Last Shabbat, Jewish communities everywhere read Parashat Yitro, which tells the story of the giving of the Ten Commandments and describes revelation at Sinai, a peak moment of closeness between the Israelites and God.
Last Shabbat, Jewish communities everywhere read Parashat Yitro, which tells the story of the giving of the Ten Commandments and describes revelation at Sinai, a peak moment of closeness between the Israelites and God. Here in our Kavana community, this revelatory moment continued to reverberate at our Winter Spirituality Retreat, held at Camp Kalsman! One participant described it as a "wonderful weekend full of intentional movement of mind, body and heart," and another called it "a joyful and truly generative experience." Special thanks to retreat leaders Stacy Lawson, Julie Kohl, Nicki Sadow-Hasenberg, to staff leaders Rabbi Josh Weisman and Traci Marx, and to all of the participants who made this experience what it was... a peak spiritual experience, and perhaps a small taste of thetranscendental moment of Sinai!
Of course, no retreat can last forever, nor could the Israelites remain at the mountain forever.
This coming week, the Torah pivots into Parashat Mishpatim, a Torah portion chock full of detailed laws. Most of these deal with "mitzvot bein adam l'chaveiro"... that is, thecommandments that govern human relationships. While many are seemingly quite mundane and even technical, these laws serve as the building blocks of society, as "Torah" (in its highest sense) manifests in the everyday.
Similarly, here at Kavana, we return to our "regularly scheduled program" this week -- all sorts of experiences designed to help our community members learn and grow, navigate life decisions, and find holiness in each and every week. You're invited to join us for any events below that catch your eye, of course, but in particular, we want to highlight two:
a) the musical Shabbat service scheduled for this Friday night -- a great way to end your work week with a taste of the transcendent,
b) the End of Life and Advance Care workshop on Feb 10th. We're creating a safe space for important but hard conversations, and hope you will join us. Making decisions around your wishes is truly the best gift you can give to your loved ones!
As we "come down from the mountain" and move into the rhythms of life's continued journey, we look forward to seeing you and being in community with you.
The Torah is usually terse and concise, but this week's parasha, Chayei Sarah, centers around a long story that is anything but! All 67 verses of Genesis chapter 24 are devoted to a single narrative: the tale of Abraham sending his servant on a journey to find a wife for his son Isaac, and returning with Rebecca, a woman of great agency, strength and generosity.
We Jews know how to wait. That is, we deeply understand humanity's imperfections, and that the presence of injustice or cruelty in our world cannot undermine our steadfast focus on trying to achieve our vision of a more perfect, more just future. We have lots of historical experience to draw on, and much language for this kind of spiritual resilience. One line that's been swimming through my head this week is from the prayer "Ani Maamin": "v'af al pi she-yitmameah, im kol zeh achakeh lo." Translating loosely here (and transposing what we're waiting for from a messianic figure to a time characterized by messianic ideals), this means: despite the fact that it's taking a long time for the world to change in the ways we believe it should, still, we are undeterred; we will wait - and work - until we arrive at an era of peace and justice.
Yesterday was the second anniversary of the violent attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Its memory casts a long shadow for me, and this year, the anniversary feels like a powerful reminder of the very high stakes of next week’s election.