Monthly Archives: November 2017

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Vayishlach

return-to-shabbatShavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30amWe’ll be reading from Vayishlach, and services will be led by me.

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: Vayishlach.

Wishing you blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

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Shavua tov and chodesh tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Vayetzei

return-to-shabbatShavua tov — a good new week to you. And chodesh tov — a good new month to you; happy new month of Kislev!

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30amWe’ll be reading from Vayetzei, and services will be led by me.

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: Vayetzei.

This week will also contain the holiday of Thanksgiving. If you’re looking for a short-and-sweet prayer to say over your Thanksgiving table, or a singable one-line grace after meals to sing after you dine, you can download a pdf called “Thanksgiving Trio” from this blog post. And/or, of course, you can always pause before and/or after you dine to offer your own words of gratitude from your hearts.

Wishing you blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Toldot.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30amWe’ll be reading from Toldot, and services will be led by R’ Lori Shaller.

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: Toldot.

Wishing you blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

Through the (double) door: Chayei Sarah

Desert-cave-james-barrereIn this week’s Torah portion, Chayyei Sarah, Avraham purchases a cave in which to bury his wife Sarah. The cave is named מכפלה / Machpelah. In English, it’s just a place-name. In Hebrew, it has a meaning.

The root of that word, כפל / k’f’l, means to double or to fold. Rashi says this teaches us that it had a lower and an upper cavern. (Others say, possibly a cavern within a cavern.) Or, Rashi suggests, it was called “doubled” because couples are buried there. Tradition teaches that Adam and Eve were buried there long before Sarah and Avraham. But our mystical tradition sees here something much deeper — pardon the pun.

The Zohar teaches that when Avraham first entered the cave, he breathed the scent of fragrant spices: a sign that within the cave was an entrance to the Garden of Eden.

For our mystics, the cave of Machpelah — the doubled cave — was two places in one. On one level, it was a physical place, a cave in the earth. And on another level, it was a doorway to another reality, a portal to the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden represents both the very beginning of time and the afterlife, the level of heaven where the righteous reside with God clothed in garments of light. Machpelah is a portal between earth and heaven, between “this world” and the “world to come,” between a reality in which we live apart from God and a reality suffused with divine Presence.

My son likes to play iPad games, like The Room and House of Da Vinci, that involve solving puzzles. Both of those games involve a mystical eyepiece, and when that eyepiece is activated, hidden things spring to life. Invisible ink becomes visible; hidden symbols and markings begin to glow. It’s as though there were another layer to reality, a realm of secrets, and only those who have eyes to see can decipher the clues to the hidden reality beneath. That’s pretty much what our mystical tradition teaches.

“Come and see,” says the Zohar. That’s the Zohar’s refrain: come and see. Open your eyes. If we know what we’re looking for, we can find ultimate reality, the presence of God. We can see that this cave isn’t just a cave: it’s also a portal. We can see that this moment isn’t just this moment: if we go through the portal of Machpelah, we simultaneously access the beginning of time and the culmination of all things.

But sometimes we can’t see what’s in front of our eyes. We get caught up in appearance: this looks like a cave, it’s just rocks and dirt. So the Zohar offers us another path in: the scent of spices, which is the scent of Eden, the place-and-time of humanity’s beginning and our most transcendent joy. Tradition says that when we smell spices at havdalah, our souls get a “hit” of the scent of Eden. Spice and fragrance are also associated with Shechinah, the immanent indwelling Divine Presence. The scent of spice, which is the scent of Eden, opens us to God.

Maybe there are scents that hyperlink you with other places and times. For me, one is honeycake baking, which immediately says “Rosh Hashanah.” Another is Bal á Versailles, my mother’s perfume. Another is rosemary on my fingers, which links me with where I grew up, and with travels in Israel, and with a friend’s back yard in California, and with a church rose garden in Alabama, and other places besides.

For the mystics, Machpelah was a trans-dimensional portal, a doorway in space and time. The physical cave of Machpelah is now beneath a building that is half-mosque, half-synagogue, and hotly-contested by all. But even in this physical place far away from that Land, we can harness this Torah portion’s invitation to be transported.

What transports you? What connects you with God, whether for you that means God-far-above or God-deep-within? What sounds / sights / sensations / flavors / scents lift you out of yourself and into connection with something greater than yourself? On this Shabbat Chayyei Sarah, what is the doorway you need to walk through to find the peace and connection and wholeness that will restore you?

 

 

This is the d’var Torah that Rabbi Rachel offered at CBI at Shabbat services on November 11. (Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

CBI November / Cheshvan Newsletter

The November / Cheshvan newsletter came out a few days ago — apologies for forgetting to cross-post it here, and deep thanks to Liz Miller for putting it together!

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Chayyei Sarah.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat Chayyei Sarah. We’ll be reading from parashat Chayyei Sarah, and services will be led by me.

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:  Chayei Sarah.

Wishing you blessings,

Rabbi Rachel