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From the Rabbi

From the Rabbi: September 25, 2023


The story is told of a preacher who came to her congregation and preached a sermon in the church. Everyone loved the sermon and told her how much it meant to them. The next week, she stood at the podium and preached the same sermon. The congregation was polite, after all, she was their pastor, maybe she had a busy week and didn’t have time to prepare. However the next Sunday, she stood in front of them and preached the very same sermon once more.

One of the elders came up to her and said, “Pastor, the first time we heard this sermon, it was very good. The next week, we heard it, and while odd to hear it again so soon, it was good. This third week, you preached it again, Pastor, don’t you have another sermon to preach?” The preacher smiled and said, “Yes, you are right, I preached it the first Sunday, and the second and today the third Sunday. However, while you have all heard it, doesn’t seem like anything has changed, so here it is again.” This Yom Kippur morning I am talking about reparation


Several years ago, while visiting Berlin I was amazed by the way the German government openly told the truth about the Holocaust. Within the city and surrounding areas, there are many museums and public memorials telling the story of what Germany did to innocent people, Hitler and his government’s atrocities. 

What was incredibly moving, was seeing the square stones placed in the sidewalk, in front of homes where Jewish people once lived. They are called stolpersteine, meaning stumbling blocks. Upon each one are the names of the Jews who once lived in the house, the year they were deported and where they were murdered. There are some 45,000 of these stones in Germany and 5,500 in Berlin alone. 

At the same time, like some contrapuntal melody to the sobering cobblestones, everywhere you looked there is growth. Tall buildings being built or restored. A vibrant art scene. An abundance of classical music. My friend, Steven Sloane, a conductor from Los Angeles, moved to Berlin to teach and conduct.  I was there to officiate at the Bat Mitzvah of his daughter.  At the Bat Mitzvah party I met a number of Israeli classical musicians and opera singers who had moved to Berlin because of the government’s support of the arts. 


I was stunned that any Jew, particularly one from Israel, would ever want to move to Germany, and yet, seeing the way Germany enacted reparations, it began to make sense.  The healing efforts of acknowledgment and reparation made room for new life in Berlin that entices Jewish intellectuals and artists to return.

Lest we imagine that German reparations was a simple solution, history tells us otherwise because most Germans considered themselves the war’s worst victims.

In the 1950s, far more West Germans were opposed to paying reparations to Jewish victims . Time, effort and debate were needed before Germans were willing to confront the crimes of their fathers. Given the variety of reparations that were finally agreed upon, historians disagree about exact figures, but most estimate that as of 1990, when Germany reunified, West Germany had paid about 80 billion marks ($40 billion) in compensation to Jewish victims, while East Germany paid about 90 billion marks ($45 billion) in war reparations to the Soviet Union.

There is nothing in any reparation that can make up for the horrific sins of the Holocaust, nothing to bring back the lives of millions of slaughtered people. And at the same time, the reparations have an impact.

The reparations tell the truth.

According to Francois Bouchet Saulnier writer from Doctors without Borders,  reparations mean: the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged. Reparations are meant to acknowledge and repair the causes and consequences of human rights violations and inequality in countries emerging from dictatorship, armed conflict, and political violence, as well as in societies dealing with racial injustice and legacies of colonization.

Look to the Torah and we find support for reparations.

In the book of Exodus, chapter 12 verse 35 and 36 we have a dramatic moment as the Israelites slaves are picking up and getting ready to escape. They quickly take their dough before it is leavened. And we are told in verse 35 “They asked from the Egyptians objects of silver, gold, and clothing. And the Eternal had disposed the Egyptians favorably toward the people and they let them have their request.”

You might wonder, were the Israelites really asking for gold, silver, and clothing or was this actually a moment of reparations?

According to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, when there is a gift given to one who was once a slave, this is not a squaring of accounts, rather a minimal form of restitution what today we call “restorative justice.”

There is another example in Deuteronomy chapter 15 where the person who is no longer enslaved, receives financial security from the slave owner.

“If a man or a woman, sells himself or herself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. When you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Give to them as the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.”

Slavery needs, in the words of Noel Carrolle, “narrative closure.” To acquire real freedom, a slave must be able to leave without feeling as though he or she or they “slipped by” into freedom. The person must not depart heavy with humiliation and anger. Were that to happen, the person would have been released but not liberated.  The insistence on parting gifts represents the Torah’s psychological insight into the lingering of servitude.

In the Babylonian Talmud there is another example of reparations and acknowledges the tension surrounding it. In the Talmud in Sanhedrin 91 it says “that the people of Egypt came to argue with the Jewish people before Alexander because they wanted all of their silver and gold back. The Jewish people argued, “we are due this payment for the labor of 600,000 people who you enslaved in Egypt for those years.”

Fast forward to today;  the theme of reparations rise. A few years back at the Reform Rabbis conference in Chicago, we, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, voted unanimously on a resolution supporting the study of reparations here in the United States for the sin of slavery for African Americans and the urgent need to address it. 

Our  Jewish texts show how important it is to understand what happened when we left Egypt. We are not making an equivalence between Egyptian  slavery and modern-day experience of African Americans in the United States. At the same time, we do have biblical cases of reparations. We do have a moral framework to bring this to our community today.


Here is a brief statement from that resolution, “Some argue that today’s generation should not bear the burdens of wrongs committed by their ancestors.

Yet as scholar Ta-Nehisi Coates said in his June 19, 2019, testimony before a congressional committee, and I quote, “We honor treaties that date back some 200 years despite no one being alive who signed those treaties. Many of us would love to be taxed for the things we are solely and individually responsible for.    

But we are American citizens and thus bound to a collective enterprise that extends beyond our individual and personal reach.”

Let’s remember that in 1988 the United States formally apologized to more than 100,000 people of Japanese heritage who were subjected to internment during World War II and provided $20,000 to each survivor. Did that money make the humiliation and injustice go away. Absolutely not. Did it make it make a difference both to our government and to the Japanese American citizens, yes it did.

There is both a historical and a moral and textual underpinning to the concept of reparations. We have our Torah that reminds us not just of ancient slavery in Egypt but the unjust underpinning to everything related to slavery.


And yet, with a few notable exceptions, the Jewish community, which is so often proudly on the front lines of social justice causes, has remained quiet on the subject of reparations.

 Our silence is an implicit claim that we have no role to play or no responsibility to act. Some in our community may not think this is our responsibility.

First, setting the record straight, Herbert Klein, in the Journal of Social History writes that while most American Jews immigrated long after slavery was abolished, we need to own that a number of American Jews owned slaves.

Acknowledging any part in the slave trade is part of our T’shuva, our returning to our souls.  Our being an ally with the African American community is dictated by our sacred text, the truth we breath into those texts and our T’shuva. This morning Torah portion, Nitzavim there is a commentary which speaks about how Moses can obligate future generations to the covenant (I make this brit not with you alone…but even with those who are not yet here,  the commentators suggest that just as descendants of a debtor are not exempt from the debt, so too we obligate future generations to take responsibility.

Some will argue that today’s human trafficking is slavery of women,  men and children and that rather than focus on reparations for slavery in America long ago, we ought to put our energy on current slavery.

Today’s slavery is horrific and must be stopped. And that reality must not deter us from doing all we can to have our government do the T’shuva for what was done to African people in the name of white supremacy, and white greed. African slaves and their descendants had their freedom, self-determination, bodies, communities, ability to inherit and pass down wealth to their loved ones, possessions and, most important, their humanity, systematically stolen from them.

There are a variety of ways to conceive of reparations. International law suggests five forms of reparations: restitution, meaning how much wealth was accumulated by the slavery, compensation meaning, how much would have been proper payment for the work, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.

The impact of that slavery is felt in every shooting of an innocent African American,  every African American man who has been pulled over by police, the underfunded schools, the redlining of African Americans to live in some neighborhoods, the majority of African American men in our jail system.

Reparations are an attempt to offer a restoration of the rightful blessings of African Americans to live full and decent lives, the same as we demand for ourselves. Reparation is the demand for integrity from a government, which did the wrong thing, and ultimately changed the law but the deep impact has not been addressed.

Martin Luther King Jr said,” Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence and toughness multiplies toughness.” Reparations means we are willing to turn on the light.

Reparations include the continued removal of confederate statutes glorifying the slave holder,  the institution of government programs, making sure that the text books our children read in school tell the truth about slavery, creation of tax incentives for Black-owned businesses, educational stipends for Black Americans, and individual and community compensation.

John Lewis the iconic civil rights leader and congressperson who died in 2020  wrote an essay shortly before passing called Together You can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation. Simply put he said, “ it is good for the soul of a person, a people and a nation to set things right.”

Our sacred texts support reparation, however, that is not enough just to study them. Rather we need to live our deepest commitment and see if there is a way for the contemporary experience of slavery in the United States to be understood. I am no expert, however there are many people who have the expertise for us to gain from.

This afternoon following this service,  as part of our Yom Kippur afternoon reflections, we are blessed to have Chris Lodgson, lead organizer for reparations and restorative justice advocacy organization will share with us updates on the California Reparations Task Force. I hope you are able to join us in learning and asking questions.

On this sacred day of Yom Kippur, we open our Torah. Let's together open our hearts. Let's open our minds. Let's open our history, and let's shape a better tomorrow. Amen


From the Rabbi: September 24, 2023



Tonight is Kol Nidrei. We reflect on our commitments. We re-examine our priorities. Tonight is Kol Nidrei. We pray to have courage to make necessary changes so that how we live, what we say, aligns with our truest values.

Once upon a time, people believed that the earth was flat. The story that people in the Middle Ages thought the Earth is flat appears to date from the 17th century as part of the campaign by Protestants against Catholic teaching.

Enough scientific proof led us to a new story that the earth was spherical. We’ve been relying on that one for some time. However, there still are people who call themselves flat earthers who will argue that indeed the earth is flat. 

Recently I have been listening to a very interesting teacher, Rabbi Benay Lapi. She teaches about something she calls the Crash Theory. The Crash theory says people have master stories, stories that define what they believe about the world. Such as the earth being flat. However, inevitably our often-cherished master stories crash as new information is discovered making the old premise very difficult to accept any longer.  And there will always be a few who deny change.

If the master story is successful, it can  last a very long time. However, and I say this gently, every story will inevitably crash.

New information is revealed. Something inside of us changes. The story we have held onto will no longer really make sense. Hence, the Crash Theory and Rabbi Benay Lapi’s three options.

The first option when a master story starts to crash is: deny the crash. Promote that the new story is conspiracy and that the old one is still the master story.  For example, the flat earthers.

The second option is to drop out of master story altogether. Tell everyone that you don’t care whether the planet is flat or round or a triangle. Explain that you are not concerned and it does not matter to you anyway. You still need to eat, sleep, pay your bills and annual taxes. No time to care about the shape of this place.

The third option would be, based on the scientific data, to accept that the earth is spherical, but to also acknowledge that when we look out at the ocean, it sure does appear to be flat. Option three is an integration of the new facts with a recognition that there is something in the old master story that is valid albeit sentimental.

 For Jewish people, the master story is Torah. God gave the Torah to Moses who gave it to Joshua and to all of us. The master story says that the way to be close to God is through animal sacrifices performed by an elite group of male Jews called the Cohanim, the High Priests.

We don’t perform animal sacrifices any longer, so clearly the Master Story of literal Torah crashed.

Let's take a look at early Judaism with the framework of the Crash Theory and see how the three options played out.

Prior to the destruction of the first Temple, there was rumbling among our people about our master story. The Priests were totally dedicated to the Master Story that said that through animal sacrifices in the Holy Temple was the only way to connect with God and to work through the human transgressions that people tend to make. There was another group called the Pharisees who would become the rabbis. There was tension between these groups.

When the Romans destroyed the second Temple in 70CE, and our sacred holy place fell, according to scholars, 90% of the people who survived either left Judaism entirely or melted into the Roman empire.


We are here today, because of that 10%, the people who accepted that the master story of literal Torah had crashed beyond repair, meaning Judaism could no longer be a religion based on one centralized place, high priests and animal sacrifice. Done and over.

If you are Jewish today, it's because great great great great grandparents chose option 3. The leader of option 3 was Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai,

Yochanan ben Zakai was a Palestinian Jewish sage, who lived in the first century CE. He saw the flames devouring the Temple and the city of Jerusalem falling. He asked a few trusted students to help him escape. Still in Jerusalem, he got inside a casket and told his students to take him outside of the city. Some accounts suggest Yochanan ben Zakkai took medicine that made him appear to be dead. When questioned by the Roman guards at the gates of Jerusalem, they told them they needed to bury their beloved teacher. Once outside the Temple area, Yochanan ben Zakai got out of the casket and found the Roman General Vespasian. His goal was to negotiate a plan for the survival of Judaism.  

Yochanan ben Zakkai approaches the General and says, “Emperor Vespasian!” The General says, I am a general not an Emperor.” “Ah, but very soon you will be the Emperor.”

And suddenly someone rides up on a horse and proclaims that the Roman Emperor has just died and that he is now Emperor Vespasian.”

 “Emperor Vespasian” says Yochanan ben Zakai, Jerusalem is falling, it and all the people will be utterly destroyed. I have 3 wishes. 1.  Give me the city of Yavneh with its sages. 2. Give me the lineage of Gamliel. In other words, all the pharisees who studied with Rabbi Gamliel, let them out of Jerusalem as well.  3. A doctor for Rabbi Tzadok because the rabbi had been fasting since the Romans burned Jerusalem and is sick.”

All these requests were granted and essentially, Yochanan ben Zakai rejuvinated the city of Yavhneh and established a foothold for rabbinic Judaism to continue and they had a doctor. Courageous, radical, out of the box thinkers created a new master story.  Rabbinic Judaism is the story for much of today’s Judaism.

 Instead of animal sacrifice, they came up with three key ways to know God. Through Learning, prayer and acts of loving kindness. Instead of one centralized Temple, people could practice Judaism at home and meet in conveniently located synagogues. In place of literal Torah, they wrote the Talmud, an extensive how-to manual of how to lead Jewish lives wherever you live.

Yes, there were naysayers, like the flat earthers.  They exist today. They is a small extremist group in Israel who try to get people during Passover to sacrifice goats on the Temple mount.  They are part of the Return to the Mount movement.  They do not have much traction.

We wouldn’t be here as we are, if not for the group that left a burning Jerusalem,  who chose option 3. And yet, should Yochanan ben Zakai, somehow attend our service this evening, he would be more than baffled by our Jewish practice.

A woman rabbi? A choir? You drove? Or maybe better, what is a car? You have electricity? Men and women sitting together? Prayers in English?

I heard a lecture recently that said that there is good news and bad news about Judaism in the next one hundred years. The good news is that yes, Judaism will be here. The bad news is that we may not recognize it.

Judaism is evolving. Modern Orthodox Yeshivas produce social activists. There are more independent rabbinical seminaries, outside of Reform or Conservative. Renewal Judaism, an off shoot of Reconstructionist Judaism is very present on the Jewish scene. There is a Queer Yeshiva teaching a very interesting kind of Torah.  Everything changes eventually. That is the nature of life. That is the nature of the Master story theory.

Taking the same framework of a Master Story and what happens when it crashes, let’s talk about Israel. The master story about Israel that I, an American, grew up with goes like this.

We have a promised land; it is promised in our sacred text the Torah. We have always felt a spiritual connection to the land that is described in our ancient text. After World War II, we desperately needed a place where Jews could escape. We needed a Jewish country where we would step away from the starvation and death of the Holocaust and build up muscle to work the land to make the desert bloom. All had seemed lost until the words of Theodore Herzl took root. Im Tirtzu Ain Zo Agadah, if you will it, it is no dream. The Jewish National Fund cards with slots for quarters to buy trees. The songs of the chalutzim, the Israeli pioneers, Hava Nagila, Jews lived on communes, called Kibbutzim, who grow their own food, tend to their own children and defend themselves.

Now the year is 2023. 75 years after the State of Israel was declared and the looking at the polarized country of Israel and the citizens are not united on their story, their purpose, their vision.


The felafel is still felafel. The open-air markets are the same, except you can use a credit card. However the master story is crashing. We have learned too much to be able to keep the earlier Israel master story from crashing. Metaphorically, we now know that the earth is not flat.

I began to observe close-up,  how the orthodox resent the values of democracy, pluralism, feminism, as well as denying the humanity of Palestinians who lived there before 1948. I felt the orthodox influence and their belief that their Judaism was the only legitimate Judaism. Some buses in the ultra-orthodox parts of Jerusalem have women sitting in the back of the bus.

When I visit Israel, it is a priority to visit the West Bank. I often go with Rabbi Arik Ascherman a Reform college who devotes his life to telling the truth about the life of Palestinian people and making change.

I meet with families who live in rubble, and who fear that what little they have will be taken away. This summer I visited the town of Susya, an extremely poor dry area. The few Palestinians who live there are not permitted to use the water like other Israeli citizens, they have to pay a much higher price. They worry when their simple playground will be torn down.

In both February and July I joined hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. I was surrounded by people just like you, carrying Israeli flags, marching in peace, but definitely marching because of the governments shift to the far right, far right Jewish nationalism.  We marched against Netanyahu’s judicial reform, against settler violence, the end to the occupation, and the demand democracy for all.

This year at the Rabbinic Torah Seminar, the two-week study program, our evening programs were about the direction of Israel, the destiny of modern Israel.   We had Palestinian scholars talking with Jewish scholars, Palestinian leaders talking with Jewish leaders. The word, Nakba, which means catastrophe is the word for May 14th when Israel gained Independence. No longer a forbidden word to say, Nakba is a term heard among progressive Israelis and Jews.

The crash theory is happening before our eyes. What are our options?

 Option one: keep to the early master story, the land is ours, it is our promised land, we made the desert bloom, this is for the Jewish people. Stick with ultra orthodox nationalism, Abraham Isaac and Jacob and Bibi.

The problem with option one is that we’ve changed. We know for a fact that there were people, Palestinians living in those areas when we got there. Palestinians, lived there for many generations in homes they built.

We know for a fact that the ultra orthodox are not required to serve in the IDF, however they demand substantial money from the government.

I know for a fact that the ultra orthodox denigrate Reform Judaism.  Earlier this year when I went to the Kotel, the Western Wall, for Rosh Chodesh, to celebrate the new month, through song and reading the Torah, I, along with hundreds of Reform female rabbis were spat upon and cursed by ultra orthodox women and men. They shouted for us to go home.

Option Two says We ditch Israel altogether. We can be spiritual and not so religious. 

Early Reform Judaism made option two its choice when it declared that every synagogue is a Temple and that we don’t truly need an Israel to be Jewish.  One Reform Rabbi  of Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Isaac Harby declared that “proud Americans of the Israelite faith no longer needed to pray for the redemption of the “stony desert” of Palestine.”

Option two does not work because I love Israel and believe in a vision of what it can yet become. Walking away will not make it so.


Option three. This is the only option, really. The truth is that I love Israel and am so incredibly proud of what Israelis have accomplished at such odds, in such a short amount of time. At the same time, the history of how we got there in 1948 meant taking over other’s people’s land and that the government-sanctioned Orthodoxy has little regard to the Judaism we practice.

Since my master story about Israel has crashed, I identify more than ever with today’s Israel, because for months and months, Israelis with whom I share my deepest values are protesting a right-wing Nationalistic government.  

More and more Israelis want to work on some kind of reparative work with Palestinians.  Today’s Israel has a Reform Rabbinical Seminary and ordains Israeli Reform Rabbis to serve Israeli Reform Synagogues.

The Israel with a new forming Master story needs our support.

This coming May, CBS has a trip planned to Israel. There has never been a more profound time to visit. A new story is emerging and we will be experiencing it. It is my fervent hope that many of you can join me, that we can as Liberal Jews, that means, non-ultra-Orthodox, come to Israel. We will see the ancient sites, Masada, the Kotel, the Dead Sea, but we will also attend Shabbat at Reform Synagogues.

 It will be a relevant and meaningful visit because we can identify with their struggle for democracy, pluralism and transparency. It becomes very alive when you know you are part of a new Master Story.

The words of Theodore Hertzl Im Tirtzu Ayn Zo Agadah, now make sense in a new way. If we will it, if we commit to a new vision of Israel, one that reckons with plurality, that represents democracy, that honors the fact that Palestinians also deserve a State, then Ayn Zo Agadah, it will be no dream.

I am sure that the small group in the first century who went to Yavneh to create a new form of Judaism worried. They knew they could not go back to animal sacrifices and high priests but they loved the core of Judaism and wanted it to continue.  

What they created was radical, unheard of, amazing, and it made sense. They worked very hard. They kept learning. They listened to their gut. The created Judaism with a new master story.

The same applies to Israel. The current state of Israel is alienating thousands of Israelis, it is alienating Jews from Israel and also Judaism because they are watching a right wing ultra nationalism rise and a denial of Palestinians to live decently.

Of course we are afraid, however, oppression will not ultimately win us blessing.  We must be, like the first century radical ones who saved Judaism, by writing a different narrative. 

On this sacred night of Kol Nidrei, we ask God to give us courage to re-examine our priorities and the stories we once accepted as truth. Give us courage to forge a new master story.  

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai shines a light from beyond. We have done this before, and we will do so again.


From the Rabbi: September 18, 2023

Come Find Out

Friday, September 18th, 6:00 Potluck dinner followed by Shabbat at 7:00 p.m.

What is the power beneath the things we do as a congregation? What makes Congregation Beth Shalom Carmichael tick?

Spiritually, we are a prosperous congregation, substantial in kindness, in generosity, one to another. We are one of the rare Terumah membership-based congregations in the country, and our philosophy is one of inclusion for all who want to be a member. If we have more, we give more. If we cannot offer as much financially, we contribute in other ways, and one day, when we are in a stronger financial position, we, too will help those who need a lift. Terumah is a gift of the heart.

We are a congregation with abundant hearts. Our Religious Practices Committee addresses the holidays and religious practices questions with integrity, creativity, and honor. We have a Social Action Committee that fuels us with contemporary issues, monthly Social Action Shabbat speakers, Sunday afternoon programs, and opportunities to engage with the world. Our Religious School, Neshama, and Youth Group are a place where teachers and curriculum focus on the soul of each child and their Jewish identity. 

We are a robust congregation with a revitalized fundraising team bringing fun ways to build deeper relationships and support the nuts and bolts of our building, staff, and programs. We are a musical congregation with a devoted intergenerational group of talented singers under the direction of Carlos Fuentes and the energy of our monthly Shabbat with a Beat band. 

We are a resilient congregation that thirsts to know more, reclaim more, love, interpret, and deeply own our Jewish heritage. There are few places in our lives where we can gather to hear Judaism taught, schmooze on Shabbat and holidays, and become more familiar with our mother tongue, Hebrew. We offer classes in Torah study, Hebrew, Mussar - spiritual ethics, mysticism, Introduction to Judaism, and Jewish food. Let us know if anyone has a class they want to teach or would like to have offered. Our dynamic CBS board under the leadership of Dr. Roy Schutzengel includes members who have been with us for years, new members, and, for the first time, two teen members.

We welcome interfaith opportunities. We annually host an Interfaith Sukkot gathering and, as regulars, at social justice marches and other interfaith events.

We are seeking participation in our CBS Caring Committee and Rosh Chodesh team planning and attending this year’s monthly theme, The Art of the Moon. Let Jenny Jeffrey know of your interest, 

As CBS, we proudly share our culture with the greater community. Sunday, September 10th, will be our 46th Jewish Food Faire. Anyone who has smelled the heavenly aroma from our kitchen knows that holiness can be experienced through the mouth-watering taste of Jewish delicacies of Rugalach, Mandelbrot, cabbage rolls, and bagels, as well as many others. This is Ashkenazi soul food. We teach it, prepare it and share it. One day we may also be serving traditional Sephardic soul food.  

To make the Food Faire successful, we depend on you. We are the secret spice of the CBS Jewish Food Faire. CBS Family, please sign up to bake, help, and order food from our once-a-year extravaganza of the heart. The last day to order is Sunday, August 27th. 

In the spirit of what makes us tick, join us this Friday, September 18th, coinciding with the 1st day of Elul, for our Welcome Back Shabbat Service. (We will be eating and praying indoors.) Our summer lay leaders deserve our praise for their dedication to bringing beautiful services and Torah study this summer. What an incredible group of leaders: 

The Hucklebys

Bob Bennet and Roy Schutzengel

Eddie Appell

Sheree and David Meyer

Roberta and Dave Malkin

Jeff and Eli Swatt

Danielle and Cameron Hess

Sarah Rollins

Torah Study leaders include: Hank Lander, Bob Bennet, and Bill Rozell

Our tradition teaches that starting with the new moon of Elul, the Holy One is “in the field,” the ultimate Source of goodness, kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance is very close to us, encouraging us in T’shuva to come “home” to our purest, essential self.  

Be part of the sacred work behind the scenes, the spirit of what makes us tick. 

Be blessed and be the blessing,

Rabbi Nancy


From the Rabbi: September 16, 2023


This summer along with a dozen other rabbis, I visited a convent called the Beit

Jamal Monastery. It is a small convent just outside Jerusalem where the 32 nuns

have taken a vow of silence with the exception of Sunday when they take a walk

together in the hills of Jerusalem. I was at the convent for a day of interfaith

contemplation, first learning from the nuns on their spiritual practice and then

with rabbis who taught Jewish meditation practices.


The two nuns who, in their crisp white habits, were assigned by Abess, the

mother superior, to be our hosts spoke about their lives and answered our

questions. These two women had the most radiant faces and joyful smiles. We

saw their cubicles in the chapel where they sat separately but also in community.

Each sister receives a cell of solitude where she prays, studies the Word of God,

works, eats and sleeps. Like our ancestors of the desert, they believe that the one

who has God as a companion is never less alone than when she is by herself. And

truly with the silence, the solitude, the intensity of monastic routine, their

gardens, indeed their world seemed to be brimming with life.


And yet, as someone who does not lead a monastic life, their lifestyle made me

curious. I asked one of the nuns, “How do you deal with loneliness?” She paused

and she smiled her beautiful and patient smile.


She told me that for one thing, she never feels alone because she has a

relationship with God. However, she added “if I were to feel lonely, I would bring

it to the Abbess as it would be an important topic to talk about.” From her brief

words I learned that there are two kinds of being alone. Alone and connected

with God as well as alone and disconnected. The alone and disconnected variety

is loneliness.


Loneliness, as defined by mental health professionals, is a “gap between the level

of connectedness that you want and what you have.”


Even before the pandemic, Surgeon General Dr. Vivik Murthy surveyed the latest

data to determine what was the most serious threat to public health in the United

States. Assuming it would be cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, addiction,

he was surprised to find that the most serious public health problem is loneliness.


After churning out staggering statistics, Murthy concluded that loneliness is as

bad for us physically as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.


The same national study found that 61% of young adults report feeling lonely

almost all the time. Murthy suggested that our “epidemic of loneliness,” is driven

by the accelerated pace of life and the spread of technology into all of our social

interactions making us feel unseen.


Loneliness, like any other emotion, rises up to tell us something we need to know.

We don’t have to search far for examples in Torah.


In the Akeda story that we just read, the one I think who was the most lonely is

Isaac. After the ram is sacrificed instead of Isaac, Abraham, his father, leaves the

mountain. The Torah says, and Avraham left for Ber Sheva. There were only two

of them on the mountain aside from the ram, so that leaves Issac, by himself for

who knows how long.


In Hebrew the word for lonely is “hitboded.” The root of hitboded, is bet dalet

dalet, meaning separated, isolated and insulated. If someone is a soldier in Israel

without family, the IDF gives them a title: chayelet bode’dah, a lone soldier, a

solider disconnected physically from her family.


We might say, Isaac, up there on Mt Moriah felt profound loneliness.


In small doses, loneliness is like hunger or thirst, a healthy signal that we are

missing something and seeking out what we need. Loneliness in indiscriminate, all

ages, all people, situations align where the connections we want and what we

have do not match. For some the plague of loneliness is crippling, the negative

side of solitude.


When someone is physically sick, the Jewish penicillin is Chicken Soup. When

someone is lonely, there are two Jewish cures.


The first one is found in doing mitzvahs, pushing ourselves to check in on others,

to help another out of their hard time. It may be the very last thing we want to

do, this reaching out when our bowl is empty, however, it never fails to reconnect

us to others, and to God.


Five years ago, people in Great Britton began to take the issue of loneliness

seriously. The British government appointed a minister of loneliness to address

growing concerns among the public. One town set up “Happy to Chat” benches,

with signs reading “Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello.” As

part of the work, the government urged everyone to:

  1. Check in with a neighbor, recognizing that some people will be eager to

get together in person, while others might be more cautious.

  1. Keep in touch with friends, family and neighbors - for example calling

someone or writing a letter, asking how they feel about getting out and

about again, and considering whether going together would help both of

you feel more confident.

  1. Set a routine with online activities, regular tasks or by volunteering.

Rejoin groups that might not have met for some time, and think about

how you can welcome others back, especially people not feeling very


  1. Help out through volunteering with local groups or by offering a regular

conversation to someone feeling isolated.

  1. In other words, do mitzvahs.


One of the solutions to soothing loneliness is right here, at Congregation Beth

Shalom. The Food Faire. Halleluyah for the Food Faire. Singing in the choir. Taking

a class. Attending Shabbat services. Consider Inviting someone sitting on their

own to sit with you. Support people who are grieving by attending the funeral or

joining the minyan at a Shiva. These connecting activities gives strength and at the

same time, makes us feel less lonely. If you seek companionship at dinner time,

reach out to others and make a CBS weekly potluck dinner hour. We are all just

people trying to figure it out.


In helping others, Rabbi Mark Katz writes in his book, The Heart of Loneliness (pg.

154) “we can repurpose our loneliness.”


Another important Jewish way to deal with loneliness is to remember that truly

we are never alone. We are each created for a purpose, our souls have a reason

to be here. This is a big beautiful world in which we have been placed. We can

seek that larger picture, through nature, knowing that we are part of the big sky,

the grand forests, the magnificent ocean. Remembering that God is here within

us, always, is something the nun at Bet Jamal referred to, as do the psalms. From

Psalm 121 I lift my eyes to the mountains from there comes my help. My help

comes from God maker of Heaven and Earth.


In my imagination, Issac shifted a crippling loneliness by making a decision to

come off Mt. Moriah and connect with love to everyone, to everything , to tap

into the essence of his name, laughter, to the best that he was capable.


Each time he looked into the eyes of others, each time he helped to carry

another’s burdens, each time he recognized holiness, his isolation lifted. Like

Isaac, we can hammer our heartache into a covering for another’s soul. Poet

Emily Dickenson wrote:


If I can stop one heart from breaking

I shall not live in vain,

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,


Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.


Similar to Emily Dickenson’s words is the philosophy of twentieth century Martin

Buber. Buber was an Austrian Jewish and Israeli philosopher best known for

his philosophy of dialogue, a form of existentialism centered on the distinction

between the I–Thou relationship and the I–It relationship. This year marks the

100 th anniversary of that book.


At the heart of Buber’s theology is the idea that what matters is not that we

should understand God in abstract, intellectual terms but rather we can know

God by entering into a relationship with God. The way to enter a relationship with

God is by fostering relationship with other people, and beings.


In his theology, when we see the Thou in the other, we shift from lonely to

connected. We recognize Thou in nature. We feel Thou in the unconditional way

we are loved by our pets and sometimes by people.


On the other hand, when we see only It in the other or in nature, something to

use for our advantage, then we are plunged into existential disconnect and



While a person cannot change the conditions that plunged them into loneliness,

they can take steps to pull themselves out of it. Even the smallest step forward on

our part can do a world of good and mean the difference between being stuck

and being transported.


A parable from stuck to transported is told in the Talmud that Rabbi Chanina Ben

Dosa once saw a group of people from his city bringing offerings up to Jerusalem

(Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1;1) Wanting to bring something himself, he entered a

wasteland and found a precious stone buried in an enormous rock. He chiseled it

and polished it, excited to bring it as an offering. However, the stone was too

heavy to carry. He found workers but their fee was too much which caused

Chanina to feel achingly lonely.


A group of angels, disguised as workers of course, heard his plight and came

down from Heaven to help him. “We can carry it for you,” they said, “But you will

have to place a hand and finger on it along with us.” Chania ben Dosa agreed, and

the minute his hand touched the stone, he found himself magically transported to

Jerusalem. Once in Jerusalem, he was alone, but he was not lonely.


In Hebrew, the word for “alone” is Lavad. Being alone is when a person is by

themselves, an objectively neutral state. Want to know something amazing? The

word lavad, alone, has a second meaning, and that is “to combine.”


Being alone, choosing solitude and at the same time joined to something greater

than ourselves is a beautiful way to live life.


In those moments when loneliness arises, when the connections that we want

and what we have don’t align, we need not be afraid, or embarrassed or broken.

We can bridge that chasm. We can open to the Thou in life, to the Thou in each

other. Small steps.


Be like the child, says the Midrash, who is far away from his father. When he is

told to return home, he does not have the strength to make the full journey. Soon

he receives a letter, “Come as far as you can, and I will take care of the rest”.

(Pesikta Rabbati 44:9)


   From the Rabbi: September 15, 2023


     Everybody misplaces things. “Have you seen my phone?” “Have you seen my keys?” “Have you seen my credit card?” We hope that someone has seen our things and we thank our lucky stars when our glasses, phone and credit card return to us. At school and summer camp, at gyms, grocery stores, and restaurants, the lost and found becomes the last resort for the things we value to be found.

I want to talk about lost things. By talking about things I have lost, and things found, I hope to begin the conversation with you about loss, acceptance and the renewal of hope.

On average, according to the beautiful book Lost and Found by Kathern Schulz  “ we each lose two hundred thousand objects over our lifetimes.” That may include 384 pens, 192 items of clothing and 64 umbrellas. Typically we will misplace four items a month, our keys, phones, pens and glasses.

Devastating loss has a different texture. These are the losses that change us, break us, and then soften us, beyond what we could have conceived. The devastating ones are also common, although they feel entirely personal.

In the phrase Lost And Found, there are three distinct words. Lost; that is when what we once had is gone, at least temporarily and sometimes permanently. Found is when that which we lost is no longer lost, or at least something else lives in the place of where the lost object used to be. The middle word, “and” is key. “And” is the process which allows us to find, or replenish, reclaim, where the now lost object used to reside.

What is the nature of “and”? “And” is a neutral word that links two things together, indiscriminately. They don’t have to be similar at all. Such as guitar and cat. Sometimes for the word “and”, because it makes no excuses for what its bringing together, there is acceptance.  Even more, the word “and” could include a sense of forgiveness, making no apologies, just agreement.  Because the word following “and” need not make sense with the first word, “and” is a slow release of ownership of the first word and opens up the possibility of “what now?”

These past years, I have been losing my mother. Once a vibrant part of my life, mother nature, the violinist, the bridge player, the traveler, the avid walker, collector of inspirational thought, someone who I believed spoke with flowers, my cheerleader, my shopping muse, my mother now lives at Eskaton Memory Care. Due to a stroke, she speaks few words and moves with difficulty.

Her cognition limited. And I, her daughter, have the opportunity to find a new relationship with her.

I read her stories, the children’s books she once read to me. We play a form of gin, our family’s favorite game, and I help her hold her cards. I help her spoon find her mouth. Now I bring her flowers. Both wearing dark sunglasses, we take drives in my car blasting Mozart violin concertos or sometimes Frank Sinatra.  These things bring me joy and deep peace. I am so happy to be there. All rough corners are smoothed, all is forgiven, there is something that we have found and I cannot adequately explain it.

Sometimes, we just hold hands and look out the window at the tree branches swaying. Who my mother used to be, what our relationship used to be is lost never to return, and what has been discovered is pure love.  I wish with all my heart that her cognition and speech had not gone missing, and at the same time, there is a healing that comes with sharing this quiet state of peace.

Not so  long ago, like you, we were younger and, in some cases, our children were little. I too raised children, with a husband in one house.  Clouds in the form of sorrow swept over our lives and stayed, causing something that was supposed to last for all time to be lost. It took time, some eight years, for all that loss to settle. During that time, new things were found. My children who at one time fought at times like cats and dog, now claim each others as best friends. They cling, they laugh and cry with each other in ways, when they were growing up, I couldn’t have imagined. Now there is peace between their parents and each of us has been blessed with the finding of new love. Lost, now found. Because of “And.”

When I was growing up, there was no other mode of transportation I loved more than being on my bike. As a teen, I would ride miles to one friend’s house, then in the opposite direction to another. I even took a biking trip to France and then it stopped. Perhaps it was having a family, working full-time, finding out how much I loved swimming. Whatever the case, the love of bike riding got lost.  Recently after having my parents’ home renovated, I moved into it. Having returned to this house, I have started taking out my bike to ride the bike trail and have fallen in love with riding all over again. I am not the same person; it is not the same bike. I wonder if I would have rediscovered how much I love bike riding if the situation had not occurred for me to move back to that house. Something lost has been found.Nobody here is the same they were years ago. This is the way life is. We live, we lose things and people we love. If we are fortunate and willing, we find new things on life’s path that open up, reveal themselves for us to discover and help us evolve into the people we are destined to be. 

That is the essence of Rosh HaShana, the renewal of our lives. 

During these ten days from right now till the conclusion of Yom Kippur, we reckon with ourselves, we look at our choices, the things we have lost along the way, and we perform T’shuva to help us open up to personal discovery. 

Like the word “and”, T’shuva asks us to reflect, in some cases apologize, or release so that we clear a path to rediscover the best version of ourselves. Like the simple delight of entering a car wash, we trust the process of T’shuva to cleanse and refresh our soul, making it, at least for now, shiny and new. We start to recognize that perhaps we were the part that was lost in the hustle and bustle of life. Like the word “And” as in Lost And Found, T’shuva is on going, connecting past with future.

There was an article, originally found in an Israeli newspaper about losing then finding oneself.

The headline said:

"Missing woman mystery solved."

A group of tourists spent hours Saturday night looking for a missing woman near Iceland’s Eldgja canyon, only to find her among the search party. The group was travelling through Iceland on a tour bus and stopped near a volcanic canyon. Soon, there was word of a missing passenger. The woman, who had changed clothes, didn’t recognize the description of herself and joined in the search. But the search was called off at about 3am when it became clear the missing woman was, in fact, accounted for and searching for herself.”

Rosh HaShana reminds us to keep watch over our own souls. In Rav Kook’s book “Orot Hateshuva”, Rav Kook writes:

‘When we forget (and misplace) the essence of our own soul… everything becomes confused and in doubt. The primary teshuva, that which immediately lights the darkness, is when a person returns to himself/herself/themselves, to the root of the soul – then this person will immediately return to God, to the soul of all souls.’

No matter what goes missing, writes Kathryn Shultz, “the object you need or the person you love, the lessons are always the same. Disappearance reminds us to notice, to cherish. Loss urges us to make even better use of our days.” The word “and”  is the permission by which the lost shifts to found.

As we enter this sacred New Year, may our hearts be open to the new insights, the new blessings, the perfume of hope, waiting patiently for us to find.


From the Rabbi: August 2-15, 2023


MOON DANCE Fine Art Print Full Moon Unity Diversity Fashion - Etsy

Before there was JDate, there was Tu B’Av

Wednesday August 2nd – 15th of Av

Tu B’Av, is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av. It falls this year on Wednesday August 2nd. It takes place on the brightest night of the month when the moon is at its fullest expression.  Tracing its lineage to grape harvest, single women would dress in white and dance in the light of the full moon to signal their interest in courtship. Tu B’Av was one of the only times a year that the 12 tribes of Israel would intermingle, making Tu B’Av the original full out celebration of matchmaking.

King Harvest “Dancing in the Moonlight” | So Much Great Music

While the month of Av contains the holiday Tisha B’Av, the 9th of this month as the saddest day of the year commemorating the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem as well as a host of other days of suffering, we are revived by this ancient holiday of sweetness. Our Sages had much to say about it.


 The Mishna taught that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: There were no days as happy for the Jewish people as the fifteenth of Av and as Yom Kippur. The Gemara asks: Granted, Yom Kippur is a day of joy because it has the elements of pardon and forgiveness, and moreover, it is the day on which the last pair of tablets were given. However, what is the special joy of the fifteenth of Av? Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: This was the day on which the members of different tribes were permitted to enter one another’s tribe.                                                              (Taanit 30b:8-31a:4)                                                                                                                 


Not only does the Mishnah tell us what was worn, but also that the clothes were borrowed from one another.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: There were no days as joyous for the Jewish people as the fifteenth of Av and as Yom Kippur, as on them the daughters of Jerusalem would go out in white clothes, which each woman borrowed from another. Why were they borrowed? They did this so as not to embarrass one who did not have her own white garments. And the daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards…(Mishnah Ta'anit 4:8)

For many centuries, the holiday of Tu B’Av was overlooked, however it has re-emerged and been re-interpreted for our times. It is a day to be kind. It is a day to smile. It is a day to wink. It is a day to be your most loving self and appreciate the people in your life. It’s a nice evening to take a stroll in the moonlight and enjoy some fruit of the vine. The customary greeting has been similar to one on Rosh Hashana,  “May your inscription and seal be for good” (ketiva v’hatima tova).


Wishing you a sweet Tu B’Av!

Grape Vine Heart Stock Illustrations – 333 Grape Vine Heart Stock  Illustrations, Vectors & Clipart - Dreamstime

Rabbi Nancy Wechsler


From the Rabbi: June 10, 2023


Pride Shabbat Friday, June 10th 7:00 p.m.

Pride Shabbat - Kerem Shalom

With speakers, CBS members Angela, Jack, and Q Ezekiel.

About 5 years ago, I was introduced to the pronoun “them” as singular. My teens helped, patiently trying to guide me that “they are at the door” could mean one person was at the door when that person was non-binary. At that time, the concept of non-binary was new information.   It struck me as a such a significant shift that I spoke about it during the High Holidays in the context of the urgency to awaken and honor expanding paradigms.

Bergman, S. Bear; Barker, Meg-John (2017) in "Non-binary Activism" wrote that binary or genderqueer is an umbrella term for gender identities that are not solely male or female‍—‌identities that are outside the gender binary. Non-binary identities fall under the transgender umbrella, since non-binary people typically identify with a gender that is different from their assigned sex though some non-binary individuals do not consider themselves transgender.

Non-binary people may identify as an intermediate or separate third gender, identify with more than one gender, no gender (agender), or have a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid). Gender identity is separate from sexual or romantic orientation and non-binary people have a variety of sexual orientations, just as cisgender (denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex) people do.  Being non-binary is also not the same as being intersex; most intersex people identify as either male or female.

Non-binary people as a group vary in their gender expressions, and some may reject gender "identities" altogether. Some non-binary people are medically treated for gender dysphoria with surgery or hormones, as trans men and trans women often are.

Jewish texts are not hesitant in expressing non-binary. In Genesis 1:27, “And G-d-created adam in G-ds own image, in the image of G-d, created G-d him, male and female created  G-d, them.” Rabbi Elliot Kukla, in the book Reform Devises Sex-Change Blessings, wrote: “Hence our tradition teaches that all bodies and genders are created in G-d’s image, whether we identify as men, women, inter-sex or something else.”

Even more specifically from  18th century Hasidus, a teaching from Rabbi Yechiel Michael from Zloczow (1731-1786) “at times a female would be in a male body, because in the reasons of gilgal (reincarnation) the soul of a female would be inside a male.” (translated by Abby Stein)

This coming Friday, June 10th we celebrate Pride Shabbat. We hope very much that you will attend either masked in person or on zoom, and bring your welcome, love, and joy as we learn more about this journey. While not everyone will personally experience the shift from a plural “they” to a singular “they,” we all share in common, the longing to living in truth.

In our tradition leaving Egypt wasn’t an historical event alone. Leaving Egypt was a personal and existential leaving as well. In the Haggadah we say: In every generation a person must regard themselves as though they personally had gone out of Egypt.

Rabbi David Ingber of Romemu wrote: When we leave a narrow place, a place of constriction, painful servitude, a place where we are not authentically who we are, that leap taking, that transitioning, is an exodus. A freedom walk.


Rabbi Nancy


From the Rabbi: March 3, 2023