Writings

This weekend we rolled the clocks back to end Daylight Saving Time. We gained an hour today but now have one less hour of light in the late afternoon just at the time year when it's already getting darker an hour earlier than it was a couple of months ago. This video from John Oliver sums up my feelings exactly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br0NW9ufUUw

I have a really hard time with this every year. I The earlier sunrise doesn't help me. I've struggled with SAD/ seasonal affective disorder for years and it's real.

I'm not looking for suggestions but if you experience this too or resonate let me know.

Even in the face of this, I find a gratitude practice to be important and valuable. This week I'm grateful for a lot:

-a wonderful Align workshop and WellBodies session last week

-seeing J.S. Ondara in concert at Sixth & I on Wednesday night

-Joining my friend Elana Premack Sandler and her family for trick or treating and dinner

-Great colleagues and collaborators I feel lucky to work with (Naomi Malka Jodi Jacobson Balis Jane Shapiro Melanie-Prejean Sullivan)

-Thoughtful wedding couples and families I get to guide and officiate life cycle events

- Excitement and support for my upcoming workshops in my hometown and friends will attend (and the retreat having so many advance sign ups we need a wait list!)

- a supportive husband who knows when I need I need extra hugs and funny gifs

-parents who enjoy brainstorming with me and hearing about what I'm teaching

-an awesome program assistant Steph Black

-and much much more

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This week we welcomed the new moon and Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. After the whirlwind of the past month of Tishrei, with one holiday after another, we find ourselves now in a month with no other Jewish holidays except for Shabbat. Because of this, Cheshvan is a chance to take a deep breath and exhale, and get back to our regular schedules.

Like the new moon, Cheshvan is an empty vessel, full of potential. Cheshvan is a chance to mindfully get back into our daily and weekly routines, hopefully bringing some of the holiness from the new year with us. Without all of the festivals in the Jewish calendar like we had in Tishrei, Cheshvan gives us a chance to actually take the time to look back at the goals we set for ourselves at Rosh Hashanah and start to make plans for how to live those intentions.

In the ayurvedic calendar, we are also in the Vata season, which is associated with the element of wind. As the leaves are falling and blowing and we begin to feel a chill in the air, we can deeply feel this season of Vata. It's important to balance this out with warm, grounding practices, and seasonal foods to help you feel rooted. It's also cold and flu season so be sure to take care of yourself. What are your favorite seasonal foods or beverages for autumn? What are your favorite practices that help you feel grounded, supported, and cozy? If you need help figuring out what practices to incorporate at this time of year, or to integrate some mindfulness techniques to your routine, be in touch.

To welcome Cheshvan, we gathered for our first Align session of 5780. It was a beautiful workshop that included meditation, making vision boards in our journals and sharing our intentions and blessings for this coming month. Additionally, we had our second WellBodies program at the Adas Israel Community Mikvah program this week which was an exploration of Creativity through movement led by Robert Bettman. Join us for our upcoming Align sessions and WellBodies programs (info below).

In a few weeks, I'll be heading to my hometown of Louisville, KY to be a Shabbat Scholar at Congregation Adath Jeshurun on November 23 and to lead a retreat for Spirit of Sophia on November 24. I am really looking forward to each of these programs and am grateful for the opportunity to bring my Torah - my spirituality and creativity - to these communities in Louisville.

Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sarah

In the intermediary days of Sukkot, I took myself to one of my favorite places, DaySpring Retreat Center in Germantown, MD for a Quiet Day. Early in the day, I walked around outside on the beautiful grounds and by the pond, I just started speaking outloud to God. This is a chassidic form of meditative prayer called Hitbodedut, in which one speaks aloud spontaneously, offering the words of the heart.

Though it was a Quiet Day which is a mostly silent retreat, I felt I needed this time out in nature to just to give voice to what was on my mind. Through this process, I found great wisdom in also hearing what God might have to say or teach me or make known to me.

What I realized was that I needed to stay in the present moment. I had some fear and anxiety about things that might happen or could happen but I had no way of knowing if those things would come to be or not. And so the best thing I could do, really the only thing I could do, was to stay in the present and not get caught up in all of the what ifs. This was such a simple realization but also such a profound gift that came from my inner spark, my intuition and from God. And maybe each of those things are one and same.

It started raining as I finished my prayers and I headed back to the lodge where I spent the rest of the retreat journalling, drawing, and meditating by the fire. I was grateful for this time.

Dear Friends,

I hope you had a meaningful Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, however you celebrated. Whether you observed in a synagogue, at home, or in the woods or by the water, whether you fasted or not, whether you recited the words of our liturgy or the words in your heart, I hope that the high holidays provided an opportunity for "at-one-ment."

I had the pleasure of leading the family services again this year at the New Synagogue Project, which was an absolute joy. This allowed me the chance to lead services in the morning and also to join the main services as a participant in the evenings for Kol Nidre and Neilah and I am grateful for that balance. Our services were filled with song, movement, breath, and time to share our hopes for the new year those around us. A huge Yasher Koach (great job!) and thank you to Rabbi Joseph Berman and the NSP High Holiday Team for their countless hours of preparation and effort making sure everything went so well. And thank you to William Rivlin, who played guitar and co-lead family services with me!

The Jewish holidays don't end after Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Sukkot starts this Sunday night followed by Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret and finally Simchat Torah. Sukkot falls the 15th of Tishrei, which is always a full moon, filling the night sky during the week that we eat and dwell in the sukkah to celebrate the fall harvest season. I invite you to consider: what are the blessings in your life that you are harvesting at this time?

I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks at our next Align: Art & Spirituality session, our monthly gathering integrating seasonal wellness, Jewish spirituality and creative expression. Consider giving yourself the gift of a full year or half year membership to the Align series which will also support the work of the Tasman Center with your commitment.

If you aren't able to join us in person for the Align series or if you're looking for more personalized sessions, I have openings for monthly spiritual coaching & private Jewish learning which can be done over video conference or phone from anywhere in the county or in the world. Learn more at https://www.tasmancenter.org/ or email me to schedule.

May the full moon of Tishrei herald sustenance, abundance, assurance, and illuminate the days and weeks ahead.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Sukkot,

Rabbi Sarah

PS - Have you enjoyed learning with me or been inspired during a Tasman Center workshop or retreat? We would love for you to give us a recommendation or 5 star review on the Tasman Center Facebook page or on our website. Not on social media but want to give a testimonial anyway? Send us an email and let us know how you've been impacted. Thank you for your support!

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Warmest Wishes and blessings for a year of health, joy, creativity and connection!

May the year bring abundant blessings—

beauty, creativity, delight!

May we be confident, courageous,

and devoted to our callings.

May our lives be enriched with education.

May we find enjoyment in our work

and fulfillment in our friendships.

May we grow, may we have good health.

In darker times, may we be sustained

by gratitude and hope.

May we be infused with joy.

May we know intimacy and kindness,

may we love without limit.

May the hours be enhanced with music

and nurtured by art.

May our endeavors be marked by originality.

May we take pleasure in daily living.

May we find peace within ourselves

and help peace emerge in the world.

May we receive the gifts of quiet.

May reason guide our choices,

may romance grace our lives.

May our spirits be serene,

may we find solace in solitude.

May we embrace tolerance and truth

and the understanding that underlies both.

May we be inspired with vision and wonder,

may we be open to exploration.

May our deepest yearnings be fulfilled,

may we be suffused with zeal for life.

May we merit these blessings

and may they come to be.

May it be so.

“May It Be So” is an abecedarian—a type of acrostic in which the initial letters of key words appear in alphabetical succession. Abecedarians were a popular form of liturgical poetry composed for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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My first year of rabbinical school I lived in Jerusalem. I loved going to Judaica shops, finding beautiful art and ritual objects made by local artists. I have also always loved seeing posters in the window of local shops or noticing the store displays for different seasons. The bookstores had large displays of books and things for preparing for the high holidays and it was that year, in the fall of 2016, that I began to really dive deep into what it means to prepare spiritually for the high holidays, not just get ready for the services, meals, programs and events I'd long been leading and organizing as a Jewish communal professional.

In one of the bookstores, Steinmetsky's I believe, I noticed large posters hanging from the ceiling that said Shana Tova (Happy New Year in Hebrew) with a pomegranate printed on it. I asked the shopkeeper if after the chagim (the holidays) I could have one of the posters. They gave me one and I've kept it all these years. It was mounted and sturdy though a little banged up on the corners. Because my suitcase was humongous, it fit inside and I brought it home and framed it. Every year at this time I take it out and display it.

Remembering the beauty of sending wishes for the new year, and spiritual enhancement of beautifying our rituals, prayers, and intentions. Rosh Hashanah arrives in just a few days on Sunday night.

Sending my warmest wishes for a sweet and fruitful high holiday season.

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We had a beautiful Align session for preparing for the Jewish New with art and intention.

After a guided meditation and year in review, I asked participants to write down what they wanted to let go of from the past year, and seeds they wanted to plant for the new year. We used water from our hand washing ritual to release the things we wanted to let go and to nurture the growth of seeds we planted. We had two bowls but only one is pictured here. The water from the things we wanted to release turned red from the red, orange and purple tissue paper and the words dissipated. The seeds were written on the white sparkly paper, and that water turned a bluish silver.

Blessings for a good and sweet new year!

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Happy full moon of Elul and harvest moon (the full moon closest to the fall equinox)!

Because the new moon signals the start of each Hebrew month, the full moon signals that we are halfway through the month. Being halfway through the month of Elul means that Rosh Hashanah is only two weeks away! Since the new moon is often a time of setting intentions, the full moon is a time to check in with those hopes or goals we had for the month and to see if we are on track. The brightness of the full moon can illuminate and strengthen our wishes for the month. For me, this month of Elul and the month of September has been incredibly busy. Probably the busiest month of year. And so this full moon of Elul is a reminder to me that we're turning and getting closer. It's time to pause and check in with my own personal spiritual intentions for preparing for Rosh Hashanah. It's an opportunity to take a look at my calendar for the next two weeks and make sure I have carved out the time not only for my preparations for leading high holidays but my own inner work as well.

If you're local to Washington, DC and are looking for a creative way to do some reflection and meaningful rituals to prepare for Rosh Hashanah, be sure to join us for our next workshop Align: Art & Spirituality Workshop: Preparing for the Jewish New Year on Sunday September 22, 2019 3-5pm. There is still time to sign up for the full year of the Align series which continues monthly at the Center for Mindful Living in Tenleytown!

If you're still looking for High Holiday services, check out the New Synagogue Project in Washington, DC. I will be leading the family services again this year and it's going to be so much fun! Main services will be led by NSP rabbi and founder (and my friend from rabbinical school) Rabbi Joseph Berman. Click here for info!

Also starting this month is WellBodies, a course in Embodied Judaism at the Adas Israel Community Mikvah which I am thrilled to be helping with. More information below.

Blessings for Elul, a month of reflection and spiritual preparation as we turn towards the Jewish New Year,

Rabbi Sarah

Elul

This Shabbat we welcome the new moon and the new Hebrew month of Elul. Welcoming the new moon is a special tradition in Judaism and many cultures. The new moon is technically invisible and empty. It's seen as a symbol of potential, as an empty vessel with room for whatever is yet to come, making it an especially potent time for setting intentions for the days and weeks ahead. This is especially resonant this month with so many new beginnings happening. Many communities offer a special blessing to announce Rosh Chodesh (the new moon and head of the month) and to pray that the upcoming month will be one of peace, sustenance, healing, and joy. At the end of each new moon gathering I lead, I invite others to offer words of hope and blessing for the coming month.

This is also an auspicious time of year as we notice the change in weather and begin the transition from summer to fall in the Northern Hemisphere. We also enter a period of spiritual preparation before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. In this way, the holiday, months and seasons are all connected. Elul is my favorite month, and I have always loved providing opportunities for meaningful, creative and accessible Jewish learning opportunities for preparing for the Jewish New Year. If you've been looking for a way to let go of the past and make room for the future, to acknowledge where you can grow and savor your achievements, or wish to set clear goals and intentions for yourself for the new year and beyond, then please join us.

Elul Writing Workshop on Tuesdays September 3, 10, and 17. Our three-part spiritual writing workshop.

Align: Art & Spirituality Workshop: Preparing for the Jewish New Year on Sunday September 22 and continues monthly.

Blessings for Elul, a month of reflection and spiritual preparation as we head towards the Jewish New Year,

Rabbi Sarah