Monthly Archives: December 2018

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Chanukah!

Shavua tov — a good new week to you — and chag urim sameach, a joyous festival of lights to you!

If you haven’t yet seen the new North Adams City menorah, be sure to take note as you drive down Main Street. It’s planted in the median beside the City Christmas tree, across the street from City Hall. There was a beautiful dedication and lighting ceremony on the first night of Chanukah, which you can read about here: North Adams Celebrates Lighting of First Menorah in iBerkshires, and A First for Festival of Lights in North Adams: a Public Menorah for Hanukkah in the Berkshire Eagle. Deep thanks to Mayor Tom Bernard and to the City buildings and grounds crew for making this happen.

Please join us on Friday night at 5:30 for our annual Shabbat Chanukah Celebration & Potluck!B ring your chanukiyah and candles! We’ll sing some Chanukah songs, light all of our chanukiyot and bask in their light, welcome Shabbat with candles and song, and enjoy a vegetarian / dairy potluck (bring a dish to share) with latkes and fixings, as well as a Chanukah-themed craft project with Rabbi Jarah. Please RSVP ( so we know how many tables to set up.Here’s the Facebook event if you want to RSVP there or to share it on your own FB page.

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

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 David Markus, and sketchnoted as always by Steve Silbert:

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

For those who need, here are resources for celebrating Chanukah at the URJ website.

Hope to see you soon at CBI!


Rabbi Rachel

Vayeshev: letting our light shine

At the start of this week’s parsha, Vayeshev, Joseph tells his brothers about his dreams. In one dream, their sheaves of wheat bow down to his. In another, the stars and the sun and moon (maybe a representation of the siblings and the parents) bow down to him. In both dreams, Joseph’s light is shining brightly.

His brothers respond by casting him into a pit and selling him into slavery.

Sit with that for a minute. Does it sound over-the-top? Sure. But I’ll bet every one of us here has had an experience of feeling attacked, or cut-down, or cast away, because we were letting our light shine too brightly for someone else’s comfort.

Reading this parsha this year, I’m struck by the contrast between the brightness of Joseph’s internal light, and the dark pit into which his brothers throw him. Joseph’s brothers resent his light. They want to remove him from their family system because they resist and resent his light.

I don’t like to think in terms of people manifesting darkness or light — it’s so binary. I want to say that we can or should seek out the spark of goodness even in people who seem to be evil. And yet we all know that darkness is real, and that it can cause harm.

It is the nature of darkness to resist and resent light — to blame light for shining. But we have to let our light shine.

The Hasidic rabbi known as the Slonimer, writing on this week’s parsha, cites a midrash that says that Jacob is fire and Joseph is flame. And fire and flame are what can burn away the forces of negativity and darkness.

He goes on to say that we each need to kindle our own inner flame. He says we do that with Torah study, and with service (service of God, service of our fellow human beings), and with holiness. Because if we keep our inner fires burning, we can counter our own yetzer ha-ra, our own evil inclination… and we can counter the forces of darkness outside of us, too.

When we enflame ourselves with Torah — when our hearts are on fire with love of God and love of justice and love of truth — then our fires will burn brightly no matter who wants to quench our flame. And then even if others respond to our light with negativity, as Joseph’s brothers did, we’ll have the inner resources to make goodness (or find goodness) even in the times when life feels dark or constricted.

It’s our job to keep our inner fires burning and to shine as brightly as we can. That’s what Jewish life and practice ask of us. That’s what authentic spiritual life asks of us. That’s what this season asks of us.

On Sunday night we’ll kindle the first candle of Chanukah. We begin that festival with one tiny light in the darkness that surrounds us. But Chanukah comes to remind us that from one light will grow another, and another, and another. And when we let our light shine, we make it safe for others to let their light shine, too.

As the days grow darker, may we enflame our hearts with love of all that is good and holy, ethical and right. And may we be strengthened in our readiness to let our light shine.


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