Monthly Archives: January 2019

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Mishpatim.

Dear all,

Shavua tov! Please join us on Saturday at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Rachel. This week we’re reading from parashat Mishpatim.

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

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

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Hope to see you soon at CBI!

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Yitro.

Dear all,

Oops — we forgot to send this out on Monday! Deepest apologies. Here’s your belated weekly Shabbat / Torah / commentaries update:

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

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

Here’s Torah commentary at Builders Blog (a project of Bayit: Your Jewish Home), this week written by CBI’s own Steven Green and sketchnoted as always by Steve Silbert:

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Hope to see you soon at CBI!

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

Interfaith Teen Gathering – Responses Requested

Dear CBI members and friends,

There are plans in the works for a Northern Berkshire Interfaith Youth Group for teens in 9th through 12th grades. This initiative arose in our local Christian community, and they reached out to us to affirm that they want to make the youth group comfortable, welcoming, and appropriate for Jewish teens as well as Christian ones. Here’s the description:

“A gathering of teens of faith who want to support and encourage one another while exploring life’s questions and discerning what actions we’re being called to take. We will provide a fun, engaging, open and affirming space and see where the discussion leads!”

As of now, this project involves leadership from All Saints’ Episcopal North Adams, Congregation Beth Israel North Adams, First Congregational Church Williamstown, our local Muslim community, New Hope Methodist Church North Adams, Second Congregational Church Williamstown, and St. John’s Episcopal Williamstown.

The intention is to begin to provide high schoolers with regular opportunities to gather 1x per month. And the hope is that this will primarily function as a teen-guided Interfaith group, with adults supporting by managing logistics and food and so on. In other words: the teens themselves will set the agenda and determine what they want the group to be and to do.

College students from the Jewish and Muslim communities at Williams are excited about serving as facilitators and mentors to our teenagers.

The group is considering meeting on Friday nights (with pizza), Saturday early afternoons (with snacks), Saturday later afternoons (with pizza), or Saturday nights (with pizza).  If you have a teenager in your household who is between ninth and twelfth grades, we’d love to know a) whether your kid is interested in taking part in something like this and b) if so, which of the possible meeting times would be best. Let me know?

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

 

How can we keep from singing? (a d’varling for Beshalach)

In this week’s Torah portion (Beshalach), the children of Israel cross the Sea of Reeds. Upon experiencing that miracle, Torah tells us, three things happened: 1) they felt yir’ah, awe, and 2) they felt emunah, faith and trust, and 3) they broke into shirah, song. (And for me, the Torah is always both about what happened to “them” back “then,” and also about us here and now: our journey, our spiritual lives, our emotional possibilities.) Some of the words they sang found their way into daily Jewish liturgy:

 מִֽי־כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְהֹוָ֔’’ה? מִ֥י כָּמֹ֖כָה נֶאְדָּ֣ר בַּקֹּ֑דֶשׁ, נוֹרָ֥א תְהִלֹּ֖ת, עֹ֥שֵׂה פֶֽלֶא׃

Mi chamocha ba-eilim Adonai? Mi camocha nedar bakodesh, nora tehilot, oseh feleh!

Who is like You, God — majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, Worker of Wonders?

And when we sing these words each day, we’re called to remember. To remember the miracle of the redemption from slavery, the Exodus from Egypt, the crossing of the Sea. Take apart the English word remember and you get re/member — to experience memory in the body; to re-inhabit lived experience. Singing Mi Chamocha is an opportunity to re-member liberation. To experience it again. To feel it in our bodies. To cultivate our sense of awe and trust, and from those emotions, to joyously sing.

The daily liturgy specifically mentions joy. “They answered You [and so we too answer You] with song, with great joy!” As the psalmist wrote — the words that are inscribed over our sanctuary doors and over our ark — “Serve the One with joy, come before God with gladness.” (Psalm 100:2) Once we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt, but once we emerged through the sea we became servants of the Most High. Slave or servant: the same word — עבד / eved — but the emotional valance is completely different.

Torah tells us that while we were in slavery, we experienced קוצר רוח/ kotzer ruach: constriction of spirit / shortness of breath, both physical and spiritual. Without breath, without spirit, it’s hard to sing. And I want to acknowledge the fact that sometimes genuine joy is hard to come by. Sometimes life’s constrictions — depression, or grief, or loss — steal our breath and our song. Pretending otherwise would be spiritual bypassing, using spiritual life to pretend that everything’s okay when it’s really not.

And. Every day our liturgy gives us the opportunity to remember — to really re/member — awe and trust and song. The Hasidic teacher known as the Sfat Emet writes that thanks to our faith and trust the Shechinah (God’s own Presence) came to dwell within us, and our faith purified our hearts and then we were able to sing. He goes on to say: in fact that’s the whole reason we were created in this world in the first place: to bear witness to life’s miracles, to be redeemed from constriction, and to sing.

I want to say that again, because it’s so radical. The whole reason we were created is to notice life’s miracles, to be redeemed from life’s narrow places, and to sing. “Everyone else has a purpose, so what’s mine?” The Sfat Emet says: awe, and liberation, and song. Our purpose isn’t to get promoted, or to climb the social ladder, or to rack up accomplishments. “If you want to sing out, sing out; if you want to be free, be free!” Our tradition says: the experience of freedom will naturally lead us to song.

Our daily liturgy reminds us of the Exodus. We remember it again in the Friday night kiddush, which tells us that Shabbat is a remembrance both of creation and of the Exodus from Egypt. Shabbat exists to help us re/member our liberation. Today we’re freed from the workday, the weekday, ordinary labors, ordinary time. Today we can bask in a sense of awe and wonder: “Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now!” And from that place of wonder, how can we keep from singing?

 

This is the d’varling that Rabbi Rachel offered at Congregation Beth Israel  during Shabbat services. (Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.) She adds: “It echoes the themes in Answering With Joy by Rabbi David Markus. Each week he and I study the Sfat Emet together with our fellow builders at Bayit, so maybe it’s not surprising that this week our divrei Torah are quite parallel!”

Art by Yomam Ranaan.

 

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Shirah, Tu BiShvat and our Midwinter Shabbaton

Shavua tov — a good new week to you!

Please join us on Saturday at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services, followed by our Tu BiShvat seder at 11am, followed by an afternoon of learning and spiritual practice! (Read all about our Midwinter Shabbaton and join us for whatever you can!) This week we’re reading from parashat Beshalach, and this week’s Shabbat has a special name — Shabbat Shirah, “the Shabbat of Song” — because the Song at the Sea is in this week’s Torah portion.

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

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

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Hope to see you soon at CBI! Please RSVP for the Tu BiShvat seder so we know how many chairs and tables to set up.

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

Midwinter Shabbaton at CBI: January 19, 2019

A Shabbaton is an immersive Shabbat experience. This year, for the second year in a row, CBI’s Journey Into Judaism class is having a Shabbaton in January. We’ll begin on Friday night with a Shabbat dinner for students and their loved ones, and continue on Saturday with a daylong adventure: morning services, our Tu BiShvat lunch seder (bring a vegetarian / dish to share!), and an afternoon of learning, culminating in havdalah when the sun sets.

The Friday night dinner is a class experience for students in the Journey Into Judaism class and their significant others / kids (of course, you can always have your own Shabbat dinner with friends and loved ones!) but all of Saturday’s events are open to all. Come for some or all of the day, whatever’s possible for you.

If you’re coming, feel free to tell us (cbinadams@gmail.com) or RSVP at the Facebook Event for the day. But you’re welcome to drop in and out, whatever’s feasible for you — RSVP is not technically required here!

That said, please do RSVP for the Tu BiShvat Lunch Seder (email the office or via FB Event) so we know how many chairs to set up, and please bring a vegetarian / dairy dish to share for lunch.

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Bo.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you!

Please join us on Saturday at 9am for gentle learning about some of the prayers and songs of Shabbat morning, and at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Board member and Spiritual Life chair Steven Green. This week we’re reading from parashat Bo.

(Ever wondered what the word parashat means? The Hebrew word parashat means “the parsha of” or “the Torah portion of” — in other words, this is the Torah portion known by its first word, “Bo.” Each Torah portion or parsha has a name, usually the first word or the first notable word of the portion.)

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

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

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Hope to see you soon at CBI!

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel