Elul and The Power to Live


For their graduation theme last June our CJHS seniors chose two quotes to adorn the program, which they then reflected on as they spoke of their future.

The first was written by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, z’l, one of the great Jewish thinkers of the last century. In his piece “Kol Dodi Dofek,” Soloveitchik wrote:
“Man’s task in the world, according to Judaism, is to transform fate into destiny … an existence of compulsion, perplexity, and muteness into an existence replete with a powerful will, with resourcefulness, daring, and imagination.”

Put differently, it is possible to see the world as beyond our control and to respond passively to it, or to act with strength and dignity and creativity in determining our personal and communal existence. To allow ourselves to live at the whim of the world around us is inauthentic and perhaps even immoral; it is to surrender the freedom, responsibility and opportunity that is ours.

The second was taken from Martin Luther King Jr’s. “Strength to Love”:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Who we truly are does not emerge until we are tested. During times of comfort we give lip-service to what we’d like to be and do, and we hide the things that we do not wish to show to the world. But when we face challenges, when controversy forces us to choose a side or to take a stand – that is when the true person underneath the skin is revealed.

These two thoughts bear reflecting upon as we prepare our souls for the arduous journey through the holidays and the path they take us on through our selves.

As Soloveitchik indicates, our lives are in our hands; we can embrace the power that we possess in order to change our selves and to increase the godliness that is our potential. We are not just victims of forces larger than ourselves, be they genetic, economic, political, natural or other. We also are our responses to them, the choices that we make as we live within the matrices of those things.

The holidays themselves are a time of challenge as we stand under the scrutiny of God and of our own highest selves. That is when we find who we truly are and whether or not we are living lives worthy of having been created. And more: since there always is challenge and controversy around us – let’s mention only the persistence of racism in our country – to live only within our own comfort and convenience is to shirk our responsibility and to declare to all we meet the real measure of our lives: that we have defaulted in exercising the power and goodness of which Soloveitchik spoke.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will remind us: we are not sole individuals, no matter what the existentialists and hedonists say. We all live within a web of relationships – with family, with friends, with strangers, with God – and the true measure of our selves is how we address those relationships.


Selichot Program: Using an Ethical Will for Growth


We had a refreshing Shabbat morning.  The Campbells’ living room was packed, the singing was rich and our conversation with Brad Schneider about the “Iran deal” was educational.  Many thanks to Robin for hosting us, especially given Stew’s absence.

This coming Saturday night we’ll deepen our preparation for the holidays ahead. We’ll use the tool of an ethical will to do that.  Similar to a regular will, an ethical will gives us the opportunity to consider that which we wish to leave behind – except, in the case of an ethical will, the focus is on values and meaning rather than material possessions.  Our exercise will include samples of ethical wills; time to think and write; and the sharing of ideas.

Following the exercise, we’ll celebrate the end of Shabbat with a beautiful havdalah service leading into our annual reflective Selichot service.  The service brings our attention to the themes of the upcoming holidays and enables spiritual preparation for them.

Leslie and Kevin Harrison will host: 716 N. Greenwood Dr., Palatine.  Leslie can be contacted: (847) 207-2266; leslie2266@gmail.com.  Weather permitting, we might be out of doors.

There will be a potluck dessert; please register right away:  http://www.perfectpotluck.com/meals.php?t=YHTU5759.

8:00     Dessert
8:30     Program: Ethical Wills
9:45     Havdalah; Selichot service

I hope to be able to share this special experience with you.

Shavua tov – have a good week.

Reminder: Shabbat with Brad Schneider


Just a reminder: our guest teacher this coming Shabbat will be former Congressman Brad Schneider.

Robin and Stew Campbell will host.  Weather permitting, we’ll be in their lovely backyard so dress accordingly.   Their address is 304 Chateau Dr in Buffalo Grove.  The home number is 847-465-0747; Robin’s cell is 847-833-6348.

9:45      Meet and schmooze
10:00     Tefilot & teaching
12:15      Kiddush &  luncheon

RSVPs:  http://www.perfectpotluck.com/meals.php?t=APHG3308

Hope to see you there.


A big THANK YOU to our PADS volunteers

Hi Everyone:

On Monday evening, August 17th, B’Chavana turned out to provide food and people to feed those who are less fortunate at the PADS shelter at Kingswood United Methodist Church in Buffalo Grove.  Your response to this was amazing – we had a combination of food and cash donations that allowed us to serve a wonderful meal to 37 PADS guests that evening and we had a full staff of 5 B’Chavana volunteers who gave us their evening to provide the labor to set up, serve and clean up dinner.  A huge “THANKS” to all that provided food, time or money to help make this a successful act of Tzedakah.

PADS stands for Providing Advocacy, Dignity and Shelter – there are both Lake County and Cook County branches of this organization.  The location we volunteered with is part of the Cook County branch.  PADS provides meals and overnight shelter for individuals and families who have no place to go, in addition to providing educational and employment assistance, advocacy and counseling, all in a high-dignity environment.  If you are interested in further volunteer opportunities, please contact me at 847-833-6348 and I will be happy to connect you to the right folks to make that happen.

Again, thank you for your help!

~Robin Campbell

Elul: The Road to Life Renewed


There’s a tree outside of the window of my office at home. I don’t look at it often enough. Susan has told me for some time that it is dying and that we probably need to take it down. While there still are many branches that are live and green and beautiful, she is probably right – much of the top of the tree is dead; the branches stretch barren into the sky with no sign of life. It looks like winter while it’s only August.

Last week, I looked out my window as I took a break from my work. Straight ahead of me were two healthy stalks of green shooting up from below. I wondered – where did they come from? I peered out the window and saw that they were rooted in a dead branch below, and there were two additional ones, shorter, that came into view as I looked further down.

Sometimes life comes from death.

In this month of Elul we enter a period of spiritual dying only to be reborn at the end of Yom Kippur. It is no accident that the rituals of Yom Kippur simulate death, what with no eating or drinking and an abstinence from sexual relations. In traditional communities the kittel is worn, the simple white shroud in which the deceased are buried.

Our sins and our failures strip life from us. They preclude our flourishing and growth. They prevent us from living as children of God. They lead to a death of the spirit if not of the body.

But our tradition knows of the possibility of rebirth and renewal. It comes through the process of teshuva, repentance. We identify wherein we have failed; we articulate our regret; we make amends with those we have harmed; we vow earnestly not to repeat our transgression.

And then there can be new growth.

In so doing, our tradition teaches, there is not only the possibility of a rebirth – but also of a transformation of our failure into success. When we learn from our mistake and use it to better our behavior we take the sin and transform it into something positive. The dead-ness of the sin becomes a branch from which a new green and living branch might sprout.

There can be no rebirth without a dying. In this month of Elul we identify the many deaths that inhabit our souls so as to utilize them for a great renewal.


High Holy Days – Calling All Family and Friends!

Calling all friends of B’Chavana!

Those of you who have joined us in the past for the B’Chavana High Holiday experience know that it is the best High Holiday experience ever!

High Holiday tickets sales are our most significant source of revenue and are vital in sustaining us throughout the year.  Please take a moment to think of any neighbors, friends and family members who might be looking for a High Holiday home.  Consider calling and inviting them to join you for B’Chavana High Holiday services or send an email invitation with this link 2015 High Holiday Information and Ticket Order Form.

Thank you!

The B’Chavana Va’ad (Leadership Team)

Saturday Shabbat – with Brad Schneider – THIS Saturday 8/29


A REMINDER – now with the Perfect Potluck Link.

Our guest teacher this coming Shabbat will be former Congressman Brad Schneider.  Many of you will remember Brad’s visit to us a couple of years ago when he shared with us his personal story and the roots of his public commitment in his Jewish upbringing in Denver.  During this visit, Brad will share with us his knowledge and opinions regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran and we’ll have the chance for dialogue with him.

Robin and Stew Campbell will host us.  Weather permitting, we’ll be in their lovely backyard so dress accordingly.   Their address is 304 Chateau Dr in Buffalo Grove.  The home number is 847-465-0747; Robin’s cell is 847-833-6348.

Perfect Potluck for RSVPs:  Perfect Potluck for Saturday, 8/29

9:45      Meet and schmooze
10:00     Tefilot & teaching
12:15      Kiddush &  luncheon

Hope to see you there.  In the meantime, have a good week.

Shavua tov,