Shabbat & Tu B’Shvat ~ Twice the Joy!

Tu B'Shvat TalmudHurray for the trees and a greater emphasis on environmental activism and earth-care!  When our Little Minyan began hosting an intergenerational Tu B’Shvat seder, it was a novelty on the Columbus Jewish landscape outside of religious schools. Now, there are myriad Tu B’Shvat events throughout our city. What a joy to see this proliferation of celebration and appreciation of the Kabbalistic approach to this Talmudic holiday.

This year we will combine our 9th annual Tu B’Shvat seder with a Little Minyan Souper Shabbat. Join us on Friday, February 6th, in our space at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Upper Arlington. Candle lighting, kiddush and dinner to begin shortly after 5:30 p.m. and our Tu B’Shvat seder with fruits and nuts will be our “dessert.” End time: around 8:00 p.m. with opportunity for schmoozing and continued environmentally-focused conversation for those without an early bedtime.

parsleyWe will also plant parsley for Passover, recycling/reusing/repurposing our wine/juice cups after our seder concludes. Yes, Pesach is only 8 and a half weeks away – we will soon rejoice in the exodus from slavery toward freedom and from bitter cold to warmth.  

seven speciesAll attendees are invited to bring a side dish to share. Anyone able to provide additional support for this event can contact Jodi at or sign up HEREThe Little Minyan is fueled by communal participation. 

Posted in Eco-Judaism, Family, Hagim/Holidays, Holiday Celebrations, Shabbat, Spiritual Seeking, Tikkun Olam | Leave a comment

Shabbat VaYinafash ~ Contemplative Shabbat Morning Service

A reminder to join our kehilla Shabbat/Saturday morning, January 31st, when we will gather for our Shabbat Vayinafash Service, a contemplative approach to Shabbat ShiraShabbat morning and Torah. 10:30 a.m. to noon in our worship space at Covenant Presbyterian Church.  Please join Spiritual Leader Jessica Shimberg for Shabbat Shira – this Shabbat of the Song of the Sea. Comfortable attire encouraged, and, if you wish to sit on the floor, a mat, pillow or blanket.

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From Shabbat to Shabbat

The Little Minyan Kehilla will gather to welcome Shabbat at 7:30 tonight in our worship space at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Upper Arlington.

Our Jewish wisdom tradition reaps great beauty and plumbs great depth in our observance and ritualizing of time cycles.  Each week we come to Shabbat holding both the newness of a unique week passing into this sacred day of rest, and the ancient imprint of a seven day cycle we can count on “like clockwork.”  Each Shabbat is both same and different. Each informed by a preceding week and, at the same time, by those things that never change.

The Kabbalists of S’fat, who gifted us the liturgy of Kabbalat Shabbat that we use to the-shabbat-queen-elena-kotliarkerwelcome Shabbat each week, say “Shamor v’zachor b’dibur echad, hish-mi-anu El ha-m’yuchad …” (from Lecha Dodi) ~ ‘Keep/Guard Shabbat’ and ‘Remember Shabbat,’ we heard in a single utterance (as a result of) the Oneness of the Divine …”  This reminder of the existence of multiples within in the singular and the singular within multiples has many explanations, and needs none.  It is a gift to have no need to choose – this one over that one – and to sit with the multiplicity suspending judgment.

Last week, I had the supreme joy of welcoming and celebrating Shabbat with 300+ of my Renewal chevre (dear ones from around the globe, gathered like pnai-or-siddur-for-erev-shabbat-marcia-prager-256px-256pxthe 4 corners of the tallit/prayer shawl to a single location near Boulder, Colorado – for many years, the home of our beloved Rebbe, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l, and his beloved Eve). Along with three extraordinary women, I shaped a sacred conduit to channel our collective and individual prayer, our welcome of Shabbat and our sacred service to mark the evening’s arrival. With the holy chutzpah and deep love and intention it takes to lead prayer for one’s friends, teachers, and community of some of the world’s most capable shlichei tzibbur/service leaders, we nurtured and brought forth a vortex of Divine energy so palpable I often had to remind myself to breathe.

This week, I have the supreme joy of welcoming and celebrating Shabbat with my Little Minyan chevre. Our kehilla will likely draw a minyan (10), and perhaps double that. Friday evening in Columbus, the reality of “competing” opportunities and responsibilities, is also the end of a busy work week, a night for family dinner, intimate conversations, and release. And yet, my process of preparing for THIS Shabbat will be the same as it was for last Shabbat. A single utterance in the duality of Shabbat experiences will be my guide. I will welcome Shabbat with joy and gratitude and memory. I will taste the uniqueness of THIS week and the blessed sameness of all of the world’s Sabbaths, all of the Sabbaths of my ancestors and Jews everywhere, and people everywhere who celebrate sacred cycles. The uniting of worlds in the wisdom of Oneness. Adonai Echad u-Sh’mo Echad.

Shabbat Shalom.

The Little Minyan’s Spiritual Leader, Jessica K. Shimberg, is a rabbinic student in the Renewal ALEPH Ordination Program and spent the past week at the annual Shabbaton and OHALAH Conference of Renewal clergy.

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Entering the Secular New Year with Sacred Intentions

a fresh startAs we enter 2015, we have an opportunity to look back and look ahead at the same time, to take stock, count our blessings, let go of disappointments, to reorient and re-aim.  In Hebrew, we call this process t’shuvah (returning) and it is central to Jewish spirituality. More introspective and probing than the process our secular New Year’s resolutions typically afford us, t’shuvah is a vehicle for cleansing and intention-setting. And, although many of us think of this as an experience reserved for the High Holy Days, t’shuvah is embedded in our daily, weekly, and monthly cycles and can be accessed and utilized as a psycho-spiritual practice for recognizing and releasing regret and re-aligning ourselves with our sacred purpose.

During his many decades of renewing Judaism’s rich spiritual practices, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l, taught the importance of t’shuvah, the ongoing examination of one’s life and behavior. He began with the notion that “in every aspect of life we need to do periodic maintenance, a checkup.” Anyone who has ever let the dishes pile up in the sink or ignored an ache until it became an acute and unbearable pain, knows that it is much easier to move forward when we attend to these things regularly rather than occasionally. Applying this concept to our spiritual lives, removing the schmutz that weighs us down on a daily, weekly, and monthly as well as annual basis makes abundant sense.

ShmaJackie OlenickA wonderful place to start is with the bedtime Sh’ma and its surrounding prayers, offering a laundry list of hurts, angers, sadnesses, and shortcomings to release before going to sleep. Our tradition calls us to end each day in the spirit of forgiveness (of others and self) and taking moments to reflect on the ways in which we were not our best selves and reaffirm who we want to be. Consider a practice of ending your day with these words from the traditional liturgy:

רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, הֲרֵינִי מוֹחֵל לְכָל מִי שֶׁהִכְעִיס וְהִקְנִיט אוֹתִי, אוֹ שֶׁחָטָא כְּנֶגְדִּי                                                                                                      Ribono shel olam: Hareini mohel l’khol mi shehikhis v’hiknit oti, o’shehata k’negdi. Master of the Universe: Behold – I forgive everyone who angered or disturbed me, anyone who offended me.

Followed by the familiar words:

שְׁמַע ׀ יִשְׂרָאֵל, ה’ ׀ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ, ה’ ׀ אֶחָד
בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד
Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai ehad.
Barukh shem k’vod malkhuto l’olam va’ed.

Shema_Modeh AniIf the traditional liturgy doesn’t resonate for you, consider a creative interpretation like these from the Reconstructionist movement’s Ritual Well, or consider crafting your own kavanah (intention) that will allow you a peaceful sleep and to awake in the morning filled with gratitude and energy. מוֹדֶה אֲנִי ~ Modeh ani ~ I am grateful … 

Round, spiraling Sh’ma is the work of artist Jackie Olenick. 

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Columbus Dispatch Article Features Jessica Shimberg on Spiritual Approach to New Year

FV_FAITH_RESOLUTIONS_BLV_01A recent Columbus Dispatch article about spiritual practices and new year’s resolutions features the Little Minyan Kehilla’s spiritual leader Jessica K. Shimberg.  Jessica is an emerging rabbi, studying with ALEPH, the Jewish Renewal movement’s seminary without walls. She will be co-leading Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv for several hundred Renewal rabbis, cantors, rabbinic pastors, students, and guests next Friday evening, January 9th, at their annual gathering in Colorado.

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Human Rights Shabbat

The Little Minyan Kehilla will observe Human Rights Shabbat by welcoming Shabbat on on Friday, December 12th, 7:30 p.m. and drawing on liturgy, song, silence, and text
oilchanukiahstudy to illuminate the ways in which we can rededicate ourselves to our Jewish and American and human values of ensuring dignity for ALL people.  As we will soon increase light in the darkness with the celebration of Chanukah (which means rededication), Human Rights Shabbat helps us to give purpose and strength to that light.

For many years, The Little Minyan has join T’ruah – the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, jewish justiceand congregations around the world in celebrating Human Rights Shabbat which commemorates the signing of Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, a modern-day prophetic text.  This year, the materials from T’ruah include a number of stories to inspire us, teach us, and hold up mirrors in which we see our own lives reflected. T’ruah also invites us and to submit the stories of our heroes on their website. These heroes can be historical figures or people in our own community or our families.

In honor of the seventh year of Human Rights Shabbat, a yom tov for human rights, our Little Minyan will join nearly 200 communities around the world to judaism and environmentlearn about the Jewish roots of human rights, as we pledge to manifest in our world the values of k’vod habriot (human dignity) and tzelem elohim (our creation in the likeness of and with elements of the Divine).  Seven in Judaism represents the completion of a cycle. This year also coincides with a shmita, or sabbatical, year. Thus, in addition to a text study that looks closely at the linkages between Shabbat and human rights, T’ruah and the Shmita Project of Hazon, which is encouraging Jews to reimagine the ancient practice of letting the land lie fallow every seven years, have provided materials that allow us to look at environmental justice – also a human rights issue.

Our service will be held in our worship space at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Upper Arlington.

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SOUPer Shabbat – Friday, Dec. 5/Kislev 14

This gallery contains 2 photos.

As the weather turns cold and we move toward the darkest days of the year, it is time for SOUPer Shabbat season at The Little Minyan Kehilla.  Join us in creating warmth, light, and Shabbat joy THIS EREV SHABBAT. We will … Continue reading

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FOOD CHAIN$ Documentary in Preparation for Human Rights Shabbat

DSC_0079Several years ago, Spiritual Leader Jessica Shimberg traveled to Immokalee, Florida, with a group of rabbis organized by T’ruah, the rabbinic call for human rights.  Each year, T’ruah bring together Jewish spiritual leaders with farmworkers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to learn about the very recent human Denver_Day_of_Dead_2_web-150x150rights abuses in the fields where our food is grown and harvested before traveling to our grocery stores and eventually to our plates.  The food justice passions ignited by this experience simmer with the values of Torah and the result is education and advocacy in pursuit humane working conditions and fair wages.

Columbus has been a key focus of the food justice efforts of CIW and allies because it is home to the corporate headquarters of Wendy’s – the only major fast food corporation to refuse to participate in the Fair Food Program.  CIW has received national and international attention and awards for the quality of their work and the results they have achieved through grassroots organizing. The recently released Food_Chains_Poster-150x150film, FOOD CHAIN$, is a documentary about our food, where it comes from, and who is paying the price.  The film, produced by actress Eva Longoria and author Eric Schlosser, among others, premieres in Ohio this Thursday, Dec. 4th, at the Gateway Film Center at 8 p.m.  The film’s director, Sanjay Rawal, and members of CIW will speak immediately after the screening.

Last year, the Little Minyan hosted members of CIW as part of our Human Rights Shabbat (a program initiated by T’ruah).  This year, the Little Minyan will join with congregations across the country in observing Human Rights Shabbat on December 12th at our Erev Shabbat Service, 7:30 p.m..

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A Prayer for Hope in Darkness

We spend a lot of time in our kehilla learning about, feeling, discussing, experiencing, experimenting with, thinking through, leaning into, and practicing prayer. Some of us love it, some of us aren’t so wild about it, and a lot of us are not entirely sure.  Some of us express our Jewish values through means we might not identify as “prayer.”  [Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said that when he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he was praying with his feet.]  And some of us access and express the depth of our Jewish voice, our human yearnings, the values and ideals we hold dear, through the accumulated liturgy of our People.

Regardless of how we experience prayer, there is a pervasive notion throughout the world that prayer is a sacred act. Even if we do not experience it this way, there is a shared human sense that when we see someone praying, we do not interrupt that moment of holy connection. Whether we understand or agree with or find meaning in the language of prayer, there is a general sense of courtesy, if not respect, for the sanctity of another’s prayer, prayer-time, and prayer-space. When, as today at a synagogue in Jerusalem, this sanctity is shattered, our collective human prayer is profoundly shaken.

The editorial board of The New York Times wrote today:

The horrific episode is a tragedy for the families of the worshipers who were attacked. … it is also a tragedy for all Israelis and Palestinians. The two communities appeared increasingly locked in a cycle of hatred and hopelessness, where chances for stability, much less permanent peace, seem nearly impossible.

It is at moments like this – dark and bleak and hopeless – that we can blame religion for the world’s conflicts and the rising malevolence. OR, especially at moments like this, we can utilize prayer to fuel our hope, to lift our hearts, to comfort, and to inspire. Those who went to pray Shacharit/the morning prayers at Kehilat Bnei Torah in Jerusalem on Tuesday, rose for the silent Amidah, the personal conversation with the Holy Blessed One at the heart of our daily worship. They were engaging in prayers of hope when they were massacred by hatred.

It seems appropriate to honor their memories with prayers of hope – hope that all can expand our hearts, hope that all can imbue our thoughts, speech and actions with love, and profound hope for peace – for us, for our children, for everyone’s children.

Keyn yehi ratzon. May it be so.

A reflection on this day by Jessica K. Shimberg, Spiritual Leader of The Little Minyan Kehilla. May their memories be for a blessing.

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Shabbat Vayinafash ~ Contemplative Shabbat Morning, Nov. 8th

How are you replenishing the creative force within you these days?  A walk in the crisp autumn air? Listening to stirring music? Meditation?  How about a contemplative Shavat Vayinafash service with the Little Minyan this Shabbat morning, November 8/15 Chesvan at 10:30 a.m. at the home of Jessica Shimberg.

shabbat shalom

The Yamim Nora’im, Sukkot and Simchat Torah have passed and we are well into the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, empty of hagim/holidays.  Yet, as even the youngest of our Mini Minyan kids remind me every time we discuss Jewish holidays, the most important of our holy days is the one we are given each week – Shabbat!

In Shmot/Exodus 31:16-17 we first read the words that have become familiar to us in liturgy and song – V’shamru b’nei Yisrael et haShabbat … Shavat vayinafash.  We are instructed to keep and observe Shabbat throughout the generations as a continuing covenant, a sign forever, between us and the One we most simply call God.  Why?  Because creation – doing, making, working, producing – occurred for six days and on the seventh day, on Shabbat, God “vayinafash.”  This word is often translated as “rested,” but if we look at the Hebrew root we find the word Nefesh, which means soul, breath or life-force.  As Rashi says in his commentary on this passage, “God restored God’s own soul and breath by taking a calming break from the burden of the labor.”

Our tradition gives us many instructions about how to observe and keep and remember Shabbat, and even if we only do one of these on a given Shabbat, “vayinafash” seems essential.  How will you re-ensoul yourself this Shabbat?

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