Nusach- It’s not just for Cantors anymore

Tomorrow night  I will be teaching a class for Tikkun Leil Shavuot on the beauty of Nusach ( The Soul of Jewish Music) as I call it.

Before we continue, some definitions are in order.

Like many concepts in Jewish practice, Nusach can have a few different meanings.

It can refer literally to the text of the siddur you use, be it Askenazic, Sephardic, Chabad Hasidic, or to the melodic setting in which you chant the prayers of the Siddur.

Naturally, the chanting will be my point of focus here. Continue reading →

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Praying Outdoors

This is the fifth week of the month and allows for another outside blog.  This 2011 post in eJewishPhilanthropy was written by Rabbi Michael Comins, the founder of TorahTrek: The Center for Jewish Wilderness Spirituality.  As we are shifting to summer, we will have many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Make sure to appreciate the natural surroundings, the awe of the world and to be open to the possibility of a different type of spiritual / religious experience. 

Tomorrow night (May 31), we will enjoy the Kol Haneshama Friday night service under the evening sky.  Join us at 6:30pm at Beth El.  Later in the summer (tentatively Friday, July 12), we will meet at Greenwich Park for an evening picnic and service as well.

We connect with each other, our surroundings and the Divine differently when we are outside so let’s seize each opportunity.  Enjoy the blog.

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Don’t take the remembrance out of Memorial Day

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter.  As we are entering the Memorial Day weekend, this blog was originally posted in ‘The Hill’ in 2017.  It reminds of the men and women who lost their lives in defense of our country.  To them and their families, we owe a great debt.  זֵכֶר צדִּיק לִבְרָכָה – May the memory of the righteous be blessed.

 

Don’t take the remembrance out of Memorial Day

originally posted: May 28, 2017, The Hill

By Cliff Sosamon

What does Memorial Day mean to you? Is it a day off work, time spent grilling with family and friends? A day to grab the hottest discounts on cars and electronics – perhaps a needed new mattress? Or maybe a day to catch a game and enjoy a cold one or two?

It seems over the years Memorial Day has come to represent the luxuries of Western society and the best sales since Presidents’ Day. Retailers are more than willing to give the American public just what they want – sales.

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Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 0 comments

A Personal Reflection: My Kids’ B’nai Mitzvah

Recently, I’ve been looking at the calendar with different eyes. A month from now, Ariel and Catalina, my oldest son and my oldest daughter will become B’nai mitzvah, G-d willing. Day to day, the calendar moves slowly. But, the years have passed in the blink of an eye.

While my two older children are 15 months apart in age, they are preparing to celebrate their milestone together. Some of you may have already seen some pictures of Ari on Facebook, wrapping tefillin. The day on the Jewish calendar he became 13 years old, he took the responsibility of mitzvoth and therefore he is trying to fulfill all the mitzvoth an adult is commanded.

On the day of their B’nai Mitzvah, both will be called to the Torah. That act will be the public manifestation, in front of their family, friends and community that they are committed to a life of mitzvoth. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 4 comments

Why Do(n’t) You Go To Shul?

I once had a colleague that said- tongue and cheek- the reason he became a Rabbi was to make the service seem faster- since it always seems to progress more quickly when one is on the Bima.

True, it does. But I quite like it in the pews as well, where I don’t have to do anything but relax, reflect and pray.

What do you like? Do you like to come into the synagogue on a Monday, Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday? Do you prefer the shorter weekday service or longer more lyrical Shabbat experience?

What kind of meaning do these experiences bring you and if you don’t find yourself in the synagogue to pray often, what is your connection here? Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 5 comments

Hate Has No Home Here

 

Hate has no home here.

I cannot repeat this statement often enough, forcefully enough or loudly enough.  As we recognized Yom HaSHoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, this week, cried at the anti-Semitic terror attack on Chabad of Poway last Shabbat, were disappointed by two students at Whitman High School who posted a picture of themselves on social media in black-face with offensive language attached, tried to comprehend reports of the shooting at University of North Carolina – Charlotte and the New York Times printed a patently anti-Semitic cartoon… I repeat, hate has no home here.

All of these events happened just this past week.  The previous week’s coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka by Islamic terrorists were in response to an earlier attack by a Christian terrorist on Muslims in New Zealand.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by societal currents seemingly far beyond our control.  Global acts of hate, violence and intolerance are outside our personal spheres of influence but we feel the emotional and spiritual aftershocks of these acts through the quaking of our phones with news alerts.  It is understandable to feel helpless.

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Heschel’s Antidote to Land Obsession

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter.  As we are in the midst of Passover, I am bringing a piece by Rabbi Shai Held who is president and dean at Hadar, a pluralistic learning community in New York. He is the author of Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence and The Heart of Torah: Essays on the Weekly Torah Portion. He is at work on a book about the centrality of love in Jewish theology, spirituality, and ethics.  Passover sits at the nexus of conversations about land (leaving one place to become free and settle in the Promised Land) and of time (each generation is to collapse time and regard himself as leaving bondage).

 

It is one of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s most famous and influential claims: Judaism’s central concern is time rather than space. As he puts it in The Sabbath, “Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time” (italics Heschel’s). For Heschel, “The main themes of faith lie in the realm of time. We remember the day of the exodus from Egypt, the day when Israel stood at Sinai; and our Messianic hope is the expectation of a day, of the end of days.” Accordingly, for Heschel, Jewish liturgical life is an “architecture of time”; Judaism’s “great cathedral” is Shabbat, built not in space but in time.

Heschel’s prioritization of time over space is so profound that even when, in the wake of the 1967 war, he writes a book about the meaning of the Land of Israel for Jews, he titles it Israel: An Echo of Eternity and writes that Israel is “a land where time transcends space, where space is a dimension of time.”

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Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 0 comments

Change your toothbrush for Passover

If you enter my office there is something you will immediately notice. Lots of books.

I have passion and love for books and I still prefer physical books over electronic versions of the same text, especially on Shabbat. I bought a big part of my book collection when I was a student in a Yeshiva in Israel more than 20 years ago and those books hold a special place in my heart.

The yeshivot (house of study) are usually closed during the month of Nissan and students go back to their homes, visit their parents and take that beautiful time of the year to attend to personal business. I used the days before Pesach to earn some money and buy some books. I spent the days leading up to Pesach by cleaning several homes in Jerusalem. These are among the days I remember most fondly. I made some handmade signs advertising my “pop up business,” provided my phone number, and hung the signs on electric poles in Jerusalem. Before long, I was receiving calls hiring me for the job of preparing homes in advance of Pesach. I worked very hard and used my earnings to take advantage of the book sales that always take place after Pesach.

What I remember the most were the signs that were hanging on the same poles where my sign was posted: “Deep tooth cleaning for Pesach- Remove all the chametz from your mouth.”

It was the first time I felt we may have gone too far… Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 1 comment

Faith Expectations- “Jews want their Rabbi to be the kind of Jew they don’t have the time to be”

Rabbis and Cantors are known for reusing material for sermons, songs, teachings, concerts, what have you.  I usually try to avoid that if I can absolutely help it; sometimes, though, if I get in a bind, I will bring something from one presentation and use it with another group.

That being said, this throwaway line from “Keeping the Faith” ,a turn of the millennia comedy starring Ben Stiller and Edward Norton ( guess who played the Rabbi?) , sparked quite the discussion in my final Scolnic class this past Wednesday night, and I felt it warranted a bit more exploration.

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Grateful for Gratitude

Gratitude is a very Jewish act.  Too often, being grateful is lost in the business of life, the noisiness of expectations and the hubris of accomplishments.  Our very name though, Jews or Yehudim, derive from a moment of extreme gratitude.

In Genesis 29:35, Leah names one of her sons Judah as an act of praise.  “And she (Leah) conceived again and bore a son, and she said, ‘Now I will praise the Lord and therefore call him Judah (Yehuda)…'”  Today, we are extensions of the tribe of Judah.  Using poetic license, we are from the tribe of gratitude.

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Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Rabbi Greg Harris, 4 comments