Here in central Ohio, we are in the midst of unseasonably mild and gloriously sunny days, further blessed by low humidity and gentle breezes. I am humming a new* tune that Rabbi (and gifted cellist, I am compelled to add) Yitz Husbands-Hankin created to hold the ancient words of Psalm 90:2 – “teach us to treasure each day, that we may open our hearts to Your wisdom.” I am aware of the treasure that is THIS day – an “ordinary” Thursday in July.
As an emerging rabbi and spiritual leader, it is my way and holy work to treasure each day with sensitivity to the Judaic rhythms of life and time. There are myriad sacred vessels to be found in our liturgy, Torah, rabbinic and modern writings, traditional and creative Jewish ritual. It is through this lens that I choose to view the interplay of humanity, the earth and her non-human inhabitants, and the Divine Mystery some of us call God.
With a full cup, inspired and engaged, I have just returned to Columbus and our Little Minyan Kehilla from the Pacific Northwest and the deep well of inspiration and energy found in time with my ALEPH (Alliance for Jewish Renewal) teachers and colleagues. In that container of sacred community, among the tall trees, babbling rivers, soaring birds, and myriad dragonflies, we received word that our beloved Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi had taken his last breath in this world. Although his health had been declining as he neared his 90th birthday, Reb Zalman’s presence was enormous, potent, and enduring. The thought of a world without his continuing insight and wisdom was and remains unfathomable to many. It was an abundant blessing (not lost on us) that he left us at one of the all-too-rare times when so many of those carrying forward his legacy were together in one place. Our holy teachers – long-time students and friends of Reb Zalman, continued to teach and enrich us even as they began their mourning at a disconcerting distance from the levaya (funeral) and shiva minyans in Boulder, Colorado. Although Reb Zalman’s death is a painful reality, there is a vitality that remains to continue to renew Judaism – raising holy sparks and nourishment from the deep and meaningful well of Jewish tradition while nurturing experiential, egalitarian, environmentally-conscious, ecstatic, engaging, and non-hierarchical approaches to prayer.
The Little Minyan will continue to honor Reb Zalman, z”l, and his gifts to the world through our approaches to worship, eco-conscious practices and activities, social justice, study, and interfaith collaborations and inter-being. One of Reb Zalman’s great gifts to the world was his love-affair with Judaism and his appreciation for all faith and wisdom traditions. He didn’t believe that anyone has what he called “the exclusive franchise on the truth.” “What we Jews have,” he continued, “is a good approximation, for Jews, of how to get there. Ultimately, each person creates a way that fits his own situation.” What a shining example he was of “how to get there.” May Reb Zalman’s name always be for blessing and may his work continue to inspire Jews and other to connect, find meaning, care for the earth, create peace, and treasure each day.
Our Little Minyan will meet for Shavat Vayinafash - contemplative worship on Shabbat morning, July 19th, 10:30 a.m. in our space at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2070 Ridgecliff Road, Upper Arlington.
Jessica K. Shimberg, an emerging rabbi and long-time central Ohioan, is one of Reb Zalman’s many devoted students and a life-long learning and appreciator of the deep sustenance of all-streams of Judaism. She is a founder of The Little Minyan and serves as spiritual leader of our Kehilla.
Artwork – Linda Feinberg from homegrownjudaica.com; Trees photographed at Canby Grove Retreat Center. Photo of Reb Zalman, z”l, from the ALEPH website.
z”l stands for zichrono livracha which means “may his name be for blessing” and is commonly written after the name of one who has died. Honorific appreciations for beloved teachers are also very common after the teacher’s name is written in Jewish texts.