Rabbi’s Corner

Parshat VaEtchanan / Shabbat Nachamu

Dear Beth Shalom Community,

In addition to being Shabbat Nachamu (more on that below, connected to the haftarah reading), this Shabbat is noteworthy in that it is the last one of Rabbi Borodin’s sabbatical.  As such, it also marks the end of Rabbi Kurland’s time serving CBS in a professional capacity as interim rabbi.  I’ll include words to welcome Rabbi Borodin next week, but for now I would like to extend words of gratitude to Rabbi Kurland.

Rabbi Kurland’s work was often behind the scenes, so most members of our community are likely unaware of the extent of her contributions.  Her wisdom and hard work were absolutely critical in bringing us through the adventures of this year, including Rabbi Borodin’s sabbatical, my parental leave, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.  Her compassion, insight, and humor made it an absolute joy to work with her, and while she is stepping down from her interim rabbinic role, we are so lucky to continue to have her as an active member of our community in a “civilian” capacity.  Yasher koach and todah rabbah!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Rose

Learning

A video d’var Torah from Lauren Kurland

Parshat VaEtchanan

(Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

In Parshat VaEtchanan, the Ten Commandments appear for the second time in the Torah, with some variations in wording. Often, we focus on those variations to try to derive meaning from them. Yet our parsha also contains other differences in the description of the experience at Sinai, beyond just the words of the Ten Commandments themselves. In Exodus 24, we read: “All that the Lord says,” “נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע,” “we will do and we will understand.” We teach that text often, emphasizing that the order is significant; it portrays a leap of faith, a willingness to do what is asked of us even if we do not yet understand it. In this week’s parsha, though, the order is reversed. We read: “וְשָׁמַ֥עְנוּ וְעָשִֽׂינוּ,” “we will understand and we will do.” This Shabbat, let us consider both models, and the proper moments for employing each. When do we follow Deuteronomy, learning and understanding, and only then, acting? And when do we follow Exodus, acting before we have full understanding?

First Haftarah of Consolation

(Isaiah 40:1-26)

This Shabbat is often referred to as “Shabbat Nachamu,” after the first word of this week’s haftarah.  In many ways, this haftarah brings with it the first hints of the High Holiday season.  In language that is echoed in Unetaneh Tokef, recited on both Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, the lifespan of humans is compared to grass that withers, and God is portrayed as a shepherd, with us as God’s flock.  The call to teshuvah, repentance, will resound more loudly in our liturgy as the High Holidays get closer, but for now, we have this small whisper, inviting us to begin.  What first steps can we take now, heeding that invitation into the season of introspection and repair?

More resources for Jewish learning can be found here.

Prayer

Friday, 7/31 from 6:00pm, Virtual Kabbalat Shabbat

Join us for a virtual Kabbalat Shabbat experience on Zoom! We’ll prepare to welcome Shabbat with the melodious Kabbalat Shabbat service (including Mourner’s Kaddish), led by Shira Orzech with backup from the Benedick/Orzech family. If you can, please bring your candlesticks and matches — we’ll conclude with lighting Shabbat candles and then wishing each other Shabbat Shalom while admiring the flickering flames. You’re welcome to bring a siddur, too, but we’ll also have the words of the siddur available on screen. Contact Rabbi Rose for the Zoom link.

In-person Shabbat morning services

To read about our COVID-19 precautions and to register, click here.

Siddurim on Sale

We’re happy to share that the Rabbinical Assembly is having a sale on Siddurim and Chumashim, including the ones that we use at Beth Shalom.  They can be purchased here.

A Prayer in place of Kaddish

From Siddur Kol Koreh

From a halakhic perspective, the mitzvah of preserving life supersedes the mitzvah of reciting kaddish as a mourner or in commemoration of a yahrtzeit.  Yet the fact that the technical requirement is overridden does not provide the emotional or spiritual fulfillment that many people receive by reciting kaddish in the presence of community.  To help fill that gap, here is a Kaddish LeYachid, a kaddish prayer for an individual to recite alone, without a minyan.  It is attributed to Rav Amram Gaon (a 9th century Babylonian sage).

Livestreamed Options

The CBS Board of Directors recently gave approval for us to stream services on Shabbat and holidays during the pandemic.  Equipment is on back-order and we are doing what we can to set up streaming as soon as possible.  While we are not yet streaming Shabbat services, here are links to some Conservative options in our time zone. Please check their websites to confirm times:

Celebration

Here are just a few suggestions of ways to bring a sense of joy and celebration to Shabbat while we’re physically separated:
  • Sing joyful songs at the Shabbat table
  • Read a good book
  • Take a walk (and look for the beautiful flowers that are beginning to blossom!)
  • Invite a few guests, to the extent that you feel comfortable
  • Play a game
  • Take a nap

Connection to Community

  • As you prepare for Shabbat, you might consider cooking and freezing some extra food that you can deliver to someone who may need it later.
  • Please check in on your friends and neighbors, especially those who are at higher risk.  In addition to concrete needs, many people are feeling the emotional effects of being socially isolated- even just a phone call to say hello and Shabbat Shalom goes a long way.
  • If you are experiencing acute financial difficulty as a result of the current situation, please reach out to Rabbi Rose or Carol Benedick. King County Council has also produced a helpful list of resources.
  • As always, your rabbis are here for lifecycle emergencies and pastoral care.  If you need support, or are concerned about other members of the community, please do not hesitate to contact Rabbi Rose.

BimBam Video Parsha of the week:

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