Category Archives: contemplative practice

Walk the Labyrinth on Yom Kippur

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Weather permitting, we hope to have a meditation labyrinth on the grass behind our sanctuary on Yom Kippur day. During the break between morning services and our afternoon offerings, you are welcome to stay at CBI and to walk the labyrinth.

This labyrinth is a temporary one, printed on canvas; we are borrowing it from the Williams College Chaplains’ Office, with gratitude. But we hope that in time there will be a permanent labyrinth on the CBI grounds, and we are exploring options for building one in coming months! (Ours will probably be a seven-circuit labyrinth, because seven is a number with deep spiritual significance in Judaism.) We extend deepest gratitude to our member Cheryl Small, whose fiscal support will enable us to build our permanent meditation labyrinth in memory of her parents, Frances and Al Small. For now, we’ll have a temporary one, and I invite you to come and experience it on Yom Kippur afternoon!

Walking a labyrinth is an ancient contemplative practice. A labyrinth, unlike a maze, is not designed to get you lost and is not a puzzle to solve. It has only one path in and out. When one walks a labyrinth, slowly and contemplatively, one will find twists and turns — but the journey always goes in to the center, and then back out to the exit. It is a metaphor for spiritual life writ large: life takes twists and turns, and there is always beauty to discover along the way.

For more:

May the labyrinth enrich your experience of Yom Kippur. I can’t wait to be with y’all soon.

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

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Contemplative Second Day of Rosh Hashanah

seconddayDear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

You may be aware that as a Reform-affiliated congregation, we celebrate many holidays more briefly than our Conservative and Orthodox family and friends. Passover, for instance: Reform Jews observe seven days of Pesach, while Conservative and Orthodox Jews outside the land of Israel observe eight. Long ago, many Biblically-rooted holidays gained an “extra Diaspora day.”

The original reason for this had to do with ensuring that new moon and full moon were being appropriately marked, and keeping Diaspora celebrations aligned with those in the Holy Land. (If you’re curious about this, read Why Some Holidays Last Longer Outside Israel at MyJewishLearning.com.)

But an interesting thing happened with Rosh Hashanah. All of the other holidays that got an extra Diaspora day remained their original length in Israel (and Reform Judaism opted to maintain their original length even in the Diaspora)… but Rosh Hashanah became a two-day festival both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Rosh Hashanah lasts for two days no matter where we are.

At CBI we have always observed two days of Rosh Hashanah, and this year will be no exception. And this year, like last year, we’ll be diving into a Contemplative Second Day of Rosh Hashanah. (That’s Friday, September 22 this year.)

The sanctuary will shift: we’ll sit in a circle, facing inward into the circle and inward into ourselves. Our use of the machzor (high holiday prayerbook) will shift: we’ll use the same book, but we’ll daven fewer words, and go deeper into the ones that we do chant and sing. Our Torah reading will shift: instead of three aliyot, we’ll have a contemplative Torah service experience led by Rabbi Lori Shaller.

Like last year, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah we’ll place a special table in the middle of our circle, on which members of the community will be invited to place meaningful objects. On the second day, we invite you to bring something with you that has spiritual or emotional significance for you, and place it on the table during our davenen.

If you’re one of our second day “regulars,” we hope you’ll enjoy this deeper dive into the liturgy and the meaning of this very special day. And if you’ve never before joined us for second day of Rosh Hashanah, we hope you’ll consider giving it a try. The second day of Rosh Hashanah is a special day with its own unique energy. We look forward to opening that up for you this year in this rich way.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel and Hazzan Randall

ps: here’s our High Holiday Schedule for 5778 / 2017 in case you need it.

This just in: contemplative Shabbat this weekend

Here’s an addendum to this week’s post about Shabbat services:

This Shabbat (April 22)

the CBI Spiritual Life committee

and Rabbi Rachel

invite you into a deep, sweet Shabbat

of contemplation and chant

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Contemplative Shabbat Morning Service

April 22 / 26 Nisan, 9:30am

Join us in going deep into silence and song.

Though we will be praying only selected “pearls” from the liturgy,

we will recite mourner’s kaddish in full.

A note from Rabbi Lori Shaller

A message from Rabbi Lori Shaller, who will be leading davenen (prayer) at CBI this coming Shabbat:
Please join me this Shabbat, Saturday, December 3 for a contemplative service. I will be on my yoga mat, suggesting movement and meditation prompts, as well as chanting some, and I invite you to bring your mat, if that speaks to you. You are also welcome to participate sitting in a chair. We will be praying the Sh’ma and V’ahavta, an Amidah and Kaddish, if there are those who want to pray kaddish. I hope to see you b’Shabbat!

A Contemplative Second Day of Rosh Hashanah

secondday

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

You may be aware that as a Reform-affiliated congregation, we celebrate many holidays more briefly than our Conservative and Orthodox family and friends. Passover, for instance: Reform Jews observe seven days of Pesach, while Conservative and Orthodox Jews outside the land of Israel observe eight. Long ago, many Biblically-rooted holidays gained an “extra Diaspora day.”

The original reason for this had to do with ensuring that new moon and full moon were being appropriately marked, and keeping Diaspora celebrations aligned with those in the Holy Land. (If you’re curious about this, read Why Some Holidays Last Longer Outside Israel at MyJewishLearning.com.)

But an interesting thing happened with Rosh Hashanah. All of the other holidays that got an extra Diaspora day remained their original length in Israel (and Reform Judaism opted to maintain their original length even in the Diaspora)… but Rosh Hashanah became a two-day festival both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Rosh Hashanah lasts for two days no matter where we are.

At CBI we have always observed two days of Rosh Hashanah, and this year will be no exception. But this year, Hazzan Randall and I have decided to try something a bit different. Instead of simply replicating the first day’s service, this year we’ll be having a Contemplative Second Day of Rosh Hashanah. (That’s Tuesday, Ocrober 4 this year.)

The sanctuary will shift: we’ll sit in a circle, facing inward into the circle and inward into ourselves. Our use of the machzor (high holiday prayerbook) will shift: we’ll use the same book, but we’ll daven fewer words, and go deeper into the ones that we do chant and sing. Our Torah reading will shift: instead of three aliyot, we’ll have one aliyah, which we’ll enter into in a contemplative manner.

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah we’ll have a special table in the middle of our circle, on which members of the community will be invited to place meaningful objects. On the second day, we invite you to bring something with you that has spiritual or emotional significance, and place it on the table.

If you’re one of our second day “regulars,” we hope you’ll enjoy this deeper dive into the liturgy and the meaning of this very special day. And if you’ve never before joined us for second day of Rosh Hashanah, we hope you’ll consider giving it a try this year. The second day of Rosh Hashanah is a special day with its own unique energy. We look forward to opening that up for you this year in a new way.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

ps: here’s our High Holiday Schedule for 5777-2016, in case you need it.

and here’s a flyer for the second day.

Shabbat morning, Tzom Tammuz, and a meditation update

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends:

17 Tammuz and the Three Weeks

This coming Shabbat is a minor fast day in Jewish tradition — the fast day of 17 Tammuz (also called Tzom Tammuz — “tzom” means “fast”) when we commemorate the breaching of Jerusalem’s city walls. For those who are interested, here are a couple of things I’ve written about 17 Tammuz over the years: 17 Tammuz: the walls begin to fall (2012), Descent for the sake of ascent: the fast of 17 Tammuz (2014.)

I know that most of us in this community do not observe the minor fasts, but I think we can still find meaning in the way our calendar unfolds. 17 Tammuz begins a period known as the Three Weeks, which will culminate on Saturday August 13 with the fast of Tisha b’Av.

Although this is the week of parashat Balak (the only parasha in Torah featuring a talking donkey!) we will not read from Balak this Shabbat morning. We’ll read instead from the portion that goes with the fast day of 17 Tammuz, and enfolded into our morning service (in lieu of Torah study afterwards) will be a conversation about the Three Weeks and how their teachings about brokenness can be meaningful in our lives today.

A meditation update

On an unrelated note: once again this Friday there will be no meditation. I will be at shul on Friday! But I won’t be there in time to meditate. Thanks for bearing with me as I continue to navigate the changes in my life and my son’s shifting summer schedule. We will meditate again on August 5 (also the day of our next Kabbalat Shabbat / potluck!); I will need to miss August 12; and after that we should have smooth sailing for the rest of the summer and into the fall.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Save the date: contemplative Shabbat morning, April 2

the CBI Spiritual Life committee

and Rabbi Rachel

invite you into a deep, sweet Shabbat

of contemplation and chant

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Contemplative Shabbat Morning Service

April 2 / 23 Adar II, 9:30am

Join us in going deep into silence and song.

Though we will be praying only selected “pearls” from the liturgy,

we will recite mourner’s kaddish in full.