REMINDER: Selichot program/Service – Saturday evening

REMINDER:  This Saturday evening we will have our annual Selichot program and service.  Selichot is a service featuring texts and prayers of penance in preparation for the reflections during High Holy Days services.  We will be at the home of Anita and Don Silvert.  No dinner will be served, but there will be desserts

Schedule:

6:45 PM:  Arrival
7:00 PM:
–  Desserts
–  Havdalah
–  Film & Discussion:  Stranger than Fiction starring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Emma Thompson.  This film has holiday themes of the book of life, free will and determination with a Garden of Eden motif.   Will Ferrell discovers he is a character in someone else’s fiction.  It is one of Rabbi’s favorite films.

Address:  Anita and Don Silvert, 637 Michelline Lane, Northbrook; Anita’s phone: (847) 302-1155

Please RSVP and sign up to contribute by going to the Perfect Potluck link for this event:  http://www.perfectpotluck.com/meals.php?t=PBRQ7491

ALSO: The High Holy Days services are right around the corner – have you gotten your tickets yet?  Click HERE for information and ordering details.

Elul Reflection: A Suppleness of Heart

The month of Elul precedes the month of Tishri and, therefore, Rosh Hashana.

The rabbis read Elul as an acronym. The Hebrew letters alef-lamed-vav-lamed they took as a reference to a phrase from Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs) which they read as erotic love poetry depicting the relationship between God and Israel (the Jewish people): Ani l’dodi v’dodi li - I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

What might it mean to “be my beloved’s”?

The month of Elul becomes the month of teshuvah - understood as the return to God as to a lover. What has been lost over the past twelve months – crusted over, calcified, rigid – is the supple heart that once had been given in love. The arrogance, fear and anger by which the heart has become crusted over, calcified and rigid have removed the heart from love. The process of teshuvah is one of regaining that suppleness that is needed to reconcile with One whom we love. It is a reconciliation that demonstrates itself in respect and love for others.

Contrast this with Pharaoh’s defiance of God in the story of the Exodus. Pharaoh is the archetype of one who rejects God altogether, the one who enslaves others. The text calls it a “hardness of heart”. God’s voice cannot penetrate because of this defensive shield.

One dimension of teshuvah, then, is regaining that suppleness of heart that allows us to hear God’s voice as it speaks to us; to allow ourselves to be claimed, even enticed by it; and to respond with love and openness to it.

There are many things that harden our hearts: anger; cynicism; powerlessness; boredom; fear; self-centeredness; arrogance. These take root in our heart and thicken its protective exterior.

The call of the shofar, throughout Elul and into Rosh Hashana and concluding with Yom Kippur is a call to soften our hearts and to open them – open them to the call of One who desires our love in return, a love that is manifest, ultimately, when we repair our selves in relationship to the rest of God’s creation.

L’shalom,
Marc

 

Selichot program/Service – Saturday evening

Chevre:

Thanks to all those that turned out for an intimate Shabbat celebration at the home of Melinda, John and Lyss Remaly.  We had a small crowd but a vibrant discussion of a piece written by Abraham Joshua Heschel on the purpose of prayer.

This Saturday evening we will have our annual Selichot program and service.  Selichot is a service featuring texts and prayers of penance in preparation for the reflections during High Holy Days services.  We will be at the home of Anita and Don Silvert.  No dinner will be served, but there will be desserts

Schedule:

6:45 PM:  Arrival
7:00 PM:
–  Desserts
–  Havdalah
–  Film & Discussion:  Stranger than Fiction starring Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Emma Thompson.  This film has holiday themes of the book of life, free will and determination with a Garden of Eden motif.   Will Ferrell discovers he is a character in someone else’s fiction.  It is one of Rabbi’s favorite films.

Address:  Anita and Don Silvert, 637 Michelline Lane, Northbrook; Anita’s phone: (847) 302-1155

Please RSVP and sign up to contribute by going to the Perfect Potluck link for this event:  http://www.perfectpotluck.com/meals.php?t=PBRQ7491

ALSO: The High Holy Days services are right around the corner – have you gotten your tickets yet?  Click HERE for information and ordering details.

Have a good week!

B’shalom,

Stew Campbell – B’Chavana Va’ad/Communications

Shabbat Reminder – this Saturday, 9/13

Chevre,

Let’s build on the amazing Shabbat we had this past Friday with a great turnout for this Saturday’s Shabbat Morning services, this week hosted by Melinda Remaly at her family’s home in Wheeling.

We will continue to build upon the study and discussion from last Friday with discussion of key texts from the High Holy Days liturgy, and of course will have our usual abundance of spirited conversation, great food, music, and great friendships.

Details:

Saturday, 9/13/2014 at the home of the Remalys, 505 Mors Avenue, Wheeling, IL 60090.
Please RSVP by visiting the Perfect Potluck link and indicating what you will contribute: http://www.perfectpotluck.com/meals.php?t=LVCQ2196, or by calling Melinda at 847-638-1928 or email at melrem@d219.org.

Please plan to arrive by 9:45 to enjoy a moment of coffee with friends, services start promptly at 10:00 AM, and an oneg luncheon will be provided, as always, afterward.

B’Shalom,

Stew Campbell

PS:  Speaking of High Holy Days, if you haven’t purchased your High Holy Days tickets yet (they are included with full membership to B’Chavana), no time like the present to purchase!  Click HERE

Elul Reflection: Poetry & Truth in the Holiday Liturgy

On Friday night, we had a thoughtful and spirited conversation about the High Holy Day prayer called “U-n’taneh Tokef” – the piece that contains the powerful image of the “Book of Life” and the haunting refrain “who shall live and who shall die?”

I began by acknowledging the powerful discomfort that some – many? – have with the piece and those images and words. Does God really decide who will live and who will die in the coming year? Is it really true that once that decision is made it cannot be changed? Does God “micromanage” the world by sending disease to kill this one and fire to kill that one? Many people expressed irritation, even anger over these images. It was an important moment of revelation, as people saw that their feelings and thoughts were shared by many others.

I expressed my own thoughts, which I’ll summarize briefly here. First, I said, I keep in mind that this is a particular poem written by a particular person at a particular place and time. Its entry into the mahzor (the High Holy Day prayerbook) gives it a certain authority but it is not sacrosanct – put differently, it is not there to command us to believe it so much as it is there to evoke and provoke in us certain thoughts, feelings, moods. Related to that, then, was my second point: the piece is poetry and should be read as such. It’s purpose is not to provide an accurate, objective description of “reality”. After all, who could possibly know what God does or doesn’t do, what decisions God makes? As with all poetry, its use of concrete images is meant to bring us into acknowledgment or confrontation with big questions, and metaphors by which to understand and respond to those questions. Again related to that is another point: if human intellect is finite and God is infinite, beyond all of our rational and emotional capabilities – isn’t poetry and metaphor the only – and best – tool that we have by which to convey the religious experience? And if that is true, mustn’t we acknowledge that all liturgy, while offering something presented as truth, can only offer glimmers of truth? Finally, I shared that the God in which I believe is not a “personage” that is involved with the everyday workings of the world. The God in which I believe does not reward and punish and utilize the natural world in order to do so.

So, all that being said, what is the particular power of U-n’taneh Tokef for me? First, it conveys a sense that there is a transcendent standard of truth and justice – against which I want to measure my actions. I do not make those things up as I go; I make my most sincere effort to align my thinking and actions with that transcendent standard. And I use this poem as a yearly reminder of that. Second, the poem declares that my actions are of significance – even of great significance. It is not only great men and women, world leaders, whose actions are important; each and every action of mine is of significance and has an important impact on the world. Third, there is a delicate dialectic back and forth between my sense of my power and my vulnerability. I am, in fact, in control and responsible for much of my life; yet, too, there remain many things that are beyond my will and, in that sense, are determined. Fourth, the litany that begins with “who shall live and who shall die” reminds me not only of the vulnerability that is the lot of all of us but also of the horrors that face so much of the world beyond my comfortable little place here in the suburbs. And, finally, fifth – my favorite part: that, despite all that rages around us, all that might buffet us about, all that makes us feel small and insignificant and powerless – we have power by which to shape our lives and assert our human freedom in powerful and positive ways. “But repentance, prayer and charity temper the severe decree” – through taking responsibility for ourselves; opening our hearts; and serving others we can live lives of meaning and value in a world that so often looks meaningless and devoid of value.

You don’t have to love the U-n’taneh Tokef. You don’t even have to like it. In fact, perhaps one of the reasons for its presence in the service – and its staying power through several hundred years – is its provocative nature. As with poetry, liturgy that merely confirms everything we think we know and affirms the beliefs that we already hold has failed in its purpose; it is insipid and insulting. Real liturgy, I think, provokes us and challenges us and riles us up – so that we can transcend the place in which we already stand and become more intentional about the faithful lives that we seek to live.

L’shalom,
Marc

 

A wonderful Shabbat evening!

Chevre,

What a wonderful Shabbat event last evening at the home of Mitch and Cathy Litrofsky!  We had a “packed house” (literally!) with 27 people in attendance, abundantly wonderful foods, Rabbi Marc’s spiritual music and Kabbalat Shabbat worship, and stimulating conversation over plenty of wine.  

Rabbi Marc challenged us to really think and really talk about some specific passages in the High Holidays prayerbook – and what it means to us personally, resulting in a deep and spiritual conversation.  My personal takeaway of listening, observing and contributing was that it was an ideal demonstration of what makes B’Chavana so special. Our group comes from such a broad range of experiences and traditions, and those color the thoughts and impressions expressed in fascinating conversation during the discussion. It was one of those “lightning in a bottle” moments that makes B’Chavana such a great community.

Our next Shabbat observance as a group will be Saturday, September 13, at the home of Melinda Remaly in Wheeling.  We will be posting details next week.

A huge thank you again to Mitch and Cathy Litrofsky for sharing their beautiful home with us and providing us a perfect place for such a memorable evening.  Thanks as well to everyone there – for contributing to the meal, your voices in song, and your minds in conversation.

Shabbat Shalom!

Stew Campbell, B’Chavana Va’ad/Communications

PS:  Now is the perfect time to order your High Holy Days tickets, if you haven’t already.  Please CLICK HERE for details.

Shabbat Reminder – Tonight’s gathering

Just a quick reminder of this evening’s Shabbat services and dinner – we hope to see you there. 
PLEASE RSVP as soon as possible:

Hosts: Cathy and Mitch Litrofsky
1250 Breckenridge Ct, Lake Forest
Cathy: cmlitrofsky@aol.com

Please RSVP ASAP for potluck signup:http://www.PerfectPotluck.com/meals.php?t=XJUY6021

Schedule:

6:00 Wine & cheese, schmooze
6:45 Kabbalat Shabbat
7:30 Kiddush, candles & dinner
8:30 Rabbi Belgrad discussion of text to help us prepare for High Holy Days
9:30 Dessert and more schmooze

Best,

Stew