we all have work we’re meant to do in this life, and if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t do that work.

Today at CBI we’re celebrating Tu BiShvat, the day when — our tradition teaches — the sap rises in the trees for the year to come, nourishing the trees so that in the future they can bear fruit.

We too need to be nourished so that we can bear fruit as the year unfolds. As the trees need rain and snowmelt, we need the living waters of Torah to enliven our souls.

As the trees need fertile soil and good nutrients, so we need to feel ourselves to be firmly planted — and to get all of the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual nutrients we need in order to grow and to flower.

What nourishment do you most need on this Shabbat?

What would feed you in all four worlds — your body, your heart, your mind, your soul?

What do you need to soak up in order to be able to bring forth the wonders, the ideas, the teachings, the kindnesses, the mitzvot which only you can do?

And how can you take care of yourself, as Yitro instructed Moshe, so that you will be able to open your heart and receive what you need?

Shavua tov; looking ahead to Shabbat

Shavua tov – a good week to you!

This week we’re reading parashat Yitro. (The name of the Torah portion there is a hyperlink; click on it to be taken to the Torah portion in English.)

return-to-shabbatThis Shabbat, our shalich tzibbur (prayer leader) will be our own Rabbi Rachel. Her bio is available on our website. One new detail which is not yet in that bio: her next collection of poems, a volume of Jewish liturgical prayer, will be published in the new year by Ben Yehuda Press!

We extend a hearty thank you in advance to our 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!

This Shabbat, instead of our usual kiddush and Torah study, we’ll hold a Tu BiShvat seder after services. Please RSVP to let the office know if you’re coming to that seder and potluck luncheon.

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

 

Join us next Shabbat for the New Year of the Trees!

6846527953_6638c0d567_nDear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

The New Year of the Trees is almost here!

Late next week, when the moon is full, we’ll reach the festival of Tu BiShvat, also known as the New Year of the Trees. Tradition holds that this is when the sap begins to rise in the trees to feed the fruit of the year to come.

We who live in sugaring country know about the rising of the sap and the sweetness which our trees can produce! But the sap rising at Tu BiShvat is more than merely literal — it’s also a spiritual reality. This is the time when we invite blessing and sustenance to flow into our parched souls, enlivening us so that we can spiritually grow in the new year.

8414116189_c018dd9ca2_mHere at CBI we’ll celebrate Tu BiShvat with a special seder at lunchtime on Saturday, January 18.

After our sweet Shabbat services (which run from 9:30 until 11), we’ll sit down for a Tu BiShvat seder in the social hall. We’ll bless and eat nuts and fruits which hold mystical significance, experiencing a journey through the “Four Worlds” of action / emotion / thought / spirit. As we eat these tree fruits with mindful intention, we open channels of blessing for the trees of our earth.

As our seder concludes, we’ll segue into a vegetarian / dairy potluck lunch.

Please RSVP to the synagogue office (413-663-5830 or office at cbiweb dot org) to let us know that you are coming, so we will know how many tables and chairs to set up (and how much of each symbolic fruit to buy.)

All are welcome for both Shabbat services and the Tu BiShvat seder lunch — though if you can only make it to one of them, that’s okay too.

Enjoy the waxing moon, and join us next Shabbat for Tu BiShvat!

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Two updates: on winter weather, and this week’s shaliach tzibbur

On shul closure and winter weather

If the weather is inclement and it seems possible that our shaliach tzibbur (prayer leader) might be unable to reach CBI, and/or that the roads might be unsafe, please check our Facebook page for a status update which would alert you to the synagogue being closed. That page is public, and can be accessed by anyone with a web browser, regardless of whether or not one has a Facebook account. If we have to cancel services, we’ll post a message there to let everyone know. Thank you!

Welcoming a new prayer leader to our roster

The Executive Committee and Rabbi Rachel are pleased to welcome Rabbi Dennis Ross as one of our service leaders this year at CBI.  He will be our shaliach tzibbur (service leader) this Saturday morning.  Our sweet Shabbat service (parashat B’shalach) begins at 9:30 followed by a kiddush with home baked challah from Helene Armet.  The morning concludes with an insightful Torah study with Rabbi Ross.  Many thanks in advance to our service hosts and kiddush providers, Karen Kelly and Bill Levy.

Below is a brief bio of Rabbi Ross taken from an article in the Albany Times Union:

Rabbi Dennis S. Ross is director of Concerned Clergy for Choice, a multifaith advocacy group, and associate rabbi at Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany. Rabbi Ross was born in Brooklyn, graduated from Queens College and received a Master of Social Work at New York University. Ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion of the Reform movement in Manhattan, he has served congregations in New York, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts and taught bio-medical ethics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is married to Rabbi Deborah Zecher, who serves at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire in Great Barrington, Mass., where they live. They have three children: Joshua, who works in musical theater, Adam, who lives in Israel, and Miriam, who is a senior at Clark University.