This, Too, Is Torah: A Shavuot Concert. Sunday, June 9 at 3pm. Free to the public.

Of all the holidays in the year, Shavuot often gets short shrift. Many Reform congregations hold Confirmation at this season, which is a lovely tradition, but doesn’t fully convey the depth of what this holiday can be. Shavuot isn’t just a graduation celebration for tenth graders; it’s one of the most profound anniversaries in the Jewish year. And this year, we’re celebrating it at CBI in a new way: with music, music, music!

Apeirogon by Colum McCann.

I know from speaking with y’all that the continuing conflict in Israel / Palestine is weighing heavy on many hearts. (Including my own.) Across our community we have many different relationships with that place and its peoples, and sometimes it is hard to know how to speak with each other given our range of views. This is true across the American Jewish community, and community divisions are emerging in many places. And yet, given rising antisemitism, now is a time when we need each other across Jewish community all the more.

A haggadah page with the Four Sons; a spinning wheel is attached that is divided into four quadrants: a hand holding a machine gun, a hand pointing at Torah text in a book, a hand touching a smartphone, and a hand with a paintbrush.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” That’s the question that launches us into seder. Many Pesach customs are designed to prompt questions. We ask why, and we plumb our traditions for answers, and meaning, and the nourishment our souls most need.

A clipart drawing of ten people sitting in a circle facing each other.

As a rabbi I am here to serve everyone in our community. I aspire to be here for you in sickness and in health, in celebration and in sorrow. I have the holy opportunity to learn and to teach, to rejoice and to mourn, and to build community with each and every one of you. I take this covenant seriously, and it is one of the things I love most about the work that I am blessed to do. I will always strive to approach any differences we may have with curiosity and an open heart. And I always want to hear from you about where you are and what matters to you.

Many of you have asked what I think about what’s happening in Gaza and Israel. In a word, I am heartbroken. Every time I pray, these days, I pray with all my heart for a negotiated bilateral ceasefire, return of all hostages, and an end to enmity between Israelis and Palestinians.

A wheel-shaped calendar that features the 12 months of the Jewish calendar and the 12 months of the secular calendar.

This year is a Leap Year… twice. On the Gregorian calendar, we get February 29th, an extra day added every four years to more or less keep our 365-day calendar aligned with the sun. On the Jewish calendar, we get not an extra day but a whole extra month.

“…Nobody can bootstrap themself. Our work in this life is to free each other…”

Happy Tu BiShvat

Happy 2024! I love having two opportunities each year to begin again – first in the fall at Rosh Hashanah, then in the winter with New Year’s Day. Beginning again is a valuable spiritual practice, a reminder that we don’t have to be stuck in what was but rather can cultivate the promise of something new.

Clipart of menorahs, dreidels, and doves on a light teal background.

The big mitzvah associated with Chanukah is pirsumei nisa, “publicizing the miracle.” Tradition teaches us to place the Chanukah lights someplace where they will be seen. (Unless we fear for our lives, in which case tradition permits us to keep our light under the proverbial bushel.) We display our lights to publicize the miracle: the oil that lasted until new oil could be made; the leap of faith that led us to kindle light in the first place; the miracle of hope in times of despair.

Especially this year, holding fast to hope and to Jewish joy feels like a radical act… and a necessary one.

Challah

On the festival of Shemini Atzeret (October 7), our world tilted on its axis. Dancing with the Torah that night felt like an act of resistance, connectedness, and hope, even amidst our tears.

An illustration of an open Torah scroll surrounded by Esrog and Luluv.

Joy! Joy! Joy! As I write these words we’re about to enter into Sukkot – also known as Season Of Our Rejoicing.