Monthly Archives: December 2018

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Vaera

Shavua tov — a good new week to you!

Please join us on Saturday at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services . This week we’re reading from Vaera.

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

Here’s Torah commentary at Builders Blog (a project of Bayit: Your Jewish Home), this week written by Rabbi Jennifer Singer and sketchnoted as always by Steve Silbert.

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Hope to see you soon at CBI!

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

Join us for Tu BiShvat at CBI on January 19

Save the date and plan to join us for Tu BiShvat, the New Year of the Trees!

Saturday, January 19: come at 9:30 to daven (pray) the morning service (with some special Tu BiShvat treats in it). And/or come at 11am for our Tu BiShvat lunch seder, led by Rabbi Rachel (bring a vegetarian / dairy dish to share). Integrated into our lunchtime seder adventure will be a family-friendly creative project led by Rabbi Jarah. Bless and eat tree fruits! Experience a mystical journey through the four seasons and the Four Worlds! Rekindle your commitment to caring for our earth!

RSVP to rabbibarenblat at gmail dot com or call the office at 413-663-5830.

And/or: if you use FB, please RSVP on the Facebook Event Page and share it on your own page to encourage others to come too!)

This program is supported by a grant from the Grinspoon Foundation.

 

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Shemot

Shavua tov — a good new week to you!

Please join us on Saturday at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Lori Shaller. This week we’re reading from Shemot.

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

Here’s Torah commentary at Builders Blog (a project of Bayit: Your Jewish Home), this week written by Rabbi Rachel and Shoshanna Schechter and sketchnoted as always by Steve Silbert.

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Please note: our meditation minyan is on hiatus until January.

Hope to see you soon at CBI!

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

A note from Rabbi Rachel before Christmas

Some of you may remember receiving this note in years past. It seems to really speak to people, so I’m sending it again; the sentiments remain true!

Dear friends,

One of the interesting asymmetries of being a minority religious culture is that while members of the dominant religious tradition often have little awareness of our festivals, we can’t help being aware of theirs. At no other time of year is this more true than now, as we approach Christmas.

Across the breadth of our community, we respond in many ways to this omnipresent holiday.

Some of us may enjoy Christmas although it is not our holiday. We may admire our neighbors’ Christmas lights, appreciate the festive beauty of each household’s unique decorations, enjoy classic Christmas movies, and delight vicariously in the pleasure our Christian friends and neighbors take in their festival of light and hope.

Some of us may find Christmas overwhelming because it is not our holiday. We may feel excluded from public displays of Christmas celebration; the day and its trappings may evoke entrenched feelings of isolation and “otherness.” For those of us who associate Christmas with uncomfortable memories of being an outsider, or communal memories of antisemitism, this can be a challenging season. We may resent the way mainstream American culture ignores the reality that not everyone celebrates this holiday, or may struggle with the message that everyone is “supposed” to be happy at this time of year.

Some of us may enjoy Christmas because it is a festival we share with loved ones. Our community includes many Jews by choice (many of whom still have Christian family), and many families of dual heritage (who likewise have Christian family, as well as Jewish family). For those in such families, this holiday may offer a time to connect with loved ones across a variety of traditions.

Some of us may experience December 25 as a secular midwinter holiday of gift-giving and cheer having little or nothing to do with Jesus. Others may experience its customs as as a thinly-camouflaged variation on pagan winter solstice festivities. (Did you know that in ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated on December 25? It was called the festival of sol invictus, the birthday of the unconquered sun.)

Some of us may take Christmas as an opportunity to serve others. I know many Jewish doctors, nurses, therapists, and chaplains who choose to engage in pastoral work on Christmas so that our Christian colleagues can take the day off. Others may choose to work in soup kitchens or homeless shelters so that all who are in need will be cared-for and fed on that day and all days.

And some of us — single-heritage households and dual-heritage households alike — may engage in the age-old Jewish custom of eating Chinese food and going to the movies! (Okay, that one wasn’t handed down to Moses on Sinai, though we’ve been doing it since the late 1800s.)

Whatever your next week may hold, a blessing:

May we experience light in this season of darkness.

May renewed awareness of Jesus as a Jewish teacher open for us new ways of relating to our neighbors’ commemoration of his birth.

And may we emerge into the secular new year ready to enjoy the increasing daylight!

And for now: Shabbat shalom and happy winter solstice to all!

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Returning to Rosh Chodesh

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Some of you may remember that CBI used to have a Rosh Chodesh group, a monthly gathering for women at or near the time of the new moon.

Rosh Chodesh means “head of the month,” colloquially “new moon” — it’s the festival at the start of each lunar month, which for a variety of reasons is traditionally associated with women and celebrated by women. (For more on that, see Why Rosh Chodesh is Linked to Women at My Jewish Learning, and Why Is Rosh Chodesh Special to Women? at ReformJudaism.org.)

With help from the women of our Spiritual Life committee, this winter we’re going to reboot and restart our Rosh Chodesh group!

ROSH CHODESH / NEW MOON CIRCLE

Our intergenerational Rosh Chodesh circle is for women-identified and gender-non-conforming folks. We will welcome in each new lunar month by lighting candles, learn together, exercise our creativity in a variety of ways (writing, making art, baking — something different each time we meet), and explore the emotional and spiritual tone of this time of year.

Our first meeting will be on Sunday March 10 at 5pm at CBI, when we will celebrate Rosh Chodesh for the incoming lunar month of Adar II. We’ll meet on Sunday afternoons / early evenings on dates closes to each new moon (the first few sessions will be on March 10, April 7, and May 5.) 

I will plan learning, art projects, and/or other activities for our first handful of sessions. By summertime it is my hope that others will want to step up and claim sessions, so that starting in summer, each month our gathering will be planned and facilitated by someone different. This will offer our community opportunities to experience a variety of different ideas, practices, and approaches to Rosh Chodesh.

All are welcome, but if you know you’re coming, please RSVP to rabbibarenblat at gmail dot com to help me prepare the right quantities of supplies!

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

 

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Vay’chi

Shavua tov — a (belated) good new week to you!

Please join us on Saturday at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Jarah. This week we’re reading from Vayechi.

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

Here’s Torah commentary at Builders Blog (a project of Bayit: Your Jewish Home), this week written by Rabbi Ben Newman and sketchnoted as always by Steve Silbert. It explores blessings, teamwork, and building — with a Star Trek twist!

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Please note: our meditation minyan is on hiatus until January.

Hope to see you soon at CBI!

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

Who we reveal ourselves to be

Post-4260-0-61624700-1481802031_thumbThis week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, brings a dramatic turn in the Joseph story. After a long and twisty series of events — beginning maybe with Joseph telling the brothers to return to Egypt and bring Benjamin, Rachel’s other son, with them; or beginning maybe with the famine that brought the brothers down to Egypt in search of food; or beginning maybe when the brothers sold Joseph into slavery in the first place — Joseph can’t stand to hide from his brothers any more.

וְלֹֽא־יָכֹ֨ל יוֹסֵ֜ף לְהִתְאַפֵּ֗ק לְכֹ֤ל הַנִּצָּבִים֙ עָלָ֔יו וַיִּקְרָ֕א הוֹצִ֥יאוּ כָל־אִ֖ישׁ מֵעָלָ֑י וְלֹא־עָ֤מַד אִישׁ֙ אִתּ֔וֹ בְּהִתְוַדַּ֥ע יוֹסֵ֖ף אֶל־אֶחָֽיו׃

Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone withdraw from me!” So there was no one else about when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, saying “I am Joseph. Is my father still well?” They’re so dumbfounded they can’t answer him. So he repeats himself: I am Joseph, whom you sold into slavery. And then he reassures them: don’t be distressed. God sent me here ahead of you in order to save life: to save your lives, to save our father’s life, to save the life and the future of our nation. He’ll say it even more explicitly later: don’t worry. You thought you were doing me ill, but God meant it for good.

The Hebrew word להתודע is a reflexive verb, meaning “to make oneself known.” Joseph isn’t just introducing himself — “Hi, my name is Joseph, nice to meet you.” He’s making himself known. He’s showing them who he really is. He’s revealing something core. And what does he reveal? An apparently unshakeable faith and trust. From his current vantage, even the worst events of his life can be redeemed. He can make something good out of them. God can make something good out of them.

If I were to choose from this list of character strengths to describe Joseph, top on my list would be emunah, faith and trust (in this translation, “conviction.”) He’s strong in gevurah, discipline and will power. He’s strong in anavah, humility. (Remember his repeated insistence that it is not he who interprets dreams, but rather God, flowing through him.) He’s strong in netzach, perseverance and grit. These are the qualities I see revealed in who his life story has led him to become.

Sometimes life gives us active opportunities to make ourselves known: I feel safe with a trusted friend so I let down my guard and show the tenderest parts of who I am, or I feel the situation at hand demands that I be honest so I make the choice to speak what I truly believe. And sometimes we make ourselves known in subtler ways, maybe without even realizing that we are doing so. We make ourselves known through our actions, our deeds, our words, our tone, our priorities, our choices.

There’s so much that we can’t control, including birth, family of origin dynamics, how others treat us, when and whether we struggle with illness, etc. But Joseph’s story is a reminder that we can choose what qualities we want to cultivate, both in years of emotional “plenty” and in years of spiritual “famine.” The qualities we choose to cultivate reveal who we are. When change or conflict or challenge offers us an opportunity to make ourselves known, who do we want to reveal ourselves to be?

 

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