You are always welcome

Shavua tov / a good week to you!

This is a special week; this coming weekend we’ll be celebrating as one of the young ladies of our congregation becomes bat mitzvah.

Some of you have mentioned to me recently that you’re never sure whether you’re welcome at our b’nei mitzvah celebrations, especially when we have a Shabbat afternoon/evening bat mitzvah celebration, since that is a time when we do not usually gather at CBI. I am writing today to assure you that you are always welcome and your presence is always desired.

Our services are always open to the community, and we welcome all of our community members to come and daven (pray) with us every Shabbat — especially on these special days when we celebrate our young people coming of age. That’s true whether we’re meeting at our usual Shabbat morning hour of 9:30am, or at 5pm for mincha, maariv and havdalah.

Celebrations of b’nei mitzvah usually take place at a time when Torah is read. In Jewish tradition, Torah is read on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings — and also on Shabbat afternoons, during the afternoon service known as mincha, which means “offering.”  (It’s named after the afternoon offering we used to make at the Temple in Jerusalem.)

Some of our families choose to mark b’nei mitzvah by having their children called to the Torah on Shabbat morning. Others choose to mark this moment by having their children called to the Torah on Shabbat afternoon. As it happens, of our two bat mitzvah celebrations this summer, one family chose morning and one family chose afternoon — so our community will get to experience both.

Most of us are familiar with Shabbat morning prayer, but may be less familiar with the experience of sanctifying Shabbat afternoon as it slides toward evening. Shabbat afternoon is a special time with a special ta’am or spiritual flavor. Coming together as Shabbat afternoon begins to give way to evening feels different from coming together on Shabbat morning. These final hours of Shabbat are extra-sweet because we know that Shabbat will soon be ending. One tradition holds that God is nearest to us as Shabbat mincha-time gives way to evening.

I hope that you will join us for both of our celebrations of bat mitzvah this summer — this weekend at 5pm; and Saturday July 11 at 9:30am — to experience these two different moments of Shabbat time and these two different flavors of community prayer, and to celebrate Rose and Molly as they take their place as engaged, participatory Jews in our community.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Shlach-Lecha.

Shavua tov – a  good week to you!
This week we’re reading the Torah portion known as Shlach-lecha in the book of Bamidbar (“In the Wilderness,” a.k.a. Numbers.) return-to-shabbat
If 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: Shlach-Lecha | URJ.

This coming Shabbat morning, services will be led by Rabbi Dennis Ross. 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!

Eldad, Medad, and Reb Zalman’s tisch – a d’var Torah for B’ha’alot’kha

Furniture-dining-room-chairs-sale-awe-dark-brown-wooden-lacquer-green-dining-chairs-framing-with-armrest-and-floral-patterned-upholstered-theme-cross-legs-buffer-teak-dining-chairs-restaurant-furniturIn the verses we just read from Beha’alot’kha, God takes the spirit which was upon Moses and places it on seventy elders, and all of them begin to prophesy. Then two other men, Eldad and Medad, also begin to prophesy. Joshua, who will be Moses’ successor, urges Moses to stop them. And Moses says, “Are you upset on my account? Would that all of God’s people were prophets!”

When we think of the English term “prophecy,” we think of foretelling the future. But that’s not what a Biblical prophet did. In the Biblical understanding, a prophet is someone who speaks for God. The great rabbi and scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches that it was the prophet’s job to offer a God’s-eye view on the world.

The Biblical prophets spoke on God’s behalf: sometimes words of love, sometimes words of caution and judgement. The prophets bequeathed to us a treasury of writings which call us toward a world redeemed.

In the Jewish understanding, prophecy isn’t about predicting the future. Prophecy seems to mean something like opening ourselves to that Voice from beyond which exhorts us to be better than we think we know how to be.

In this morning’s verses, I hear Joshua’s anxiety. His boss Moses was the only one who had a direct line to God, and now suddenly all of these people are speaking on God’s behalf — even people who weren’t invited. The familiar structure of authority is at risk of breaking down!

I can empathize with Joshua’s fear. And I love Moses’ response: oh, dear one, are you jealous on my account? You think I mind having other people connecting with God? On the contrary — I wish everyone had a clear channel through which divine spirit and wisdom could flow.

Tradition teaches that never again will there arise a prophet as great as Moshe. Today’s verses offer a glimpse of his greatness because they show us someone who was not threatened by others being uplifted too. Moses knew that connection with God is not zero-sum, and that other people opening their hearts to divine wisdom didn’t diminish his ability to do the same.

One of my favorite stories about my teacher Reb Zalman z”l is about how he used to teach at his Shabbos tisch. “Tisch” is Yiddish for “table;” it means a celebratory gathering where students gather to imbibe wisdom from their teacher, usually accompanied by singing niggunim and toasting l’chaim! Following in the footsteps of his Hasidic forebears, Reb Zalman would gather his hasidim around the table, and offer his unique and beautiful Torah, and his students would be nourished by his wisdom.

And then he would do something which his forebears didn’t do. He would invite everyone to rise, and to move one chair to the left. Now someone else was sitting in the “rebbe chair” — the big cushy seat with the armrests at the head of the table from which the rebbe was supposed to offer his teachings. And he would say, “Look inside for the Rebbe-Spark within you — and teach from there.”

And then they would do it again, and again, until everyone at the table had had the opportunity to be the teacher, the giver of wisdom, an open channel for divine grace. Everyone got to sit in the rebbe chair, both literally and metaphorically.

It was important to him that all of us learn that “rebbe” is a function, a role, into which we too can step. That we too have wisdom to give over. That we too can open our hearts to something beyond ourselves and learn to trust that the wisdom which will flow through us will be the right wisdom for this moment. That all of the power shouldn’t reside in one person, because that isn’t good for the rest of us — and it’s not good for the one person in power, either.

“Would that all of God’s people were prophets.” Would that we all felt safe enough to open our hearts and minds to divine inspiration. Would that we all trusted our intuition enough to discern when the voice urging us on is a holy one. Kein yehi ratzon — may it be so.

 

This is the d’var Torah which I offered yesterday morning at CBI. (Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

I’ve heard the story of Reb Zalman’s tisch many times. If you’d like to hear about it from someone who was there, I commend to you Reb Arthur’s post Reb Zalman: His Light is Buried Like A Seed — To Sprout.

 

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Beha’alot’kha

Shavua tov – a  good week to you! This week we’re reading the Torah portion known as Beha’alot’kha in the book of Bamidbar (“In the Wilderness,” a.k.a. Numbers.)

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’haalot’kha | URJ.

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

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!

Call for musicians!

Do you play an instrument — guitar, bass, keyboard, hand drums, ukelele, fiddle, something else…?

Will you be in town on Friday night, August 28th?

Would you like to be part of the impromptu band for that night’s special Kabbalat Shabbat (“Welcoming Shabbat”) service? (This would involve a few rehearsals beforehand.)

And/or: would you be interested in being part of a Shabbat band for evening or morning services a few times a year?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, let Rabbi Rachel know – email rabbibarenblat at gmail dot com. Thanks!

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Naso.

Shavua tov – a  good week to you! This week we’re reading the Torah portion known as Naso, from 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: Naso | URJ.

This coming Shabbat morning, services will be led by Rabbi Lori Shaller.

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!

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