Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Lately I’ve been humming the opening of the Simon and Garfunkel tune “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” Many of you probably know this one. It begins, “Slow down, you move too fast. Got to make the moment last!” It has an apt spiritual message for us at this time of year.

CBI's gazebo and labyrinth.

We live in an exquisitely beautiful place, and summer is one of our most beautiful seasons. This is the time of year when just stepping outside the synagogue sanctuary to pray the silent Amidah on the flagstone pavement beside the giant willow tree, or walking slowly along the curves of the Al and Frances Small Memorial Labyrinth, can take my breath away.

In a Jewish year like this one, the very calendar seems to be crooning, “slow down, you move too fast.” 5784 is a leap year, which means we got a whole extra month inserted into the Jewish calendar in late winter. That’s why Passover came “late” this year: it was on the full moon of Nissan as always, but we got an extra four weeks beforehand. It’s also why the high holidays will feel “late” this year – Rosh Hashanah is always on the new moon of Tishri, but this year that date will land on the secular calendar in early October.

Because it’s a leap year, Tisha b’Av – which is both a day of communal mourning, and the start of the seven-week runway to the high holidays – won’t happen until August 12. We have weeks of spacious time. Time to notice the green of the hills: in the words of poet Esther Cohen,

[God] turns these small mountains
so green you want to eat them
and then
she just hands you
a long light yellow porch
where you can sit
and sit and sit
to watch her move
so slowly you would miss her
if you weren’t watching closely.

Time to relax into the slowness of a summer Shabbat, not rushing to make it to anywhere or anything, just letting time unfold. This, too, is part of Jewish spiritual life. The rhythm of the seasons. Cultivating mindfulness. Seeking beauty in our surroundings. Slowing down, and noticing what arises in us when we do. Listening for the call of the red-winged blackbirds in the wetland behind the synagogue, or the rooster’s proud crow during Shabbat morning services.

Especially in an election year where the stakes are high and tensions may be even higher, we need this kind of spiritual life to restore and renew us. This is a different kind of 24-hour news coverage. “This just in: a butterfly has landed to drink from a bloom in our pollinator garden! The daylilies have opened their faces to the sun!”

What thoughts and feelings float to the surface of the mind and heart when we let ourselves slow down? This is the invitation of every Shabbat: to slow down and let ourselves be restored so that we can enter the new week energized to learn and connect and build. And Jewishly speaking, it’s the invitation of this whole summer season.

Here’s to the sustained spirituality of these long, sweet summer days.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel