Category Archives: Shavuot

Lift up your heads, and know that you count

Take a census, this week’s Torah portion tells us. שְׂא֗וּ אֶת־רֹאשׁ֙ כָּל־עֲדַ֣ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל — literally, “Lift up the heads of the community of the children of Israel.” Don’t just count them: uplift them. Let them feel in their hearts and know in their minds that they count.

Of course, the text goes on to specify who we should count: the men. We didn’t yet have consciousness of how limited — and limiting — that paradigm is for us and for the world. But the core teaching that every one of us counts is some powerful Torah.

Today we encounter these words as we prepare ourselves to receive Torah anew. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Before we can receive Torah tonight, we have to lift up our heads. We have to take an accounting of who we are.

We have to make sure we know that we all count: men and women and nonbinary folks, Jews by birth and Jews by choice and seekers of other traditions who walk alongside us. We have to take note of every one of us, in all of our multiplicity and diversity of experience and background and heart.

Tradition says that all of us were there at Sinai — the soul of every one of us, every Jew who ever was or ever will be. And since we know that a mixed multitude left Egypt with us, surely that mixed multitude stood together at Sinai too. Shavuot is our celebration of covenant with God, and every one of us is part of that covenant. If even one soul had been missing, it wouldn’t have been complete. We all count.

Three members of this community formally joined the Jewish people yesterday. [Here’s where I was going to say some things about that, connecting them to the Torah portion – but that part was personal and is not being published online.] As of this weekend they count in a minyan: another form of counting and being counted.

Does the concept of counting ring any other bells for you right now? For seven weeks we’ve been counting days, ever since the second seder. Tonight that count culminates in revelation. Today is the final day of the Omer. According to our mystics, today is the day of Malchut She’b’Malchut — the day of immanent indwelling feminine divine Presence; the day of Shechina.

May we be suffused with awareness of holy Presence as we prepare ourselves to receive. May we prepare ourselves to be sanctuaries — so that Shechina can dwell with us, and among us, and within us, now and always.

 

This is (more or less) the d’varling I had intended to offer this morning at Shabbat services on our Hudson Valley Shavuot Retreat, had the camp not canceled the retreat. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.)

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Bamidbar and Shavuot!

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

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

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

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

We are now in the final week of the Omer. During these seven weeks, we prepare ourselves to receive Torah anew.

For those who aren’t joining us at our Hudson Valley Shavuot Retreat, Rabbi Pam Wax is organizing a tikkun leyl Shavuot and will lead Shavuot morning services with Yizkor. Learn more: Two Ways to Celebrate Shavuot. And for our Hebrew school families, we’ll have From Egypt to Sinai: A Shavuot Family Adventure on May 21; I hope you’ll join us!

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

Two Ways to Celebrate Shavuot

Save the Date! Two Ways to Celebrate Shavuot

1) In North Adams
Tikkun Leil Shavuot: Celebrating the Many Faces of Torah
Saturday, May 19, 8 PM

To honor the occasion of the Giving of the Torah, we will gather for a Tikkun Leil Shavuot, an evening devoted to Jewish study and reflection, on Saturday, May 19. Beginning at 8:00 PM, we will gather at CBI for Kiddush and Havdalah Service, followed by presentations offered by members of the CBI community. These presentations can come in any form: stories, questions for exploration, text study, songs, lecture, artistic creations, poetry, light physical exercise, meditation, social justice, etc.

If you would like to present something (or would like to consider the possibility of offering something that you wish to discuss), please contact Pam Wax, pwax@bcn.net, who will again organize the evening’s schedule of offerings. But, as always, please feel free to join us, even if you are not planning to present!

Cheesecake and other dairy desserts (a Shavuot staple) are welcome.

2) Our Hudson Valley Retreat
May 18-20, Surprise Lake Camp, Cold Spring NY

CBI is partnering with Beacon Hebrew Alliance (Beacon, NY), Temple Beth El of City Island (City Island, NY) and Shtiebel (Rivertowns, NY) on an immersive Shavuot retreat weekend in the Hudson Valley May 18-20. We’ll meet at Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Springwhere we’ll gather with other seekers for an incredible opportunity to connect with powerful teachings, beautiful music, stupendous natural surroundings and each other.

Teachers include Rabbi Rachel, Rabbi David Evan Markus, Rabbi Brent Spodek, Rabbi Ben Newman, and Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz of The Gefilteria, a new kind of food venture launched with the mission of reimagining eastern European Jewish cuisine and adapting classic dishes to the values and tastes of a new generation. There will be yoga, hiking, learning, singing, and more.

What revelation awaits you this year? What are the emotional, intellectual and spiritual “first fruits” that you want to uplift and be thankful for? Join us, and open yourself to transformation! Learn more and register here

Don’t Miss Our Hudson Valley Shavuot Retreat

 

RB NEWCome join us on retreat for Shavuot, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mt. Sinai as well as the first fruits of the growing season.

CBI is partnering with Beacon Hebrew Alliance (Beacon, NY), Temple Beth El of City Island (City Island, NY) and Shtiebel (Rivertowns, NY) on an immersive Shavuot retreat weekend in the Hudson Valley May 18-20. We’ll meet at Surprise Lake Camp in Cold Springwhere we’ll gather with other seekers for an incredible opportunity to connect with powerful teachings, beautiful music, stupendous natural surroundings and each other.

We’re also particularly excited to welcome scholars-in-residence, Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz, co-founders of The Gefilteria, a new kind of food venture launched in 2012 with the mission of reimagining eastern European Jewish cuisine and adapting classic dishes to the values and tastes of a new generation.

What revelation awaits you this year? What are the emotional, intellectual and spiritual “first fruits” that you want to uplift and be thankful for? Join us, and open yourself to transformation!

Highlights include:

  • Incredible teachers (see below!)

  • Daily opportunities for spiritual practice

  • Robust Children’s Program

  • Amazing hiking and more

Financial aid is available, to apply please email BHA Administrator, Faith Adams at faith@beaconhebrewalliance.org.

Here’s the event page describing the retreat (contains the same information that you see here).

To register, click on the “Register Now” button at the top or bottom of that page, or click here!

Our Faculty

Liz Alpern & Jeffrey Yoskowitz are the co-founders of The Gefilteria and co-authors of The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods, a National Jewish Book Award finalist in 2016. Both Liz and Jeffrey are leaders in the Jewish Food Renaissance and have been featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for food and wine and named to the Forward 50. Liz’s career in food is driven by her passion for bringing people together. Based in Brooklyn, Liz travels around the globe as a cook, recipe tester, educator and entrepreneur. Alpern holds an MBA from Baruch College and is a faculty member in the Culinary Entrepreneurship Program at the International Culinary Center in NYC. Jeffrey fell in love with the art of lacto-fermentation while training as a farmer and a pickler at Adamah farm. He has since worked in the food world as an entrepreneur, consultant, cook, educator and writer. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Tablet, among other publications.

Rabbi Rachel Barenblata Founding Builder at Bayit: Your Jewish Home and a fellow of Rabbis Without Borders, was named in 2016 by the Forward as one of America’s Most Inspiring RabbisShe holds dual ordination from ALEPH as rabbi and mashpi’ah (spiritual director). Since 2011 Rachel has served as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel(North Adams, MA). She also served as past co-chair of ALEPH and interim Jewish chaplain to Williams College.  She holds an MFA in Writing and Literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and is author of five volumes of poetry, among them 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda Press, 2016) and Texts to the Holy (Ben Yehuda 2018). Since 2003 she has blogged as The Velveteen Rabbiand in 2008 TIME named her blog one of the top 25 sites on the internet. She has taught at the Academy for Spiritual Formationthe National Havurah Institute, the ALEPH Kallah, many congregations around New York and New England, and Beyond Wallsa writing program for clergy of many faiths at the Kenyon Institute. Her downloadable Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah for Pesach has been used around the world.

Rabbi David Markus, a Founding Builder at Bayit: Your Jewish Home and fellow of Rabbis Without Borders, is co-rabbi of Temple Beth El of City Island (New York, NY).  He is immediate Past Chair of ALEPH, and continues to serves as ALEPH permanent faculty in spiritual direction and adjunct faculty in rabbinics.  Rabbi David has taught for Yeshivat Maharat (Orthodox) and the National Havurah Committee (trans-denominational), and congregations throughout North America. He is a syndicated blogger for My Jewish LearningThe Wisdom Daily and The Jewish Studio; his works on Jewish spirituality have appeared in numerous academic and liturgical books. By day, he serves as judicial referee in New York Supreme Court, Ninth Judicial District, which makes Rabbi David the only North American pulpit rabbi also to hold a full-time oath of office.  He earned double ordination as rabbi and mashpia (spiritual director) from ALEPH; a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School; a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he earned the global “innovator in public service” designation and the Wilmers Fellowship for State and Local Government; and a B.A. from Williams College.  He lives in Westchester County, NY.

Rabbi Ben Newman is the founder and spiritual leader of ShtiebelHe served for 7 years as the rabbi of Congregation Har Shalom in Fort Collins, CO, along with his wife Rabbi Shoshana Leis. Rabbi Ben received a B.A. from Skidmore College in Religion and Culture, an M.A. in Jewish Studies from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and rabbinical ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York. He previously served as the Associate Rabbi for JRF Congregation M’vakshe Derekh in Scarsdale, New York. Rabbi Ben is the author of a series of children’s’ books called The Enchanted Sukkah about a time travelling sukkah. In addition to being a writer and a rabbi, Ben is a singer-songwriter who delights in chanting, playing guitar, and using an Indian instrument called a shruti box. He also enjoys reading Jewish literature of all types, as well as science fiction (his favorite author is Philip K Dick), philosophy and beat poetry. Rabbi Ben lives by the shores of the Hudson River in Dobbs Ferry, NY and his greatest joy is being father to his daughter and his son.

Rabbi Bradley Solmsen serves as the executive director of Surprise Lake Camp based in Cold Spring, New York. Surprise Lake is one of the oldest Jewish residential camps and is known for its breathtaking grounds as well as its strong sense of community and inclusiveness. Prior to joining the SLC team, Bradley served as the director of youth engagement for the Union for Reform Judaism and served as the director of Brandeis University’s Office of High School Programs. Rabbi Solmsen was ordained at The Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and received a masters degree in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. Bradley has held fellowships from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Brandeis University and currently is a Schusterman Senior Fellow. He has extensive experience working with youth, training staff and overseeing camp, travel and residential programs in Israel and North America. Bradley is married to Aliza Kline and is the proud abba of Ela, Gila and Nomi.

Rabbi Brent Chaim Spodek has been recognized by the Jewish Forward as one of the most inspiring rabbis in America, Hudson Valley Magazine as a Person to Watch and by Newsweek as “a rabbi to watch.” He is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute and a Fellow of the Schusterman Foundation.  Before coming to Beacon Hebrew Alliance, he served as the Rabbi in Residence at American Jewish World Service and the Marshall T. Meyer Fellow at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York.  Brent holds rabbinic ordination and a masters in philosophy from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was the first recipient of the Neubauer Fellowship. Prior to entering the rabbinate, he attended Wesleyan University and worked as a daily journalist in Durham, NC. A selection of Brent’s teachings are available here.  He lives in Beacon with his wife Alison, a professor of environmental chemistry at Vassar College and their two children, Noa and Abraham.

Again, here’s the event page describing the retreat (contains the same information that you see here).

To register, click on the “Register Now” button at the top or bottom of that page, or click here!

 

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.

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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

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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 hazon.org/calendar/shavuot.

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 hazon.org/calendar/shavuot.

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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!