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August Letter from Rabbi Eva

07/31/2017 09:50:05 AM


Dear Shul Family and Friends,

Greetings from Oslo. I begin my week with a deep refreshing breath, having experienced the wonders of Scandinavia. Each day brings me a sense of 'dayenu' . . . this day would have been enough. I have been blessed to revel in the picturesque landscapes of the Baltic countries and pristine fjords, savoring the cultural and historical richness of each place I have traveled to. I feel my soul has been nourished with hugge, the Danish word that encapsulates the qualities of comfort, coziness, contentment and mindfulness.

As a child, my Austrian grandmother attempted to bring this same quality she called gemutlichshaft into our home. It's what we do when preparing for Shabbat by elevating our consciousness, setting a lovely table, gathering with friends, slowing down and smelling the roses.

Traveling reminds me of what a small and interconnected world we live in. How many of you like to play the game of Jewish geography? It is one of my favorite things to do when encountering people abroad. For example, I serendipitously ended up leading Shabbat services for two weeks on our cruise ship and with over half the folks who attended, I made a connection to a mutual friend. Yesterday, while waiting for a train, I mentioned to the woman beside me from Nova Scotia, that I have a friend in Halifax. Who would have guessed we shared a friend in common? We took a selfie and sent it to her via email. Within moments, our friend who recently moved to Toronto responded with delight!

Today Larry and I plan to spend time with a friend in Oslo who happened to have Shabbat dinner with another friend of mine from Vancouver. I just received an email letting me know that she is in Oslo and is staying one block from us. We know who we are having dinner with! I share this with a smile on my face, because often a simple question like “where are you from" can open us to wondrous connections. I may not remember all the historical data I have been exposed to and I may mix up where I saw a particular church or park, but I have placed these new relationships, as fleeting as they may be, upon my heart. My eyes have taken in such incredible beauty, while the ears of my heart have listened to amazing stories of fellow travelers. Indeed, we are all united in our humanity and each day I am reminded of the quote by Reb Nachman, "let the good in me connect with the good in others, until all the world is transformed through the compelling power of love."

Larry and I have been asking each other what our greatest take-away is from this holiday. For me, kayaking through the Norwegian fjords will remain not only a highlight, but also a metaphor for life. It is all about finding one's equilibrium and balance. Paddling in a tandem kayak symbolizes my relationship with God as well as those I love. I remember once reading that 'spirituality is a person sitting in a kayak thinking about God.' One has the sense of spaciousness, peace and harmony. Yet in order to be in the space of appreciating the vast waters and the bounty of God's creations, one needs to put in the effort to go with the currents. One day we found ourselves in unexpected wind and rain. As we were lifted and dropped on the waters, I needed to sense when to lean in and take control and when to lean back and trust, giving over control to my partner and my paddle. There were moments I raised my arms in wild abandon, the salt water of my awe-filled tears rolling down my face to meet the salty water from the crashing waves. I needed to constantly be making micro adjustments, as Larry and I called out directions to each other, to keep us on course, rather than letting us drift mindlessly to get us so far off course as to be overwhelmed. I had to watch the tone of my voice to not let fear or frustration guide our path. In reflection, this is the lesson I bring back: to stay attuned and be mindful of making little adjustments as I navigate through my day, rather than get to a place where more effort is needed to tackle an issue. I must also remember that I am not alone in my boat, and in partnership with God I can manage the unpredictable weather conditions of my life that may temporarily steer me away from being present.

And so, as we prepare to return home, I look forward to reconnecting with you all at The Shul of New York. We have so much to look forward to in the weeks preceding Rosh Hashanah and I hope you will join me for services and at upcoming programs.

Our new week is punctuated with the holiday of Tisha b'Av this Monday evening. Tisha b'Av is a day of mourning the destruction of both ancient Temples in Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. It is considered the darkest day in the Jewish calendar, marked by the chanting of Eicha, the Book of Lamentations and kinot, the dirges written during the Middle Ages. Traditionally, Jews fast on this day. Liberal Jews consider this day as an opportunity to reflect on the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people throughout history and acknowledge the suffering in our world.

We then move to this coming Shabbat. Please join me and our awesome Shul Band as we celebrate Tu b'Av, also known as the Jewish Valentine's Day. We will celebrate the auf ruf of the upcoming marriage of Hamutal Ginsberg and Brad Lieberman. We also welcome Marla Morris-Kennedy, the fabric artist who will personally deliver our new Torah cover from her hometown near Milwaukee. Our Torah has now been repaired by sofer Dov Berger, and we will unite our Torah with its new cover during this Shabbat of Love when everyone will be called to the Torah to recite the Sh'ma found in this week's Torah reading, Va'etchanan.

May each of you be blessed with love, balance and awe during these summer days. May you remember that our ever-changing lives beckon us to make on-going micro adjustments as we navigate the unpredictable currents.

Looking forward to being in touch,

Rabbi Eva


Sun, March 18 2018 2 Nisan 5778