Shavua tov and chodesh tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Shoftim & Shabbat Across the Berkshires

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to all, and chodesh tov / a good new month to all — happy new lunar month of Elul!

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This weekend brings Shabbat Across the Berkshires. Join us at CBI at 7pm on Friday night (note: not our usual time) for a Kabbalat Shabbat service which we hope will be attended by congregants and clergy from throughout Berkshire County. This is the first time that Shabbat Across the Berkshires has happened in North County: join us! After davenen there will be a celebratory oneg hosted by the CBI Board.

Join us also at 9:30am on Saturday morning for Shabbat morning services where we’ll read from parashat Shoftim.

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: Shoftim at the URJ.


During the month of Elul it’s customary to pray psalm 27 every day. We’ll be singing different excerpts from the psalm over the course of this month and the Days of Awe — the song “Achat Sha’alti,” which we’ve sung here for many years at this season (and here’s a beautiful instrumental version), and also the verse “Lach Amar Libi” to a melody from Nava Tehila, the Jewish Renewal congregation of Jerusalem, which we introduced last year:

Here’s an embedded mp3 of that melody so you can listen to it at home:

And here’s sheet music, for those who find sheet music useful: Psalm 27,Lakh Amar Libi notes [pdf] The words translate to “You [God] called to my heart, saying ‘seek My face;’ Your face, Source of All, is what I seek!”


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.

Seven ways to enrich your Elul

elulDear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

This weekend we’ll enter into the lunar month of Elul — the four weeks leading up to the Days of Awe. This is the time to begin the journey of introspection and reflection which can deeply enrich your experiences of the High Holidays. Who have you been, over the last year? What are the things you feel great about, the things you’re proud of? What are the things you feel not-so-great about, the places where you missed the mark?

One tradition says that Elul is the time to work on teshuvah, usually translated as “repentance” though the word really means “return,” in our relationship with God — whatever you understand that term to mean — God far above or deep within, the Source of meaning, Love, the Cosmos, the Cosmic Parent, the Beloved, whatever metaphor works best for you. This is also a good time to work on repairing our relationships with ourselves: where have we disappointed ourselves, and how can we learn to offer ourselves forgiveness? What are we most grateful for, and how can we cultivate that gratitude in our lives every day?

If we spend Elul engaged in this work, then by the time Rosh Hashanah rolls around we will already be steeped in the themes of the season, and the prayers in our prayerbook may resonate in a different way… and we’ll be better prepared to spend the Aseret Y’mei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Teshuvah between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, mending our relationships with the people in our lives. (Of course, that kind of interpersonal repair work can be done during Elul, too.)

Here are seven ways to dive deeper into Elul:

  1. Take a few minutes every day to breathe deeply, be present in the moment, and take your emotional-spiritual temperature: how are you feeling, not physically but emotionally? What’s arising in you today?
  2. On social media check out the hashtag #blogElul, which all month long will bring you blog posts and tweets on themes of repentance and return. (This is an annual thing organized by Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, a.k.a. Ima Bima.) Or check out #Reflect4Rosh, a new online pre-high-holiday initiative organized by Rabbi Dan Horowitz of The Well, which invites people to reflect each day and to post photos and reflections tagged with that hashtag.
  3. Read an Elul poem every day and spend a few moments letting the poem soak in and seeing what it awakens in you. (In my office I have copies of my collection See Me: Elul Poems available for borrowing or purchase; you can also buy the book on Amazon if you are so inclined, and if you do so, you can get the e-book for 99 cents.)
  4. Come to Shabbat services. Dip into song and prayer with our community. You may find that it opens your heart and enlivens your spirit in ways you didn’t expect… and you’ll also get some advance glimpses of some melodies we’ll be using during the Days of Awe.
  5. Read, pray, or sing Psalm 27 every day. This is the psalm our sages assigned to this month. Here are some different versions to try:
    1. Reb Zalman (z”l)’s English translation
    2. One verse of the psalm set to music, in Hebrew, by Nava Tehila
    3. Alicia Ostriker’s psalm 27
    4. Achat Sha’alti melody by I. Katz
    5. R’ Brant Rosen’s English translation 
    6. Kirtan Rabbi’s Achat Sha’alti (info) and mp3
  6. Go for a walk. Another tradition teaches that Elul is the month when God leaves the divine palace on high and wanders in the fields, waiting for us to come and walk and talk and pour out our hearts. Take time this month to walk in the fields, hike up the mountains, and silently or out loud say to God whatever you need to.
  7. Hear the shofar each day. Tradition invites us to hear the sound of the shofar during each day of Elul as a spiritual wake-up call. What do you need to wake up to: in your own life, or in the world around you? There are many shofar videos on YouTube — here’s one:

I hope that some or all of these methods speak to you. We’re entering one of my favorite months of the year. If we open ourselves to it, it can work some powerful transformations on our hearts and on our souls.

Wishing everyone an early chodesh tov — may your month of Elul be meaningful and sweet.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

 

Introduction to Judaism Class at CBI – Beginning in November

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Do you want to learn more about Judaism? Great!

Announcing a new  Introduction to Judaism class at Congregation Beth Israel:  a new program in Jewish engagement for everyone regardless of religion or background, offered in partnership with the Louis & Judith Miller  Introduction to Judaism Program at American Jewish University.

This class, taught by Rabbi Rachel, will have eighteen sessions over the course of the fall and winter, beginning in November 2016. (Schedule TBD — after the Days of Awe we’ll take a break to breathe, then dive in together, and we’ll do our best to find a class time that works for everyone who signs up.)

Free for CBI members; $60 for non-members.

To sign up, contact rabbibarenblat@gmail.com. 

The required textbook is $20; let the rabbi know if this is a hardship.

The CBI September Newsletter is Here!

The CBI September Newsletter is out! You can read it online here.

Wishing you blessings as we move toward Elul.

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Re’eh.

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to all! Join us at 9:30am on Saturday morning for Shabbat morning services where we’ll celebrate calling Adam Pomerantz to Torah as a bar mitzvah and will read from parashat Re’eh.

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

Here’s some wisdom on this week’s Torah portion from my friend and colleague Rabbi David Evan Markus: This Too is For Good: the Power of Hope.

And here’s the URJ’s compilation of commentaries on this week’s Torah portion: Re’eh 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.

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Ekev.

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to all! Join us at 9:30am on Saturday morning forShabbat morning services led by Rabbi Jarah Greenfield, where we’ll read from parashat Ekev.

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: Ekev 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.

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Va’etchanan

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov / a good week to all! Join us at 9:30am on Saturday morning for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Pam Wax, where we’ll read from parashat Va’etchanan. We’ll also celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of Carol and Eddie Oshinsky, and will call them up to the Torah for a special blessing.

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? Va-etchanan 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.