Rabbi’s Message

September 11-12
23 Elul 5780

The days of Elul are marching towards the New Year. Will we be ready? How will we prepare?

Each day brings new challenges and opportunities. In the show “Annie,” the song “Tomorrow” tries to offer a positive spin on a dark time. Yet the lyrics which say “the sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun” certainly is something we wish was true as we look at skies that are far from blue.

This week’s Torah portion (a double portion) speaks about teshuva–repentance and turning to God. In Deuteronomy 30:2-3 we are told “and you will return to Adonai your God, and you and your children will listen to God’s voice with all your heart and soul…and God will take you back in love.” In the Talmud we read (Bavli Yoma 86a) “R. Levi said: Teshuvah is great, for it reaches to the Throne of Glory, as it says, Return Israel to Adonai your God (Hoshea 14:2).” In other words, R. Levi is saying that by engaging in teshuva we may also move closer to God.

As we contemplate where we are spiritually and physically, time to focus on teshuva is deeply significant.  This weekend offers opportunities for reflection, prayer and safe distanced physical connection. Join us to welcome Shabbat on Friday at 7pm. On Saturday night we have an opportunity to delve into one of the major themes of the Holy Days—forgiveness. And on Sunday, we are holding a drive-thru High Holy Day gift bag pick-up from the parking lot. Please refer to Wednesday’s HaMadrich for all of the Zoom links and details.

Here are reflections I shared on themes from the High Holy Days as part of the Women’s Rabbinic Network Elul Reflections. CLICK HERE for youtube video.

September 4-5, 2020
16 Elul 5780

Shalom Congregation Emeth,

As Shabbat approaches, my heart is full and heavy, happy and aching all at once. There are the challenges and joys in the world and personal reflections for this time. Traveling during the pandemic has been difficult and I’ve heard from many of you how much you miss seeing family as well as going on vacation. I think now of additional travels as my youngest son leaves for college. We view travel through a new lens these past months. But we still do travel through our days even if we are not venturing far. The smoke from the fires made us appreciate the ability to walk or hike outside–to travel outdoors and not remain inside.

This month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah is a time of spiritual journeying—-leading us into the Holy Days which will include more introspection and Heshbon HaNefesh–an Accounting of our Souls. As I reflect on this time in the Jewish calendar, I also contemplate this new chapter for my family. It is a time of reflecting on my journey as a parent as well as my son’s journey from infancy to college student. My colleague Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg wrote a beautiful traveler’s prayer based on the Talmud (Brakhot 29b).

Traveler’s Prayer
by Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg

A prayer for the journey
We could say it every day
When we first leave the soft warmth of our beds
And don’t know for sure if we’ll return at night.
When we get in the trains, planes and automobiles
And put our lives in the hands of many strangers
Or when we leave our homes for a day, a week, a month or more –
Will we return to a peaceful home? Untouched by fire, flood or crime?
How will our travels change us?
What gives us the courage to go through the door?
A prayer for the journey
For the journey we take in this fragile vessel of flesh.
A finite number of years and we will reach
The unknown where it all began.
Every life, every day, every hour is a journey.
In the travel is the discovery,
The wisdom, the joy.
Every life, every day, every hour is a journey.
In the travel is the reward,
The peace, the blessing.

I pray we approach our journey toward the new year, 5781, with openness to imagine the potential a new day and new year offers, even when our hearts ache with the pain of this past year. May our journeys also include sweetness. Though we are not traveling as we were before the pandemic, we each face life’s daily journey, physical and spiritual.

August 28, 2020

Dear Congregation Emeth Congregants and Friends,

Rosh Hashanah is three weeks away and this month of Elul is a time to begin preparing for the Jewish New Year. I offer you this poem for reflection.

For Grace
All I am,
All I have,
All I’ll become,
Are present in this moment:
Warmth and breath,
Love and compassion,
Silence and celebration.
Everything, here.
All gifts, present.
What then, God of all being,
What then of my choices?
What will I make of the space
Between this breath and the next?
Will I bring laughter and light,
Hope and faith,
Wonder and strength?
Will I stand in humble service
For all of my brothers and sisters?
Maker of heaven and earth,
Grant us the wisdom to choose lives of grace,
Of vision and understanding,
Seeing each moment as a choice
To bless our companions
With strength and wisdom,
With honor and respect.
Blessed are the gentle moments of grace.
— Alden Solovy, This Joyous Soul: A New Voice for Ancient Yearnings
(CCAR Press, 2019), p. 85.

How have you grown or changed in recent months? How are you still becoming?

It’s traditional to hear the shofar blast each morning of Elul. This is a spiritual wake up call for us to begin the work of Teshuva.

CLICK HERE for video

As the second week of Elul begins, I invite you to take a few moments to reflect on this passage and hear the sound of the shofar calling to you to do the work of Teshuva—turning/repentance.

August 14, 2020

This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Re’eh, begins with these verses in Deuteronomy 11:26-28:

“See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. A blessing: if you obey Adonai your God’s instructions, which I offer you today. A curse: if you do not regard the instructions of Adonai your God but turn away from the directions I have shown you today and follow other gods who you do not really know.”

Blessing and Curses. These are two categories we can understand and even utilize as a lens through which we can evaluate these past 5 months of the pandemic. Blessings: As we have sheltered in place, we’ve learned the blessing of safety –from having a roof over our heads, food to eat, time to do projects at home we’ve always wanted to do (or maybe we learned we don’t really want to do them); and hopefully the blessing of health. Curses: some of us have experienced illness or death of loved ones-whether COVID-19 or other illnesses. The pandemic has highlighted deep challenges in society including racial injustice, unemployment, healthcare and education.

This Shabbat is the final one of the month of Av and next Friday we will welcome the month of Elul. Elul is the last month before the Jewish New Year. It is time when we focus on turning or Teshuva. I invite you to join me on a spiritual journey preparing for the High Holy Days, turning to the best version of ourselves as we turn toward God.

Elul Daily Video Reflections by Women’s Rabbinic Network [WRN], CLICK HERE

The Shofar Project with Institute for Jewish Spirituality [IJS], CLICK HERE