Exciting news! Rabbi Rain, along with co-director Rabbi Lori Shaller, will be reprising their successful Educating for Spirituality track at Kallah. You can find more information on the EfS website. It's not too late to register! Financial aid and scholarships are available. If you can't make it...

Yom Kippur Reflection

For The Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington DC.

By Rabbi Rain Zohav

[caption id="attachment_130" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Rabbi Rain speaking at High Holy Day services at IFFP Rabbi Rain speaking at High Holy Day services at IFFP[/caption] Welcome to the Yom Kippur service of the Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington DC. If this is your first time here, you may notice that this a different kind of congregation made up of people from both Christian and Jewish heritages. We strive to fully respect all of our paths. If you have been at our other High Holy Day services, you know that I have been reflecting on three aspects of our lives that can have transformative power as described in our liturgy: Tzedakah, right giving, Teshuvah, repentance, and Tefilah, prayer. I have already spoken about Tzedakah and Teshuvah, so that leaves Tefilah - prayer - for today.   Tefilah, often translated as I have just done as ‘prayer”, actually means something much more like introspection. The verb l’hitpalel in Hebrew, from which the noun is derived, is a reflexive verb. It is something ones does for oneself, like dress oneself, wash oneself, etc.  So on this most introspective of days- Yom Kippur – it seems fitting to share my own introspections. My guiding imagery for this is another line from the liturgy: “The great shofar is sounded! A still small voice is heard”. (U’N’taneh Tokef) This phrase; “a still small voice” reminds me of a passage from The Hebrew Scriptures, describing an experience of the prophet Elijah( Kings,19:11 – 13) Behold! the Lord passes, and a great and strong wind splitting mountains and shattering boulders before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake and the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake , fire and the Lord was not in the fire: after the fire a still small voice:   דַקָּה דְּמָמָה קוֹל Kol d’m’mah dakah. What exactly is this still small voice? I think it is the voice of conscience. And my conscience this Yom Kippur is feeling like a strong wind that wants to split mountains and shatter boulders, or like an earthquake, or like a fire. And the thing that it keeps shouting to me, quietly and softly is that the Black Lives Matter movement needs to be heard loud and clear. I stand with Janell Hobson, associate professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University at Albany who writes, “I speak the names of the victims because their own stories and their own spirits need to be magnified, especially as the noise of the media shifts to the murderer”. I will not speak that name here.

Rosh HaShannah Reflections

For The Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington DC.

Rabbi Rain Zohav

2015

Welcome to the Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington DC’s Rosh Hashanah services. I am Rabbi Rain Zohav, the new Rabbi of this interesting and unusual congregation made up of families from both the Jewish and the Christian traditions. No matter what our background, we gather together today to celebrate the Jewish New Year and to continue the work of reflection and reconciliation that Jewish tradition asks of us in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As I mentioned last night, we learn from the liturgy that Teshuvah,(repentance) Tefillah (prayer) and Tzedakah can transform our lives. Last night I spoke about Tzedakah. Today I am going to speak about Teshuvah. This word is often translated as “repentance”, but its literal meaning is “returning”. To expand on this definition, I would suggest that it means to return to our true selves, to our best selves, to our highest selves. This is not easy! That is why we are given ten days to do this work. And this work before Yom Kippur consists mainly of asking forgiveness from our fellow human beings and granting forgiveness to our fellow human beings. Also not easy! However; it is necessary. Our Biblical proof text for this is from the “holiness code” Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge…”. Maimonides, medieval commentator and author of the Mishneh Torah (a concise summing up of Talmudic law) gives us two case studies of what exactly constitutes “vengeance” and “bearing a grudge”. In the first example, one person asks to borrow a shovel from the second. The second one refuses. The next day, the second person – the one who refused to lend a tool on day one has to ask for a similar favor, whereupon the first replies, “I will not lend it to you, just as you did not lend me your shovel when I asked it of you.” So we see that “vengeance’ does not have to be killing someone to be prohibited. Maimonides goes on to say, “He should rather give it to him cheerfully when he comes to ask for it and must not repay him for his mistreatment”. (p.21, Chapter 7:7). In Maimonides’s examples of holding a grudge he posits that “Rueben says to Shimon ‘Rent this house to me, or ‘Lend me this ox’. But Shimon doesn’t want to. After some time Shimon comes to Reuben with a similar request. Reuben says to him, “Here it is: I am not like you; I will not treat you like you treated me”. This is exactly bearing a grudge according to Maimonides. And he further points out that as long as one is holding a grudge, one is also more likely to act vengefully. However, by forgiving the person both in our thoughts and in how we treat them we behave according to our highest selves. Still, this is not easy. 

Erev Rosh HaShannah Reflections

For The Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington DC.

Rabbi Rain Zohav

2015

Welcome to the Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington DC’s Erev Rosh Hashanah services. I am Rabbi Rain Zohav, the new Rabbi of this interesting and unusual congregation made up of families from both the Jewish and the Christian traditions. No matter what our background, we gather together tonight for a deeply human experience; the beginning of a new year. The evening of Rosh Hashanah in the Jewish tradition ushers in a ten day period of both joy and introspection. Joy because this time of the year offers in the words of Arnold Eisen, American Judaic scholar who is currently Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York., is “…the grace of new beginnings” (The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary, by Michael Strassfeld, p. 100). We begin a process of self-reflection that can lead to radically different lives. This is a joyful prospect, although a difficult undertaking. This search for how to live a good life is as Alan Lew, sometimes called “The Zen Rabbi”, writes, “… a deep dream of human existence”. (This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation, p. 5) He continues, “This is a journey from denial to awareness…from isolation to a sense of our intimate connection to all being... This is an essential part of Rosh Hashanah- seeing ourselves not just as discrete ego, but as part of the great flow of being. The very first thing the Talmud has to say about Rosh Hashanah is: ‘On Rosh Hashanah, all the inhabitants of the earth stand before God, as it says in the 33rd Psalm “God fashions their hearts as one.. (Ibid, p. 8, p.71) And there are specific steps we can take to effect this transformation. We learn from the liturgy that Teshuvah,(repentance) Tefillah (prayer) and Tzedakah (righteous giving) “avert the decree.” Or, as more accessibly translated in our Makhzor “How can life’s severity be eased? Through Teshuvah, Tefilah and Tzedkah”.(The New Kehila Makhzor, ed. R. David Shneyer, p. 70).  Or, as I will put it: How can we transform our lives in the coming year for the better?

Yesterday was the first day of Elul, the month leading up to Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. I am joining #TheWell30Days and will be sharing my thoughts and reflections on IFFP's facebook page. For today, I will share that I will be reading at least some of "The...

The term minimalism is also used to describe a trend in design and architecture where in the subject is reduced to its necessary elements. Minimalist design has been highly influenced by Japanese traditional design and architecture. In addition, the work of De Stijl artists is...

The term minimalism is also used to describe a trend in design and architecture where in the subject is reduced to its necessary elements. Minimalist design has been highly influenced by Japanese traditional design and architecture. In addition, the work of De Stijl artists is...