Together Again

Rabbi's Message - June 8, 2021

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

הנה מה טוב ומה נעים, שבת אחים גם יחד

Hinei Mah Tov u’Mah Naim Shevet Achim Gam Yachad.

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for us to be together.

This past Saturday a small group of us gathered in our sanctuary for our first in-person Shabbat together in more than a year.  Appropriately, we began our service with a moment of prayer.  We recited Shehechiyanu together, thanking God for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach that moment.  

I have spoken those words on numerous occasions, but this Shabbat they were sweeter on my lips than usual.  It felt like an authentic expression of gratitude – it felt like a deep breath.   There was something especially meaningful and holy in helping create that sacred community.  And it felt wonderful.  This pandemic year has offered us time – lots of it – to think about the things that matter to us, including faith.  I have enjoyed reflecting with so many of you about what elements of our prayer services are most important to you and why.  Unfortunately, we have had to go beyond our comfort zones. But the conversations that ensued as a result provided insight and appreciation of experiences that we once took for granted.  

Zoom services, though they allow us to be connected and feel a part of an online community, have their limitations.  We enjoy wishing each other a Shabbat Shalom and checking in with one another.    We like that it is an alternative for those who do not drive at night or who travel all the time.  But it did not allow for physical connections, which is the element we most appreciated this past Saturday morning.  

I know many of you have shared that it is hard to connect with the congregation electronically. If this is you, I strongly urge you to take advantage of our summer in-person prayer opportunities.  Being together will fill your heart and bring joy to your soul.  Our next service will be in two weeks on June 19.  We hope to see you and would love to see all 20 spots filled.

I am also looking forward to this Friday when we will gather again for our last Taste of the Jewish Cultural Festival celebration.  If you have not had the opportunity to stop by, this is the time!  It will be fun to wish a Shabbat Shalom to one another in person, and who doesn’t look forward to a visit from El Meson's food truck?  I have been touched by the large numbers of people from the non-Jewish community who have made the effort to come to our Taste programs to support us.  Let’s show our appreciation by showing up in strong numbers, as well.  After all, how good it is for us to be together.

In-Person Services Resume

We are proud to begin offering limited in-person worship opportunities on Saturday mornings, beginning on June 5.  Services will take place in the sanctuary with social distancing and masks required.  You must make a reservation to attend, and space is limited to 20 people.  Priority will be given to those with Yahrzeit remembrances.  

Register below:

June 5 at 11:00 a.m.
June 19 at 11:00 a.m.
July 10 at 11:00 a.m.
July 24 at 11:00 a.m.

Please note that Friday evening Shabbat services will continue to take place over Zoom during the summer.

Marion’s Seat

Marion’s Seat

Rabbi’s Message – September 8, 2020

Rabbi Tina Sobo

In the congregation where I once attended, it was well-known that the second row back, second seat in, on the Cantor’s side was Marion’s seat, with her prayerbook, dedicated in memory of her late-husband, tucked in the seat back pocket. If you’d been to services at least once before, she’d ask you to move – if you were a visitor, you usually got a free pass. “She knows where to find me,” Marion would say of God – always emphasizing the ‘she’ while pointing up above. Every Friday night, every holiday – that’s where you would find her.  I have thought quite a bit about Marion and her seat lately, while preparing my own home for service-leading during this pandemic.

Perhaps one of the hardest challenges of this High Holidays will be that we are missing our “seats” – up front and center or tucked away in the back with a little more space and quiet or someplace in-between.  We will be missing our space in the Great Hall and Sanctuary at Temple Israel, but how can we create a space at home where God will find us, and we will find God?

Will you relish in the comfy armchair? Squish together with family on the couch? Sit in an office chair? Still dress up, or secretly smirk, knowing you are still in PJ pants? Will you take the day off of work or school as usual, or stream services in the background? Will you sneak that Yom Kippur snack, when you usually fast; or perhaps, finally not feel self-conscious about sneaking that snack because your blood sugar deems you must not fast? Will young children be at school or daycare, or will they hear the iconic melodies for the first time because it doesn’t matter if they are loud and squirmy? Will your dinner table feel emptier this year, void of guests; or adorned with a tablet while eating with family or friends from across the country on Zoom? Will you use the online flipbook for the liturgy, or a physical machzor, or maybe just listen?  

The short answer, which I always had to bite my tongue from saying to Marion, is that God will find us wherever we are, however we are dressed, however we are positioned, and even if you sneak a game of solitaire or some text messaging in during services. But, we won’t find God in the same ways depending on our personal answers. There are no right answers. PJ pants might be more comfortable than the itchy suit, or might make it easier to doze off – only you know yourself, but take the time to consider your sanctuary for these days.  What do you need to create a holy place where you can find a connection to God, to Israel, to the holidays, and more?

Need some help creating a holy space in your home?  Read these suggestions and blessings from ReformJudaism.org.