Climbing our Pyramid through Learning

Posted by on Aug 18, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

DCL’s Drash from Rabbi Julie Schwarzwald, Director of Congregational Learning The month of Elul begins this Wednesday evening. As Cantor Wallach mentioned last week, we are supposed to begin preparing for the High Holiday season with cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul. We are to engage in a period of intense reflection on what we have been and to imagine what we can become. It should be our goal to think about our relationships, our goals, our hopes and dreams – to be prepared to ask forgiveness from those we have wronged and to plan how to engage in healthier relationships with ourselves, other people, and God in the year to come. Yet here we are, still in the middle – or maybe still the beginning – of a pandemic. A time when we are uncertain of so much around us and living with anxiety and trauma every day. In psychology, we learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow explained that each lower level of needs must be satisfied before one can move to the next higher level. Later psychologists acknowledged that there can be movement among the levels – that we can find ourselves back at the bottom level. The practice of cheshbon hanefesh is meant to be a process of reaching toward self-actualization. This feels next to impossible this year, when so many are worrying daily about the bottom two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy. How can we focus on our spiritual needs and desires when we are worrying on a daily basis about whether to return to work or school, to restaurants, to visiting family and friends? We are in a place where each of us, each family unit, is called upon to assess our own individual risk tolerance and make our own judgements about our comfort level with a return to “normality.” And yet, how can we not engage in this period of contemplation, reflection, and envisioning what we want for the year to come? As we are planning for all levels of education at CBI, we are determined to offer as full a range of programs as we possibly can, while making sure that opportunities and programs are accessible to all. CBI Preschool is scheduled to resume in-person learning on September 8, after our successful (and joyous!) day camp — albeit with smaller, limited classes to allow us to follow health and safety protocols that exceed state guidelines. BBRS is in the planning stages for robust and meaningful religious education, including the introduction of a new, online, teacher-guided self-paced Hebrew/Tefillah program for weekday learning. If we are unable to be together in the building, we know that we can be together online in engaging, interactive ways for Judaics education. Lifelong Learning is planning a wide range of programming, online to start, including all ages and stages — and with exciting opportunities to engage with Rabbi Isenberg, Cantor Wallach, and educators across the country if not around the world. Our youth groups are ready to move ahead with regularly scheduled programming under the auspices of Aly and Mike Greenstein, who are always engaging whether...

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Making the Most of Times of Renewal

Posted by on Aug 11, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

Aug. 11, 2020 (Tuesday during Pandemic)   I’d like to believe that I’m in good company with others who also procrastinate! I tend to put off starting things such as an exercise regimen, a diet, or organizing my office until what seems like a more logical (or convenient!) time to begin. I find myself saying that I’ll make regular exercise one of my resolutions for the new year; I’ll start my diet the day after my birthday, and when things quiet down a bit in the summer, I’ll have some time to file papers and sort my music. Rather than waiting for a once a year opportunity, the Jewish “calendar” gives us the opportunity every month to renew ourselves and to start over, just as the moon renews itself each month. The Hebrew calendar has been based on the lunar year since Biblical times. Rosh Chodesh (the festival of the new moon) had much greater significance in Biblical times than it has today. Numbers 10:10 states that trumpets were sounded and special sacrifices were offered on Rosh Chodesh. There is Biblical proof of Rosh Chodesh being celebrated with a festive meal and refraining from all business transactions. In Talmudic times, the Rabbis allowed men to work, but Rosh Chodesh continued to be a semi-festival for women in recognition of the women in the wilderness of Sinai who, unlike the men, refused to contribute their jewelry for the building of the golden calf. In anticipation of each Rosh Chodesh, we are even given the chance to plan ahead. On the Shabbat immediately preceding the first of the month (except for Rosh Chodesh Tishrei which is actually Rosh Hashanah!), a special prayer to announce the specific date of the upcoming new month is added to the liturgy towards the end of the Torah Service. This blessing, called “Birkat Hachodesh” begins with a paragraph attributed in the Talmud (Berachot 16a) to Rav, who used to recite it daily at the conclusion of the Amidah. Since it already contained a full gamut of people’s spiritual and physical needs, including a moving plea for a life of peace, sustenance, health and abundance, and a life based on love of Torah and awe of God, a phrase was added later relating it to the new moon. The second paragraph of Birkat Hachodesh refers to God as a performer of miracles and calls for Jewish unity, reminding those of us in the diaspora to stay connected to Israel. From the time of the Middle Ages, community leaders wanted to be sure that everyone knew when Rosh Chodesh fell so that they could keep track of the calendar and be able to say the appropriate special prayers such as Hallel (in its shortened form). The announcement of the new month has always been said on Shabbat simply because that is when the greatest number of people are congregated. We at CBI have a lot to look forward to in this coming month! The re-opening committee has been working hard examining and planning how to carefully and safely get at least some people back to our building to...

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Water & Torah

Posted by on Aug 4, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

A message from Rabbi Isenberg: Tuesday, August 4th, 2020 After crossing the Sea of Reeds to safety, it takes the Israelites three days to find their first source of water in the wilderness. Three days without water left the Israelites physically exhausted and dehydrated, and spiritually bereft as well. The Torah’s commentators teach us that this was one of only a few instances throughout the prolonged 40 year journey when the Israelites were truly without water. In fact, Rashi comments that the Israelites had a constant well of water because of the merit of Miriam, Moshe’s sister. The commentary imagines a nurturing Miriam, whose very presence provides miraculous wells of water that would sustain the Israelites. No wonder, then, that one of the other instances when the Israelites are without water is when Miriam dies. Upon Miriam’s death, the life-sustaining well that had followed the Israelites dried up. Here, too, the Israelites experience a spiritual drought in addition to a physical one. The rabbis would ultimately draw a parallel between water and Torah. If Torah is as much a source of nourishment, sustenance, and hydration as water, then we Jews should not go more than three days without Torah. That, dear congregants, is how we arrived at the weekly schedule of Torah reading: Shabbat, Monday, and Thursday. In a typical week, we do not let more than three days pass without hearing or chanting Torah. These, however, are not typical times. Since the start of the pandemic, CBI has worked hard establishing creative ways to engage with you and maintain a strong sense of communal togetherness, all while adhering to the life-saving protocols of physical distancing. One area, however, that had not yet been restored is the weekly rhythm of hearing Torah chanted. It is just my fourth day as your new rabbi, but I believe we are ready to reintroduce the time-honored tradition of ensuring we, too, do not go more than three days without hearing some Torah chanted. Therefore, I’m excited to announce that as of next Monday, August 10th, we will resume weekday morning minyan on Mondays and Thursdays, via Zoom. Along with Shabbat mornings, we will be back to the regular rhythms of Torah. Here’s the more precise schedule: Monday mornings at 7:30am via Zoom. Thursday mornings at 7:30am via Zoom. Shabbat mornings at 9:30am via Zoom/Livestream A word about the pandemic: Let’s remember to remain sensitive to anyone in our midst who needs help, support, and comfort. We are all still in survival mode, in one way or another, and it is critical that we exhibit patience, generosity of spirit, and kindness to each other. I look forward to seeing you soon: ● Tuesdays at Noon on Zoom for lunch ● At one of the many outdoor and physically-distant parlor meetings ● At this Thursday’s Ice Cream Tailgate ● Friday Kabbalat Shabbat services at 6pm or Shabbat morning gatherings at 9:30am ● Rabbi vs Rebbetzin Cook-Off, Live on Zoom from my kitchen, on Thursday, August 20th ● A host of programs for the month of Elul, as we approach the High Holidays   Rabbi...

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Moving Forward — Step-by-Step

Posted by on Jul 21, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

A Message from Mariela Markelis Dybner, CBI President Friday, July 17   Dear Congregants, It has certainly been a long four months since we were able to gather at our synagogue, and unfortunately, as we are all too aware, there seems to be no date in sight when we will be able to all come together again without restriction. Our clergy, professional staff and volunteers have made a yeoman’s effort to provide services, programming and camaraderie during these difficult times to you, our synagogue community. Our Zoom services and programming have been very well attended and have served to fill an urgent need in our congregants’ lives. The good news is that the numbers of Covid cases in our community, town, state and neighboring states has dropped to levels at which our governor and related health authorities have determined that limited outside groups practicing accordant protocols can meet and even more limited groups can gather indoors. In anticipation of these changes, as discussed at our annual meeting, we set up a new Reopening Committee tasked with recommending a measured and practical method to introduce in-person services. Their recommendation, which was approved by our Board of Trustees this week, provides a step by step basis, first to hold evening minyan twice a week outdoors and then slowly over a period of weeks if things continue to progress positively to hold indoor Shabbat services. However, it is stressed that no one should feel obliged to attend these services for we will continue to hold all of our services and programming over Zoom just as we have been doing the past few months. At this time, we are adding an option for those who do not find remote services sufficient and who feel safe and secure enough to attend in person outdoor services and over time indoor services. Temperature screening and COVID self-assessment protocols will be instituted and all protocols recommended by public health authorities will be strictly enforced including social distancing, face coverings and once indoors extensive cleaning of all public spaces. Now, candidly, I understand that some may find these measures inconvenient, but they are necessary given the “new normal” that we are all living in, and it is critically important that we remain consistent and disciplined in following these practices in order to achieve our goal of offering in-person services and programming while diligently following health guidelines. The outdoor weeknight minyan will begin Thursday, July 23 and will continue each Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm to join our regular Zoom service. To attend the evening minyan, you will need to register beforehand by either calling or emailing Karen Tucker. At first, the in-person minyan will be limited to fifteen people so that we can take a measure of the program. We will also need volunteers to help staff and run the minyanim. The volunteers will be the ones administering the COVID questionnaires, taking temperatures of each attendee, strictly enforcing social distancing and making sure that everyone is wearing masks. If you wish to volunteer to be a minyan aide, please contact Karen Tucker as provided above. We would request...

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A Farewell Message from Rabbi Resnick

Posted by on Jul 14, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

July 14, 2020   My Dearest CBI Millburn Community, It is hard to believe that my tenure as your rabbi is ending on July 31st.  This means I am in this position for only another 18 days.  My first day at CBI was August 1st – and what happens at CBI on the first Thursday of August – a free BBQ. It was great to meet over 200 of my new friends that evening. Yes, I know that it was a FREE dinner, and folks were not coming out [just] to meet the new rabbi, nevertheless it was an AMAZING start to an even greater year.  Thank you for that! I need to highlight one person I met that night: Marvin Fish. He came early to the BBQ – I was told that some of the older folks would do so. Marvin did. I asked him how long he was affiliated with CBI.  He said 70+ years. I thought to myself – who could be affiliated with anything for over 70 years?! Indeed, Marvin and a few others have been connected with CBI for what seems to be forever. This is just one special aspect of CBI. I came into a community that, for some, was hurting and in need of healing and support. Today, one year later, I want to thank each and every one of you who have told me that there is a new vibe at CBI.  Thank you for taking that journey with me. CBI was, and still is, an vibrant, warm community with so much happening now, and so much potential.   From the very beginning of my year, I said that CBI is a heimish community. That is a key quality that isn’t magically created. It is created by each and everyone of you reading this letter. It is not unusual to have two-generation families. In fact, there are a few three-generation families. And this year we welcomed a few new families, too. A vibrant community needs both.  We did a lot together – we engaged teens more – leading part of Musaf on Yom Kippur, leading a hakkafah on Simchat Torah, or studying and eating at Torah Teen Time. We studied together – ethics today and ethics of yesterday as we brought Torah to the hood and plunged into Ethics of our Fathers. I was honored to reach out to the community and hand out honey cakes at Rosh Hashanah and donuts during Hanukkah with my fellow Millburn rabbis. Thank you to Mariela for that suggestion. We prayed, studied, and stood together on Martin Luther King Day and displayed the word DREAM in our front yard, only to be followed by banners connecting with those of us fighting against injustice and expressing appreciation for our first responders as they fight COVID-19. And for the month of June we stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ community by displaying a pride flag. And now we are at the end of the year. I thank you again for welcoming me into your community. It is hard to believe that I made so many new acquaintances, friends,...

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Turn Our Sadness into a Springboard for Action

Posted by on Jul 14, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

July 7, 2020 These Three Weeks … A Message from Cantor Lorna Wallach   Following the death of a close relative, Judaism has very specific laws and guidelines for what is restricted during this period of mourning (30 days for a spouse, sibling or child; a year for a parent). During this period of personal grief, the mourner is supposed to avoid parties, celebrations, concerts, dancing, avoid listening to live music and, for thirty days, they cannot shave or cut their hair. Within each calendar year, Jews also have periods of communal mourning where similar restrictions are imposed. One such period is known as “Sefira”, or the 49-day period of the counting of the Omer, which begins on the second night of Passover and goes to Shavuot. The other period is the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av (commemorating the destruction of the Temple). The three weeks begin on the minor fast day of Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz, the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, (this Thursday, July 9th) which commemorates the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem, before the First Temple was destroyed. The earliest written source for these communal mourning customs dates back to the Geonic period (6th to 11th centuries C.E. in Babylonia). It appears that the first semi-mourning custom that was established for the Counting of the Omer period was to prohibit marriages, followed at a later date by the prohibition against cutting one’s hair, followed still later on by the prohibition against listening to live music and playing musical instruments. There aren’t many liturgical adjustments for this three week period, however, there are 3 special Haftarot that are always read in this period, and if you attend our Kabbalat Shabbat services in these next three weeks, you will hear me sing L’Chah Dodi to the somber melody of Eili Tziyon (a Middle Ages acrostic elegy recited on Tisha B’Av) as a reminder of this period of communal mourning. While mourning is the general theme of this three-week period, the loss of the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, can be seen as symbolic of something special that we once had and is now missing in our lives. When we are in our “normal” routines, most of us are less likely to pause and think about what is lacking in our lives. During this pandemic, however, it has been so hard not to focus on all of the losses we have each experienced during these past 4 months — such as in- person family and communal celebrations including B’nai Mitzvah, weddings, birthday parties and graduations; also hugging, gathering in our beautiful sanctuary to pray together and especially to sing together. Sadness, tragedy and disappointment are a part of life – no one can escape such experiences, but there is a reason that Jewish tradition delineates a finite period for communal mourning as opposed to having it be a constant state of being. There is a Chassidic saying that says, “Sadness is not a sin, but its effect on the person is worse than any sin’s.” Chassidic teaching differentiates between two types...

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