Consultation on Conscience Conference next spring

The Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement will be sponsoring their next Consultation on Conscience conference April 30-May 2.

What is Consultation on Conscience?
Consultation on Conscience is the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s biennial social justice leadership conference. Held over three days in Washington, D.C., Consultation empowers the Reform Jewish Movement through leadership development; opportunities for network and community building; and active dialogue culminating in an afternoon of advocacy on Capitol Hill. It is open to Congregational Delegations as well as individuals looking to build relationships and deepen their engagement in the fight for progressive social change in North America.

In 2017, there will be a special focus on issues of racial justice, including conversations on how to better organize to combat voter suppression and the staggering problem of mass incarceration in America.

To sign up, go to http://www.rac.org/consultation-conscience-2017-registration — and there is a discount rate if you register before 11/22. Rabbi Pam Wax and Chaim Bronstein are planning to go, and hope that others from CBI will do so as well.

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Vayera.

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to all!

return-to-shabbat Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Lori Shaller. This week we’re reading parashat Vayera. 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: Vayeira at the URJ.

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact the office.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

On grief and moving forward

Dear all,

This morning I presided over a funeral for a beloved member of our congregation. It was hard to shake the sense that many of us were mourning not only that loss, but also the loss of a vision of our nation as a place of hope and inclusion. Even those who are happy with yesterday’s outcome may be feeling shaken by the reminder of how stark are the divisions within our nation.

To everyone who is feeling grief today, I say: it is okay to feel how you are feeling. Whatever you are feeling, take permission to feel it. Let yourself grieve.

Take comfort in what you can: the presence of friends or family, whatever sweetness or kindness you can find, a cup of coffee, the fact that the sun rose this morning.

Recognize that grief comes and goes in its own rhythms. So, too, does healing. Be gentle with yourself today and in days to come. Be gentle with those you encounter.

When grief is strong, it can seem impossible to imagine that one will ever feel differently. But this is not all there is. Loss is not all there is. Grief is not all there is.

Jewish tradition wisely instructs mourners to retreat from the world for a week. The customs of shiva are designed to insulate mourners from the hard edges of the outside world. They remind us to take the time we need to tell stories, to remember, and to grieve.

At the end of shiva, there is a custom of leaving one’s house through one door, walking around the block, and then entering the house through a different door. We will emerge from our grief changed by the experience of the grieving. We will exit what was and enter into something new.

In this week’s Torah portion, Lech-Lecha, God calls Avram to leave his home and go forth into the place that God will show him. The opening words are often translated as “Go forth,” but they can also be understood to mean “Go into yourself.” Like Avram, we too are called to journey deep into ourselves, to dedicate ourselves to the spiritual work of becoming.

Avram had to leave everything that was familiar. He too must have felt that he had lost his narrative about who he thought he was and what he thought was ahead of him. But somehow he found the strength for the journey, and so will we.

We may need to grieve, but we must resist despair. Despair is corrosive, and it denies our agency and our ability to create change.

We can cultivate hope. We can build a better world. We owe it to ourselves and to those who will come after us to continue trying to build a world of justice and lovingkindness, a world in which no one need fear abuse or mistreatment, a world in which diversities of all kinds — of race and creed and sexual orientation — are honored and celebrated. A world in which the vulnerable are protected. A world in which bigotry and hatred vanish like smoke, and generosity of spirit and compassion prevail.

In this moment I don’t know how we will do that. I don’t know what steps we will take or how they will get us where we need to go. But I know that this is the journey to which we are called, and that we will journey together.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel


You may find comfort, as I did, in this from Rabbi David Evan Markus: The Day After.

 

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Lech Lecha.

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to all! Before we get to Shabbat information, here is a link to a post on my personal blog containing two prayers for voting, one written by Rabbi Sami Barth and the other written by Rabbi David Seidenberg. Feel free to print those out and take them with you to the polls tomorrow.

return-to-shabbat Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services. This week we’re reading parashat Lech-Lecha, the third portion in 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 URJ: Lech L’cha at the URJ.

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact the office.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Safe from the storm: a d’var Torah for parashat Noach

arkwaveThis year as I read this week’s Torah portion a three-word phrase leapt out at me. It comes after the part about how Noah built the ark, and all the animals that he collected inside it — between all of those descriptions, and the Flood itself. ויסגור ה’ בעדו: “And God shut him in.”

Rashi notes that the literal meaning of this phrase is that God closed the door of the ark behind Noah, protecting him from the waters that would rage outside the door. The commentator known as the Radak writes that “God protected him against the chance of even a small hole opening in the ark as a result of the powerful rains.” One way or another, this verse seems to be saying something about God protecting Noah and keeping him safe through the storm.

As the cold weather approaches, we — like Noah — batten down the hatches. Maybe we tinker with our storm windows, spray insulation into cracks and crevices, put an extra blanket on the bed. If that’s true as we anticipate literal storms, how much more true as we anticiapte emotional and spiritual storms. Every life has periods of turbulent waters. As we face those waters, we yearn to be cared-for and tucked-in, to have God’s presence securing and protecting us.

I’m not a sailor, but I know that when big storms arise sometimes the only way through is to lower sail and let the storm rage. Often storms move us to new places: as the winds and currents can move a boat into new waters, when emotional currents surge strong they may carry us to places we didn’t expect. Authentic spiritual life asks us to weigh anchor and let ourselves be moved, trusting that even when external circumstances are swirling around us we can touch stillness and eternity.

One of the reasons to maintain spiritual practices when the sailing is smooth is so that those practices are there to sustain and protect us when storms pick up. If I remind myself every morning to pause to articulate gratitude for being alive, then maybe when the tough mornings come the habit will be engrained enough to carry me through. If I pause before sleep to try to let go of the day’s mistakes and hurts, then maybe I can wake into the infinite possibility of the new day, even when sleep came on the heels of weeping.

How can we feel secured and protected, as Noah might have felt when God lovingly closed the door behind him? Maybe it’s a phone call or a text message from a friend reminding us that we’re not alone. Maybe it’s reading an essay that makes us feel seen and understood in who we most deeply are. Maybe it’s putting on a piece of jewelry that feels like a talisman. Maybe it’s a session with a therapist who reminds us that our stories matter, or a spiritual director who companions us in our journeying.

Our liturgy tells us that we are loved by an unending love, an אהבת עולם. For me, the presence of that love is what secures the door and keeps me safe from the storm. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of that love in the love I feel for my child, or the love he feels for me. Sometimes I brush up against it in the connection between me and my most beloved friends. Sometimes I feel that love manifest in the extraordinary beauty of creation, in the rise of early morning light over our hills now dressed in November’s muted palette or the calliope song of geese migrating overhead at dusk.

What makes you feel seen and cared-for? What carries you safely through life’s storms?

 

This is the d’var Torah that Rabbi Rachel offered at CBI Shabbes. (Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

The November 2016 / Cheshvan 5777 CBI Newsletter is out!

The November 2016 / Cheshvan 5777 CBI Newsletter is now online!

Hopefully you received a copy via email. If not, you can read it online.

Looking forward to seeing you at CBI this month for some or all of the terrific happenings described in this month’s newsletter.

Shavua tov and chodesh tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Noach

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to all, and chodesh tov, a good month to all — the new month of Cheshvan begins this Tuesday, November 1.

return-to-shabbat Join us this coming Friday evening for a potluck dinner at 6pm followed by Kabbalat Shabbat services! Please RSVP to the office so we know how many chairs to set up.

And join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services. This week we’re reading parashat Noach, the second portion in 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 URJ: Noach at the URJ.

Many thanks to our shamashim, the members who host our Shabbat services each week. If you would like to join that group, please contact the office.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel