Category Archives: sukkot

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Bereshit.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat Bereshit. We’ll be reading from parashat Bereshit, the very beginning of the Torah.

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

  • And here are commentaries from the Union for Reform Judaism: B’reishit.

Sukkot continues through Wednesday evening; feel free to visit our synagogue sukkah anytime! On Wednesday evening we move into the festival of Shemini Atzeret; join us on Thursday morning at 10am for Shemini Atzeret services with Yizkor (memorial prayers).

Wishing you joy as we approach this festival of rejoicing,

Rabbi Rachel

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It’s Almost Sukkot!

sukkot_1Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Tonight at sundown we enter into the festival of Sukkot. After the hectic pace of the Days of Awe, Sukkot is a welcome opportunity to relax. The primary mitzvah of Sukkot is to dwell (or at least dine) in a sukkah for a week and to rejoice there.

Sukkot is a harvest festival. In antiquity this was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals when our ancestors would have taken the fruits of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer them to God. Today we harvest memories, emotions, and experiences. What memories from the High Holidays do you want to bring with you into the sukkah this year?

Sukkot is an opportunity to remember the Exodus from Egypt, as the sukkah is meant to remind us of the temporary shelters in which our ancestors dwelled during the forty years of wandering.

Sukkot is also an opportunity to reflect on what’s temporary and what really lasts. We move for a week into these flimsy little houses (which must have roofs made of organic material through which one can see the full moon and the stars) in part to remind ourselves that even a beautiful and stable dwelling is ultimately as temporary as a sukkah… but if we cultivate faith and trust, we can know ourselves to be sheltered beneath the Divine Presence, even if our structures / our lives / our bodies don’t last forever.

And here in northern Berkshire, Sukkot is a glorious opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors during these beautiful days of fall.

Thanks to a group of wonderful volunteers, CBI’s beautiful sukkah is once again standing behind the synagogue. Deep thanks to Ed Oshinsky, Chaim Bronstein, and Orion Howard for corn stalks and frame, to the older Hebrew school kids for so ably working on the corn stalks and siding, and to Jen Burt and her family for fabulous decoration!

Hebrew school students throwing corn stalks onto the roof.

“Our sukkah is your sukkah” — please come and take advantage of the CBI sukkah anytime during the coming week, day or night! Bring lunch to the CBI sukkah and dine there beneath the rustling cornstalks; bring dinner; bring your book group to meet there; bring a bottle of wine and enjoy the moonlight; even bring a sleeping bag and camp out if you’re so inclined! The sukkah is here for you.

And, of course, I hope you’ll join us on Friday night for our Shabbat / Sukkot potluck, where we plan to honor Bob and Barbara Bashevkin for their years of participation at CBI. Please do RSVP so that we know how many people are coming and what people plan to bring.

Chag sameach / a joyous festival to you!

Rabbi Rachel

Sukkot Updates

Dear all,

Chag sameach – wishing you joy in this festival of Sukkot!

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Our community Hebrew school enjoys our synagogue sukkah. You can too!

As a reminder: our synagogue sukkah is open to you. Come and use it anytime this week.

Please RSVP to the office for Friday night’s Shabbat / Sukkot potluck (5:30pm) so we know how many tables and chairs to set out.

Next Monday morning at 10am we’ll hold Shemini Atzeret services with Yizkor. You can read more about that here.

And next Monday afternoon at 4:15 all are welcome to join our Community Hebrew School for our celebration of Simchat Torah. We’ll say a few prayers, read a bit from Torah, sing songs, parade the Torah around the building (weather permitting) or at least around the sanctuary, and celebrate the wonderful teachings that are our inheritance! The service will be geared toward our Hebrew school kids but all ages are welcome.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov and chag sameach – happy Sukkot!

Shavua tov – a  good week to you — and chag sameach (a  joyous festival): it’s Sukkot! This coming Shabbat services will be led by Rabbi Rachel, and we’ll read the Torah reading for Shabbat when it falls during the intermediate days of Sukkot.return-to-shabbat

If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion and on this festival, some links follow:

All are also welcome to join us at 5:30pm on Friday evening for our annual Shabbat / Sukkot potluck in the sukkah (if it rains, we’ll dine indoors) which will be followed by an optional sleepover in the sukkah — please RSVP for both so we know how many people to expect.

Chag sameach – happy Sukkot!

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Tonight at sundown we enter into the festival of Sukkot. After the hectic pace of the Days of Awe, Sukkot is a welcome opportunity to relax. The primary mitzvah of Sukkot is to dwell (or at least dine) in a sukkah for a week and to rejoice there.

Sukkot is a harvest festival. In antiquity this was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals when our ancestors would have taken the fruits of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer them to God. Today we harvest memories, emotions, and experiences. What memories from the High Holidays do you want to bring with you into the sukkah this year?

Sukkot is an opportunity to remember the Exodus from Egypt, as the sukkah is meant to remind us of the temporary shelters in which our ancestors dwelled during the forty years of wandering.

Sukkot is also an opportunity to reflect on what’s temporary and what really lasts. We move for a week into these flimsy little houses (which must have roofs made of organic material through which one can see the full moon and the stars) in part to remind ourselves that even a beautiful and stable dwelling is ultimately as temporary as a sukkah… but if we cultivate faith and trust, we can know ourselves to be sheltered beneath the Divine Presence, even if our structures / our lives / our bodies don’t last forever.

And here in northern Berkshire, Sukkot is a glorious opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors during these beautiful days of fall.

Thanks to a group of wonderful volunteers, CBI’s beautiful sukkah is once again standing behind the synagogue. “Our sukkah is your sukkah” — please come and take advantage of the CBI sukkah anytime during the coming week, day or night! Bring lunch to the CBI sukkah and dine there beneath the rustling cornstalks; bring dinner; bring your book group to meet there; bring a bottle of wine and enjoy the moonlight; even bring a sleeping bag and camp out if you’re so inclined! The sukkah is here for you.

And, of course, I hope you’ll join us on Friday night for our Shabbat / Sukkot potluck. Please do RSVP to our hosts Heather Levy and/or Jen Burt so that we know how many people are coming and what people plan to bring.

(We’re also seeking a CBI host for Sukkah Cycle Sunday; participants will be bicycling between four sukkot in northern Berkshire county, and the final sukkah on the ride is supposed to be CBI’s. If you are able to be in our sukkah on Sunday and to welcome the cyclists, let us know; we can provide refreshments.)

Chag sameach / a joyous festival to you!

Rabbi Rachel

Sukkot invitations

SukkotPotluckDear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

A scant four days after Yom Kippur comes the fabulous week-long festival of Sukkot! All are welcome to join us at 2pm on Sunday, October 5, as we build the CBI sukkah together.

Sukkot begins on Wednesday, October 8. On Friday, October 10, we’ll hold a 5:30pm potluck dinner and Shabbat celebration in the sukkah; please RSVP to Jen Burt (peargirl007 at gmail dot com) or to Heather Levy (heathermai at gmail dot com) to let us know what you’re bringing.

The next night, all are invited to a Sukkot potluck in the home of new member Jen Burt, who writes:

We are planning to host a potluck  in our Sukkah for Havdalah on Sat the 11th at 6pm. Anyone in the CBI community is welcome to join us.

Our address is [redacted] in Hoosick Falls NY. The half hour drive is quite scenic. Please call [redacted] or email with any questions. Hope to see you there.

(Address and phone number are redacted for posting on the From the Rabbi blog; if you didn’t receive this information by email, feel free to call the office at 413-663-5830 and we’ll send it to you again.)
And on Sunday October 12th we’ll once again participate in “Sukkah Cycle Sunday,” a traveling sukkah party. Cyclists are invited to bike (and those who are more comfortable in cars are welcome to caravan in motorized vehicles) from the Williams College sukkah, to Bob Scherr’s sukkah, to Erin Casey and Jonah Marshall’s sukkah, to the CBI sukkah. Refreshments will be available in each sukkah, as well as the opportunity to shake the lulav, socialize with friends, and maybe even learn a little Torah! For addresses, pick up a flyer at the table in the CBI foyer when you’re here for Yom Kippur.
More Sukkot information will be forthcoming. For now — may these awesome y’mei teshuvah (“Days of Repentance / Return”) be meaningful and sweet for all of us.

Blessings to all,
Rabbi Rachel

Cloud of glory: a d’var Torah for chol ha-moed Sukkot

Here’s the d’var Torah I offered yesterday morning at CBI. (Crossposted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

This Shabbat falls during chol ha-moed, the intermediate days in the midst of the festival of Sukkot. The appointed reading for today (Exodus 33:12–34:26) does make brief mention of Sukkot. Almost at the very end of the parsha we read “And you shall observe the feast of weeks, of the first-fruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the turn of the year.” The feast of weeks is Shavuot; the feast of ingathering is Sukkot.

But mostly this parsha is about something different: a request from Moshe, and God’s intriguing answer.

“If I have found grace in Your sight, show me Your ways,” asks Moshe. And then Moshe adds, “Show me, please, Your glory.”

In response, God says: “I will make My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim My name before you, and I will manifest graciousness and mercy — but no one can look upon Me and live.”

As some of our b’nei mitzvah students would be quick to remind me, God doesn’t “look like” anything — God doesn’t have a body — so what would it even mean to look upon God?

It seems to me that the Torah here is speaking, as it so often does, in metaphor. First, Moshe asks “show me Your ways,” and God is happy to comply; in a sense, the entire Torah is God showing us God’s ways. But then Moshe asks to see God’s kavod, God’s glory. And God says, that’s not possible. Here is one reason why that might be.

Much later in our history, the kabbalists would speak of God as ein-sof, “Without End.” God is infinite, limitless, vaster than our human minds can comprehend. Any human mind which actually expands far enough to encompass all that God is would…crack open, I think. Would be stretched beyond its limits. God is precisely that infinity which we can’t comprehend.

Instead, God gives Moshe a different option: stand in a cleft of rock, and after I pass by, you can see My afterimage. I believe that we can see God’s afterimage all over creation: in our relationships, in our ethical obligations to one another, in moments of transcendence and power in our lives. Each of these is a tiny cellular glimpse of a facet of all of what God is, as in a hologram where each part contains the whole. Continue reading