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Tu B'Shevat Letter from Rabbi Eva

02/01/2018 01:26:11 PM


Dear Shul Family and Friends,

Were you up this morning in time to experience the super blue blood full moon? I perched myself by the window before dawn, postured to see this rare phenomena. The moon did appear larger than usual to my eyes, but I missed out on all the features that I had anticipated, including being blown away by a red glow. Nevertheless, I was excited to welcome a new day filled with new possibilities and to offer a blessing. In our traditions, blessings are opportunities to express awe and gratitude.

The blessing I recited was on seeing a beautiful scene in nature:

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam shekacha lo be-olamo.
Blessed are You, YHVH, who has created such things in your world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of blessings these past weeks. I have returned from a week in California where I attended a clergy leadership program, grounded in the practice of prayer, mindfulness meditation, yoga and Hassidic text study that all support my evolving spiritual formation. Imagine a group of 40 rabbis and cantors silent for the better part of the day, attuning to the wonders of the breath, the body, the words of our Hassidic sages and contemporary teachers, not to mention our connection with the earth? Simply stated, it was radiant and challenging at the same time. I have attended numerous silent retreats throughout the years, but something happened in this one that opened my neshama (my soul) to a heightened level of appreciation for my breath. Throughout the next 18 months, my cohort will be involved in practices that will engage me in all realms of being: emotionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually. I look forward to sharing with you what this process is for me.

On this final day of January, we observe Tu B’Shevat, considered by some to be the Jewish Earth Day, when we celebrate trees and ecological awareness.

Around the world, Jews have gathered together to experience the kabbalistic tradition of having a special seder to honor the various fruits and wines, as well as the Biblical 7 species. I am looking forward to celebrating Tu B’Shevat together at the Shul of New York this Friday evening. You can still reserve your space for our festivities when we will sing, learn, taste, discuss and even plant. Register here.

Having just returned from my native California, I am keenly aware of the produce and food choices we make here on the East Coast during the winter. Meandering through a beach town farmer’s market was an exciting Sunday activity. How fortunate to sample many of the 26 varieties of juicy citruses, freshly dried organic olives, and abundant greens. There were sprouted nuts, eggs just gathered that morning from a local farm, and plump ripe avocados and persimmons. On this Tu B’Shevat Day, I am reminded to be grateful for the food that gets delivered to New York during the cold winter months from warm weather climate zones and reflect on the journey they went on to be delivered to our grocery store shelves.

Join me in celebrating this Tu B’Shevat as an opportunity to pause and be mindful of all of the food choices that are available to us in our city. We may not be walking outdoors in shorts and sampling the freshest of fruits and vegetables, yet we can say a blessing for the food that comes from the trees, the earth and the vines.

This is the practice I made up for today in honor of Tu b’Shevat to remind me of the joy of breathing in the sweetness of life.

Begin by selecting a special fruit. Feel it, roll it between your fingers, enjoy it’s color(s) and texture. If it has a hard shell, can you imagine the colors and textures hidden inside? Before you eat your fruit, take a whiff. Is the smell evocative? Now, take a deep breath and express your gratitude by reciting the following blessing:

Baruch Ata Adonai elocheinu melech ha’olam hanotein rei’ach tov baperot.
Blessed are You, YHVH, who puts fragrance in fruit.

Now, doesn’t this practice of reciting a blessing make the fruit taste even better?

We have much to look forward to at the Shul of New York throughout February.

Check out the calendar and join us for a spirited service, a Contemplative Shabbat gathering , an evening of chanting, a pre-Purim party or our Tu B’Shevat seder .

I will begin offering a series of salon style Conversations in Spirituality commencing Feb. 21, focusing on various spiritual tools gleaned from Jewish wisdom. I hope you will consider joining me in this exploration of ways to integrate and enrich our lives with mindfulness practices.

As always, I want you to know I am here for you. I am collecting names each month for our community mishebeirach prayer list. If you or someone you know is in need of healing prayers, please send me their names and I will add to my list. Each month, the list will be renewed. If the person is Jewish, it is especially meaningful to include their Hebrew name, if you are able to secure it.

Feb. 3:  Mindfulness Shabbat service: You are invited to participate in an informal Shabbat morning gathering on the Upper West Side with fellow seekers for meditation, prayer and conversation. 10:00a.m. ~12:00p.m. Register by Friday morning, Feb. 2 to receive the details. Register here.

Feb. 13:  Singing Your Soul: Join us for an evening of chanting as we draw on Jewish wisdom to bring hope and healing into our lives. Come with an open heart. JCC of Manhattan 7:15 to 9:00 p.m. register on-line or at the door: Register here.

Feb. 28:  Join Rabbi Eva at an Upper West Side Synagogue to attend a Purim service with revelry and listen to the full megillah reading, the story of Esther. For more information, contact Rabbi Eva .


Mon, May 21 2018 7 Sivan 5778