When circumstances out of our control - like fires or other disasters - affect our ability to hold our Thanksgiving rituals in our usual way, we can become distraught. When life intervenes – like fires destroying homes or forcing a loved one to be absent – what happens to the ritual? By Sally Weber MSW and Rabbi Paul Kipnes
2 stories and a blessing for the new year. How will you make the next 365 days matter?
It is time for us to lift the veil of silence around mental illness, talking about it and our mental health journeys. Especially in the Jewish community.
A mother speaks about her appreciation that the Congregation Or Ami and its rabbis offered deep support for their daughter on her battle with depression.
The mother died four days after her daughter became Bat Mitzvah. And then I had it out with God.
Embracing complexity and nuance: Talking to your family friends whose opinions you hate.
Devoted, history-holding, once-in-a-blue-moon-visiting friends are a transcendent gift from God.
A prayer for after the Election
Torah commentary on Nitzavim: Why did the people have to stand up so long?
The clergy of Congregation Or Ami (Calabasas) share their vision of the synagogue as a sanctuary of kindness, your second home.
A Prayer for during a Fire: Our God and God of our fathers and mothers, as the flames burn, wreaking havoc upon our homes, our hills, our fire fighters, our sense of security, we turn to You for comfort and support.
On our Shabbat hike, we experienced a different connection with God, a deeper connection that allowed us to experience God as our ancestors did. In the wilderness, without walls, without man-made things, it seemed easier to feel God's presence.
Leading your own synagogue Shabbat Hike is incredibly easy. In just 10 steps – simple but effective – you can embark on a moving spiritual experience. And, as we discovered on Congregation Or Ami’s own Shabbat Hikes, the journey is inspiring and refreshing.
They say that exercise is good for the soul. I think Shabbat in the wilderness is good for the soul too and if you can add in a hike, well – even better! To worship in an environment where you can hear the birds, feel the light breeze and see the beauty of the oak trees… I cannot think of a better way to end the week and begin a new one.
– Marcy Cameron
- Choose a place to hike. We prefer a flat path for our first hikes, so that most people – irregardless of their endurance or hiking ability – can participate. Find a place with ample parking, well marked trails, and double check when the gates/parking lots close so you will not be locked in. Find a gathering spot where, in a circle, you can welcome everyone and set an inspiring tone.
- Publicize widely. We recorded a Shabbat video message on hiking in the wilderness on Shabbat to share with the whole congregation. Create a simple graphic to post on social media (see ours above).
- Bring a portable table so people can fill out name tags (which encourage familiarity and break down barriers) while waiting to begin. Later, this table can hold your post-hike oneg – cookies, a challah, mini-cups and grape juice.
- Make a one page prayer and songsheet. We weave nature-themed songs among an abbreviated order of prayers.
- Bring a guitar for music and a naturalist or park ranger to share outdoor wisdom.
- Break your hike into multiple parts. We focused on five: an opening in a circle at the trailhead with a welcome and songs like Hinei Mah Tov; a closing with Kaddish and camplike Hashkiveinu siyum; and three moments along the hike to stop, sing prayers, and listen to brief spiritual drashes (by the rabbi or congregants) and wisdom about your surroundings by a naturalist or park ranger.
- Take time along the way to look, stop and listen in silence.
- At the end, in the parking lot or somewhere that everyone can gather, make kiddush, sing Hamotzi, and eat cookies.
- Then kvell plenty at how many people, always more than expected, show up with their friends, kids, and dogs on a leash.
- Remember to ask five to six people to send you three to four sentences reflecting upon their experience on the Shabbat hike. Include the post-hike reflections in a blogpost or article, as publicity for the next Shabbat Hike.
The experience will be inspiring. As our congregant Scott Cooper said,
The spiritual feeling created – by the Cantor’s uplifting music and the Rabbi’s spiritual teachings, at sunset in a most beautiful outdoor park setting in the company of fellow congregants and good friends while chanting prayers – was beyond words. As our Jewish tradition reminds us, G-d is around us, and I sensed this Presence and felt grateful for every day.
The Hebrew word for truth is אמת (meet). The Hebrew word for mother is אמ (em) – the first two letters of the word אמת (meet). To discover truth, we are often need only go in the right direction, the one that our mothers point us in.
We must live in the world of the ordinary. But if we then open our eyes and look — really look — we can glimpse the extraordinary.