Teach Us to Treasure Each Day ~ Limnot Yameinu ~ In Deep Appreciation of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l

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 teachusfeinbergour 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 photofound 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, KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAand 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

*New to me, thanks to a rich learning intensive creating and leading Jewish funerals with Rabbi Marcia Prager and Hazzan Jack Kessler and other ALEPH rabbinic and cantorial students.

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.

Posted in Eco-Judaism, Lifecycle Ritual, Liturgy, Reb Zalman, Shabbat, Spiritual Seeking, Torah | Leave a comment

Sh’lach L’kha ~ Sending Us Out to Learn about … Ourselves

In this week’s parsha, we learn a critical lesson in the Torah’s narrative – a big-picture “ahha” moment in our development as a People.  It could have been a relatively quick trip from Mitzrayim/Egypt to Eretz Yisrael/the land of Israel, even with the mixed multitudes and the difficulty of desert travel.  Yet we wandered for 40 years – the time it took for the generation that left Egypt to die.  Why?  What was it about these people that causes their wandering to be so prolonged?  Why did the generation that left Egypt have to die without reaching the Promised Land?  In this week’s parsha, God, as the proverbial parent, says “that’s it! I’ve had enough! You’re grounded … permanently!”

In parsha Sh’lach L’kha, Moshe is instructed to send scouts to check out Canaan.  Surely God, who instructed Moshe to send these scouts, knew what the land was like and could Chana Alchadeff_shlachhave easily told Moshe so that he could then tell the people what to expect.  Instead, however, the people themselves are sent to survey the land and its inhabitants and to report their vision for the quality of life the People will have in the land that God has promised them.  And the Hebrew – sh’lach lekha – send to you, literally – hints at what they are truly sent to look into – themselves, their own character and constitution.

After forty days, the scouts return with reports of a land “flowing with milk and honey” and they bring beautiful fruit to show the bounty of the land and its local, sustainable JUD04 Seven speciesproduce (surely it would be a hit with our Little Minyan!).  However, they have been sent out to report on the habitability of the land … how the Israelites will fare with those who already live there and with the land.  Instead of having vision, faith, and a glass-half-full attitude, their report is grave, informed by fear and xenophobia and fraught with a complete lack of self-confidence and faith.  The scouts (the notable exceptions being Joshua and Caleb with their can-false evidence appearing realdo attitudes) see a land that “devours its settlers” (Num. 13:32) and see themselves as “grasshoppers” – small edible insects that would be devoured by the other communities.  The scouts’ low self-esteem and poor communal opinion infects all the Israelites who begin to whine and cry, wishing to go back to Egypt or die in the wilderness rather than inheriting the land that God has promised them.  Although Joshua and Caleb try to convince the People to have faith and strength of character, they are not ready.  Fear and wimpishness are hope and faithpervasive and God is angry, asking Moshe: “how long will they have no faith in Me despite the signs that I have performed in their midst?”  Moshe placates God with the same words he has used before, reminding God that God is slow to anger and abounding in kindness, and asks that God forgive this people as God has with all their other transgressions since leaving Egypt.  God agrees to let subsequent generations inherit the Land, but this group that has seen all of the signs in Egypt and the wilderness and still refuses to have faith, these folks have used up all their chips … they are doomed by their own pessimism to remain b’midbar/in the wilderness.

Do you recognize any of that fear and pessimism in your own approach to new places, new situations, new people?  Do you judge a situation with only limited information? Fear-vs-CuriosityHow do you react to new opportunities?   When you are presented with a chance to survey the road ahead, how do you see the opportunities and the obstacles?  How do you see yourself?

When we fail to recognize our full potential – the gifts and talents that we bring to the world, we make ourselves small like grasshoppers, easy prey for our harsh inner critic and those who might wish to capitalize on our fear or lack of self-confidence.  When we fail to recognize our full potential, we also invalidate the faith of those who believe in us and value our contributions to the world.  There is a vast difference between confidence and hubris, and yet, too often, some of us struggle to stand comfortably in the requisite confidence to advance and claim our place in the world, because standing there – seeing ourselves as worthy, big, and beautiful – feels prideful.  It isn’t.  It is faithful.  When we overcome the fear and stand in the truth of our couragefull capacity we are the People who are ready “know the Land” (Num. 14:31) and taste the metaphorical milk and honey.

Just like the prose and poetry of Torah, the prose and poetry of modern times can awaken us to the promise within us.  During this moon cycle, we lost an enormous American hero of the pen, Dr. Maya Angelou.  In the poem she entitled Touched by and Angel, she suggests that “we are weaned from our timidity in the flush of love’s light.” How much more would the words of Torah speak to us if we were to unshackle ourselves from pediatric notions of an anthropomorphic God, a puppeteer or omnipotent overlord, and instead use expansive concepts such as Love, Energy, Strength, Holiness, Awe …

The Torah is a living document with so many lessons, prompts for self-reflection, and Tree-Torah-Scrolls-300x241encouragement for right conduct.  This week’s parsha is particularly rich in practical application, however each parsha and the commentary of our sages contain nuggets that we can mine at different stages in our journey.  Members of our Little Minyan kehilla study Torah regularly together.  Dates and locations can be found on our calendar or by contacting Student Rabbi and Spiritual Leader Jessica K. Shimberg.

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Jewishly Themed Book List for Pride!

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A great reading list is offered through Keshet, Tablet, the Jewish Book Council.  Here are a few links: Jewish Book Council and Tablet.  Happy Reading and Happy Pride Month!!

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SHAVUOT CELEBRATION – Little Minyan-Style!

JOIN US as we will gather as a community to celebrate Shavuot and the ongoing Shavuot_Bracha_Lavee
revelation of TORAH as we did together at Mount Sinai … don’t you remember? We were all there ~ hearing and understanding according to our individual needs and abilities.

This year, we will meet on Erev Shavuot, Tuesday, June 3rd, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., at the north Clintonville home of  LM member, Jodi Kushins and her family, 143 E. Dominion Blvd., 43214. No need to bring food, just your favorite beverages and your plates and cutlery if you want to be SUPER green.  Our Little Minyan will provide cheese blintzes,
field Greens field greens, ice cream, and Torah of the earth at the urban farm growing at the heart of this family and our city.  Please RSVP ASAP and by Tuesday at noon to Jessica or Jodi. See you at Sinai …

Those wishing to continue our Tikkun L’eil Shavuot, we can move down the street to a local coffee shop. Bring a teaching or                                                   just come along!

Artwork is that of Bracha Lavee and photo of freshly picked greens from Over the Fence Urban Farm blog.

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

Taking Account Bamidbar ~ In the Wilderness

The Little Minyan Kehilla holds many Jewish principles near and dear to our hearts, wilderness with mountainsmany aspects of our individualities which we bring to our sense of being B’nei Yisrael ~ of the Children of Israel, the Jewish People.  If someone asks for a description of our kehilla and its members, an “elevator speech” always includes creativity, inclusivity, social justice initiatives, healthy, local food, musical worship, and care for the environment among our defining characteristics.

This week in the cycle of Torah, we begin a new book, the fourth – called “Numbers” in English.  And as with each of the five books of Torah, the parasha ha’shavua ~ Torah במדברportion for this week takes the name of the book it begins: Bamidbar ~ in the wilderness. Parashat Bamidbar opens with the the Ineffable Name (יהוה) which we so often call God telling Moses, in the wilderness of the Sinai desert, to once again take a census of the Children of Israel according to their mishp’chot, their families, by the number of their sheimot, their names, and by their tziva’ot, their legions.

As our kehilla entered this week, we too took a census.  We held a community meeting to “count” our families and our individuals.  We counted by numbers, and we counted by actions, resources, aspirations, and gratitudes.  We counted our substance ~ what makes us sacred and what we wish to do better in the coming cycle of time.  We talked about who we are individually and as a kehilla, and as part of k’lal Yisrael, all of our People.

tamar messer bamidbarThe Little Minyan began eight years ago as an experiment in grass-roots Jewish community-creation and care.  Today, as we continue our journey b’midbar/in the wilderness, we count our blessings that kol-adat, our entire assembly (as God refers to us in Parshat Bamidbar 1:2) is energized and full of hope for the continuing journey.

For stories about our individual and collective experiences of The Little Minyan, click on the new section of our website, under Who We Are, entitled Our Stories.

Artwork, bottom left is that of Tamar Messer, an amazing Israeli artist whom I met over a decade ago. Her work can be found on her website.

Posted in Eco-Judaism, Family, Hagim/Holidays, Mini Minyan, Parshat, Spiritual Seeking, Tikkun Olam, Torah | Leave a comment

Shavat Vayinafash

ShalOMIn today’s cultural context, we are increasingly pressed for time, encouraged to multitask, prompted to respond quickly, asked to produce immediate results, and engaged in multiple directions. Unless we are outstanding at creating boundaries, prioritizing, focusing deeply, and practicing vigilant self-care, we run the regular risk of depleting ourselves of our very selves.  We have so much within ourselves to offer, but without a practice of getting in touch with our core and “re-filling the tank” we diminish that light complete ensouled self.Kateand essence.  An oft quoted line from Emerson reminds us that “what lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” What comes from within us is what Rumi called our “second knowing.”  Rumi wrote of two kinds of intelligence, characterizing what is “already completed and preserved inside” of us as “a fountainhead from within.” And long before these words were penned, Torah instructed us to “re-ensoul” ourselves weekly with 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.”

אבMeditativeOur 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 might we re-ensoul ourselves?  Many restorative practices exist and Judaism has a long tradition and deep well of contemplative practice. Anyone looking for a re-ensoulment practice is welcome to join us for our contemplative Shavat Vayinafash service on Shabbat morning, May 17th/Iyar 17 at 10:30 a.m. and at other Little Minyan events. More information can be found on our calendar.

The gorgeous rendition of the V’Shamru features the angelic voice of my dear friend, brilliant artist and new ima, Elana Jagoda Kaye, with soul-refreshing harmony from her husband and creative collaborator, Saul Kaye, and can be found on her album, Im Ruchi, and on her website, elanajagoda.com. The link on contemplative practices in Judaism is to the amazing Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, and the ensouled self artwork is that of Kate Iredale.
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S’firat HaOmer – Counting the Omer and the Journey from Liberation to Revelation

route_mitzvot_613_greeting_cards-rd62dd233cd684143b6d8ab35ac11d274_xvuak_8byvr_512Our tradition provides us with so many mitzvot (commandments or obligations) and many of us spend our entire lives only observing those which feel familiar or comfortable – those which we learned from our parents or which are most clearly identified with “being Jewish.”  Lighting the Sabbath candles, saying kiddush over wine, placing a mezzuzah on our doorpost, eating matzah on Passover, fasting on Yom Kippur – these are “Judaism 101″ mitzvot.  There are other mitzvot which we know about but make a conscious decision NOT to observe because we determine that they do not enhance our sense of living a meaningful Jewish life.  And there are still other mitzvot that may never rise to our consciousness to observe.

colorfulomerchartOne mitzvah that is not prevalent among less observant Jews is the mitzvah of counting the Omer.  The omer (literally, in Hebrew, “a measure”) was an offering of the first of the new grain harvest, which was brought to the Temple on the 16th of Nisan (the second day of Passover), when the Temple still stood in Jerusalem and we were an agrarian people.  Torah tells us that we are to keep count until seven full weeks have elapsed and on the 50th day, we are to bring two full loaves of bread as an offering and hold a celebration (Shavuot – “weeks” in Hebrew)(Lev. 23:15-21).  The Torah does not tell us why, just that we are to do this counting.  Later, our sages linked Shavuot and the revelation of Torah on Sinai and the omer became a way to mark the transition from avdei pharaoh (slaves of Pharaoh) to avdei HaShem (God’s servants).  The Kabbalists then connected each day with an ascension from impurity to holiness by combining mystical attributes (s’firot) which represent both divine and human characteristics.  This mystical approach creates a way to prepare ourselves to receive Torah – renewing ourselves through an examination of our connection to the Source.

Counting the Omer is a short ritual that is done at night (at the beginning of a new day) and there are many creative and traditional resources you can draw upon for guidance. All siddurim (prayerbooks) have the basic prayers for counting the omer.  Other resources can be found on our Deliciously Different Resource page.

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Little Minyan’s Passover Potluck Seder/Seudah Shlishit shel Shabbat

The Little Minyan Kehilla will gather at 5:30 p.m. on the 6th night of Pesach (Saturday, matzahspringApril 19th) for a “potluck seder.”  We will share food and our favorite parts of the seder as we continue our observance and
appreciation of the journey from oppression to freedom.  A sign up sheet is accessible by clicking HERE.  Please bring a dish to share and, if you wish, your commentary on a part of the seder that you find particularly meaningful, a poem, a reading, or a picture.

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Erev Shabbat Service – Shabbat HaGadol

The Little Minyan will gather this Friday evening, April 11th/10 Nisan, 7:30 pm to welcome the Shabbat HaGadol – the Shabbat just before Pesach – with a contemplative service incorporating some of the deeper themes of this sacred time of year.  In particular we will look at the Haftarah selection for Shabbat HaGadol and how the words (both harsh and soothing) ascribed to the prophet Malachai resonate with us.

The Passover narrative, so embedded in the Jewish psyche inspires us to contemplate theexodus-reed-sea ways in which we can free ourselves from our own constricted places.  The great Hasidic teacher, Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav suggested that the deeper teaching within the hurried exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is this: when we taste freedom and desire it, we must act with haste to move toward it.  If we spend to much time deliberating, trying to figure out how the future will unfold, we may lose our courage to move toward liberation.  

In every generation, we are to approach Passover as if WE are being liberated from Mitzrayim.  In addition to all of the cleaning, cooking, and celebration, how will we prepare ourselves for Pesach, spiritually?  What will we take with us on our journey out of Mitzrayim (Hebrew for Egypt AND “narrow places”)?  How will we move forward with faith and awe?

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Little Minyan Welcomes Atid Columbus for Kabbalat Shabbat Dinner and Erev Shabbat Service

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The Little Minyan is delighted to be joined by members of Atid Columbus for Shabbat oneg/joy.  We will begin with a potluck dinner followed by worship and conversation. 6:00 p.m. – Potluck supper ~ vegetarian, locally sourced, and yummy!  (Adult oriented … Continue reading

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