Passover resources

Are you ready for your journey into the desert?  Photo by  Jeremy Bishop  on  Unsplash

Are you ready for your journey into the desert?

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Still scrambling to figure out your seder? Want a different way to count the omer? We’ve got you covered. Here are a few cool resources we’ve collected this year:

Haggadah

Unsure what you’re going to use for a haggadah? Maxwell House not doing it for you, even if it’s the Mrs. Maisel edition? Here are a few last-minute ideas:

  1. If money is not a barrier, it’s not too late to order a pile of these family- and guest-friendly haggadahs. There’s even a leader edition.

  2. A classic lower-cost version is the Velveteen Rabbi’s haggadah. R’Rachel is a longtime blogger, working poet and friend, and I highly recommend this. Also available as a projectable slideshow.

  3. Also in the free and downloadable category is HIAS’ timely refugee-themed haggadah.

  4. If you have time to kill between now and Friday night, why not make your own?

Supplements, etc.

  1. If diving into text with your guests is your jam, check out Hadar’s awesome collection of seder enrichment materials.

  2. Sustainability, anyone? Look no further than our partner Hazon’s great sustainability offerings.

  3. If you’re navigating the Easter/Pesach thing, don’t miss Interfaith Family’s solid article.

Cooking

The most important part: food. Here is Amberly’s Passover Pinterest board. Enjoy!

Counting the Omer

If you’ve never counted the omer, might I suggest you give it a try? This pretty cool spiritual practice can open you up to different dimensions of your personality and/or Divine relationship. There are a lot of omer counters out there, but this year, I’m really excited to count with Malkhut, our sibling community in Queens, NY, who are doing an omer meditation challenge. They don’t have a landing page for this, so here’s what they wrote in a recent email:

By living with the qualities of the sefirot and intentionally cultivating them, we can open our own hearts, preparing ourselves to receive revelation and wisdom. In fact, in the mind of the mystics, when we are able to live out these qualities in our own lives, these aspects of Divinity are actually manifesting - are being revealed - in the world.

This year, our very own Emily Herzlin, a Malkhut leader and an experienced teacher of mindfulness meditation, is offering us a weekly resource to guide us on the journey of this Omer period. Here is Emily's bio.

When you sign up, you will receive:

• A weekly email sent after Havdalah (the close of Shabbat) with a teaching on the sefirah (divine quality) for the week; a guided meditation cultivating this quality; daily life practice suggestions; and musical and literary inspiration.

• A Facebook discussion page to share your experiences with the community.

In order to participate:

• You don’t need to have any prior experience with meditation or with counting the Omer to participate.

• You don’t need to be Jewish to participate.

• Try to set aside 5-10 minutes each day for the meditations. If you don’t get to the practices every day, that’s okay. You can always start again the next day.
Sign up here

If you do chose to join the journey with our friends at Malkhut, please consider making a donation.

I hope this was a helpful collection! Please be in touch if you need anything, and have a sweet, liberatory Pesach!

Winter Village Gathering Recap

Photo credit: Jonathan Beckley

Photo credit: Jonathan Beckley

On Feb. 10, the Asiyah community convened our second Village Gathering—an opportunity to come together and dive deep into thinking about community formation. This time around, our conversation centered on what it means to belong. Our goal was to further Asiyah connections/community-building and envision what belonging to Asiyah might be, especially in light of the Asiyah Cultivation Crew’s (ACC) active planning of a partnership structure for Asiyah.

As with the first Village Gathering, we used the World Café format, which creates a container to harness the collective wisdom of the group in an easy and accessible way. And wisdom was definitely present among our thoughtful and engaged group!

VISION FOR ASIYAH

I kicked off our gathering by recollecting a sticky note that has been at my desk ever since the first Village Gathering: how do we create intimacy while keeping an ethic of welcoming? Or, in the language of the day: how do we create a sense of belonging while inviting others to belong? An answer Amberly and I have come across in researching this is: boundaries. Healthy boundaries help people on the inside feel the safety to be vulnerable, but also allow for the visitor to peek in without being asked to precipitously commit.

I reflected on a recent experience in a meditation practice, of an unclenching and softening of the heart which I connected with the work we’re trying to do here at Asiyah. But this work has barely begun. Creating a thick sense of communal belonging, can, I believe, foster the release of getting in touch with our hearts.

In order to build the world we want to live in. A world based on love, a world based on compassion and generosity, a world based on seeing the full humanity—the full divinity—of the other.

Amberly followed by outlining the top priorities for 2019 that the ACC determined last month:

  1. Define a membership structure to sustain Asiyah and increase ownership of the community

  2. Diversify the voices heard in community gatherings, specifically amplifying underrepresented voices.

  3. By end of year, execute two cafe proofs-of-concept: (1) a presentation to the community with full details of the cafe vision/plan, (2) a cafe pop-up

THE HEART OF THE MATTER: OUR WORLD CAFE CONVERSATION

Amberly then refreshed us on the World Café model, which is based on the idea that when a group of people are gathered and engaged around an issue that they really care about in an authentic, open-hearted way, collective wisdom emerges. The conversation takes place among groups of four or five people seated at separate cafe tables over a series of rounds, during which everyone has the opportunity both to speak and to be an active listener by taking notes and sketching or doodling ideas on the paper table covers. At the end of each round, the conversation groups mix things up by switching tables—creating rich cross-pollination of ideas, insights, and deeper questions.

Our three 15-minute rounds addressed these three connected questions:

Brain frame from harvesting.jpg
  1. Think about communities that you belong to, or have belonged to: What gives you a sense of belonging? What do you need to feel like you belong?

  2. In the communities to which you belong—both formal or informal—what do you give, and what do you get?

  3. How might "belonging" be defined for the Asiyah community?

We weren’t seeking set outcomes or solutions; rather, our goal was to build community, learn together, and create actionable knowledge that might inform future steps. Plus, we got to play with markers and eat snacks.

Once we finished the third round, we taped the table covers to the wall and toured our collective-wisdom gallery, looking for common themes and ideas and jotting them down on sticky notes. When we came together at the end for a final conversation as a group, it was amazing to see all the points of connection and intersection that emerged.

WHAT WE LEARNED

Belonging is (re)membering. The basic building block of a sense of belonging is having a place “where everybody knows your name,” to coin a phrase. It’s that basic human need to be seen and be in relationship. In some sense, everything flows from this, and the work of growing community is creating pathways for this to happen.

Contributing is caring. Another basic human truth, it seems, is that the more time and energy we give to something, the more we care about it. This bucks my assumption that someone would only spend time on something they cared about, which is probably a necessary precondition. I think there’s a virtuous cycle that happens: caring leads to contribution, which leads to more caring. This also connects to the first point, because being asked to pitch in is a such a crucial way we feel seen and valued.

Holding each other. Dominant culture places such an emphasis on self-sufficiency, but we know this is a lie. We need each other. In particular, people pointed to the need to be taken care of in our most vulnerable moments: births, deaths, illness. Belonging looks like a meal train, a shiva call, a hospital visit. We call it chesed in Jewish.

A purpose beyond self. When we have a shared vision and project to pitch in on, all of this comes together. Over the past year, we have been growing community from a set of guiding principles: co-creation, spirit at the center, a commitment to accessibility and emotional integrity. Amberly & I have intentionally not plunked down a set of core values, figuring they would be necessarily informed by the community that grew around our first efforts. A year in, I think we’re ready to sit down (next Village Gathering, anyone?) to outline a first pass at what those are.

NEXT STEPS

In many ways, this exercise feeds into a parallel process the ACC has been undergoing on membership/partnership. We have made some great steps, but there is still some work to be done to bring this to fruition. Will you be a part of that? Express your interest and see what unfolds!

GRATITUDE

A heartfelt thanks to all the folks who brought their bodies, minds, and hearts to our first Village Gathering, and special kudos to our co-hosts Hannah Anderson-Baranger and Marti Epstein for creating a beautiful café space and making sure we were well fed!

Call to co-create

Call to co-create

On Jan. 16, the Asiyah Cultivation Crew, our valiant advisory committee, set aside half of their Sunday to take a deep dive into helping vision our community’s next steps. We started out with a State of Asiyah report, detailing all the programming currently under way and in the wings and with a look at our newly updated budget. However, the bulk of our time was spent on whittling all the possible goals we might have for Asiyah in 2019 (see brain cloud above) down to three.

Join in the dance

dark-landscape-mountain-169789.jpg

I had an enlivening conversation last weekend with the heilege/holy Yiscah Smith over dinner at Asiyah member Mikhael Reuven and Naomi Kling's wedding. We were talking about lights, as one does on the last night of Hanukkah, and she recalled an anecdote from one of her Chabad teachers. "If you bring a match close to a burning havdallah candle, the smaller fire from the the match will naturally lean toward the larger one of the candle.* So it is with human souls and the Divine." 

It reminded me of one of Reb Zalman's oft-repeated sayings, that just as plants are heliotropic, reaching for the sun, human beings are theo-tropic, reaching for the Divine. We yearn to be closer to the Source of Life or the Grandeur of Creation, or whatever moniker makes sense to us. 

Sometimes it feels right there, and sometimes it feels impossibly far away. This is called being human! It also points to the reason spiritual practices are called "practices"—because they're not about perfection or an end goal, but rather a commitment to be in the circle dance. Lucky for us, the entry level of Jewish spiritual practice is also communal, so that even if we're feeling far from God, we can at least feel closer to people.  

Being human is hard. Spiritual practice doesn't have to be. Just put it in your calendar and join in the dance.

Inspiring intentional communities

Inspiring intentional communities

Last week I was in Israel/Palestine, on a tour of intentional communities with Hakhel, Hazon’s intentional communities incubator, for which Asiyah was selected in the spring. Over six jam-packed days, our group of 12 community leaders from the US, Mexico, Ukraine, and Russia visited communities up and down the country. The diversity of communities we saw was stunning, and two things captivated me as I made my way through these many places…

Being in the flow: Rosh Hashana sermon 5779

Being in the flow: Rosh Hashana sermon 5779

Years ago, on an extended trip through Southeast Asia, I began to fully understand that there’s a way of being in the world that’s more intuitive than over-research, easier than over-planning, and much lighter than over-packing. It’s called being in the flow. And by following the pathways of teshuva, tefila, and tzedakah, we can clear the yearly schmutz from our souls in threefold process that allows us to be and act in the world less from the ego and more from soul consciousness. To be in the flow.

Meditation kavannot/intentions

Meditation kavannot/intentions

Our sages read the name of month of Elul as an acrostic, standing for a famous line from the Song of Songs: ani l’dodi v’dodi li, I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine. They were very intentionally thinking of the Divine Beloved. After the disconnection of Tisha B’Av, they saw Elul as a time to reconnect, to start making the journey home to our spiritual center, to reaffirm our connection with the All Within All. I’d like to use this acrostic as a guide in this month of reflection, to help us bring into focus different aspects of our lives.