Monthly Archives: April 2018

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Emor.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat services led by Rabbi Rachel.  This week we’re reading from parashat Emor. We’ll also call Jen Burt, her daughter Zoë, and her grandson Jericho to the Torah for a special baby-naming blessing.

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:

We are now in the fifth week of the Omer, the week of hod (humble splendor) Here are 49 poems for the Omer. The 49 days of the Omer count lead us from second seder to Shavuot. During these seven weeks, we prepare ourselves to receive Torah anew.

I hope you’ll join us at our Hudson Valley Shavuot Retreat on May 18-20 at the end of the Omer count — read all about it and register now! For those who choose to remain in North Adams, Rabbi Pam Wax is organizing a tikkun leyl Shavuot and will lead Shavuot morning services with Yizkor. Learn more: Two Ways to Celebrate Shavuot. (And for our Hebrew school families, stay tuned — there will also be a special Shavuot family program as well!)

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat services led by Rabbi Pam Wax.  This week we’re reading from parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim.

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:

We are now in the fourth week of the Omer, the week of netzach (endurance) Here are 49 poems for the Omer. The 49 days of the Omer count lead us from second seder to Shavuot. During these seven weeks, we prepare ourselves to receive Torah anew. I hope you’ll join us at our Hudson Valley Shavuot Retreat on May 18-20 at the end of the Omer count — read all about it and register now!

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Tazria-Metzora

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat services led by Rabbi Jarah Greenfield.  This week we’re reading from parashat Tazria-Metzora.

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:

We are now in the third week of the Omer, the week of tiferet (harmony and balance.) Here are 49 poems for the Omer. The 49 days of the Omer count lead us from second seder to Shavuot. During these seven weeks, we prepare ourselves to receive Torah anew. I hope you’ll join us at our Hudson Valley Shavuot Retreat on May 18-20 at the end of the Omer count — read all about it and register now!

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

Two Ways to Celebrate Shavuot

Save the Date! Two Ways to Celebrate Shavuot

1) In North Adams
Tikkun Leil Shavuot: Celebrating the Many Faces of Torah
Saturday, May 19, 8 PM

To honor the occasion of the Giving of the Torah, we will gather for a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an evening devoted to Jewish study and reflection, on Saturday, May 19. Beginning at 8:00 PM, we will gather at CBI for Kiddush and Havdalah Service, followed by presentations offered by members of the CBI community. These presentations can come in any form: stories, questions for exploration, text study, songs, lecture, artistic creations, poetry, light physical exercise, meditation, social justice, etc.

If you would like to present something (or would like to consider the possibility of offering something that you wish to discuss), please contact Pam Wax, pwax@bcn.net, who will again organize the evening’s schedule of offerings. But, as always, please feel free to join us, even if you are not planning to present!

Cheesecake and other dairy desserts (a Shavuot staple) are welcome.

2) Our Hudson Valley Retreat
May 18-20, Surprise Lake Camp, Cold Spring NY

CBI is partnering with Beacon Hebrew Alliance (Beacon, NY), Temple Beth El of City Island (City Island, NY) and Shtiebel (Rivertowns, NY) on an immersive Shavuot retreat weekend in the Hudson Valley May 18-20. We’ll meet at Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Springwhere we’ll gather with other seekers for an incredible opportunity to connect with powerful teachings, beautiful music, stupendous natural surroundings and each other.

Teachers include Rabbi Rachel, Rabbi David Evan Markus, Rabbi Brent Spodek, Rabbi Ben Newman, and Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz of The Gefilteria, a new kind of food venture launched with the mission of reimagining eastern European Jewish cuisine and adapting classic dishes to the values and tastes of a new generation. There will be yoga, hiking, learning, singing, and more.

What revelation awaits you this year? What are the emotional, intellectual and spiritual “first fruits” that you want to uplift and be thankful for? Join us, and open yourself to transformation! Learn more and register here

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Shemini 2!

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat services led by Rabbi Lori Shaller. This week we’re reading the second part of parashat Shemini.

If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

(Those are the same links I sent out last week, because following Reform custom, we’re splitting Shemini into two weeks — this is because we observe 7 days of Pesach rather than 8, so we need to stretch this parasha for two Shabbatot in order to stay in synch with our Conservative and Orthodox cousins.)

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

This is the second week of the Omer, the week of gevurah (boundaries and strength.) Here are 49 poems for the Omer. The 49 days of the Omer count lead us from second seder to Shavuot. During these seven weeks, we prepare ourselves to receive Torah anew. I hope you’ll join us at our Hudson Valley Shavuot Retreat on May 18-20 at the end of the Omer count — read all about it and register now!

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

A teaching from Torah on grief and on joy

Coin-300x225In this week’s Torah portion (at least according to the Reform lectionary), Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu bring “strange fire” before God and are consumed by divine fire. In the haftarah assigned to this week’s Torah portion, from II Samuel, a man named Uzziel places his hands on the Ark of the Covenant and God becomes incensed and strikes him down on the spot. Two deeply disturbing stories of people who apparently sought to serve God, “did it wrong,” and were instantly killed.

The haftarah tells us that when Uzziel is killed, David becomes distressed and feels fear, and changes his plan for the Ark of the Covenant to come to Jerusalem. Instead he diverts it elsewhere. Only three months later does he bring the ark to the City of David with rejoicing, and music, and leaping and whirling before God. Meanwhile, in the Torah reading, Aaron’s reaction to the death of his sons is existential silence. He says nothing. Maybe in the face of such a loss there’s nothing one can say.

I don’t have a good answer to the question of why God would behave this way. I read these passages instead as acknowledgments of a painful truth of human life: sometimes tragedy strikes and we can’t understand why. These passages remind me that sometimes when we meet unexpected loss we have to withdraw, or change our plans, because the thing we thought we were going to do no longer feels plausible. And sometimes loss is a sucker punch, and words are inadequate to the reality at hand.

Yesterday was the seventh day of Pesach — according to tradition, the anniversary of the day when our ancestors crossed the Sea into freedom. Midrash holds that when the sea split, everyone present had a direct and miraculous experience of God. The Mechilta of Rabbi Ishmael (Tractate Shira, Parasha 3) teaches that in that moment, everyone encountered God, “even the merest handmaiden.” Another source (Tosefta Sotah) holds that even toddlers and babies witnessed Shechinah, the divine Presence.

Yesterday we re-experienced the crossing of the Sea, when we were redeemed into freedom and encountered God wholly. We sang and danced on the shores of the Sea, celebrating redemption and transformation, filled with hope. Today’s Torah portion crashes us back into reality. How can we integrate the sweetness of Pesach, the miraculousness of the Song at the Sea, with this?

For me the answer lies exactly in the gear-grinding juxtaposition. Torah reflects human life and human realities. This is human life: wondrous and fearful, painful and glorious. It would be nice to have a waiting period between joy and grief, a chance to adjust to the psycho-spiritual and emotional shift between one and the other, but we don’t necessarily get that luxury. Authentic spiritual life asks us to feel both of these wholly: our shattering, and our exultation.

Maybe those who constructed our calendar wanted to remind us that rejoicing and grief can fall of two sides of a single coin — and that both can open us to encountering the Holy. The Kotzker rebbe points out that “there is nothing so whole as a broken heart.” Sometimes we find wholeness not despite our brokenness, but in it. And when we feel broken, we can seek comfort in our tradition’s ancient hope for redemption: whether we frame it in messianic language, or simply in the hope that life can be better than it is right now.

So here’s my prayer for us today, arising out of these texts. When grief and loss intrude into our times of joy and celebration, may we have the wisdom of Aaron, to know when we need to fall silent because no words can convey the shattering of our hearts. And may we also have the wisdom of King David, to know when we need to shift our plans and give ourselves time to heal… so that when we are ready we can turn our mourning into dancing, and our silence into song. Kein yehi ratzon / may it be so.

 

This is the d’var Torah that Rabbi Rachel offered at CBI this morning (cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

Shavua tov, chag sameach, and looking forward to Shabbat Shemini (1)!

Shavua tov — a good new week to you. And chag sameach, happy festival of Passover to all! I hope that everyone’s sedarim were high and sweet.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat services. Following Reform custom, as a community we observe seven days of Pesach (see Is Passover Seven or Eight Days? on the URJ website), so the coming Shabbat will be the first day after Pesach for us — therefore we will read from the first part of the Torah portion known as Shemini. (The following week we will read from the second part of Shemini, and then we’ll be in synch with our Conservative and Orthodox cousins who observe 8 days of Pesach.)

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:

This is the first week of the Omer, the week of chesed (lovingkindness.) Here are 49 poems for the Omer. There are a bunch of good Omer-counting apps to help us remember to count and to reflect on the qualities we’re invited to cultivate each day; I recommend MyOmerCounter and the Omer app from NeoHasid. The 49 days of the Omer count lead us from second seder to Shavuot. During these seven weeks, we prepare ourselves to receive Torah anew. I hope you’ll join us at our Hudson Valley Shavuot Retreat on May 18-20 at the end of the Omer count — read all about it and register now!

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel