Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

As I write these words, it isn’t yet quite August. But believe it or not, we’re on the runway to the Days of Awe.

The Jewish calendar perennially asks us to balance being in the now, and shining our spiritual headlights to illuminate what’s on the way. And what’s ahead of us now is one of the great corridors of spiritual time that each year invites us both to look inward and to make better outward choices — the two month-span between Tisha b’Av and Sukkot, chronicled so lovingly by Rabbi Alan Lew z”l in his classic This Is Real And You Are Completely Unprepared.

Runway to the Days of Awe 5783! Tisha b'Av → Seven Weeks: Lifting Higher / Reverse Omer → Rosh Hashanah → 10 Days of Teshuvah → Yom Kippur → Sukkot

Tisha b’Av is coming soon. Because the day itself falls on Shabbat (and we don’t observe fast days / mourning days on Shabbat), we’ll gather on Zoom for Tisha b’Av observed at 10am on Sunday morning, August 7.

This year’s Tisha b’Av offering will be different than before, for two reasons. I have a felt sense that in this year of crises both planetary and political, we don’t need much help to access collective trauma or grief. And we’ll be observing the holiday on the day after — which is the first day of the reverse Omer count, the 49-day journey between Tisha b’Av and the Jewish new year. We’ll harness that energy in our Tisha b’Av morning ritual, with song and poetry and spiritual practice, and let that be the springboard that propels us toward the new year.

That evening we’ll begin a seven-week Sunday night Zoom class for learning and spiritual practice, a weekly kabbalistic journey up the Tree of Life leading to Rosh Hashanah called Lifting Higher: Ramp Up Into High Holy Days. Each week will be connected with one of the sefirot (just like the seven weeks of counting Omer, except in reverse) with inner practices to support preparation for the Days of Awe. I’ll be co-teaching that class with R. David Markus from Temple Beth El of City Island, and it promises to be meaningful and sweet — I hope many of you will choose to take part! (Sign up at the TBE website, and while you’re at it, feel free to sign up for our shuls’ joint class on the meaning of shofar, too.)

At the end of that seven week journey, we’ll reach Rosh Hashanah. Behind the scenes, your leadership team at CBI is hard at work on preparing for the Days of Awe in a million different ways. (More on that soon!) While I’m always reluctant to see the summer slip away, I’m also eager to gather with y’all to celebrate the beginning of 5783 and all of the precious potential a new year brings.

For now, I hope all of you are enjoying summer’s bounty: the green hills, the glorious daylilies, more zucchini than you know what to do with… and I hope to see you soon at CBI.

Blessings to all,

— Rabbi Rachel