Shabbat VaYinafash ~ Contemplative Shabbat Morning Service

The perfect antidote to big festive family dinners, crowded stores, and too much Turkey. Join us for a zen Shabbat morning, November 28th, when we  zen shabbatgather for Shabbat Vayinafash, a contemplative approach to Shabbat morning and Torah. Jessica will create a spiritual container for an easy flow of Shabbat chant, liturgy, movement and holy conversation. Comfortable attire is encojacobwrestlinguraged, and, if you wish to sit on the floor, a mat, zafu, pillow or blanket. 10:00 a.m. to noon in our worship space at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2070 Ridgecliff Road in Upper Arlington.

Parsha Vayishlach (B’reishit/Genesis 32:4-36:43) is this week’s Torah portion if you want to do some advanced reading and give some thought to what and with whom you wrestle … or just show up and join the flow.

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Shabbat Toldot (Generations) ~ Family; it’s Complicated!

This week’s Torah portion highlights some of the darkest stories of one of the most complicated, dysfunctional families in all of Scripture. 

rebekah-and-jacobRebecca becomes pregnant and the twins, Jacob and Esau, wrestle in their mother’s womb, a struggle that continues throughout their lives.  They are as different as night and day.  Their parents only make the situation worse: Rebecca favors Jacob; Isaac favors Esau.  Jacob, perhaps jealous of his father’s favoritism or of Esau’s physical prowess, manipulates Esau, in a moment of extreme hunger, into giving up his birthright as firstborn. Together, Jacob and Rebecca trick Isaacinto giving Jacob the blessing intended for his brother.

One of the saddest moments in the bible is when Esau discovers the deception.  The text is heart wrenching: “Esau burst into wild and bitter sobbing, and said to his father, ‘Bless me too, Father!'”toldot-laya crust

The conversation is important, because people in the bible rarely show their emotions.  Esau tells his father both how he feels, and what he needs.  Jacob does his best to comply, although he cannot completely satisfy his son.

Who has ever met a perfect family?  And if there is indeed a family that seems perfect, it’s a safe bet that, behind closed doors, it’s a different story.  But this biblical story gives us a hint of how we can begin to improve family relations.  We can ask for what we need and want.

What Esau wants is simple; he wants his father’s blessing.  In other words, he wants to be told that he is loved. We can express our desire for affirmation and love in the form that fills our needs. And we can also learn ways of meeting our own needs and desires so that when our families are not able to meet those needs and desires, we can still find ways to feel whole and loved and validated. Esau doesn’t get the blessing he wants but he does receive a blessing from his father before Isaac dies. And based on what we learn later in Torah when the brothers meet again, Esau finds ways as he ages to cope with the anger he feels toward Jacob. 

A Norman Rockwell ThanksgivingMany of us have complicated family relationships.  As we move towards Thanksgiving, let’s remember that a Norman Rockwell family is not reality.  When we strive for an unrealistic ideal, we are bound to be disappointed, even despairing and bitter as was Esau in Parsha Toldot.  How we work to understand our needs and then chose to see things goes a long way to how we find blessings.  Shabbat Shalom.

This is a slightly edited version of the weekly d’var Torah that my dear friend, Jennifer Singer, Spiritual Leader of Kol HaNeshama in Sarasota, Florida, sent to her congregants.  Just before Jennifer and I met in 2010 (at the 6th Davenen Leadership Training Institute (DLTI) at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut), our two congregations joined the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (JRF, now Jewish Reconstructionist Communities) together in June of 2009. I continue to study, learn, and grow with Jennifer who will become Rabbi Jennifer Singer, B”H, in January, 2017. Some “family members” we select!

Artwork: Abel Pann; Laya Crust; Norman Rockwell

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Shabbat VaYinafash ~ Contemplative Shabbat Morning Service

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A reminder to join our kehilla this Shabbat/Saturday morning, October 24th, when we will gather for Shabbat Vayinafash, a contemplative approach to Shabbat morning and Torah. We will meet from 10:30 a.m. to noon in our worship space at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Please … Continue reading

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Sukkot Shabbaton with Rabbi Shefa Gold

Balancing Abundance & Fragility through Sacred Chant,                         Experiential Learning & Celebration

After the intensity and depth of the High Holy Days, Jewish wisdom tradition blesses us with Sukkot ~ a festival oCZR_64f joy and celebration of bounty. Outside, in our sukkot/booths, where we can see the sky above through the canopy of this temporary structure, we acknowledge both the abundant richness and tender fragility of our lives. In gratefulness, we feast on the harvest, while inviting the wind and weather into our delicate abode. This is a full moon holiday, when we celebrate the fullness of life and notice its waxing and waning as well. It is from this place of awareness that we will cultivate gratitude and reap blessings. Participants are invited to experience the entire Shabbaton or just one component of this extraordinary opportunity to learn from one of America’s “most inspiring Rabbis.”

Event registration is required. Registration closes September 30, 2015, but splace may still be available by contacting Peggy Berger at Questions?  Please contact Peggy Berger, Lead Organizer, Little Minyan Kehilla

Friday October 2: Kabbalat Shabbat Services with Oneg; Time: 7:30 – 9:30 pm; Location: Little Minyan Kehilla at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2070 Ridgecliff Road, 43221

Saturday, October 3: Shacharit/Morning Service, Lunch, and Workshop: Torah as a Journey; Time: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Location: Antrim Park Shelter House, 5800 Olentangy River Road 43085

Saturday October 3: Havdalah and Sukkot Workshop: Gratefulness; Time:  7:30 – 9:00 pm; Location: Temple Israel, 5419 East Broad Street 43213

Sunday, October 4: Sukkot: Delving into the Four Directions; Time:  10:00 am – 12:00 pm; Location: Private home – location provided to those who have registered.  

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Yamim Nora’im 5776 ~ Days of Awe 2015

          Click here to access our full schedule for the Days of Awe 5776                                       Yamim Nora’im ~ Days of Awe is the common Hebrew name for the 10 days Days of Awebeginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur, that many call “The High Holy Days.” Each year, we are given the gift of time to reflect seriously on the people we have become, and to dream once again about who we can be. We are encouraged to engage in serious self reflection – reviewing our behavior over the past year, identifying mistakes and shortcomings, considering avenues of repair and improvement – during this special period of the cycle of the Jewish year and during the month that precedes it (the month of Elul in the Hebrew calendar). We engage in teshuvah – serious, sincere turning (from ways that do not serve us or the common good), repair (of wounds and broken relationships), and return (refining ourselves and reestablishing our way forward).

Having done this reflection and cleansing, we are able to re-aim at a meaningful future with renewed purpose and energy. We connect and reconnect with the best of ourselves, with our family members, our friends, and with the Source of Blessing – the One that connects all. Through this process we hope to commence another yearly cycle with a teshuvahpastpresentfuturerenewed sense of purpose, a clearer vision, less baggage, and greater appreciation.

You don’t need a ticket, an invitation, or even clarity of purpose … just an open heart and mind … join us and see. Click here to access our Days of Awe 5776 Schedule of event descriptions, times, and locations. Contributions of any amount to the sustainability and health of our kehilla and the vibrant alternative we offer the central Ohio Jewish landscape are welcome and greatly appreciated and can be made directly from our website. Just click on the PayPal link in the upper right corner. PLEASE SIGN UP here, especially if you intend to join us for our Break Fast (where all participants bring something to share).

  • RUMInations, Tuesday nights of Elul – Cheshbon HaNefesh ~ Soul Accounting through the Lens of the Great Sufi Mystic, 7:00-8:30 pm, Upper Arlington*
  • Annual Apple Picking and Ice Cream, September 6th, 10 am-1 pm, Utica (Branstool Orchards and Velvet Ice Cream)
  • Erev Rosh HaShanah, September 13th, 8:00-9:30 pm, Clintonville*
  • Rosh HaShanah, September 14th, 10:00 am-12:30 pm, Clintonville*
  • Green Taschlich Down By the Riverside, 4:00-7:30 pm, Dublin*
  • Kol Nidre, September 22nd, 8:00-9:30 pm, Clintonville*
  • Yom Kippur, September 23rd, Clintonville*
    • Shacharit/Morning Service, 10:00 am-12:30 pm
    • Yizkor ~ Remembrance, 12:40-1:30 pm
    • Personal & Communal Opportunities:
    • 1:30 – 3:00 pm – Quiet reflection in the peace garden (or indoors)
    • 3:00 – 3:45 pm – Teshuvah/Turning through Chant – We will follow our breath, rising from silence into the vibration of Jewish chants, and dissolving again into silence.  This contemplative practice will move seamlessly into Movement & Meditation.
    • 3:45 – 4:30 pm – Meditative Movement – Embracing Multiples Realities with Compassion
    • 4:30 – 5:45 pm – Accepting the Gifts of the Storm – Forgiveness and Compassion from the Belly of the Fish – A Jonah Journey Exploring Self and Community
    • Mincha/Afernoon & Ne’ilah/Concluding Service, 5:45-6:40 pm
    • Break Fast Potluck Dinner & Havdalah, 6:45 pm
  • Sukkot Shabbaton with Rabbi Shefa GoldOctober 2nd-4th Balancing Abundance & Fragility through Sacred Chant, Experiential Learning & Celebration. Programming in collaboration with Temple Israel and The Columbus Jewish Foundation. More details about this extraordinary weekend can be found on our website and by clicking here.

*Clintonville location: Mennonite Church, 35 Oakland Park Ave., 43214; Upper Arlington location: Covenant Presbyterian, 2070 Ridgecliff Rd., 43221; Dublin location: Scioto Park, 7377 Riverside Drive, 43065.

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RUMInations ~ Cheshbon HaNefesh through the Lens of the Great Sufi Poet

What happens when you look at the practice of soul accounting (Cheshbon haNefesh) developed by a Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) thinker from Russia in the early 19th Century through the lens of a 12th Century Sufi mystic from the Persian Empire? Let’s find out together … Explore the traditional and modern practice of Cheshbon HaNefesh ~ a soul accounting ~ as a useful tool for the month of Elul, the month in which we prepare ourselves for the Yamim Nora’im ~ the Days of Awe from Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur.

We will begin a conversation on Tuesday, August 25th, 7:00 p.m., the first of a three part series entitled RUMInations ~ viewing cheshbon hanefesh through Rumi Light and Heartthe lens of the great Sufi poet. Our exploration of Rumi’s poetry will be enhanced by sharing the experience with our friends at Covenant Presbyterian. The container for these sacred conversations will be created and held by the Little Minyan’s Jessica Shimberg and Covenant’s Katie Kinnison, who have been soul sisters throughout the past decade.

RUMInations, Session 2 is a pdf of the poetry of this great Sufi mystic prepared for our second session on Tuesday, September 1st. Click here for a pdf  prepared for our first session on Tuesday, August 25th. A third session of RUMInations will be held on Tuesday evenings, September 8th. Please join us for this and all of our upcoming High Holy Day activities and worship.


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8th Annual Rosh HaShanah Apple Picking Outing!

IMG_7503It’s Elul; time for reflecting, reconnecting, and getting ready for Rosh haShanah! And nothing says Shanah Tovah u’Metukah (Happy and Sweet New Year) like a big juicy apple dipped in honey.

Join us September 6th at 10am at Branstool Orchards in Utica, OH (5895 Johnstown-Utica Road) to pick a bushel, or two…

This event is open to everyone in our kehilla as well as anyone interested in learning more about us. We’ll pick apples to prepare for the festive holiday season and enjoy a simple worship with songs and children’s literature. Follow us down the road to Velvet Ice Cream for a (bring your own) picnic.

This is a great opportunity for newcomers to learn more about our community, especially families with children interested in our Mini Minyan program which begins in October.

Contact Jodi Kushins at

NOTE: RSVPs are not required but welcome on our Facebook event page!

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Welcome Shabbat TONIGHT with Us!

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Join our Little Minyan Kehilla on Friday, August 21st/7 Elul, 7:30 p.m.,for Kabbalat Shabbat and our evening service in our worship space at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2070 Ridgecliff Road, Upper Arlington. We will welcome Shabbat and explore the ancient and modern practice … Continue reading

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Riding the Waves of Love ~ A Journey Through Elul ~ A Soul Accounting

The Hebrew month of Elul is the last month before Rosh HaShanah (literally, the head of the year), the Jewish New Year. Elul began as we said Havdalah last week – the new week mooncyclesbrought a new month, and as we enter Shabbat this week, we move toward the first quarter moon.

Elul is a time for deep reflection and preparation. We engage in cheshbon ha’nefesh ~ a soul accounting practice with ancient roots and modern sensibilities. This is a time to reflect on who we have been over the course of the past year and who we hope to be in the coming year. What ways have we missed the mark (the Hebrew word, “cheyt”, for so long in our prayer books has been translated as “sin,” but truly is about missing the mark)?teshuvahpastpresentfuture What ways have we not been our “best selves?” What characteristics have we noticed in ourselves this year that we hope to improve upon? In what ways are we evolving and what holds us back?  In this way, we enter the Yamim Nora’im ~ the Days of Awe (the period of time between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur) with an internal accounting of the ways in which we intend to “do teshuvah” ~ to make reparations with those we have hurt (including ourselves) and turn toward our highest selves.

In the Talmud, our sages share the beautiful reflection that the Hebrew letters of the month of Elul ~ אלול ~ create an anagram of the words Ani l’dodi v’dodi li ~ I am my beloved and my beloved is mine. We use this month to search our hearts and draw close to ani l'dodi v'dodi liour Source. The kabbalistic text, the Zohar, teaches that we are “back to back” with the Creator at the beginning of Elul and “panim el panim” ~ “face to face” with the Divine Presence at its end in preparation to enter the gates for the Days of Awe. Whether or not we find a sense of comfort or meaning when we hear the word “God,” the practices of Elul are relevant and useful for anyone interested in embracing self-reflection as a means for greater self-awareness and improvement. 

Our Little Minyan Kehilla will have a number of opportunities to explore Elul together beginning this evening, August 21st, 7:30 p.m., when we meet for Kabbalat Shabbat and our evening service. A reminder that we will gather for Torah study tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. at the home of Jessica Shimberg. We will continue the conversation on Tuesday, August 25th, 7:00 p.m., for the first of a three part series entitled RUMInations ~ viewing cheshbon hanefesh through the lens of the great Sufi poet. We will draw on wisdom from both Jewish and Sufi mysticism to inform our personal practices.

Join us for this and all of our upcoming High Holy Day activities and worship. See our calendar for more details.

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At the Confluence of Shabbat Chazon and Tisha B’Av ~ Destruction and Renewal

Sitting in the hospital at the bedside of a child on Shabbat Chazon reading Torah and preparing for Tisha b’Av feels strikingly appropriate. And although typing does not, it allows words to flow to ease the pain, and that feels “Shabbesdik” (in the spirit of Shabbat).  

This Shabbat we are reading D’varim – the first parsha/Torah portion of the final bdestruction of Templeook of     Torah, later given the Latin name Deuteronomy, “second Torah,” because it summarizes the first four books of Torah in a series of speeches by Moses. This year, Shabbat and Tisha b’Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) kiss as stars bring on the evening, heralding the beginning of a fast day commemorating enormous destruction and devastation in the history of the Jewish people.

The 12th sentence of Parsha Devarim and Megillat Eicha (also called the Book of Lamentations because of the nature of its five elegies) both begin with the word איכה (eicha), “How?” This is not the kind of “How?” we ask when we are gathering information to accomplish a task; rather, the “How?” that we wail (externally or internally) when the weight of sadness and despair seem insurmountable … when we feel powerless in the face of great destruction, ugliness, illness, devastation. This “How?” is a total mind-body-soul cry … visceral and deep.Tisha B-'AvJudaism, as well as other wisdom traditions, is designed to help us recover from even this level of dark despair. In the case of Megillat Eicha, the lament is for the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea at the hands of the Babylonians. Our sages tell us that Jeremiah, the author of the elegies, was tender and sensitive, though despised and scorned and sentenced to jail for his prophetic words. He was inspired to warn of impending doom – a society headed for destruction – brought about by corrupt and immoral behavior, and was never self-righteous in his delivery of this unheeded message. In the case of Moses, he is recalling his sense of great heaviness at the responsibility of guiding a generation of whiny Israelites through the wilderness. In Moshe’s case, help comes from Divine inspiration and strength and from distributing responsibility.   Jeremiah’s case is far more tragic, but his faith remains comfort and sustenance.

bluesun the waters by kazuyoIn dark times, how do we persist? Where do we turn for comfort? How do we find the strength to renew ourselves and rebuild our lives? Even the act of identifying these sources assists us in finding the light and moving toward it.

As we journey, in Jewish time, through the darkness of Tisha b’Av and continue through this month to the new moon of Elul, the last month of the year 5775, our Jewish values guide us to begin the process of introspection and self-reflection. As we complete the cycle of our annual journey that brings us, once again, to the head of the year – Rosh HaShanah, may we find comfort and strength, light and love in the process. May the heaviness of despair be lightened by the inner tools and outer relationships that soothe us. And may we, together, rejoice in the value of tradition and the renewal of meaning that guide and gird our Little Minyan Kehilla.  

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