Spiritual book club FAQs

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Q: Who was Reb Zalman?

A: Reb Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, ztz"l, was the "zaydie" of Jewish Renewal. It is in his lineage that Rabbi David received his semicha/rabbinic ordination. Here is an extensive remembrance to give you an idea of his wide-ranging life.

Q: What type of books will we be reading?

A: This series will offer us a multivocal introduction to Jewish Renewal from the mouths of its teachers and practitioners. Our first selection will be Jewish with Feeling by Reb Zalman himself. Future selections may include Jewish Renewal by R'Michael Lerner, Path of Blessing by R'Marcia Prager, Godwrestling by R'Arthur Waskow, and Roots in Heaven by R'Tirzah Firestone, as well as other titles by Reb Zalman.

Q: What are we reading for?

A: The books we read will serve to not only understand the plurality of expression that is Jewish Renewal, but also to help us understand our own relationship with Judaism as a spiritual practice and how to make this all a bit more ours.

Q: Does it matter if I don’t have time to read the whole book?

A: Read according to your interest. If you have the time to read the whole book, that’s great! If not, that’s totally okay too. We suggest scanning the table of contents and choosing a couple of chapters that appeal to you. 

Q: Are there particular questions or ideas I should have in mind as I read?

A: Note the places that elicited a reaction from you, whether that was an excited “must underline” feeling or an aversive “scratch that noise” one. Also note when you think something like, “I didn’t know ‘Judaism’ said that,” or “that doesn’t sound Jewish.”

Q: Where can I find a copy of Jewish with Feeling? Is it available as an audiobook?

A: There are a dozen copies of the book in the Minuteman network of local libraries. There are also many used copies available on alibris for $1.99+ shipping. To our knowledge, this book isn’t available as an audiobook at this time.

Q: Where and when will we be meeting? How frequently will we meet?

A: We will be meeting in living rooms in Cambridge and Somerville on a (roughly) monthly basis on Sunday evenings. Email us for the month’s meeting location.

Q: Does it matter if I miss a meeting?

A: This is not a closed group! You are welcome to dip in as your time and interest allows. We will be asking for who’s in month-to-month, so we know what to plan for, space-wise.

Q: I haven’t been to an Asiyah event before. Is this for me?

A: Absolutely! Our goal is to offer different points of contact and interest to meet different styles and personalities. No prior knowledge or contact needed.

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.

Consider the aleph

Consider the aleph

As we turn this week from the book of Exodus to Leviticus, we go from externality to internality, from the exhiliration of freedom and revelation to the humdrum of daily practice. Leviticus also shifts our attention to the parts of ancient religion that most trouble our postmodern sensibilities: ritual animal slaughter; priestly "purity;" and sacrifice, so much sacrifice. You could be forgiven for saying, "If this is what we have at the heart of Torah—literally in the middle—maybe this Torah isn't for me." But I want to hit pause on that impulse, as well as all the blood and gore of the first few chapters of Vayikra (as Leviticus is known in the vernacular), to consider the aleph.

Purim, tadpoles, and evolving consciousness

Purim, tadpoles, and evolving consciousness

Put your mind in the mind of a tadpole, your watery pond corner your whole world, where all the nutrients you need exist. You hatched out of your little jelly egg into a whole different reality—a little scarier and waterier than you were used to, and swimming is now a thing! And eating! The world has turned on its head! V'nafoch hu.