Monthly Archives: January 2015

Join us on Feb. 7 for a Tu BiShvat Seder & Shabbat Potluck Feast!


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Join us for a potluck lunch (bring a vegetarian/dairy dish) and a seder honoring Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees. 

The seder will include special teachings about the shmita (Sabbatical) year from environmental educator Maggid David Arfa, interwoven with material from Rabbi Rachel’s Tu BiShvat haggadah for adults.  


Saturday,  February 7 at 11am
(after morning services)
Please RSVP to office by Feb. 4.

53 Lois Street, North Adams | 413-553-5830 | http://www.cbiweb.org

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Beshalach

Shavua tov – a good week to you!

This week we’re reading the Torah portion known as Beshalach in the book of Shemot (Exodus.)

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: B’shalach | Reform Judaism.

This coming Shabbat morning, January 24, services will be led by Rabbi Pam Wax at 9:30am with Torah study to follow around 11ish, as usual.

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.

We hope to see you soon at CBI!

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Bo

Shavua tov – a good week to you!

This week we’re reading the Torah portion known as Bo in the book of Shemot (Exodus.)

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: Bo | Reform Judaism.

This coming Shabbat morning, January 24, services will be led by Rabbi Dennis Ross at 9:30am with Torah study to follow around 11ish, as usual.

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.

We hope to see you soon at CBI!

Va’era, freedom, and Reverend Martin Luther King

Martin-Luther-King-I-have-a-dream_0Here’s the d’var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul for parashat Va’era. (Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)


God spoke to Moshe saying: go and tell Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to let the Israelites depart from his land. (Exodus 6:10)

This week we move deeper into our people’s central story: we were enslaved to a Pharaoh in Egypt, and God brought us out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. This year, our reading of this holy story falls on the weekend when we prepare to observe Martin Luther King Day.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr — alav hashalom / peace be upon him — was a man in the mold of Moses. He worked tirelessly to end the injustice of segregation. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. He organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, which attracted national attention because television crews captured the brutal police response. He dared to dream of a world redeemed in which the evils of racism would be a thing of the past.

As Jews, we twice a year recount the story of how we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt — during the weekly round of Torah readings, and at the Passover seder. We also thank God for our liberation from slavery in daily prayer and in the Friday night kiddush.

Our liberation is spiritual, not literal. None of us here today were actually slaves in Egypt. And many of you have heard me say before that it doesn’t matter to me whether or not that story is historically true. What matters is that it’s the story we tell about who we are.

But for Martin Luther King, the story of liberation wasn’t about freedom from internal constriction, the “narrow places” in our lives or in our hearts. His ancestors were slaves to plantation owners and overseers in the American South. Not in the mythic mysts of ancient history, but a short few hundred years ago. And the unthinkable injustices of that system which treated Black human beings as subhuman chattel have not yet been wholly rooted-out. Continue reading

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Vaera.

Shavua tov – a good week to you!

This week we’re reading the Torah portion known as Vaera — the second portion in the book of Shemot, known in English as Exodus.

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: Vaeira | Reform Judaism.

This coming Shabbat, services will be led by Rabbi Rachel at 9:30am with Torah study to follow around 11ish, as usual.

Thanks to Helene Armet for our home-baked challah, and thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week.

We hope to see you soon at CBI!

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Shemot.

Shavua tov – a good week to you!

This week we’re reading the Torah portion known as Shemot (Names) — the first portion in the book of Shemot, known in English as Exodus.

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: Sh’mot | Reform Judaism.

This coming Shabbat, services will be led by Rabbi Pam Wax at 9:30am with Torah study to follow around 11ish, as usual.

Thanks to Helene Armet for our home-baked challah, and thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week.

We hope to see you soon at CBI!

A blessing for bedtime: a d’var Torah for Vayechi

Here’s the d’var Torah I offered at CBI yesterday. (Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)


Jacob, on his deathbed, places his hands on his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe. And he says:

The angel who rescued me from all harm — bless these boys! May they carry on my name and thus name of my ancestors, Abraham and Isaac. May they spread far and wide upon the earth.

Jacob seems to be referring to a specific angel here. The only angel we know of, in his story, is the angel with whom he wrestled on the eve of reuniting with his brother. He wrestled with that angel until dawn and then said “I will not let you go until you bless me!” In return, the angel gave him a new name, Yisrael, One Who Wrestles With God. That’s who he’s asking to bless his descendants: not a “guardian angel” as pop culture defines the term, but the angel who redeemed him with an all-night struggle.

As the children of Israel, we inherited his wrestle. We’re Godwrestlers. We give ourselves to the holy work of wrestling with God, wrestling with Torah, wrestling with the world’s imperfections. And that wrestling is itself a kind of redemption. It lifts us out of a state of passive receptivity. When we wrestle with God and with Torah and with injustice in the world, we are transformed.

Jacob’s request for blessing has become part of the traditional liturgy for the Bedtime Shema.1 There’s also another piece of that liturgy which mentions angels: a song where we ask four angels, Wonder, Strength, Light, and Comfort — or using their Hebrew names, Michael (Who is Like God), Gavriel (God’s Strength), Uriel (God’s Light), and Raphael (God’s Healing) — to bless us as we sleep. I sing this to our son every night at bedtime.

Some of you may be thinking: wait a second. It’s one thing to say that Jacob encountered an angel. But us? In modern life today? Asking angels for blessings?

Bear in mind that “angels,” in our tradition, doesn’t mean winged cherubs with haloes. In Jewish tradition, an angel is a messenger from God, doing God’s work in the world.

The people we meet may serve as angels for us. There’s a teaching in the Midrash that every blade of grass has an angel which sits over it and whispers “Grow, grow!” If every blade of grass is cheered on by an angel, surely we are too. Maybe when we offer praise and encouragement to each other, we embody those angels. In the Angel Song I referenced earlier, qualities like Wonder and Strength are called angels. Maybe when we cultivate our own wonder, we connect up with the Angel of Wonder.

Returning to Jacob’s prayer, “May the angel who rescued me from all harm bless these boys:” traditional Jews recite it every night, and I think we can learn something from its placement in the bedtime ritual. Here’s how that ritual goes:

1) The first step in getting ready for sleep is forgiveness. The liturgy for Kriat Shema al-ha-Mitah begins “I forgive anyone who has hurt me, through deeds or actions, in this lifetime or any other.” This way, if I die in my sleep tonight, I won’t be carrying the karmic baggage of grudges.

2) Then there’s a prayer blessing God Who brings us to sleep. We ask God to let our sleep be peaceful until we wake in the morning to gratitude again. We ask God to shelter us beneath a shelter of peace all night. Once we’ve cultivated forgiveness, we’re ready to be peaceful.

3) Then we recite the words from this Torah portion, asking the angel who blessed Jacob to bless us.

4) The traditional liturgy ends with Adon Olam, which closes with the verse “Into Your hands I place my spirit, when I sleep and when I rise; and with my spirit, my body too; God is mine, I will not fear!”

When we’ve offered forgiveness, and acknowledged the Oneness at the heart of all things, then we become ready to ask our very struggles to bless us as we surrender to the night. And when we can experience our struggles as angels bearing blessings, then we can know ourselves to be in God’s loving hands when we sleep and when we wake.  Kein yehi ratzon: may it be so!

 

 

1.Maybe you didn’t know there was a liturgy designed for reciting at bedtime. There is; it appears in most siddurim; you can find the Hebrew prayers here at Open Siddur, and here’s a nice exploration of the bedtime shema liturgy and its themes.