New Ways of Sharing the Joys of Shabbat!

The pessimist says, “I don’t see how things can get any worse!” 

The optimist says, “I can!”  


As we turn the corner, leaving 2020 in the rearview mirror, it is clear that we are not quite able to leave many of the vexing parts of last year behind us; most notably, the physical constraints that the corona pandemic has foist upon us. But, being ever the optimist, I am always looking for the possibilities in every challenge: new windows that open up to us when doors are closed, new ways of connecting and sharing even when it is through the technological miracles of the internet. I even heard a new blessing to share with each other when we see each other over zoom: “ zey gezoomt!”  (a takeoff on the Yiddish wish, zey gezunt, you should be well!) So, we should all live and be well—wearing our masks and keeping our physical distance and getting our vaccines when we are able!


In the meantime, however, while we eagerly await the day when we can once again greet each other in person, give hugs and celebrate Shabbat together as a loving community, we are continuing to creatively explore the many opportunities that are now available to us in this age of COVID 19 that we had never really imagined previously. One of the blessings that is now available to us is the wonderful opportunity to join together with other congregations, wherever they may be, for our Shabbat celebrations. Over the High Holy Days we had the good fortune and joy to study and learn together over zoom with Rabbi Nancy Wechsler and the members of her Beth Shalom congregation in Carmichael. We are ready to take our connection to a new level and hope that you will join us for this exciting monthly venture! Starting on Friday, February 12th at 7 pm (note special time!) we will zoom over to their synagogue for our Kabbalat Shabbat service.(You will find the link to that service at Beth Shalom here.) The following month, they will join us at our regular CBH zoom on Friday, March 12th at 6 pm for a very special musical Shabbat celebration guided by student Rabbi Yoel Sykes, best known for his inspiring leadership in the Israeli group Nava Tehila. Please be sure to save the date and watch for more details coming very soon. Yoel is a gifted musician and spiritual leader who will join with both of the rabbis and Hazan Shayndel for an uplifting and heart-opening welcome to Shabbat. You won’t want to miss this extraordinary service! Our plan then will be to continue joining for services with Beth Shalom every 2nd Friday through June or July.


Another innovation that we are introducing will be “Mishkan Tefillah Shabbat” every third Saturday at 10 am. This new service, using the Mishkan Tefillah siddur (prayerbook) found in almost all of the Reform synagogues around the country, will begin on Saturday, February 20th. We are really hoping that many of our partner families who have not taken advantage of all the blessings that Shabbat morning services offer will join us for this new spiritual adventure. With spirited music, a digital siddur available to all, uplifting English readings, almost all of the traditional prayers and still a shorter service, there is much in this service that will delight and inspire those who are regular Shabbat participants as well as those joining us for the first time. In addition, this is the siddur that our students receive in Kitah Dalet (sixth grade) as they begin to prepare for their bar or bat mitzvah, and will use for their celebration service itself.  We are looking forward to sharing this Shabbat service with these students and their families in particular. These “Mishkan Tefillah Shabbat” services will be a wonderful opportunity each month for our students and their families to become more familiar with the structure of the Shabbat service and this siddur, and have a chance to get to know the community that they are becoming a part of.  We look forward to sharing these Shabbat services with you and thank you for helping us create a warm and welcoming community for all!


And, finally, I am exploring additional kinds of exchanges with other communities, as well, outside of the service framework. In particular, I have been in touch with my friend and colleague, Rabbi Or Zohar (some of you may remember when he and his wife visited a few years ago), in Israel about engaging study opportunities together with folks from his community.  


I would also be excited to hear about ideas or suggestions that you might have that will enable us to use these challenging times in the most creative and optimistic ways that we can.  We truly look forward to sharing these journeys of learning and inspiration with all of you.


With blessings,

Rabbi Greg