“The Principle of the Ongoing Human Project”: How I Keep Shabbat...

Dec 5, 2016 by

“How does one determine the proper way to keep Shabbat?” I get that question regularly from Jews who do not follow halachah traditionally, but who do not consider it irrelevant, and want a means of deciding such things as whether to write or ride or use electricity then. Because the commandment to keep Shabbat appears in the Torah adjacent to the discussion of building the desert sanctuary (the Mishkan), the Rabbis interpret Shabbat work to include any item connected with that sanctuary’s sacrificial cult—thirty-nine activities in all, including sowing and plowing, kneading and baking, spinning and tearing, slaughtering and writing, kindling or dousing a fire, and so on (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2). Liberal-minded Jews often wonder about these things. Kindling fire was difficult work back then, they say, but flicking an electric switch is hardly...

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Wandering in the Desert with Mishkan HaNefesh...

Nov 30, 2016 by

Editor’s Note: Most of the blogs on RavBlog are written by CCAR members. Occasionally, we share a blog by a special guest with a unique message. We are pleased to share this blog by poet Jessica Greenbaum. I’ve resisted the impulse to tour our country’s beautiful deserts because of my clashing impulse to take a swim most days of my life. These two things just don’t go together. However, caught in that life-cycle moment of watching my youngest daughter gleefully wave goodbye from the window of her freshman dorm, I vowed to set out on new territory myself. Unlike Dante’s mid-life figure of The Inferno who finds himself in a dark wood, I found my mid-life self transported to the squint-inducing sunlight of Mesa, Arizona, which highlighted the orange and red striped canyons, and blue...

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Some Movies Deserve to Be “Spoiled”...

Nov 29, 2016 by

“Allied” opens in Casablanca, home to the most classic of World War II movies. Its protagonists, Marianne (Marion Cotillard) and Max (Brad Pitt) are spies, she on behalf of the French Resistance and he as a Canadian officer in the Royal Air Force. Marianne teaches Max how to be a good spy, which requires him to pretend to be her loving husband, and to do so convincingly. Their mission to assassinate the Nazi Ambassador in Morocco is successful. Predictably, they fall in love and get married “for real.” The movie is engrossing and entertaining. The audience roots for Marianne and Max — for their love affair as much as for the British, Canadian, and French Resistance fighters who are the movie’s real heroes. Ultimately, though, Max is called to a meeting with the Royal...

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On the Eve of Thanksgiving, Further Post-Election Reflections...

Nov 23, 2016 by

On this eve of Thanksgiving, I am reflecting deeply and with profound movement of spirit and heart upon two weeks of listening, processing and holding the feelings raised by the election. In my role with the CCAR, it was a tremendous privilege to help organize the call we offered to our members and to share in the leadership of that call with our insightful, skilled and heart-open colleague, Ellen Lewis. All that Ellen taught us that day has remained present to me in the passage of these weeks and has helped immensely. To summarize a couple of key points, Ellen reminded us to be attentive to the truth of our own feelings and to remember that those feelings can inform how we act but need not control our actions. She invited us to self-care...

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Creating Holy Moments

Nov 21, 2016 by

A way to deepen the Shabbat experience involves less talking and more silence—something focused more internally. It is a practice called mindfulness. The following essay, exerpted from Gates of Shabbat, Revised Edition, explores how mindfulness can be part of your Shabbat practice.   Be Like God The opening narrative in the Book of Genesis introduces us to a hard-working and busy God, creating the entire world, according to the Torah, in just six days. The Book of Exodus introduces us to another aspect of God’s identity. Here the Torah reminds us, “On the seventh day [God] ceased from work and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17). The Hebrew words of this verse, bayom hashvi-i shavat vayinafash, are part of the V’shamru prayer sung on Friday night; they are also used to introduce the Kiddush on Shabbat...

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Standing as Witness and Capable Ally in Voter Protection...

Nov 8, 2016 by

Today is Election Day. Along with my wife, colleagues at The Temple Rabbis Peter Berg, Loren Filson Lapidus, Lydia Medwin, an inspiringly large number of our congregants, Reform rabbis and other Jewish leaders from across North America, including CCAR’s own Rabbi Steve Fox, I am in Macon, Georgia, to partner with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to provide non-partisan election protection. We will be in the field to monitor polls to ensure that those who desire to vote are able to cast their ballots for their candidate of choice, freely exercising their Constitutional right to vote. Our work is part of the Religious Action Center’s Nitzavim campaign, a national voter rights initiative of our movement’s Racial Justice Campaign. What I say about all of this work is simply an incredulous, “Really?!” In...

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Nitzavim: Standing Up for Voter Protection and Participation...

Nov 7, 2016 by

As we approach the Presidential election this Tuesday, I think we are all experiencing a bit of fatigue.  The stakes certainly seem high to all of us in Ohio.  Whereas election news is garnering a lot of air time and thought time everywhere, in Ohio, the election has become an entity unto itself.  When I moved back to Cincinnati 12 years ago from Massachusetts, I realized the kind of weight and responsibility of living and leading in a “swing state.”  In Massachusetts, we never saw commercials or billboards for the Presidential election.  In Ohio, one is inundated with political ads.  It is exhausting.  At times, it is disheartening.  But, we might also look at this election as a time to lift up voices and to listen.  To speak and to hope. Through our congregation’s...

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