Rabbi’s Monthly Message



Tu B’Shevat (February 10th) and the Importance of Sabbatical

Dear Congregation, Can you believe we are already 3 weeks into Rabbi’s sabbatical? We have two months to go, and she will be back with us. As she meditates and hikes and studies and engages in serious renewal, we, the Clergy Renewal Team, want to challenge you to consider thinking about renewal for yourself.

As you open up this Menorah, we are in the Hebrew month of Shevat, the 11th Hebrew month counting from Nissan. Shevat is originally from an Akkadian term that means heavy rains. The month of Shevat is the core of the rainy season in Israel. Israel is a country very much dependent on seasonal rains. When the rains are lighter, drought is a real possibility. With drought comes famine, with famine comes starvation, death, war, and the origins of the Book of Lamentations. When the rains are heavy and robust, there is abundance. There is water in the streams, in the water table, in the cisterns, and in the wells. With full wells, there is green grass, vegetables, full mikvahs, and abundance. With abundance comes feasting, ease, joy, song, and restoration.

As individual humans, we are also dependent on water. Without physical water, we die in just several days. However, the Torah is full of references to another kind of water. You can think of it as a life-giving force, as spiritual energy, as a kind of living water that connects us with the Divine. Psalm 36 talks about it as a “fountain of life.” The Prophet Isaiah talks with joy about drawing “water from the wells of salvation.”

As you go into this month and start preparing for Tu B’Shavat, the birthday of the trees, think about whether you are getting enough water. As you are intentionally drinking your 8 glasses of water today and blessing your kidneys, consider thinking about what are the things that you’re doing to replenish your spiritual wells. It is impossible to draw water out of an empty cistern. Many of us can accidentally run our spiritual wells dry as we work and travel and over-commit and run ourselves ragged. We can dip into our inner resources so much that there seems like nothing is left. What are you doing to rest, to renew, to nurture yourself? What would a day of Shabbat look like where at the end of it you felt as if you could say “my cup runneth over?”

What you do for rest & renewal is likely very unique. You may discover, over time, that some things that filled your cup ten years ago no longer work – and while others that felt painfully boring now feel soothing. We as a clergy renewal team all have different practices that help us renew. Some of our favorites:

  • Geri: Communing with water, like soaking in a hot bath, swimming at the JCC, watching the rainfall, and combining the water experience with singing and humming.
  • Tikkun: Early morning coffee in a quiet house, steam room relaxation.
  • JoAnne: Traveling, lunch with friends, walking the neighborhood trails, and being in our beautiful Blue Ridge mountains.
  • Channah: Walking up to Sunset Rd, meditating, singing, baking, shabbat services, and having tea with friends.
  • Seth: I find that a clean-living environment is very soothing. When appropriate moments avail themselves, I like to turn on some Crosby Stills and Nash and Swiffer away my daily stress. When the task is complete, I feel relaxed, reinvigorated and often times achieve a sense of clarity.

Previous messages from the Rabbi

Between You and Me – January, 2020

It takes time to integrate the experience of spending five days with 5000 Jews learning from our movement’s thought leaders and encountering our talented artists, collating wisdom from session after session offered by experts in Jewish text and culture, organizational psychology, and education.  However, I can already say that this year’s Union for Reform Judaism … Continue reading Between You and Me – January, 2020

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Between You and Me December, 2019

Last month, I was one of 30 people Carolina Jews for Justice gathered to make pilgrimage to Montgomery, Alabama.  Among the sites we visited were the Rosa Parks museum, Freedom Riders Museum, Dexter Street Baptist Church and the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, all living testimonials dedicated … Continue reading Between You and Me December, 2019

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Between You and Me- November 2019

“It is impossible to do deep Rebbe-work if you have to be the shammes (caretaker) at the same time.  If you are expecting deep teaching from someone, you have to give them the time to get there, to connect with the shalshelet, with the chain of their transmission; you have to support them in their … Continue reading Between You and Me- November 2019

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Between You and Me- October, 2019

You may remember the opening words of the Ne’ila service in the old, red Machzor (High Holy Day prayerbook): “Open the gates. Open them wide…” In the twelve years I was a rabbi BC (Before CBHT), this was the most reviled of all moments in the Days of Awe for me.  For the four years … Continue reading Between You and Me- October, 2019

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Between You and Me- Sept 2019

Recently, I was told its name is Joe Pye Weed. But since I’ve been living in Asheville, I know it to be the wildflower that bursts forth each year to tell me I’d better get a move on and write my High Holy Day sermons. I had to laugh when I learned that Joe Pye … Continue reading Between You and Me- Sept 2019

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Between You and Me – August 2019

The Talmud tells the story of a man called Honi the Circle-Maker, a Jewish Rip Van Winkle, who went out for a walk, sat down to rest, and fell asleep for 70 years.  When he awoke and returned to his village, no one recognized him.  Separated from his former companions, he died of loneliness, at … Continue reading Between You and Me – August 2019

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Between You and Me

“If you stop doing hard things,” she said, “you’ll stop being able to do hard things.”  That was what my health instructor said during class a couple of weeks ago.  She was lamenting how her mother, who used to be on her feet all the time while she was working, had retired, joined the YMCA … Continue reading Between You and Me

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Between You and Me – May 2019

Carpet Story A story from Iran: When a certain Muslim had been swindled by a Jew in business, the angered party went to the regional governor and prevailed upon him to issue an official edict requiring the conversion of every Jew by a certain date, upon pain of death. As the deadline approached, the Jewish … Continue reading Between You and Me – May 2019

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Between You and Me – April 2019

The Hagaddah does a great job telling the story of the Israelite’s enslavement at the hands of the mighty Pharaoh.  How with an outstretched arm and with signs and wonders, God redeemed us from captivity. Many of us will reflect at our Seder tables about those who are victims of tyranny today at the hand … Continue reading Between You and Me – April 2019

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Between You and Me- March 2019

There is a folk legend that King Solomon, the wisest person ever to have lived, once posed the following riddle: What can you say to a happy man to make him sad, that will also make a sad man happy?”  Solomon took a gold ring from his pocket upon which were engraved three Hebrew letters: … Continue reading Between You and Me- March 2019

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Between You and Me – February 2019

A foundation of spiritual practice is the truth that we can hold two opposing feelings all at once. We can feel joyful as we grieve, we can experience hope in our despair, we can be certain in our uncertainty and, if we are wise, always be uncertain in our certainty. The weeks leading up to, … Continue reading Between You and Me – February 2019

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