Category Archives: Shavuot

Don’t miss Shavuot at Isabella Freedman with Rabbi Rachel

Don’t miss Shavuot at Isabella Freedman! Join the CBI delegation traveling the short distance to this renowned Jewish retreat center in Northern Connecticut for an amazing Shavuot retreat. Use the discount code VELVETEEN at check-out and receive a special $150 discount because you’re a member of an ALEPH Network community.


Read all about it and register now at the Hazon website.


SAVE THE DATE: Celebrate Shavuot at Isabella Freedman, June 10-13

Shavuot is the time when the community gathers around the mountain, and makes pilgrimage to a holy place, for the ultimate transformative experience.   

—Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi ז”ל


Shavuot on Retreat. Shavuot is one of the shalosh regalim, the three great pilgrimage festivals of antiquity. What better time to make our own pilgrimage: to the Isabella Freedman Center, a Jewish retreat center just down route 7 in Falls Village, Connecticut, for a three-day Shavuot retreat?

(This year there will be no late-night Torah study at Williams, because of the college’s reunion schedule, so it’s a good year for us to try something new.)

Over June 12-14 weekend, join Rabbi Rachel and clergy and congregants from ALEPH Network communities across the Northeast (including Rabbi David Evan Markus and a group from Temple Beth El of City Island, and Rabba Kaya Stern Kaufman and a group from Rimon of the Berkshires), for a Shavuot celebration like no other.

We’ll delight in top-notch music, prayer, learning, dance, meditation, yoga, organic food, and Renewal spirituality. There are special discounts for CBI members (because we are an ALEPH Network community), and generous need-based financial aid is available. Register at

The Shavuot retreat at Isabella Freedman is amazing. (If you want to hear about it, just ask Rabbi Rachel or our member Steven Green, both of whom have attended in years past.) There will be opportunities for learning during the day as well as all night long (for those who are so inclined) on Shavuot. The davening (prayer) is amazing—there will be musicians, instruments, drummers, and many amazing leaders bringing their talents and energy to the experience. There’s a terrific kids’ program too!

Highlights will include:

• Kosher and eco-friendly farm-to-table feasts
• Parade for First-Fruits/Bikkurim with the Adamah farm and the goats
• Camp Teva for Kids: Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Fun!
• All-night vigil with chanting, meditation, text study and more
• Daybreak outdoor musical Torah service
• Enjoy the beauty of spring at Isabella Freedman
• Midnight hike to the top of the mountain
• Kosher artisanal cheese tasting and cheesemaking workshop
• Daily meditation and Torah Yoga
• Beautiful havdalah and closing ceremony Monday night

This will be a truly transformative Shavuot experience which none of our members will ever forget! Please save the dates (June 10-13) and plan to join us. Register at


Save the Date: A Very Harry Potter Purim!

A New Design

And while we have your attention… mark your calendar for the second-night community seder at CBI on Saturday, April 23 —

and for the amazing Shavuot retreat at Hazon, June 10-13, at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in northern Connecticut!

Schedule for our Tikkun Leyl Shavuot 5775

For those who are wondering what we’ll be studying on Saturday night, here’s the schedule for our tikkun leyl Shavuot. Join us for some or all of our learning! We’ll begin at 8pm with a festival evening service and then continue late into the night.

Tikkun Leyl Shavuot 5775
Rabbi Pam Wax
 The Universe of Obligation

Chaim Bronstein
What Would Moses Do?
    Distribution and maintenance of equitable wealth in the Torah

Jen Burt
 Is Orthodox Judaism Compatible With Feminism?

Cantor Bob Scherr:
 Sinai:  Ascension of the Chosen?  
    Are we a people who are chosen?  What does “chosen” mean to us?  Is “chosen” the same as “commanded”?

Rabbi Jarah Greenfield
    From Growing of Harvest to Giving of Law

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat:
 Tonight’s Revelation:
    Writing a new poem of Torah

Shavuot is almost here!

shavuot_banner Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

In days of old, the three biggest holidays of the year were the Shalosh Regalim, the three pilgrimage festivals when we would walk to Jerusalem to make offerings to God at the Temple. One of them was Sukkot, the harvest festival we celebrate in the fall. One of them was Pesach, the festival of liberation we celebrate in the spring. And one of them was Shavuot.

In those days Shavuot was known as the Festival of First Fruits. On the second day of Pesach we planted spring barley, and counted 49 days, and then harvested it and brought it to the Temple on the 50th day as a gift of gratitude to God.

Once the Temple was destroyed in the year 70 C.E., our sages reinterpreted Shavuot. Shavuot, they said, was the anniversary of the day when the Torah was given to us at Sinai. They taught that all of our souls were mystically present at that moment to receive Torah… and that when God spoke, each person heard it in a language and an idiom and a style which they could understand.

Of those three great pilgrimage festivals, the one which most of us know well today is Pesach. (Studies show that almost all Jews celebrate some kind of Passover seder.) And many of us are coming to know Sukkot once again, and to enjoy the deliciousness of meals savored outdoors in the fall beneath the sukkah’s leafy roof. But many of us do not have experiences of Shavuot.

Shavuot is the culmination of a journey we began at Pesach. At seder we celebrated our liberation from Mitzrayim, “The Narrow Place.” Tradition teaches that we must all see ourselves as though we personally were liberated from Egypt — and surely we have all known places and times of constriction in our lives from which we might yearn to be set free.

But freedom by itself isn’t enough. We’re freed not only from, but also toward — toward covenant with God; toward Torah; toward the connective opportunities of the mitzvot. Shavuot is when we celebrate covenant and Torah. One midrash depicts Shavuot as our wedding anniversary, the date when we and God entered into an eternal covenant of connection.

The Kotzker Rebbe was asked, why is Shavuot called the day of the giving of the Torah instead of the day of the receiving of the Torah? His answer is that the giving took place on one day, but the receiving takes place at all times. As my teacher Reb Zalman of blessed memory used to say, God broadcasts on all channels; we receive revelation when and where we are attuned.

Join us on Saturday evening and Sunday morning for our celebration of Shavuot. (Details follow.) Along with our counterparts around the world, we will attune ourselves to experience revelation together once again.

See you at Sinai!

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

  • Tikkun Leyl Shavuot: 8pm Saturday night, Williams College Jewish Religious Center. Short-and-sweet festival service followed by joyous study. We’ll pause for havdalah when the time is right, then keep learning (and enjoying espresso milkshakes!) Stay as long as you like. Planned lessons include Sinai: Ascension of the Chosen?, Is Orthodox Judaism Compatible With Feminism?, What Would Moses Do: Distribution of Equitable Wealth in Torah, and Tonight’s Revelation: Writing a New Poem of Torah.
  • Shavuot Morning With Yizkor: 10am Sunday morning, CBI. Festival morning services will include a reading from Torah as well as the Yizkor / Memorial prayers we recite four times a year. This is our summer opportunity to remember our beloveds and to reconnect. There will also be cheesecake.

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Bamidbar – and to Shavuot!

Shavua tov – a  good week to you! This week we’re reading the Torah portion known as Bamidbar, the first Torah portion in the book of Bamidbar. In English, we call this book “Numbers,” but its Hebrew name means “In the wilderness,” which is where most of the book takes place.

return-to-shabbatIf you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, some links follow:

And here’s the URJ’s compilation of commentaries on this week’s Torah portion: B’midbar | URJ.

This coming Shabbat morning, services will be led by Rabbi Pam Wax.

This coming Saturday evening, May 23, we will gather to celebrate Shavuot at 8pm at the Williams College Jewish Religious Center with folks from Congregation Beth El in Bennington. We’ll begin with a short-and-sweet festival evening service and then dive into some joyful Torah study (and espresso milkshakes) which will run until late at night; come for as much as you like!

And on Sunday morning, May 24, we’ll gather at CBI for Shavuot morning services led by Rabbi Pam Wax. We’ll have a festival morning service which will include Yizkor, the memorial prayers we recite four times a year. We have members who really want to have a minyan so that they can say kaddish during Yizkor in the presence of loving community; please join us.

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact Pattie Lipman. We hope to see you soon at CBI!

Join us to celebrate Shavuot!

ShavuotPoster5775On the evening of Saturday May 23, we’ll begin our Shavuot celebration at the Williams College Jewish Religious Center together with members of Congregation Beth El (Bennington) at our annual Tikkun Leyl Shavuot. We’ll start with a short-and-sweet festival evening service and then dive into celebratory Torah study! If you would like to teach something, please contact Rabbi Rachel.
Join us for a service celebrating Shavuot*  ~  שבועות  ~ 

On the morning of May 24th, beginning at 10 am, followed by an extended kiddush from hosts, Fern and Kenny Sann.   Rabbi Pam Wax will be leading.

It is traditional to eat dairy on Shavuot.  “Torah is likened to milk, as the verse says, “Like honey and milk (the Torah) lays under your tongue.” Just as milk has the ability to fully sustain the body of a human being (i.e. a nursing baby), so too the Torah provides all the “spiritual nourishment” necessary for the human soul.”  Rabbi Wax will be sharing a New York City cheesecake with us at kiddush, for the sake of sweetness and tradition.
There will also be a brief Yiskor service.  Yiskor means, “may (G-d) remember” from the root word zakhor – remember – זכור 
It is the memorial service recited four times a year in the synagogue.
Fern and Kenny Sann and Pattie Lipman are requesting a minyan to say kaddish for their loved ones. thank you.

*Shavuot שבועות means “weeks” and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which occurs seven weeks after Passover. Shavuot, like many other Jewish holidays, began as an ancient agricultural festival that marked the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. In ancient times, Shavuot was a pilgrimage festival during which Israelites brought crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, it is a celebration of Torah, education, and actively choosing to participate in Jewish life. Shavuot marks the conclusion of counting the Omer.

 With thanks to Aish, HebCal and the URJ.

~ pattie lipman