Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – January 11

Rabbi HoltzIn this week’s parasha we read about the plagues in Egypt, and of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in response to those plagues.  He has evidence before him of the inevitability of God’s victory, but still he refuses to let the people go.  The sages wonder about that phrase, “hardening his heart.”  Is it stubbornness?  Evil?  Stupidity?  One thought is that it might just have been a habit.  Pharaoh, the master of Egypt, god-incarnate to his people, was not used to being challenged or confronted by anyone.  His automatic response to anyone challenging his authority was “No!”  And despite the mounting evidence before him, despite the increasing suffering of the Egyptians through each successive plague, he was unable to break the habit of automatically rejecting any request that challenged his authority.  We know how that worked out for him…

This leads me to some questions for your Shabbat meditation:  1) what are the issues/people/moments/events to which or in which you habitually and automatically say “no?”  Is it time to reconsider that response?  2) what negative habit(s) would you like to change?  Wouldn’t you like to do it now, before the plagues start?

Shabbat shalom!

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Shabbat Greetings from Pamela Barkley – January 4

pam barkleySo how did it feel to take that much-needed breath?

Just before the winter break, I wrote here that the time between Christmas and New Year’s was a gift. Given the anxiety that plagued many of us throughout the late fall and early winter, this vacation period was a chance to recoup and recharge. Did you remember to breathe in and exhale slowly? Did you take time to connect with others? Did you find a way to hit your personal reset button?

I hope so. Because ready-or-not, here the new year comes! 2013 is officially underway and with it, the daily grind begins again. Carpools, making dinner, doing homework, taking out the garbage, making doctors appointments, laundry……it’s all back and ready to overwhelm us if we let it. And maybe that’s the key – not letting it overwhelm.  How can we remember to take breaths on a more consistent basis throughout the year – not just during vacation periods?  How can we make sure that all the logistics of our lives don’t prevent us from actually enjoying our lives? I think it starts by just acknowledging to ourselves that this is a goal. Because although there will be new things to stress about and there will be demands made on us and there will, sadly, be more tragedies around the world, we can also remember what it felt like to feel recharged. We can remember, consciously, to breathe.

Wishing you all a 2013 filled with deep and boundless breaths!

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Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – December 28

Rabbi Holtz

 

As New Year’s Eve approaches, I’m reminded once again of the difference between this joyous secular holiday on the one hand, and the way Jews celebrate the joyous holy day of Rosh Hashanah.  Rabbi Sidney Greenberg once pointed out that at Rosh Hashanah we traditionally wish each other “a gut yahr – a good year” rather than “Happy New Year.”  He said that this is because there is a world of difference between a holiday and a holy day:

  • On holidays we run away from duties; on holy days we face up to them.
  • On holidays we seek to let ourselves go; on holy days we try to bring ourselves under control.
  • On holidays we try to empty our minds; on holy days we attempt to replenish our spirits.
  • On holidays we reach out for the things we want; on holy days we reach up for the things we need.
  • Holidays bring a change of scene; Holy days bring a change of heart.

As we prepare to bid adieu to 2012, I ask you to remember the promises you made to yourself in September as we ushered in 5773.  And I invite you to join me tonight at 5:45, as we welcome the last Shabbat of the year.

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Shabbat Greetings from Pamela Barkley – December 21

It’s time to take a collective breath.

So far, it has been a pretty crazy fall/winter for all of us with hurricanes, both natural and man-made, wreaking havoc on our emotions.  Everything has seemed a little harder than usual, a little more challenging.  No sooner did we bounce back from one thing, did another tragedy strike.

But vacation week is upon us. This is a chance for all of us to stop, take a little break and recharge. It is a time where we can just take a long, deep breath. I truly hope you all can see this week as the gift that it is. If ever there was a need for a little space, a little R&R, a little respite, this is it! Take the time between now and New Year’s to reconnect – with your loved ones, with your friends, with your inner self.

The Hebrew word for breath is “Neshema”. This is from the same root as the word for soul, “Neshahmah.” May the breaths you take over the next week rejuvenate your soul so that you can approach 2013 refreshed and restored!

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Shabbat Greetings from Cantor Margot Goldberg – December 14

Shabbat Shalom!  Tonight’s services should be very special and I hope that you are planning on being with us.  Our Torah portion, Mikeitz, is about Joseph; who interprets Pharoah’s dreams and saves not only the people of Egypt, but the Israelites, by planning to collect food during the years of plenty to feed the people during the years of famine.   If it weren’t for dreamers, we wouldn’t be the people that we are today; we might not even be here. If it weren’t for those who had a dream of what Judaism could look like in the Land of Israel, it certainly would have been invaded long ago.  If it weren’t for dreamers, nothing would change.

We have many dreamers here at TBA.  There are those who dream of a renovated building and, because of their dream, determination, and generosity we have a beautiful new sanctuary.  There are those who dream of changes in our worship and so over the last couple of years, we brought in a new instrument, a new prayer book, and now are experimenting with different times for worship.

There are those who dream of not only more attendees, but more participation in worship. So this week,  Jodie Lane will be joining me on the bima and we will be leading both services together in celebration of Shabbat and Chanukah.  Jodie has put together a small choir who will help us lead services, which will include more music than usual: new, familiar and original pieces.  Under Jodie’s direction, help, and in-collaboration we are trying to work with our prayer book, which still feels new, to create a more participatory worship experience.  Whether you are comfortable singing, reading along, or engaging in conversation. we feel that there is a place for everyone in our worship space and hope that you will join us at whatever level you are comfortable.

There are those who dream of new models of education for our children.  This Friday night is also the next family program experience for our 5th grade class.  Under Pam Barkley’s direction, the Religious School, in collaboration with LOMED (Learner Outcomes and Measurement for effective Educational Design), is experimenting with a potential new model for Religious School.  The 5th grade teachers have been working with Pam and an advisory committee guided by LOMED to create different models of learning from the typical classroom model, to field trips, to family education, and online shared projects.  For more information, see Pam’s article in the upcoming January bulletin.

This Friday night will be very special, I hope that you will join us!

L’shalom,
Cantor Margot Goldberg

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Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – December 7

Chanukah begins tomorrow night.  We use the havdalah candle, symbolizing the end of Shabbat, to light the shammash on the menorah, as we welcome the Festival of lights.  I will be in Washington, DC with the Confirmation class, where we will celebrate the end of Shabbat and the beginning of Chanukah at the Jefferson Memorial.  Jefferson was the great champion of the separation of church and state, and it is largely thanks to him that religious minorities have flourished in the United States.  On Sunday, we will be attending the lighting of the National Menorah on the ellipse outside the White House.  Both of these ceremonies are a reminder of the religious freedoms we enjoy, freedoms that the Maccabees had to fight a war to achieve.  As you begin your own Chanukah celebrations, I encourage you to add freedom of religion to the list of miracles for which we are grateful.  Chag Sameach!

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Shabbat Greetings from Cantor Margot Goldberg – November 30

Shabbat Shalom!  Black Friday, Small Business Saturday (AMEX), Cyber-Monday, and now Latkepalooza!  It seems as if CVS has been ready for the winter holidays since the spring and the Jewish community is constantly aware that either the holiday is too early or too late.  The holidays are always right on time in the Jewish calendar; the issue is how the lunar and solar calendars work in tandem.  Our lunar calendar adds a leap month seven times in every 19-year cycle, so as to keep the holidays in their proper season.  For example, it would be odd to celebrate Passover, known as Chag ha-Aviv, or Spring Festival, in October.  So as we enter the winter holiday season, I wonder how you are planning to spend your Chanukah time and your Chanukah dollars.  The internet is filled with Chanukah ideas for gifts, recipes, virtual candle lighting, and the list goes on.  For example, the Union for Reform Judaism has a whole page dedicated to links that might be helpful as you plan you Chanukah festivities.  Here at TBA, there are opportunities for you to shop, donate, and celebrate.  We hope that you will join us this Sunday, December 2 from 9-3 for an array of activities and shopping opportunities at Latkepalooza, our Tikkun Olam team has created 4 opportunities for you to share your abundance with Light One Candle, the UJA Gift of Chanukah Program, donations of oil and onions for the food pantry, and our annual coat and sweater drive for La Asociacion.  The 6th night of Chanukah has been designated as Ner Shel Tzedakah, where we would like to encourage you to discuss with your family giving gifts to others rather than yourselves by either donating to charity, giving a gift to UJA, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or the charity that speaks most to your families values.

Please join us on December 14 for the 7th night of Chanukah for services at 5:45pm or 8:00pm with a dinner in the middle at 7:00pm (reservations with the office a must).

However you and your family choose to spend the holidays, I hope that your homes are filled with the light and joy of the freedom that our ancestors fought so hard for and that the year to come is filled with health and happiness.

L’shalom,
Cantor Margot

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Shabbat Greetings from Pamela Barkley – November 23

I have been thinking a lot about gratitude lately and not just because of the Thanksgiving holiday.  Maybe it is the fact that my kids entered a new phase of their lives starting high school this year and have adjusted beautifully. Maybe it is because with hurricane Sandy,  it was so obvious that I had much to be thankful for. Maybe it is because with the recent election, I was overwhelmed with tears as the election results streamed in. Whatever the reason, for me, this day-of-thanks has actually been a season of thanks for so many things. I know that it is not always easy to find things to be grateful for. Bad things occur, annoying things happen, disappointments are ever-present. But that is when we have to look deepest to find our gratitude. Being  thankful when things are going well is easy. Finding small pieces of thankfulness when things are hard is a challenge.

And I hope it is a challenge you will all take on. Long after  you have finished the Turkey in your fridge, I hope that you will take with you the lessons of thankfulness that are supposed to be a regular part of our Jewish lives.  Thanksgiving “leftovers” can be in our lives every single day. Try finding one thing, right now as you read this, that  you are thankful for. And then tomorrow, see if you can do the same. What would it look like if saying “I am thankful for____” became a daily habit in your life?

Wishing you all a Shabbat filled with peace, love and of course, gratitude.

Pamela Joy Barkley

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Shabbat Greetings from Cantor Margot Goldberg – November 16

Shabbat Shalom!  In this month’s issue of Real Simple magazine, I came across a wonderful article called “how to say grace” by Kate Braestrup (click here to view).  It is wonderful and I can’t stop reading it.  She speaks about how to prepare to bless a meal.  At first glance, blessing a meal is easy for us, we say motzi and eat.  But blessing a meal, for example Thanksgiving, is not so easy.  It is like a toast.  As we gather family and friends together, we feel a pressure to mark the occasion, welcome our guests, thank the cook(s), and say something extraordinary that will match the feeling of the occasion.  Kate Braestrup goes on to say that in order to create a proper blessing, and I would like to suggest in order to hear the blessing, you have to stop doing other things, you have to be present, and you have to listen.  She suggests that grace could simply be silence and taking the time to focus and listen to the sound of our own breath and the breath of those around us.  She tells a story about “a rabbi who explained the Jewish prohibition against speaking or writing the name of God, lest it be taken in vain.  ‘Many think it’s actually impossible to speak or write the true name of God,’ the rabbi said.  ‘Because the name of God is the sound of breathing.  Breathing in…breathing out.'”  This article/story is not just about saying grace, it is not just about Thanksgiving, it is about prayer.  In order to pray, we need to stop doing other things, we have to be present, we have to breathe.  Join us at TBA this Shabbat and take a moment for yourself to listen to your breath, to hear the breath of those around you, and to be with God.

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Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – November 9

Now that the election is over and it’s once again safe to answer the phone without fear of robo-calls, it’s time to look a little further ahead.  As a group, Jews have long been very involved in American politics, seeing it as a civic responsibility, as a way to concretize Jewish values, and as an act of enlightened self-interest.  I’ve just had a fascinating conversation with Rabbi David Saperstein, the long-time director of the Religious Action Center in Washington, about the implications of Tuesday’s vote for Jews and the country at large, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you on Friday at 8:00 pm.  Or, you might prefer to be at the 5:45 pm service, which lets you pray, then go home, kick off your shoes, and linger over dinner.  Either way, you have a chance to give thanks for your blessings, end the week, and start the weekend with a spiritual recharge.  And, in case you just can’t be there, remember that we’re now streaming both services live on the internet; simply go to the website, and click on the link.  We’re making it easier – and more meaningful – than ever to make Shabbat worship a part of your week.  Shabbat Shalom!

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