Shabbat VaYinafash ~ Contemplative Shabbat Morning Service

A reminder to join our kehilla Shabbat/Saturday morning, March 28th, when we will zen shabbatgather for our Shabbat Vayinafash Service, a contemplative approach to Shabbat morning and Torah. 10:30 a.m. to noon in our worship space at Covenant Presbyterian Church.  Please join Spiritual Leader Jessica Shimberg for an easy flow of pre-Pesach Shabbat chant, liturgy, movement and holy conversation. Comfortable attire encouraged, and, if you wish to sit on the floor, a mat, zafu, pillow or blanket.

Parsha Tzav (Vayikra/Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36), Shabbat HaGadol


Posted in Torah | Leave a comment

Opening Our Tents ~ Little Minyan Kehilla’s Passover Plans

Sign up TODAY or by March 25th. matzo-houseFor more information, click here.

Posted in Calendar, Family, Hagim/Holidays, Holiday Celebrations, Human Rights | Leave a comment

Let All Who are Hungry Come and Eat … כל דכפין ייתי ויכל

In our Passover haggadah (telling), each year we read the words “let all who are hungry come and eat ~ כל דכפין ייתי ויכל ~ Kal dichfin yeitei v’yeichul.”*  This phrase follows words spoken about the matzah we eat during Pesach: “This is the bread of affliction ~ matzahהא לחמא עניא ~ Ha Lachma Anya.”  Matzah is one of the many powerful symbols at our seder tables, filled with edible devices to assist in recounting the journey of our People from slavery to freedom. As we raise the matzah, we recall our bondage in ancient Egypt. We remember the emotional, physical, and spiritual impact of being enslaved in Mitzrayim (the Hebrew word for Egypt also means “narrow places”).

It is with this consciousness and “muscle memory” of how it feels to be enslaved that we invite all those who are hungry, all who lack sustenance (whether food or water or freedom or spiritual nourishment or community) to sit with us at our tables.  We invite them not just to eat, but to hear and slavery-still-existstell with us the narrative of a People who extricated themselves (with Divine inspiration and support) from a place of despair and constraint toward a place of hope and expansiveness. We share the “bread of affliction” and the narrative of mustering the holy chutzpah to move out of slavery consciousness and into freedom consciousness.  

Why is the story of Passover still so relevant? Beyond being a central theme of our Jewish narrative, the exodus from slavery to freedom is fundamental to our human narrative. Whether disturbingly literal, as with modern-day human-trafficking, or maar-tomatoslaves608metaphorical, as with our oppression at the “hands” of our electronic devices, the Passover story is extraordinarily real and present in our lives today.  What’s more, it is our responsibility to hear the words of the haggadah as a call to action, a hopeful message of what can be accomplished through the combination of courageous human action and Divine providence and inspiration. 

With this in mind, T’ruah ~ the rabbinic call for human rights, has just released The othersideofthesea-bannerOther Side of the Sea: A Haggadah on Fighting Modern-Day Slavery. Drawn from the well of our ancient texts and voices of modern-day rabbis and activists (including The Little Minyan Kehilla’s Jessica Shimberg), this telling calls upon our drive for social justice and change. Just as T’ruah’s name was selected to remind of us the clarion call of the shofar that rouses us, this haggadah is designed to inspire us to action.

May we we have the compassion, fortitude, and blessing to heed that call!

*This famous segment of the haggadah is Aramaic while the rest of the haggadah text is Hebrew. Aramaic is also the language of the Kaddish (a prayer central to our liturgy). Why use Aramaic vs. Hebrew?  A very practical answer is that Aramaic was the lingua franca at the time these words were incorporated into our holy texts. When we rise for Kaddish (an affirmation of the sanctity of life and the Sacred enormity of the One) as when we invite all who are hungry to join us, it is imperative that people understand what is being expressed. A more spiritual answer is that, according the ancient rabbis, Aramaic is the only language that the Malachim (Angels of God) don’t understand. And when we are truly spiritually “tuned in,” we need not speak with the angels (spiritual intermediaries) for we are communicating directly with God.
Posted in Hagim/Holidays, Holiday Celebrations, Liturgy, Tikkun Olam, Torah | Leave a comment

Opening Our Tents ~ Little Minyan Kehilla’s Passover Plans

Collaboration and creativity around Jewish learning and celebration have always been hallmarks of our community. In addition, we are a kehilla that LOVES to prepare, share, and eat healthy, locally-sourced and delectable food.

This year, the 1st and 2nd nights of Passover (when we typically gather in our homes for seder) armatzo-housee Friday, April 3rd, and Saturday, April 4th. So, rather than hosting a large communal seder on a weeknight or on the last night of Pesach, we are creating an opportunity for Kehilla members and friends to connect in homes to celebrate Pesach in a variety of ways.  On the 7th night, Friday, April 10th, join us when we gather as a kehilla to welcome Shabbat. We are trying something new this year in the spirit of fostering community in an alternative fashion to our typical large communal seder. Join us in this delicious and nourishing experiment!

We hope this approach will provide each of us with the Passover celebration we desire and make connections that will enhance our experience of this deeply important holiday. Please complete our Seder Sign-Up form as soon as possible and NO LATER than March 25th. If you have any questions or concerns that are not addressed on the form, please contact Debra Seltzer at

matzahriverAs Passover draws to a close on Shabbat afternoon (Saturday, April 11th), our spiritual leader, Jessica Shimberg, will host an educational program for adults (b’nei mitzvah and up) using the new T’ruah Haggadah - The Other Side of the Sea.  As we end the Festival of Freedom, join us for late-afternoon conversation about modern-day slavery and the journey to freedom for all people. Dinner and Havdalah to follow.

Posted in Calendar, Family, Hagim/Holidays, Holiday Celebrations, Shabbat, Spiritual Seeking, Tikkun Olam, Torah | Leave a comment

The Gifts We Bring …

Creating a worship service for and with a 21st-Century progressive kehilla (community) … say, The Little Minyan Kehilla, perhaps … bears a striking resemblance to many of the passages in this week’s  Torah portion – Parshat Vayak’hel.  

vayakhel.sharon binder

Artist: Sharon Binder (from

To begin with, the opening word of the parsha, vayak’hel, means “assembled” and shares with the word we use to describe our congregation – kehilla – the Hebrew root קהל (koof-hey-lamed).  We read that Moshe assembled all of the congregation (et-kol-adat) of the children of Israel (b’nei Yisrael) to remind them of the commandment to keep the Sabbath.  Moshe then tells the assembled community that all those who are “willing of heart” should bring an offering or gift (t’rumah) to God and the collective – that the wise-hearted should create all that makes the sanctuary beautiful and sacred.

The community disperses and then returns bringing myriad elements with them as an offering – “everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit was moved.” (Ex. 35:21) Each person brought something that could be used to add to the beauty and sanctity of their shared sacred space – the Tent of Meeting.

The elements of our Little Minyan worship and its purpose are embedded in Parshat Vayak’hel:

  1. Assembling as a community – a congregation,
  2. Keeping the Sabbath, and
  3. Bringing our offerings, willingly, enthusiastically, and with a loving-heart. 

Although the parsha mentions two master craftsmen, most of the narrative shows that it was the work of the collective community and not a few talented individuals.  Much like our ancients, it is the collective energy of our kehilla that creates meaningful and sacred worship for and with our Little Minyan:

  • some of us bring music (and a guitar, perhaps),
  • some of us offer readings or our thoughts about the meaning of a prayer,
  • some of us guide a meditation or teach a new song,
  • some of us schlep prayerbooks,
  • some of us set up chairs,
  • some of us bring food for our oneg Shabbat,
  • some of us have purchased ritual objects to beautiful our space,
  • some stay to clean up …

vayakhel giftsAll of these offerings have great value. And it is through the pooling of our offerings and the loving intention with which they are offered that we sense the sacred indwelling Presence.


      Join the Little Minyan Kehilla this Friday, March 13th, at 7:30 p.m.                to welcome and celebrate Shabbat.

Posted in Parshat, Shabbat, Spiritual Seeking, Torah | Leave a comment

Shabbat Vayinafash ~ Contemplative Shabbat Morning

A reminder to join our kehilla Shabbat/Saturday morning, February 28th, when we will zen shabbatgather for our Shabbat Vayinafash Service, a contemplative approach to Shabbat morning and Torah. 10:30 a.m. to noon in our worship space at Covenant Presbyterian Church.  Please join Spiritual Leader Jessica Shimberg for an easy flow of pre-Purim Shabbat chant, liturgy, movement and holy conversation. Comfortable attire encouraged, and, if you wish to sit on the floor, a mat, zafu, pillow or blanket.

A few words about our Parsha/Torah portion, Tetzaveh… 

Toward the end of Parashat Tetzaveh, we are told that there are two altars to be used in the Mishkan, one for animal sacrifices/korbanot, and one for burning incense/ketoret.

The design of the altar for ketoret is explained in great detail and it is clear that the alter is to be used exclusively for incense. However, the function of the incense is not clarified in Torah. The only thing we are told with certainty is that the aromatic incense is to be burned before the lamps of the menorah are prepared.

So what is the holy purpose of ketoret? 

There were two altars in the sanctuary, one of gold, which symbolized the life force, and one of copper, which symbolized the body. Just as gold is more precious than copper, so too, the life force is more precious than the body. Yet, each day it is decreed that both always be presented before the Holy One. (Midrash Tadsheh, Chapter 11)

As was instructed of the Aharon and the priests, we come before the Source of Blessing each day with our life force and our body. The copper altar is for sacrifices that are to be eaten (animal sacrifice in Temple times). Eating is a bodily function. Only incense, exclusively to be smelled, was allowed on the golden altar. Incense, pleasing fragrance, as the aromatherapy of the soul is designed to awaken and inspire the life force within us. 

incenseThe Hebrew word for incense – קטרת is an acronym: The letter kuf (ק) represents  kedusha–holiness. The letter tet (ט) for tahara–purity. The letter resh (ר) alludes to rachamim–mercy, and the letter taf (ת) to tikva—hope. (Midrash Tanchuma) 

The morning regimen of the priests, as does our tefillah (prayer practice which replaced Temple ritual) begins with the reminder that existing is not enough; that each day must include:

  • kedusha, dedication to our sacred mission; 
  • tahara, commitment to the cleansing of the spirit; 
  • rachamim, inclination to be generous of spirit; and 
  • tikva, abdication of despair to create space for hope. 

Thus, the purpose of ketoret/incense is revealed, embedded in the word itself. Through this olfactory awakening, our soul is aroused and inspired and, only then, with kavanah (sacred intention), do we move on to light the menorah (perform our holy service throughout the day).

Posted in Calendar, Liturgy, Shabbat, Spiritual Seeking, Torah | Leave a comment

Shabbat & Tu B’Shvat ~ Twice the Joy!

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Hurray 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 … Continue reading

More Galleries | 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.

Posted in Torah | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Torah | 1 Comment

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. 

Posted in Calendar, Liturgy, Reb Zalman, Spiritual Seeking | Leave a comment