Monthly Archives: July 2017

Join us for Tisha b’Av on July 31

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

On July 31 at 8pm join us for our observance of Tisha b’Av. Join us for a poignant and solemn evening service, featuring excerpts from Lamentations and contemporary poetry of loss and brokenness.

Tisha b’Av is the low point of the spiritual year, our communal and calendrical opportunity to delve deep into brokenness and exile — and it’s also the springboard that launches us into the High Holiday season.

From this low point, we begin the journey upward. This is what the Hasidic masters called “descent for the sake of ascent.” They knew that sometimes we first need to fall and grieve before we can be ready to heal and to rise.

For more on this holiday, why we celebrate it, and how it begins our journey toward the Days of Awe, here are words about this season in our liturgical year: Entering Av. (Rosh Chodesh Av, the new moon of Av, falls on July 24.)

I hope to see you at 8pm on July 31 for Tisha b’Av at CBI.

Wishing you blessings as we continue to move through the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha b’Av —

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Matot-Masei

Shavua tov — a good new week to you!

Join us on  Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Rachel, where we will call Addie Lentzner to Torah as a bat mitzvah.

This week we’re reading Matot-Masei. If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

And here are commentaries from the URJ:  Matot-Masei at the URJ.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Days of closeness, days when God feels far away


The Jewish calendar is filled with moadim. Usually that word is translated as “festivals,” though it literally means “appointed times.” Each year we have moadim of closeness to God, and also moadim of distance from God. The Days of Awe and Sukkot are moadei shel keruv, appointed-times of closeness with God. The Three Weeks and Tisha b’Av are moadei shel richuk, appointed-times of distance from God.

That teaching comes from R’ Shlomo Wolbe, whose work Alei Shur I studied recently with R’ Jeff Fox as part of a week of “Rabbi (and Hazzan) Recharge” organized by The Jewish Studio. With R’ Jeff we also studied a text from R’ Shmuel Eidels (a.k.a. the Maharsha) that speaks of the Three Weeks as a period of growth toward fruition. Just as it takes 21 days for an almond tree to blossom, says the Maharsha, so we can understand the 21 days between 17 Tammuz and Tisha b’Av as a period of preparing for flowering-forth.

I don’t usually think of Tisha b’Av — that date of destruction and shattering — as a time of fruition or flowering. But the Alei Shur reminds us that it is natural (maybe even good?) for our relationships with the Holy One of Blessing to have an ebb and a flow, to have times of intimacy and times of distance. (Indeed: distance is often what awakens in our hearts our yearning to reconnect.) And from the Maharsha we learn that even destruction can have a silver lining, and can spark the blossoming of something new.

Today is the 17th of Tammuz, the beginning of the period known as The Three Weeks (also called Bein Ha-Meitzarim, “In the Narrow Places.”) Today is the anniversary of the ancient breach of Jerusalem’s city walls. In three weeks, on Tisha b’Av, we’ll re-experience the destruction of the Temples, our people’s quintessential experience of shattering and distance from our Source. (Join us for Tisha b’Av evening services at 8pm on Monday, July 31.)

In the Alei Shur’s language, these weeks are a moed of distance. They’re balanced by the three weeks from Rosh Hashanah to Shemini Atzeret, a moed of closeness and drawing-near. Three bitter weeks, and three sweet ones. We need to experience them both. The soul gets “out of whack” otherwise, if we marinate only in sorrow or if we allow ourselves only to feel joy.

What does it mean to say that this is appointed-time of distance from God? For me, it’s an opportunity to notice where and when and how I already feel that distance. Maybe my sorrows are causing me to feel distant from God: maybe I’m grieving so hard I can’t find God. Or maybe my joys are serving that function this year, if I let myself fall into the trap of spiritual bypassing — maybe I’m over-focusing on the positive so I don’t have to face what’s difficult in my life. Either way, distance from God ensues.

The Alei Shur teaches that distance from God isn’t, in and of itself, the worst thing. (Far worse is when we have fallen so out of alignment that we no longer even notice the distance.) He sees the distance as part of a natural cycle of being close and being far away — a ratzo v’shov, as it were. When I notice that I’m distant from a beloved, and let my heart feel the ache of that distance, the ache impels me to reach out and be close to my loved one again. As with a human beloved, so with the divine Beloved.

Where do you feel distant: from your beloveds, from the Beloved, from your traditions, from your Source? What are the patterns and habits that contribute to that distance? What are the excuses you make to yourself for why it’s okay to be disconnected, and what feels “at stake” when you imagine reconnecting — what are you afraid of when you imagine letting yourself reconnect?

Today we remember the first breach in Jerusalem’s ancient city walls. Where is your heart cracked-open? In what realms do you feel broken-hearted? How do you deal with the vulnerability of being fragile and breakable? What seeds might be planted in your broken places, that over these three weeks could be silently preparing themselves (preparing you) to flower into something new?


Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Pinchas.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you!

Join us on  Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Jarah Greenfield!

This week we’re reading Pinchas. If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

And here’s a d’var Torah from my friend and colleague Rabbi Evan Krame of The Jewish Studio: Take the Wheel.

And here are commentaries from the URJ: Pinchas at the URJ.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov; looking forward to Shabbat Balak

Shavua tov — a good new week to you!

Join us on  Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Pam Wax.

This week we’re reading Balak. If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

Here’s a d’var Torah from Rabbi David, who visited us in late June: The Devil You Know.

And here are commentaries from the URJ: Balak at the URJ.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel