Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Nitzavim… and to Rosh Hashanah!

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Please join us on Saturday at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Board member Steven Green. This week we’re reading from parashat Nitzavim.

Please join us also on Sunday at 7:30pm for Erev Rosh Hashanah services. (Our full high holiday schedule is online here.)

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’re soon to finish the month of Elul, the month that leads us to the Days of Awe. It’s traditional to pray the words of Psalm 27 during this month. (There are links to several different versions in this post.) At Shabbat services this month and during the Days of Awe we’ll be singing a new setting of verse 13 of that psalm, which you can listen to here:

(If you can’t see the embedded audio player, you can go directly to the mp3 file here, and you can find sheet music and read more about the setting and the psalm here.)

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

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Streaming CBI’s high holiday services

imagesDear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

It brings us endless joy to see many of your faces in our sanctuary during the Days of Awe. And… we know that not everyone can make it to services in person, and we want to make our davenen accessible to those who are homebound or not (or no longer) local.

With help from Marc Savitt, we’re planning to livestream some of our high holiday services — erev Rosh Hashanah and the first morning of Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidre, and Yom Kippur morning. (We may also livestream Ne’ilah, the closing service of Yom Kippur.)

We’ll be doing the streaming via Facebook Live, and our hope is that the services will be viewable while they are happening and the videos will also be archived for later viewing.

Please “follow” CBI’s Facebook page. Shortly before 7:30pm ET on September 9, and shortly before 9:30am ET on September 10, a video should appear on that Facebook account which you can watch in realtime or after the fact. (Please refer to our complete schedule of services for Yom Kippur times.) Click the video to enter viewing mode.

For more information, see How to watch a Facebook Live video. (Please be aware, however, that there will not be anyone monitoring questions and comments on the livestream while services are happening. We’ll have a laptop set up in the sanctuary to film the services, but no one will be available to answer questions during davenen.)

We hope that this helps connect more of you with the northern Berkshire Jewish community and with our collective and individual prayer life at this holy time of year.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel and Hazzan Randall

What we choose to serve – a d’varling for Shabbat Ki Tavo

SONY DSCLate in this week’sTorah portion, Ki Tavo, there’s a set of blessings and curses. Torah promises us that if we follow the mitzvot and walk in God’s ways we will be blessed with abundance, and if we turn away we will experience curses. And then Torah says:

Because you would not serve Adonai your God in joy and gladness over the abundance of everything, you shall have to serve — in hunger and thirst, naked and lacking everything — the enemies whom Adonai will let loose against you. (Deuteronomy 28:47-48.)

Some of us may struggle with the notion of a vengeful God Who would repay us for breaking faith in these ways. (That’s certainly not my God-concept.) But what happens if we read the verse not prescriptively but descriptively? In other words: this isn’t about what God will “do to us” if we turn away from the mitzvot. This is about the natural consequences of choosing to turn away from a path of holiness.

Does the idea of serving make us uncomfortable? Maybe we want to say, I’m nobody’s servant — I live for my own self! But in Torah’s frame, that’s an impossibility. Once we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and God brought us out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm: not so that we could be self-sufficient and serve our own needs, but so that we could enter into covenant with God and serve the Holy One.

Everyone serves something. That’s a fact of human life. The question is what we will choose to serve, and how.

In Torah’s understanding, either we can dedicate our lives to serving the Holy One of Blessing — through the practice of mitzvot both ritual and ethical; through feeding the hungry and protecting the vulnerable; through cultivating gratitude for life’s abundance; through working to rebuild and repair the world; through the work of teshuvah, turning ourselves around — or we can turn our backs on all of that.

And if we turn our backs on all of that, says Torah, we will find ourselves serving a master who is cruel and uncaring. Maybe that master will be overwork. Maybe that master will be a political system that mistreats the immigrant and the refugee. Maybe that master will be whatever we use to numb ourselves to the brokenness around and within us.

But there really isn’t any other choice. We can’t choose not to serve. We can’t choose to be completely self-sufficient and not bound in relationship — that’s not how the world works. In Torah’s stark framing, either we can serve God or we can serve something else, and the inevitable fruits of serving something else will be disconnection and lack and facing down a slew of internal enemies.

This is not to say that if we are facing internal enemies like anxiety and depression, it’s a sign that we’ve turned away from the mitzvot or turned away from God. Many of us are plagued by those internal adversaries, and I thank God for the abundance of tools at our disposal for helping us deal with them, from therapy to spiritual direction to all of the practices that can help us maintain an even keel.

Being servants of the Divine doesn’t mean we’ll be spared those challenges. But  Torah says that if we turn away from the obligation to serve, we’ll meet with what feels like enmity. If we turn away from the obligation to serve, we’ll experience lack — maybe because our needs won’t be met, and maybe because we won’t have cultivated the mindset that would enable us to feel grateful for what we have.

Choosing to serve God means choosing to be in relationship. It means choosing love, and choosing hope, and choosing ethical actions, and choosing spiritual practice, and choosing to work toward repairing both the broken world and our broken hearts. Choosing to serve God means choosing to be attentive both to the needs of others and to our own neshamot, our own souls.

As you walked into this sanctuary this morning you may or may not have noticed the words emblazoned over the doors: עבדו עת–ה׳ בשמחה / ivdu et Hashem b’simcha, “Serve God with joy.” Over our ark is the other half of the verse from Psalm 100, באו לפניו ברננה / bo’u l’fanav birnanah, “come into the Presence with gladness.”

The question I invite us to sit with this morning is this: what does it mean to serve the One with joy? Is the verse urging us to serve God and to do so joyously — or to cultivate joy and make that a form of holy servive? And what would it feel like to come into the Presence with gladness: to feel in our hearts and know in our minds that we are surrounded and suffused with holy Presence, and to be glad?

What would it look like, what would it feel like, to do our teshuvah work from that place?

Shabbat shalom.

 

 

This is the d’varling that Rabbi Rachel offered at CBI this morning. (Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Ki Tavo

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Please join us on Friday at 5:30pm for Sing Your Way Into Shabbat with Rabbi Pam, and Saturday at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Rachel. This week we’re reading from parashat Ki Tavo.

Please join us also on Sunday at 2pm for our annual cemetery service in the CBI cemetery in Clarksburg.

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’ve entered into the month of Elul, the month that leads us to the Days of Awe. It’s traditional to pray the words of Psalm 27 during this month. (There are links to several different versions in this post.) At Shabbat services this month and during the Days of Awe we’ll be singing a new setting of verse 13 of that psalm, which you can listen to here:

(If you can’t see the embedded audio player, you can go directly to the mp3 file here, and you can find sheet music and read more about the setting and the psalm here.)

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

Contemplative Meditation – a guest post from Steven Green

Morning! Last year between Selichot and Yom Kippur I did a spiritual practice that I would like to share with you.

As you know, Rose and I have been sharing a contemplative practice on Yom Kippor afternoon. Last year as I was preparing, I realized that between Selichot and Yom Kippur was about 13 days. During HHD we recite the “13 Attributes” many times. I started contemplating each attribute, one per day, until YK. By the time we began chanting the 13 Attributes in our service I had become intimately familiar with all of them. This made that part of the service much more meaningful.

I will be doing that practice again this year and invite you to join me!

Below you will find part of the handout we used last year in our YK practice with an explanation of how to do a contemplation. You will also find the English translation of the 13 Attributes. Please note: This year it is 15 days from Selichot to Rosh HaShana which, coincidentally, in Hebrew is spelled such that it is a name of G!D: Yah. This can be an auspicious practice this year!

If you intend to take up this practice, let me know. If you have any questions on the mechanics of how one might conduct a contemplative practice please do not hesitate to contact me – I would welcome the opportunity to work with you on this.

Shana Tova,

Steven

Instructions for Contemplative Meditation 

  1. Calm the mind by resting on the breathing.
  2. When you feel ready, bring up a certain thought or intention in the form of words.
  3. Use these words as the object of meditation, continually returning to them as distractions arise.
  4. In order to help rouse the heartfelt experience of their meaning, think about the words. Bring ideas and images to mind to inspire the meaning.
  5. As the meaning of the words begins to penetrate, let the words drop away, and rest in that.
  6. Become familiar with that meaning as it penetrates.
  7. Conclude your session and arise from meditation with the meaning in your heart. “Meaning” is direct experience, free of words.
  8. Now enter the world aspiring to conduct yourself with the view of your contemplation. For example, if you have been contemplating the preciousness of human birth, your view will be one of appreciation.

From, Turning Your Mind Into An Ally, Sakyong Mipham

 

FOR CONTEMPLATION

 

The Thirteen Attributes

Adonai, Adonai, G!D of mercy and grace, patient, loving and faithful, Who extends love to the thousandth generation, forgiving transgression, rebellion and sin, and granting pardon.

 

CBI Calendar for the Days of Awe 5779

Havdalah & Selichot (“Forgiveness“) service, Sat. August 25, 8-9pm

    (potluck dessert reception to follow)

Cemetery Service , Walker Street, Sun. Sept. 2, 2-2:30pm

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah First Evening service, Sun. September 9, 7:30-9pm

Rosh Hashanah First Day morning service, Mon. September 10, 9:30am-12:30pm

Children’s service, 10am (childcare all morning)

      Tashlich (casting bread upon the waters) to follow

       Rosh Hashanah Lunch to follow  (the Orchards) please RSVP by 9/5. ($18)

Renewing Second Day morning service, Tues. September 11, 9:30am-12pm

 

Yom Kippur

Kol Nidre (with childcare) Tues. Sept. 18, 6:30pm (arrive at 6:00 for music to open the heart)

Yom Kippur Morning service, Weds. September 19, 9:30am-12:30pm

Children’s service, 10am (childcare all morning)

Yizkor /Memorial Service will take place at the end of the morning service

Contemplative Practice with Steven Green and Rose Ellis, 3-4pm

Yom Kippur Afternoon service, 4-5:30pm

Yom Kippur Ne’ilah service, 6:30pm (sundown: 6:47pm)

       Yom Kippur Break-The-Fast: after services. Please RSVP by Sept. 7. ($20; kids $7)

Sukkot

Sukkot / Shabbat Potluck, Fri. Sept. 28, 5:30pm. Please RSVP by Sept. 24.

Shemini Atzeret services with Yizkor, Mon. Oct. 1, 11am-12pm

 

cbiweb.org, http://www.facebook.com/CBINorthAdams, 413-663-5830

Congregation Beth Israel: 53 Lois Street, North Adams MA 01247

NO TICKETS FOR ANY SERVICES – all are welcome.

 

Here’s this schedule as a one-page downloadable PDF:  Days of Awe 2018 [pdf]

Music for the season

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Music is one of the doors to the heart. The service known as Selichot (“Pardons”) is our first opportunity to immerse in high holiday music each year. Here are some of the melodies you’ll hear at CBI at Selichot (this Saturday night, August 25, at 8pm!)

Lulei He’emanti (Psalm 27:13)

(If you can’t see the embedded audio player, you can go directly to the mp3 here.) Melody by Rabbi David Markus.

The Thirteen Attributes

Melody source unknown; text from Torah. When we sing it here, we also often sing an English translation that fits to the same melody.

Ki Anu Amecha – For We Are Your People

The melody is “traditional” (source unknown). When we sing it here, we sometimes sing an English translation that fits to the same melody.

Return Again

Recorded by Neshama Carlebach; melody by her father.

Adon HaSelichot – Master of Pardons

“Traditional” Israeli melody. I first learned it at the Brookline Havurah Minyan, probably 20 years ago.

Achat Sha’alti – One Thing I Ask

Melody by I. Katz. When we sing this here, we also often sing an English translation that fits to the same melody.

If you’d like to listen to more high holiday music, either to familiarize yourself with the melodies and words or just to “get in the mood,” I highly recommend Tekiah from B’nei Jeshurun in New York City — at that link you can stream many of the songs of the high holiday liturgy, performed by their hazzan, musicians, and choir, and you can pick up a copy of the CD if you are so inclined. (We use many of the same melodies that they do.)

I hope to post again as the Days of Awe draw nearer with links to some of the other melodies we’ll be using here over the holidays.

May listening to (and singing!) these melodies prepare our hearts to open as we approach this most awesome and powerful time of year.

Wishing you blessings as we move deeper into Elul —

Rabbi Rachel