Mitzrayim “The Narrow Place”

•In the Jewish Lunar Calendar, we welcome the month of NISSAN. It falls around the same time as Passover which is the end of the month and lasts till early April. We start counting spiritually, this month but what does this mean? It means we’re given an intention to take space and carve out time for our “spiritual self.” To shed what is no longer serving us and in some ways, we’re able to break the chains of what is confining us and/or holding us back.

•Today, I attended a Rosh Chodesh gathering through The Tasman Center where we did a ritual that I felt drawn to. I’ve done it before but this was different. During this “spiritual workshop” we were invited to write down things that are no longer serving us (our own “spiritual pharaohs” per se). We were inspired to either observe our own virtual burning or actual light a fire and do this cleansing ritual. I knew I needed to take this time and space. I went outside in the WOODS. Truly, i feel most alive when I’m in nature and with everything going on (moving from CO to MI). This is what I needed. As soon as I stepped outside, gathered the pieces of paper with my words on them...I felt something. I was ready to let go...light a FIRE....to shed the past, to burn what is no longer serving me and make space for what is.

•The time of COVID and Winter was quite a dark place, it was lonely and uncertain. At times, I wasn’t sure where I was going but I know right now that this feels right. Taking time to heal, to process and SLOW down is where I need to be. I am done letting the confines of my own “mitzrayim” my fears, my insecurities, the past, my old life. I welcome and make space for my confidence, my power and this new life, new beginning.

•After every word or collectively I recite, Dibarti “have spoken.” In the circle, those in the circle recite back, Shemati “I have heard.” I encourage you to do the same either by yourself or with others. To make that list and watch it burn, to bring anew breath of all the possibilities. What are your inner spiritual pharaohs? What do you need to break free from? What do you need to make space for?

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In the narrative of the Creation, the moon is indicated, without any special name, as one of the two great luminaries. Relatively to the sun, it is "the lesser light to rule the night"; and it is to serve together with the sun for signs, seasons, days, and years (Gen. i. 14, 16).

In the midrash there is speculation that G-d repented and madeT-shuva for stating the moon is the “lesser light.”

Jew’s have and continue to use the moon as the marking passage of time. We celebrate each new month on the Jewish Calendar on the holiday called Rosh Chodesh, marked by the day the new moon starts to enter the dark night sky.

Growing up on the Gregorian calendar, my life was not in sync with the moon. I saw the moon as a foreign entity in the universe, and would only acknowledge its presence when it was full because I felt slightly more awake at night.

As I began to grow in faith, I have created the symbol of the sun being a loving fatherly figure,protecting and embracing me with warmth and giving me strength. I only acknowledged the “brighter light” in the sky, until I faced my darkest times and noticed the moon in the sky felt it’s nurturing energy.

In 2019, I was living through a long and dark winter in Beijing, China. My intuition told me that I was ready to return to the states after two and a half years of living abroad and building a Jewish community home but I felt trapped and scared. I knew my relationship with my partner, whom I was living with at the time, had come to an end. Although I had this inner knowing, my external world did not seem to comply with my yearning to leave. I felt trapped in my responsibilities to continue running and funding a community home, to please my partner and continue trying to make the relationship work, to stay loyal to my jobs…

In this place of darkness, I struggled to have faith that things would turn out ok. I was living in the darkness and wallowing in my misery until I looked out my window and saw a big beautiful full moon. I began to pray to her, something I had never done before, believing that she was listening. It felt good to ask for what my heart wanted and felt like my prayers were being heard.

I soon learned they were, when I came back to the states on January 20th. I was returning for my graduate school intensive in San Francisco and convinced myself that I would go back to my toxic situation in China, because I had to. Then the coronavirus news became public, and I began to see the signs that I didn’t have to go back. That I could stay in the states.

During my intensive for my graduate school program in expressive arts therapy, we did a drama therapy practice about a story called: The Story of the Stolen Moon.

The story goes: There was a beautiful harmonious village surrounded by black murky bogs where darkness lies. At night, these villagers were protected by the light of the moon to guide them at night. On the nights when the moon did not come out, the struggling travelers would drown. The moon heard about these nights and came down to the earth with a black cape to disguise her. While on earth, she slipped on a vine and became trapped. In her absence, more and more villagers became lost in the night and a group decided to go on a search to find the moon. They used their torches to guide them and protect them, and eventually saw the little bit of light she had trapped under the rock and saw: “eyes filled with the love of humanity”. The villagers removed the boulder she was trapped under and escaped from her prison and escalated the dark staircase up to the sky with her radiant light everywhere.

When performing this drama, I chose to play the torch and began to realize that I have to ignite my own faith in order to find the light. I began to connect deeply to the moon, and felt its protection and love in the dark night, and knew that I had to use my prayers to light the torch and find it’s guidance.

The moon can be a symbol of our faith: waxing and waning. Living in the darkness, filled with fear and doubt, trusting that there is light in the darkness brings us faith and hope. For me, my faith in a power greater than me is not a constant. I have to continue to remind myself to believe that there is a protecting and loving energy force in the universe, and I am reminded of this when I live in sync with the moon.

The new moon is a time of darkness. Where infinite possibilities can emerge. With this concept, I have learned to set an intention for the upcoming month to remind myself of something I want to develop and grow in my life. As the moon is waxing, I can see the shadows or the obstacles that are getting in my way of my intention manifesting. When the full moon comes, I can witness my intention whole in the sky staring at my face and in my body. When the moon begins to wane, I can begin to let go of striving for this intention and let it live within me naturally.

For this upcoming month, starting this Friday, February 12th, 2021 my intention is to live moment by moment. I will create an art card to remind me of my intention, and keep it at my altar where I do my morning and night rituals. I believe this practice is transforming me, and the transformation practice always reminds me of becoming a butterfly. We as humans have the ability to transform, but it helps to have an anchor in time - which for me is the beautiful moon.

It’s my turn to remember, remember that the moon is an equal light in the universe. It is not less than the sun, and can be a symbol of our continuous struggle between dark and light, between faith and fear, between growing and letting go. We are lucky that it is here, so let's continue to prayer and honor her!

Stephanie Landes is an Expressive Arts Therapist (in training). She is a blogger at wuweiletgoandlive.com

Check out her Artspiration coloring pages and prints on Etsy, link below! etsy.me/38QctkA

As the new moon arrives this month, the Hebrew month of Adar heralds in a season of Joy. The Talmud (the rabbinic compendium of legal discourse) teaches that "when the month of Adar comes in, joy increases". This refrain has a song that goes with it (learn it here). I always find this a peculiar teaching. How does joy automatically increase just because we've entered the month of Adar? Especially during difficult times, how do we find joy? Sages taught that the month of Adar signals the beginning of the time when we start preparing for the spring holidays, Purim and Passover, both of which are considered very joyous holidays in different ways. But I think that's only part of it. How do we find joy personally, especially this year, as we enter into the second year of the pandemic when many of us are reminded of where we were a year ago just as the lock down began.

I see this verse as an invitation and a challenge -- and all the more so during this year as we are still in the midst of the pandemic. The invitation is to find the joy, make room for it, see what it feels like. The challenge is to let it increase, nourish it, and help it to grow.

I find the most joy in connecting with others through the modalities of spirituality and creative expression. Which is why I am so excited for our event on February 21, 2021 called the Art of Mezuzah. Lizzie Sivitz, Jewish scribal artist has created a special dedication card for us for this event upon which you can write your intentions for the values that your mezuzah represents and you can either place it to be visible in the mezuzah holder or hang it near the mezuzah.

Additionally my joy increases as I am preparing to teach a 6 week class on Cycles and Seasons of the Jewish Year Cycle starting March 3, as part of Hebrew College's Open Circle Jewish Learning. This is a course in experiential spirituality and will include mindfulness practices and spiritual exercises that participants will be able to use in their own lives. Class sessions will incorporate guided meditation, partner and group discussions, spiritual writing, art, and creative rituals utilizing materials from nature or that you have at home. It would bring me even more joy for you to join us! Register now.

I'd love to hear how you make room for joy, how you find it, how you increase it.

Looking forward to seeing you soon and wishing you Chodesh Adar Tov (happy new moon and month of Adar) and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sarah

As we move into 2021, we also have another new year right around the corner. We welcome the new moon and month of Shevat In the Jewish calendar and the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat is Tu B'Shevat or the New Year of the Trees. Though we are in the midst of winter, Tu B'Shevat marks the time when the first almond trees begin to blossom in Israel. Though I am not a fan of making "new years resolutions", I find that setting intentions at the start of each season is meaningful practice. If you're looking for a visioning exercise for Tu B'Shevat to help you set some intentions and goals for this season, check out my Tree of Vision exercise.


Just as each tender seed and sapling needs soil, sunlight, water, and nutrients to grow up strong, so do each of us in our own ways. Deuteronomy 20: 19-20 says, “for every person is like a tree of the field.” We each need our own kind of fertile ground, warmth, and energy of the sun, life-giving force of mayyim hayyim (living waters) and the nourishing support of parents, mentors, friends, lovers, and collaborators in order to grow. Our roots go back further than we can see or know but influence us in undeniable ways.

In her book Kabbalah Month by Month, Melinda Ribner teaches “that the month of Shevat is a time of conceiving new projects, planting new seeds, and beginning anew.” A beautiful mystical teaching says that the seeds that are planted in the month of Shevat (winter) bloom in the month of Nissan (spring time). We must do what we can to till the soil, water and nourish those seeds so that they truly can blossom forth!

Visioning Exercise Creating Your Own Tree of Vision for Shevat

Take some time to reflect on following parts of the tree and how they relate to each element of your vision. Then, using any medium you choose, paint/sketch/collage/sculpt your Tree of Vision.

1. Roots or the seed are the kernel or source of your vision, dream, hope or goal. Think forward to springtime, and identify one intention or a goal you want to bring to fruition. That’s the root of your vision.

2. The trunk is the support you already have in your life to realize the intention or goal you’ve set. Identify your skills, passions, and resources. These will provide the strength and energy you need to grow.

3. The branches are the connections, help, and collaborators you can reach out to. Identify those people in your life by name. What kind of help will you need to grow your vision?

4. The flowers, leaves, and fruits are the fruits of your labor – what you will achieve? Identify the joy, sustenance, sweetness, and nourishment that will come forth. What will bloom when you’ve achieved your goal?

Dear Friends,

I hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy. The past few months have been an intense time of transition for me - and I am sure for many of you as well. We welcomed a baby back in September just before Rosh Hashanah and Griffin is now 4 months old. I can hardly believe it. I am back from maternity leave and navigating all of the joys and challenges of being a full time new parent, a spouse, rabbi, coach, mentor and business owner. At every stage of life, we all juggle different roles and responsibilities. What matters is how we approach these changes - acknowledging the joys and challenges, asking for help when we need it, and being kinder to ourselves. If you're navigating a change or transition, and looking for more support and guidance or want to mark this time in a meaningful way, please be in touch with me about working together. I have openings for new private clients now and would love to work with you.

At our annual New Year's Day Art & Visioning Workshop this year, I shared about my intentions for mindfully transitioning into 2021. For all of the relief and excitement that 2020 is over, those feelings are tempered with the knowledge that we are still in the midst of a pandemic, political divides, racial injustice and antisemitism. 2020 brought all of these things bubbling up to the surface, and many are still feeling the trauma and exhaustion of what we've been through in the past year. I live in the Washington, DC area, and many of these things seem to permeate the air we breathe. Last week, the insurrection at the Capitol brought things to a new level I hadn't seen in my lifetime. And yet, while these things are very much present, this past year brought with it an unprecedented amount of creativity and resilience from colleagues pivoting to offer opportunities online and reimagining what community building looks like. I'm grateful the Tasman Center has been nimble enough to adapt easily and swiftly and for the support of our team, especially Valerie Brown, our Community Educator, while I was on maternity the last few months.

In the spirit of creativity and inspiration we have some amazing programs coming up this season. Join us on Sunday February 21, 2-3:30pm for a special program on the Art of the Mezuzah with guest artist and soferet (scribe) Lizzie Sivitz of Nireh Or for a program we're hosting with MyZuzah. As our houses and apartments have become our defacto work spaces and prayer spaces this year we'll have a chance to add some beauty and sacred ritual to blessing our homes in this program.

I will also be teaching an upcoming course for Hebrew College Open Circle Jewish Learning called Cycles and Seasons of the Jewish Year. The course meets Tuesdays 1-2:30pm on March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, April 6, 2021. This class will combine ritual, experiential spirituality, seasonal wisdom and mindfulness practices.

Can't wait to learn with you this Winter!


Rabbi Sarah

Dear Friends,

In my grad school program this week we've been celebrating Hanukkah a little early with a Mystery Maccabee gift exchange. In a busy week, it has felt so sweet to receive a small gift each day and bring a little joy to someone else.

Obviously, Mystery Maccabee has been coopted from Secret Santa. I always believed that Hanukkah had been conflated with Christmas in the modern era, but it turns out that the dichotomy of Christmas and Hanukkah goes back about 2,000 years. We'll be learning more about this and how it might frame our celebration of Hanukkah together this Sunday during our Align: Tevet event. Register to join us here!

Rabbi Sarah will be leading a gathering on Zoom on the last night of Hanukkah - Thursday, December 17th - to share some light and community. The event is free, but let us know you're coming by registering here! Looking forward to seeing you.

Happy Hanukkah - hope you find so much to celebrate,

Valerie Brown

Community Educator


Dear Friends,

The new month of Kislev feels like it's coming at the perfect time. As the days get colder and shorter, I'm realizing why we have the impulse bring warmth and light into our homes with holidays like Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Like everything this year, our ability to pivot and make meaning on a smaller scale will be essential to our enjoyment of the holiday season.

Kislev is also a good time to think about miracles. Oil lasting for eight days might not seem like a miracle, but I actually think the real miracle is the person who noticed the oil hadn't run out. Imagine the surprise of finding the lamp still lit, and then the hope that would build over the course of the week. Each day, looking to the lamp, maybe expecting it to have gone out, and being surprised that it had lasted. And then finally - the realization that it would last long enough for more oil to be retrieved.

We'll be continuing the conversation about warmth during winter days and noticing miracles during our Align: Kislev session this Sunday, November 22nd at 2pm Eastern. You are invited to join us!

Chodesh tov - best wishes for a good month,

Valerie Brown

Community Educator


Dear Friends,

On Sunday evening, you'll see a new moon rising in the sky, bringing with it the Jewish month of Cheshvan.

I always feel exhausted after the month of Tishrei, with Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah all in quick succession. And, it coincides with a burst of end of summer/beginning of the school year activities. Naturally, these bring a myriad of expectations: how I'll be a better student, a better friend, a better partner. Whether we used the High Holidays as a reflective opportunity or not, we all have ideas of how we're going to improve, promises to ourselves of who we're going to be.

Cheshvan, the only Jewish month without any holidays, is the time when those promises have to be put into action. Instead of long, relaxed days of sunshine, we settle in to school and work as the days get shorter and brisker. If we don't take time to pause and set routines to accomplish our goals, our Yom Kippur promises will fall by the wayside.

Judaism has a lot to teach us about the structure of our day and week. This month's Align session, on Sunday, October 18th, will be about just that: how we can build intentional space to accomplish our goals. Establishing routine and rituals is especially important to give structure and meaning to our time as we're working or learning from home. I hope you'll join us to think and learn more!

Chodesh tov - best wishes for a good month,

Valerie Brown

Community Educator

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Dear Friends,

I just started a new school year, pursuing of my Masters in Jewish Education, and I'm already feeling overwhelmed with all the things I want to get done this year: personally, academically, and professionally. And of course, all my human habits that get in the way of being the productive robot person who can do it all.

Then, a teacher of mine shared this quote from chapter six of Rabbi Alan Lew's This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared:

"To forgive ourselves, we must be willing to give up our ideas about how we might be better. We need to give up one of our most cherished beliefs--that there is something wrong with us, that we are bad, inadequate, somehow defective and lacking in goodness. Disciplining ourselves, beating ourselves, leads us further away from this goodness, not closer to it."

It reminded me about this teaching from Rabbi Sarah: the Hebrew word for year, shanah, is connected to the verb l'shanot, which means to change, but also to repeat or renew (Hebrew is a great language that way). Rather than focusing on all the things I want to change, here are some things I'm hoping to continue this year:

  1. Being open to new experiences - a new school year, being in lockdown, taking on new leadership roles
  2. Taking breaks when I need them
  3. Embracing mistakes not just as learning opportunities but as a way to connect more deeply with others
  4. Channeling the creative energy I've found during lockdown toward new projects

I hope that you find some time in the coming days to reflect and embrace habits you want to maintain in the new year. If you identify things that you might adjust this year, I hope that alongside setting goals you also remember to show yourself kindness.

Shana Tova u'metuka - best wishes for a good and sweet new year,

Valerie Brown

Community Educator

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Everyone says it, but time really has moved differently for me since the pandemic started. This summer has been especially strange - I was supposed to be in California, working as the Jewish Educator at a summer camp. Instead, I've been in Jerusalem, with a patchwork of babysitting and odd jobs, studying Hebrew, working on some creative projects. Without a regular schedule it kind of feels like I'm working or thinking about work all the time, and the week is constantly slipping away from me. Especially on Fridays, as I'm getting ready for Shabbat, I look back at my week and think - there's so much that didn't get done!

The month of Elul starts this week, and it brings with it a heightened sense of the approach of the High Holidays. Elul is kind of like a Friday afternoon, but times ten. And rather than reflecting on our to-do list, it's about something much bigger. I think Elul pushes us to ask ourselves - Do I feel connected to something larger than myself? Does my day-to-day reflect my values? Am I the person I want to be?

And wow, as I read back those questions, I feel anxiety growing right above my stomach. Where do I even start, especially this year? I've been so focused on getting through the day, getting through the week, counting my blessings that my friends and family are healthy.

So, while I can't offer any easy answers to these questions (wish that I could!), I'm glad to be able to offer a space for us to consider them together. On September 6th, I hope you'll join me for Illuminating the Jewish New Year: a special Elul/Pre-High Holiday virtual retreat. I've prepared some intriguing texts and creative prompts that I hope will help us approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with a sense of perspective and purpose.

Hoping this month brings you time to pause and take stock.

Chodesh tov - Happy New Moon and month of Elul!

Valerie Brown

Community Educator, The Tasman Center

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Big news! We are so excited to welcome Valerie Brown as our new Community Educator for the The Tasman Center! Valerie will be working remotely and teaching our Align Series via Zoom and managing our social media and content while she pursues her Masters in Jewish Education at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem in partnership with Hebrew College.

Stay tuned for more details about Valerie's classes and more ways to connect with The Tasman Center!

Learn more about Valerie on our Meet Our Staff page or check out her website: valerierbrown.com

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On the 9th day of Av, we mourn tragedies and loss that have befallen the Jewish people at this time of year, including the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Additionally, we are reminded of the many tragedies of the pandemic, racial injustice and systemic inequality that have befallen our communities.

In what ways do you hold space in your heart for losses that have affected generations before you?

How has loss built resilience for us as a people?

Think about a loss in your own life. How has it helped you build resilience as an individual?


Happy new moon and new month of Av.

This can a hot and difficult month as we commemorate the destruction of the Temple. But the energy of the month shifts from mourning into joy with the coming of the full moon and holiday of Tu B'av (Jewish valentines Day) which celebrates love.


Happy new moon and new month of Tammuz. Tekufat Tammuz is summer solstice, the longest day of the year. How will you celebrate summer, light, sustenance or the season this month?

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Happy New Moon and New Month of Sivan. During this month we move more fully into spring and we welcome the warmth and love associated with this season.

As we prepare to receive the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot this month, consider the teachings and wisdom you need to receive.


As we move into week 7 of counting the Omer, we welcome the attribute of malchut - divinity and leadership.

We are all created in the image of God, recognize the divine spark in your sould and in the souls of others.

How might you tend, nurture and illuminate the divine spark with in you?

Where in your life do you feel you want to cultivate more personal leadership?


As we move into week 6 of counting the Omer, we welcome the attribute of yesod - bonding and foundation.

What are the foundations in your life that support you? What are the legacies that have been handed down to you or the foundation that you've created for yourself in this life?

Where in your life do you feel you need more support or foundation?

What are the bonds you want to renew

and what are the bonds you want to break?


As we move into week 5 of counting the Omer, we welcome the attribute of hod - humility and splendor.

Recall a moment of splendor in your life? What did it feel like, taste like, look like? Return to this memory anytime you need to.

How might you cultivate additional moments of splendor in your life or someone else's?

Recall a time when you felt humbled. What what did you learn from that. Are there situations in your life now that require humility?


As we move into week 5 of counting the Omer, we welcome the attribute of hod - humility and splendor.

Recall a moment of splendor in your life? What did it feel like, taste like, look like? Return to this memory anytime you need to.

How might you cultivate additional moments of splendor in your life or someone else's?

Recall a time when you felt humbled. What what did you learn from that. Are there situations in your life now that require humility?


As we move into week 4 of counting the Omer, we welcome the attribute of netzach - endurance, fortitude, and ambition.

Recognize the endurance you have within you. You have reserves of it.

How are you utilizing it and replenishing it?

Where in your life do you see examples of fortitude?

In what situations would you like more?

Does the ambition you have inside you need a break or need more encouragement at this time?


Chodesh Iyar Tov! Happy new moon and new month of Iyar. This is a month of healing. Consider what healing you need, and what healing you can send to others. Wishing a month of renewal, health, healing, resilience and hope. Shabbat Shalom!


Tonight we move into week 3 of counting the Omer, and we welcome the attribute of tiferet - beauty, harmony and compassion

Notice beauty in all of its many forms today. Use these questions for reflection, meditation or journaling.

Where in your life is there harmony? Where you would like more harmony?

How can you cultivate more compassion for yourself at this time? Where do you see examples of compassion in the world? Where could we use more compassion in our world?


As we move into week 2 of counting the Omer, we welcome the attribute of Gevurah - strength, structure and boundaries.

Consider your boundaries and the structures you have in your life.

How do your boundaries support you?

Where in your life right now do you need to strengthen your boundaries,

or relax them a bit?

How does gevurah interact with the other values in your life at this time?


This first week of counting the Omer is associated with chesed or loving kindness.

Consider when in your life you've experienced loving kindness: what did it feel like, how did it manifest?

Where do you want to cultivate more loving kindness in your life right now?


From the second night of Passover until the holiday of Shavuot, we count seven weeks of the omer. Each week is associated with one of the mystical sephirot or divine attributes. We have an opportunity to consider each of these attributes and our relationship to them.

Each of the following are prompts for reflection, meditation, writing and creative expression. Each week contains multiple questions, choose one or two that feel resonant or challenging and answer those or think about them over the course of the week.

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Dear Friends,

Happy Rosh Chodesh / New Moon and new month of Nissan. This is the month when we feel the transition into springtime and celebrate Passover.

At the seder meal we ask, "how is this night different from all other nights?" This year, we have many more answers than we normally do. Everything feels different. Many of us are filled with anxiety and uncertainty, scarcity and fear around health concerns and financial (in)security. It seems hard to wrap our minds around having a joyous feast when so many of us just trying to make sure we have our basic needs met and are trying to stay healthy or care for loved ones. We will experience Passover in a new, pared down, simpler way. Rather than celebrating with traditionally large groups and large meals, we’ll be home with immediate family or alone, perhaps connecting over Zoom. We'll make do with the food we have. It will be very different this year in so many ways, but Passover at its core will still remain.

Our Passover symbols and themes are complex and hold contradictions, fitting for a time like this. At the seder we hold space for and embrace the dualities of slavery and freedom, confinement and expansiveness, life and death, bitterness and sweetness. Matza, the flat dry unleavened bread we eat at the seder meal is both the bread of affliction and the bread of freedom and redemption. The charoset, the sweet mix of nuts and fruits, is delicious yet symbolizes the mortar with which the ancient Israelite slaves built the pyramids. The sting of the marror, the bitter herbs, is combined with the sweetness of the charoset. The karpas, the fresh greens, are a sign of spring, are dipped in salt water, a symbol of our tears. Beitzah, the roasted egg symbolizes both rebirth and sacrifice, the cycle of life and death and the life that goes on even after death. And so on...

I believe that in every generation, the Jewish community has had to find ways of celebrating Passover in times of scarcity and uncertainty. This is not new, even if it is new for us individually. Every year we read the Torah and experience the holidays through the lens of our own lives and whatever we are going through. This year, these themes take on new meaning in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Celebrating Passover in difficult times and circumstances has always been an act of resilience and hope.

I am holding space for all of these emotions and feelings, all of these themes and symbols, all of these dichotomies and contradictions. I pray for the health and safety of all people. I offer gratitude to the health care providers, care givers, delivery people, grocery store workers and everyone who is at risk as they are helping others. I offer my virtual support to those trying to work from home and take of their kids at the same time, to those stuck in quarantine in an unsafe situation, and to those struggling from the economic and financial blowback of the pandemic, and sympathy to those whose loved ones are sick or dying.

If you're looking for resources for hosting a virtual seder this year and experiencing Passover during the Covid-19 pandemic, check out:


With wishes for a Shabbat Shalom, peace, health, and safety.

Rabbi Sarah

The Talmud teaches that when the month of Adar arrives, joy increases. (Taanit 29a)

This is such a curious statement. Does this mean that Adar is automatically a more joyful month that any other month? Does it mean that any challenges or difficult things we've been going through will just automatically transform in to joyousness? I don't think so. The sages teach that one meaning behind joy increasing in Adar is because of the holiday of Purim that falls during Adar and that we start preparing for Passover in Adar. The increased joy refers to Purim and Passover, our spring holidays. Both Purim and Passover are holidays of redemption, survival and freedom - and thus in the minds of the sages, these are joyous holidays, and in celebrating or preparing for them joy increases.

However, both Purim and Passover are complex holidays - yes they are joyous but the stories of both holidays are also violent, cruel, and complicated in some ways. So I prefer to focus on a different understanding of why and how joy increases in Adar.

I see the notion that our joy increases in Adar as a challenge -- an opportunity to become more aware of joy and to increase our chances of experiencing joy. I also believe that the main mitzvot or commandments of Purim can help us increase our joy - if we think about them in an expansive way.

1. One of the mitzvot of Purim is to send sweet gifts to friends or family called "Mishloach Manot". Often kids in religious school make little bags of hamentaschen Purim cookies and a piece of candy or fruit to give to classmates or family. Or families send them to their neighbors. I didn't grow up with this practice but I think the intention behind it - the concept of a sharing something sweet with those you care about - is really important. Even if you do not do the traditional mishloach manot, think about taking some time this month to reach out to those you care about. Send cards or notes or call the people who are important to you and give them a sweet message and see how joy it brings you and the other person. If you don't celebrate Valentines day, maybe this is a nice way to send some love.

2. A "Purim Seudah" or festival meal is another one of the mitzvot of Purim. Even if you don't have a traditional Purim meal, think about setting some time aside this month for some special meals with friends or family. Maybe you eat something sweet together, or cook together, or just have tea and share your news or reconnect. Having a sweet moment together, reconnecting with those you love, and making sure that the people who are important to you know you appreciate them is a beautiful way to increase our own feelings of gratitude and satisfaction.

3. One of the other mitzvot for Purim is called "Matanot Le'evyonim" which literally means gifts to the poor. This comes from the statute that you must make sure that even those poorest in your community have enough to have a Purim feast or meal of celebration. Even if you do not know who the people are in your community that are in need, this is a good reminder and opportunity to think beyond ourselves. Take some time this month for increasing acts of service or charity, or making a donation to an organization that provides for people in your community. Recognizing our blessings and sharing with others can be another beautiful and sacred way to increase our own gratitude and joy this month.

4. The fourth mitzvah of Purim is hearing the Megillah (scroll of the story of Purim) read aloud. To me this is problematic in a lot ways because not only because not everyone can hear but also because the book of Esther that is read on Purim is more actually more Brothers Grimm than Disney fairytale and doesn't really inspire joy for me. However, an expansive way to think about this is to learn or read for the sake of personal growth or pleasure. Maybe there is a favorite book you had a child that brought so much joy. This is a great time to find that book and re-read it. Or maybe there is a book you've been wanting to read for your own edification or to learn something new. The value of learning is one of the most important Jewish values. Or maybe you love to read for pleasure and haven't had much time so perhaps this month you make some extra time just to get cozy with a mug of your favorite warm beverage and get out that book you've been wanting to read.

5. The last one I will add is not one of the traditional mitzvah associated with Purim but something else I will encourage you to do this month to increase your joy. Tap into your creative side! Think about the ways you might have really enjoyed getting creative or messy as a kid and let yourself experience that again. Or maybe there is a new medium you've wanting to explore. See what can happen with you give self a chance to express yourself in new ways! (Of course, there are lots of ways to be creative with both Purim and Passover from costumes to performances and writing your own songs to act out the story).

There are many other ways to increase our joy. What are the ways in which you might find more opportunities for joy this month? How might you increase your awareness of joy or share it with others?

Wishing you a meaningful celebration of Purim no matter how you celebrate and month of increased joy!

Rabbi Sarah

For the Month of Shevat, not only did we have a wonderful Align: Art & Spirituality session but I also had the opportunity to teach a session for FedPro, the professional conference for Jewish Federations of North America which gathered hundreds of Federation staff and leaders from around the country.

I led a session called Planting Seeds in Shevat, which was a chance for participants to engage in mindfulness meditation, reflection, creative visioning and sharing with a chevruta partner about an area of personal or professional growth they are focused on for the next few months. Rather than setting long term goals, I encouraged them to focus on a short/medium term intention for the season, something they could nurture and nourish so they would see the growth this spring.

Want to try this creative visioning exercise for yourself? Check out my Tree of Vision exercise in At The Well project's Monthly Moon Manual for Shevat!

May the seeds that are planting in the month of Shevat (in winter) bloom in the month of Nisan (spring time!).


Rabbi Sarah


Rosh Chodesh Tevet (the New Moon of the month of Tevet) always coincides with the very end of Hannukah.

When the new moon that arises just as Hannukah ends it is a reminder once again that the light comes back.

The month of Kislev is an auspicious month. As we head closer to the Winter Solstice, the days are growing shorter and the nights are continuing to get longer and darker. In the Jewish calendar, we are heading towards Hannukah, the festival of lights.

Unlike other Jewish festivals that fall on a full moon (Passover, Sukkot, Tu BiShevat), Hannukah always starts on the 25th of Kislev as the moon cycle is waning and winding down towards to the new moon. Futhermore, Hannukah falls closest to the new moon nearest Winter Solstice, when the night sky is the darkest in the Northern Hemisphere.

According to Jewish wisdom traditions, Kislev is a month for rekindling dreams and finding healing and rest through sleep. Dreams that we have while we are asleep and dreams we have while we are awake. This seems a perfect time of year for this. As plants and animals are hibernating, we may also find ourselves needing more sleep or cozy time to relax and recharge. Additionally, each of the Torah readings that fall during the month of Kislev had a dream sequence (Jacob's dream of the ladder, Joseph's dreams, and Pharaoh's dreams). As we tuck into bed at night, consider how you might pay more attention to your dreams this month. Maybe write them down in the morning and look them over. Take some time think about the dreams you had as a child and what happened to those dreams. Think about your dreams for the future. How can you nurture those dreams and visions?

Since Hannukah always begins on the 25th of Kislev, the new moon of Tevet always falls at the end of Hannukah. In the Northern Hemisphere, Hannukah, like many other festivals of light in different cultures at this time of year, celebration of light, hope, faith, and dedication in time of year when it can hard to feel those things.

Hannukah lasts 8 nights, and each night we add another candle to grow the light or to ascend in holiness (according to our sages). Just as the moon is waning, and the sky is darkest, we add and additional candle each night to the Hannukah menorah.

After Winter Solstice, sunset grows a little later each day, just as the flames of the Hannukah candles grow brighter each night. The return of the new moon that always falls at the end of Tevet is a symbol of renewal and a reminder that the light will return again, coinciding with the all 8 candles burning.

This year, the first night of Hannukah falls on December 22, the night after Winter Solstice, which is also the first day of winter. How might the symbolism of the returning light help you throughout the winter? What intentions might you set for this season?

The word Hannukah means "dedication" and invite you to consider how you might want to dedicate some time for yourself this Hannukah and this season. What dreams, visions, wishes or best practices to you need to dedicate some time and space for this winter? How might you take some time for yourself this Hannukah to dedicate for your own self care or spiritual practice or just to check in with yourself?

Wishing you a bright, beautiful, cozy, and warm Hannukah and Winter Season!

Rabbi Sarah


Chodesh Tov and Blessings for Thanksgiving!

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


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!


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


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

The evening of August 15th and the day of August 16th is the holiday of Tu B'Av (the 15th of the month of Av) traditionally known as a day of love, or the Jewish Valentine's Day when in ancient times matches were made. Tu B'Av falls right on the full moon, believed to link the bright shining potency of the moon with the full expression of love, romance, and fertility.

Consider how you might show extra love to yourself this Tu B'Av. Maybe take yourself on a date or do something extra kind for yourself over Shabbat or this weekend. Think about how you can you deepen your relationships with yourself this month.

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Tonight on August 1st at sundown, we welcome the new Hebrew month of Av. The beginning of Av leads us into a dark time in the Jewish calendar as we make our way toward the 9th day of the month, Tisha B'Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Temple. But after that, the energy shirts midmonth with Tu B'Av (aka Jewish valentine's day) on the 15th of Av. This month reminds us of the nature of life. We ride the energy of this month, knowing that life contains both pain and love, destruction and creation, separation and rebuilding. Once Av rolls around it also means we are heading towards the season of preparing for the High Holidays! Can you believe it?


Last weekend I flew home to Louisville and then drove up to Zionsville, Indiana with a friend of mine I've known since 4th grade. Sara and her husband Mike drove us up for a very special 20th reunion at Goldman Union Camp Institute. We spent Shabbat with friends I hadn't seen in over 15 years and it was really quite special to be back in this place that I love so much. We enjoyed the Shabbat Walk, song session, the campfire, catching up, reconnecting, reminiscing, and seeing everything at camp that was still the same and the few things that were new. It was wonderful to also be able to reconnect with that part of myself that I call Taz - my younger, freer, more energetic self. I am so grateful I was able to be there for this reunion Shabbat.

The Full Moon in July is the Buck Moon, named after the new antlers that emerge from a buck's forehead around this time of the year. It is also called Thunder Moon, Hay Moon, and Wort Moon.

Another name for the July Full Moon is Thunder Moon because of the frequent thunderstorms in the summer. The Anglo-Saxon name is either Hay Moon, after the hay harvest that takes place in July, or Wort Moon, indicating that July is the time to gather herbs (worts) to dry and use as spices and remedies.

-Information from www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/moon/buck.html

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The Align series is back! Starting with a special introductory session on Sunday August 25 & a special pre-Rosh HaShanah workshop on Sunday September 22.

Align: A New Moon series incorporating Jewish Spirituality, Seasonal Wellness & Creative Expression

  • Candle lighting Ritual
  • Learning and Discussion
  • Meditation and/or gentle yoga (for all levels)
  • Creative Writing and/or Art
  • Closing Ritual

Open to all backgrounds and all genders.

Center for Mindful Living 4708 Wisconsin Ave Washington DC 20016 Second Floor

Join us for an Align Introduction Session on August 25, 2019. Click here for details and to sign up.

Fall Align dates start with a kick of workshop in Preparation for Rosh Hashanah on Sunday September 2019, 3-5pm. Click here for details and to sign up.

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According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon and is a time for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season. Tammuz can be a month of heat, bright sun, and long days, which follow the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.

Notice when the heat arises for you.

Breath and try to balance the intensity with cooling, refreshing practices.


Click on the post heading to see more images from the retreat!

Here are a few photos from our Summer Solstice Retreat! We enjoyed meditation, restorative yoga, a food ritual, a delicious lunch, art making, and intention setting for the season. Special thanks to Jodi Balis of Red Lentil Consulting for providing our nourishment for the day.


Our last Align session was a beautiful gathering in which we opened our hearts in preparation for receiving Torah on Shavuot. Through meditation, gentle movement and creative writing, we explored and reflected on the most valuable teachings and wisdom we have received this year and set intentions for what we want to learn and receive in the coming days, or the coming month (or the coming year). You can still consider these questions throughout the entire month of Sivan! It was a lovely way to conclude the Align series and the spring holiday cycle. Stay tuned for more information coming soon about future Align gatherings for 2019-2020!

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Welcoming the New Moon of Sivan!

According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon and is a time for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season. Sivan is a month of warmth, springtime, flowers blooming, and unification (which makes it a popular time for weddings). We also celebrate the holiday of Shavuot this month and commemorate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. As you notice the flowers and trees, the weather becoming warmer, take some deep breaths. What is the Torah (instruction) you want to recive? What teaching do you need in your life now? Breathe deeper and you make space in your heart to receive.

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Summer Solstice Retreat

Friday June 21, 2019 10am-2pm

The Center for Mindful Living

Take the time out of your busy schedule to relax, refresh, and renew. Celebrate Summer Solstice with movement, meditation, and creative expression.

The retreat will include:


Restorative Yoga for all levels

A delicious, healthy, seasonal, vegetarian lunch and food ritual prepared and led by Jodi Balis of Red Lentil Consulting

Art and Creative Expression Activity

Wellness tips and Intentions for the season



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According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon and is a time for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season.

Iyar is a month of healing. The name of the month is an acronym in Hebrew for "Ani Adonai Rofecha" meaning "I am G*d your healer." What kind of healing do you need this month? As you take a few deep breaths, consider your mind, body and spirit. How can you nourish each of those parts of yourself? What kind of self-care can you do to support your own healing? Who can you ask for support in your healing journey?

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We had a beautiful Align workshop and gathering to welcome the month of Iyar. Our theme was healing, the main attribute of the month of Iyar in the Jewish calendar. We discussed the place of Iyar in between Nisan and Sivan, between Passover and Shavuot and it’s place during the season of counting the Omer. Through meditation, writing and art, we explored our own healing journeys, supportive healing practices and calling in the added support we need. I felt so honored to create the space for this experience and to be in the presence of those souls, who shared deeply of their own processes and intentions. Chodesh Tov! Blessings for the month of Iyar.


Living in DC, every year when the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom it feels like a rite of passage to go down and see them. When my husband and I went down to the Tidal Bassin last week early one morning, there were already thousands of people walking around, taking pictures, pointing, and smiling.

There was a palpable energy and joy being amongst these trees that once again sprang to life. Walking beneath these trees, it felt like blessings were overhead everywhere we stepped.

It was an embodiment of spring and beautiful way to prepare to enter the Hebrew month of Nisan.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov (Happy New Month) of Nisan! Wishing you a month of newness, fresh energy, freedom and blossoming into Springtime,

Rabbi Sarah

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According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon and is a time for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season. Rosh Chodesh Nisan (the new moon and new month) arrives on April 6th, 2019.

Nisan represents the beginning of springtime in the Northern Hemisphere as we prepare to celebrate Passover which occurs on the 15th of Nisan (on the full moon).

According to Jewish tradition, the first of Nisan is considered one of four New Years. As we begin to see signs of spring and rebirth in nature, what feels new to you? What do you want to shake off from winter?

A few months ago, in the middle of winter, we celebrated Shvat and the teaching that the seeds planting in Shvat bloom in Nisan. Consider: what is beginning to bloom or blossom in your life? How will you continue to nurture that growth this month?

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Happy Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) of Adar II! That's right, we've entered into the second month of Adar. We have two months of Adar this year because it's a leap year in the Jewish calendar. Though the Jewish calendar is considered a lunar calendar (because we count the dates based on the moon) the calendar is actually semi-solar because it's kept on track by the sun and the seasons. Certain holidays have to fall during certain seasons -- and Passover (which arrives next month on April 19th at sundown) must occur in the springtime. Having an extra month of Adar (7 times in every 19-year cycle) ensures that Passover will occur when it's supposed to (in springtime!).

Speaking of springtime, the first day of spring arrives on March 20th, the same night as the holiday Purim. The story of Purim, told in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Esther, takes place in Persia (modern day Iran). The first day of spring is also the Persian New Year, called Nowruz, which is celebrated with a feast of foods with special meanings. The Nowruz feast is similar to Passover Seder table or a Sephardic Rosh Hashanah Seder which also have special symbolic foods. Learn more about Nowruz with this cool video. There are even some theories that the Purim festival meal was originally a Nowruz feast eaten by the Jews who were celebrating the New Year in ancient Persia. I love learning about the seasons, holidays, and the connections between cultures. Last year at the Tasman family Passover seder in Louisville, KY, a dear friend of my parents shared about her family's Nowruz celebration and all of the special foods they ate (7 dishes which all start with the letter "s"). The number 7 is also special in Judaism and it was so cool to learn about the rituals of Nowruz and to draw connections with Jewish seasonal food rituals.

As we enter this second month of Adar, we have an opportunity to continue cultivating joy in our lives which is the theme of the month of Adar according to Jewish wisdom traditions. Sometimes it can feel hard to do that when we're stressed, sick, or the weather feels like spring will never get here. When joy feels hard to capture, I turn to gratitude. Thinking of the things for which we are grateful is a way to open up the heart towards joy. Pausing to take stock of the people, the opportunities, the basic necessities in our lives can inspire gratitude. The moments of kindness, connection, and support that come our way -- however small -- can be opportunities to notice and acknowledge and offer thanks.

Grateful for all of you!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a month of joy, good health and blessings,

Rabbi Sarah

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This past Saturday night, we had the first gathering of our new monthly series called Align. We gathered to celebrate the last few days of the month of Shvat since we'll be focusing on Joy and the month of Adar at our next gathering on March 2. We learned about the wheel of the Jewish year, seasons, cycles, and circles. Everyone had a chance to set intentions for what we want to bring into our lives through an art meditation and creating mandalas. We announced and blessed the upcoming month with our hopes and wishes that we manifested in our art work.

We welcome the new Hebrew month of Adar today and tomorrow with the holiday of Rosh Chodesh. It's a leap year in the Jewish calendar this year which means we have two months of Adar. Though the Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle meaning we count a day as nightfall to nightfall, and each new month starts on the new moon, the calendar is also semi-solar. This means that certain holidays have to occur at their appointed season, rooted to our ancient agricultural calendar e.g. Sukkot must be in the fall and Passover in the spring. If you noticed that the Jewish holidays are on the early side, it's likely we'll have an extra month of Adar in order to even things out so that Passover doesn't occur too early. We have a leap year (or extra month) 7 times every 19 years, or every few years.

Each new moon and each new month is an opportunity for reflection, learning, and checking in with ourselves. According to Jewish wisdom traditions, each month has a theme. The month of Adar is all about cultivating joy, as the Talmud teaches, "when the month of Adar arrives, joy increases." With two months of Adar, we have an extra opportunity to cultivate joy. Next month, called Adar II (Adar Bet or Adar 2), I'll share more about how we might increase joy in our lives.

We welcome you to join us for the upcoming sessions! Details and Registration are here.


Chodesh Tov - Happy New Moon and Happy New Month of Adar

Each new moon and each new month is an opportunity for reflection, learning, and checking in with ourselves. According to Jewish wisdom traditions, each month has a theme. The month of Adar is all about cultivating joy, as the Talmud teaches, "when the month of Adar arrives, joy increases." With two months of Adar, we have an extra opportunity to cultivate joy.

What brings you joy?

How will create more opportunities for joy this month?

How will you help increase joy for others?

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While the concept of the new year being a good time to review your life and set new goals, in practice, the middle of winter is a very difficult time to do this for many of us. Winter is a natural time when we may want to hibernate, when we need stores of food and shelter to sustain us through the winter. So rather than making big, radical changes in our lives, or setting big resolutions to change our diet or workout routines (can often feel like fighting against the season), here are some suggestions and tips for incorporating more connection, intentionality, and creativity in our lives.

1. Embrace Winter

This is a hard one for me, but once I learned about the Danish lifestyle concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), I began to see the light. Hygge is all about creating a space and environment that feels comforting and cozy. Most homes in Denmark are designed with this in mind - making sure there are spaces in your home where you can relax, have a warm meal, or cozy up under blankets to read or write. Lighting fixtures are soft and candles are abundant. Restaurants in Denmark are even rated by the level of how hygge they feel . The idea here is not about luxury, it's about being intentional about our time and space, cultivating a lifestyle that nurtures us. It's about supporting ourselves in our downtime, especially throughout winter, and making that time and that space something that really nourishes our spirit. So bring out your blankets and pillows and set up a hygge corner in your home, make a cup of tea, and get out your favorite book or write a letter to an old friend. Or create an intimate dinner party or potluck and invite over a few friends. Light candles, get some plants or flowers to add a little freshness and reconnect. You don't have to spend a lot of money to create more hygge and more connection with yourself and your loved ones in your life and in your home.

2. Tap into the cycles of the moon.

The Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycle. This means that a day starts at sundown and ends the next day at sundown. This is why Shabbat starts on Friday night and ends of Saturday night. So too, each Hebrew month is counting according to the moon. Each month starts with the new moon and is 28 or 29 days. The start of each new month is called Rosh Chodesh, literally meaning head of the month. According to Jewish wisdom traditions, each Hebrew month has special attributes, often corresponding to the season or to the holiday that occurs that month. Cultivating a practice to take a little bit of time each month to notice the cycle of the moon and the new moon can have a profound impact on our lives. Taking the time to learn about and meditate on the themes of that month can help us feel more grounded. Following the cycle of the moon also reminds us there is a natural waxing and waning to what life brings our way. Remembering that the moon goes through phases - and so do we - can help us move through challenges or different emotions. It's easy to feel like our days and years are passing us by, but taking the time each month to slow down and pause, can help us take stock and check in with ourselves. Adding this into your life as a spiritual practice can help us live more integrated, holistic lives. Doing this in a group can also help us feel more rooted and connected with other like-hearted individuals where we can support each others spiritual practice and personal growth together.

3. Express yourself

Often in my workshops and classes, I build in time for students to write or make art. Some of my students have a regular journaling practice or have a natural creative ability and love to make art. However, many of my students don't necessarily identify as an artist or with a creative talent. And that's ok. So many of us found joy in the freedom to draw, paint or make collages as a child but somewhere along the way we were told or decided for ourselves that we were not good artists. I see this a lot. Somehow, growing up we got it into our heads that good art should look beautiful. Often I try to "unteach" this or help my students "unlearn" the idea that art needs to look a certain way. The art and writing we do in my workshops is more focused on the creative process, taking the time to express yourself in a medium which you may not often use in your daily life as an adult. The process of allowing yourself to make something with your hands, to express a thought, feeling or image in your heart and then to put it on paper is very meaningful and profound. It can also feel vulnerable to do this, but there is growth that comes from cultivating the ability to express ourselves in different ways. Engaging in this kind of practice - whether it's for 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes can be incredibly rewarding - simply for the sense of unfettered engagement in the activity at hand and the sense of accomplishment. So whether it's an adult coloring book, writing in your journal, taking your art supplies our of the closet or cutting up an old magazine - give yourself the opportunity to get your creative juices going and get in the flow. See what happens. Reflect on your work with love and self-compassion. This process provides us with care, healing, and self-growth.

If you're interested in tapping into any of these practices, sign up for my newsletter, reach out to me to find out more about private spiritual coaching or join me for Align: a monthly series starting Saturday night February 2, 2019 at 7:30pm at the Center for Mindful Living in Washington, DC. Each monthly workshop gathering will include ritual, teachings on the season and the month, and have time for creative expression and intention setting - all designed to help you align with the seasons and cycles in your life. This is a wonderful opportunity to integrate more rootedness, spirituality and creative expression into your life. For details and registration, click here.

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During the Art & Visioning workshop I led on January 1, I had a few moments to sit down, breath and do my own artwork. The room was full of participants working on their own visions - drawing, writing, or searching for images that spoke to them from the collage supplies. My teachers in Rabbinical School used to tell us how inspiring it was to walk into the Beit Midrash (the house of study) and see all of the students studying together in chevruta (with a partner) translating texts, deciphering meanings, studying commentaries. The room was abuzz with students trying to figure things out, make sense of things, understand each other's opinions and reasoning for how to read a line of text as a statement or a question. The sights and sounds of the Beit Midrash inspired my teachers and reminded them why they loved learning Jewish texts so much.

I have experienced the same as a teacher. When I lead a group in meditation or contemplative reflection and then give each person an opportunity to write or create art, I see each person inspired by what we have learned or experience and engaged in their own creative process. Those are my some favorite classroom moments as a teacher and as a rabbi.

Those very moments remind me of being a young Arts & Ideas major, in the art studio at the Residential College at the University of Michigan. I loved being in a creative space where each person was working on their own projects, yet all of us were experiencing the act of creation collectively. I liked the solemnity of people focused on the work self expression through art. Perhaps there was some music on in the background, maybe a hushed conversation here or there or a question for the teacher, but there was a quiet reverence in the room, a focus on creative invention happening in real time.

During the recent New Years Day Art & Visioning workshop, when I looked around to see everyone working, I was filled with that same sense of inspiration, of creativity and flow. Once everyone found their art supplies and were tucked into their own pieces, I sat down to create my own.

For years, I've practiced what I call "Art Meditation" - not unlike a walking meditation or mindful eating, there is an activity at hand in which I am fully immersed. I have a practice I return to over and over again of creating tree collages. I find different scraps of paper and tear them into small pieces and different shapes. I arrange them to form the trunk of the tree, the branches, the leaves and flowers, and either roots or grass that firmly ground the tree into the earth. I find that I return to this image of the tree, this art meditation on the tree - as an image of something completely grounded and rooted, strong and yet it is in perpetual change with the seasons.

The tree is rooted and solid but it also reaches out, the leaves change and turn with the seasons, the fruits grow and bloom and the flowers blossom in the springtime. It reminds me that the only constant is change. Sometimes I choose paper based on the colors I am feeling, or another motif speaks to me. At times there are images in the paper, perhaps a sunset or an ocean or figures that I build into the story of the tree. Sometimes the roots are a mirror image to the branches.

At this time of year, when it is is cold and snow covers the ground in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it is hard to imagine the tree with flowering buds. The cherry blossoms that grace the tidal basin in Washington, DC seem like a faint memory and too far off into the future. This may be so, but in the Jewish calendar, we celebrate the month of Shvat and the holiday of Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees. This year year Tu Bishvat (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat) falls on Monday January 21. We celebrate it at this time of year because the very first almond trees in Israel begin to flower in Shvat.

There is an adage I come back to again and again: "the seeds that are planted in Shvat bloom in Nissan" which means the seeds planted in the month of winter bloom in the month of spring time. I love to think about this metaphorically each year and ask myself what are the seeds of intention I want to plant right now so that they will bloom this spring? This tree is an art meditation on this intention of planting seeds now so they will bloom this spring.

My intention this winter and spring is to lead a monthly art and spirituality workshop that gathers in synchronicity with the cycle of the seasons and the moon. I hope to plant the seeds and nourish the seedlings of this opportunity allowing students and seekers to express their own creativity so that they may bloom in their spiritual and creative practice. I hope you will join me at this special series.

Happy New Year!

We had a beautiful New Year's Day Art & Visioning workshop with 30 people who came to get creative! The room was filled to the brim with energy and inspiration. Thank you to everyone who participated for your presence and support of each other's visions for the new year ahead. I hope to see you again soon.

If you weren't able to join us but would like to do a private session with me including visualization, art & writing, or if you need any help, guidance, or support in identifying your intentions or creating a life where you can live directly from your intentions, please reach out. I am working with clients for spiritual coaching and private learning, as well as launching new workshops and classes this year designed to nourish and support you in body, mind, and soul.

Each month, I post a teaching for the Hebrew month. Each Hebrew month arrives with the new moon and has different themes and attributes connected with the season and the holidays of that month. See below for this month's wisdom for the new moon of Shvat and planting seeds in the New Year. Catch up with my writings, upcoming events, and other news on my website, www.tasmancenter.org, and follow on instagram and our Facebook page.

With warmest wishes and blessings,

Rabbi Sarah


According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon or "Rosh Chodesh" in Hebrew. This time is an opportunity for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season or the holidays that fall during that time.

The month of Shvat begins at night on Sunday, January 6th, 2019 with the new moon, and is also observed and celebrated during the day on Monday, January 7th.

Though the month of Shvat is still in the midst of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate the New Year of the Trees with the holiday of Tu BiShevat on the 15th of the month (on the full moon). This holiday celebrates the first blossoming of the almond trees and is a time for planting seeds.

An old adage teaches that the seeds planted in the Hebrew month of Shvat, will bloom in the Hebrew month of Nisan (a few months away in the beginning of springtime).

What seeds of intention are you planting in your heart and in your life? How will you nurture them to grow and bloom?

New Years are opportunities to check in with yourself, to take stock and do some reflection and to also set intentions. But I am not a fan of "new years resolutions" which often come from a place of self-judgement, self-criticism and self-restraint. These resolutions often set us up to be hard on ourselves.

Rather than setting a resolution, I see each New Year - and each new month in the Jewish calendar - as good times to set intentions. Living in alignment with the cycles around the sun, and each cycle of the moon, can be very powerful and help us feel more centered and grounded in our lives. Each new year or each new moon gives us a chance to either recommit to an intention you set earlier or set a new intention.

The Hebrew word for intention is kavannah, which comes from the verb l'kavven, which means to direct your heart. So my question for you this year, is how do you want to direct your heart? How do you want to feel in your day-to-day life? How do you want to be? What are your core desired feelings? And then once you have identified those words and ideas, let yourself make decisions and choose from there.

Let your intentions direct your thoughts and actions.

What are you intentions for 2019?

I'd love to hear what your intentions are for this year.

If you need any help, guidance, or support on identifying your intentions or creating a life where you can live directly from your intentions, please reach out! I am working with private clients for spiritual coaching and learning, as well as launching new workshops and classes this year designed to nourish and support you in body, mind, and soul.

With warmest wishes and Blessings,

Rabbi Sarah

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Warmest Wishes for Winter Solstice and Shabbat Shalom!

Winter Solstice has long been one my favorite holidays. Truth be told, I don't do well with the cold and darkness of the winter season, but there is something hopeful to me that in once we get through to Winter Solstice - the shortest day and the longest night of the year - the days will once again get a little bit longer. The knowledge that the days will grow longer, even if just by a minute per day, helps me psychologically. I am not alone in this feeling. This time of year can be incredibly difficult for many people. Read more about the Talmud's take on Seasonal Affective Disorder on my website.

One of my favorite quotes for Winter Solstice comes from the TV show Northern Exposure. This show was a Tasman family favorite growing up and has special resonance for me since I served as the rabbi of a small Jewish community in Fairbanks, AK in the summer of 2011. I felt much more at home than Dr Joel Fleishman in the TV show. In the show, one winter, Chris Stevens, who is at once a disc jockey, preacher, poet and, artist, creates an enormous sculpture in the town square out of all of the lights he can find. His opening kavannah (words of intention), which is one of my favorite quotes, reads as follows:

Goethe's final words: "More light." Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that's been our unifying cry: "More light." Sunlight. Torchlight. Cande light. Neon. Incandescent. Lights that banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier's field. Little tiny flashlights for those books we read under the covers when we're supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light." "Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on!" "The night is dark, and I am far from home." "Lead Thou me on! Arise, shine, for thy light has come." Light is knowledge. Light is life. Light is light.

Check out the scene on YouTube.

Wishing you and your families light, warmth, connection, hope, healing, and joy.

Warmest wishes, Shabbat Shalom, and all my best for a bright 2019,

Rabbi Sarah Tasman

Winter Solstice is this Friday December 21, 2019.

Winter Solstice has long been one my favorite holidays. Truth be told, I don't do well with the cold and darkness of the winter season, but there is something hopeful to me that in once we get through to Winter Solstice - the shortest day and the longest night of the year - that the days will once again get a little bit longer. Even the next day, even if the sun sets just a minute later, if the next Shabbat comes in just a little later, it helps me psychologically. I am not alone in this feeling. This time of year can be incredibly difficult for many people.

In the great compendeum of Rabbinic Literature, The Talmud (Avodah Zarah, 8a), there is a story about Adam the first human being. "When Adam -- who was created in the beginning of the year, on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei (e.g. on Rosh Hashanah) -- noticed that during the first three months of his life, the days were getting gradually shorter, he said, 'Woe is to me! The world around me is being darkened and is returning to its state of chaos and confusion; this must be the kind of death which has been sentenced to me from Heaven!' He took upon himself to pray, fast, and look within. After eight days, he noticed the Winter Equinox (the Tekufat Tevet or the season of the month of Tevet), and saw that indeed the days were beginning to lengthen again. "So this is the way of the world!" he exclaimed, and he celebrated for eight days." When I read this, I thought, wow. The rabbis who compiled the Talmud must have really understood Seasonal Affective Disorder. This was also another way thay they thought about Hanukah.

This is also how I think about Solstice, that it's an opportunity to celebrate the light, a way to reinforce the light in the darkness at this time of year (a continuation of Hannukah this year since Hannukah came earlier in December this year).

It is believed that Winter Solstice has been celebrated since the Neolithic period (12,000 years ago). According to Wikipedia, Astronomical events were often used to guide activities such as the mating of animals, the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter reserves of food. The winter solstice was immensely important because the people were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as "the famine months". In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. For more information check out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

Even if you no longer live in an agrarian society, what does Winter Solstice mean for you? What does it mean to be aware of the cycles and the seasons in this way?

How do you mark the passage of time?


Rabbi Sarah


According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon and is a time for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season.

The new moon and new month of Tevet fall December 8th and 9th.

The new moon of Tevet always fall at the tail end of Hannukah making Hannukah the only holiday to span two months. Just as the moon is at it's darkest, our candles burn the brightest. There is also a beautiful Sephardic custom to celebrate the Festival of Daughters on Rosh Chodesh Tevet in honor of Judith the heroine whose story is associated with Hannukah,

This month, how might you honor the women in your life? How might you promote gender equity in your world?

How will you dedicate your Hannukah?

The Hebrew word Hannukah literally means dedication, referencing the (re)dedication of the Temple over 2500 years ago after it was desecrated and destroyed in the battle of the Maccabees against the army of Antiochus. The re-dedication was enacted with the lighting of the 7 branched menorah in the Temple. Later, because the 7 branched menorah was not supposed to be outside the Temple (Talmud Menachot 28b), and in connection with the symbolism of the Talmudic version of the story when the last tiny cruse of oil miraculously lasted 8 nights (Talmud Shabbat 21b), an 8 branched Hanukkah holding 9 candles, aka a Hannukah menorah, was instituted.

I'd like to offer another way of understanding that word: dedication.

Perhaps while the candles are burning, we take the opportunity to just be. Just be in the moment, in the present. Hannukah is a holiday but it's not like Shabbat or other chagim (festivals) where we miss school or work. In this way, Hannukah integrates the sacred and the every day. Perhaps Hannukah can be an opportunity to remind ourselves the power of integrating small rituals into our daily lives, to bring more holiness into our routines.

According to the laws of Hannukah, women are to refrain from work while the Hannukah candles are burning. Reasons for this are two fold: firstly the candles are intended simply to celebrate and publicize the miracle of Hannukah and must burn for a minimum of 30 minutes and are not to be used in a utilitarian way to provide light for work. Secondly, this was seen as a reward for women to be exempt from work while the candles are lit, in honor of the heroine Judith, whose book, along with the book of Maccabees, is not in the Hebrew bible but is part of the Jewish apocryphal literature, but is a female heroine associated with Hannukah.

Perhaps this is why most Hannukah candles only last 30 minutes, unlike most Shabbat candles which last hours providing light all night and are often still burning when it’s time for bed. There are times I wish the Hannukah candles burned longer, but alas. We must savor the light while it does last.

You may find this practice of women’s exemption from work while the candles are burning to be sexist (implying they should be working all the rest of the time and that’s the only time they have “off”). Perhaps you find this a comforting, freeing, relief that gives you permission to take advantage of not working and to just enjoy the candles, (or perhaps a bit of both -I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions), I admit, I am inspired by the opportunity and idea of compulsory rest and reflection.

Whether or not you see yourself as “exempt” from work while the candles are burning or whether this idea is an invitation for exploring your spiritual practice, let’s use the time while the candles are burning as sacred time. So many of us don’t always get to take sacred time for ourselves for a variety of reasons.

Here is my challenge for us:

Dedicate Hannukah, or the light of the candles, or the 30 minutes when the candles are burning to ourselves.

How might dedicate your time? Here are 8 suggestions:

1. Curl up with a blanket and your favorite novel or book of poetry

2. Do some stretching or yoga poses

3. Meditate by the candle light (new to the practice? I recommend Calm or Headspace).

4. Have a nourishing meal with friends or a loved one (or just sit down to eat)

5. Take a bath

6. Journal about your dreams - the ones you have while asleep and awake. Or take the time to think about your core desired feelings for winter - how do you want to feel over the next few months and let that be a guide for decision making and scheduling for this season. Or carve out some time for thinking about the end of 2018 and transitioning into 2018

7. Revisit any intentions you made for 5779 back at Rosh Hashanah (remember those?) and use the secular new year to recommit or pivot your goals.

8. Dedicate each night to someone. Ever notice when a yoga teacher invites you to dedicate your practice to yourself or someone else? That feels special. It’s a way to sending positive vibes, loving energy, healing prayers toward someone else. It feels good. Maybe you dedicate your candle lighting each night to someone you love, someone you miss, someone who inspired you, someone you appreciate or someone who is in need of healing.

You may have read previous blog post on the Hannukah Dedication Challenge and thought, "Oh yes, I want to do this! I love a challenge. Bring. It. On."

Or you may be thinking, "That’s nice but I can’t do that. I can’t take time like that every night of Hannukah. I have responsibilities to my family and work and other commitments." Yes, of course we all do. This isn’t something easy. So it may take some planning.

Here are some tips suggestions to help you make this more doable:

Think about the things that get your time and energy every day. You deserve to put some of that time and energy back into your own wellness, nourishment, self-care and spiritual practice. That’s not being selfish. You’re a cup that needs to be refilled, not an endless stream.

  • Take a look at your calendar in advance. Block off 30 minutes each night during Hannukah for this. Add it to your google calendar or write it in your paper calendar. Considered this time sacred.

  • Set a daily timer or reminder. When you hear it, set aside what you’re doing and give yourself permission, encouragement and appreciation for taking this time for yourself.

  • If you can’t do it right at sundown, find another half hour that evening or that day and block it off.

  • Talk to your partner, parents, a friend or roommates to help you. Maybe you celebrate with your family or friends and then make sure you carve out of the time later that night or earlier that day for yourself. It may take some juggling in your schedules. If you have childcare duties, consider asking a partner, parent or a friend to help you make the time to do this - maybe you trade off so you can each have 30 minutes to yourself.

  • Encourage your partner or kids or roommates to also take time so that you can practice this recognition of the sacred individually and yet, together. Be encouraged and supported by each other's practice.

  • Can’t take 30 minutes? Try it for 20 minutes each day, or 10 minutes each. See what it feels like to give yourself this time EVERY DAY.

  • Struggle with a daily practice? That’s ok. Find an accountability buddy or give yourself a gold star each day you do it.

  • Take note. What might it feel like to replace 30 minutes of screen time with 30 minutes of doing whatever refills your well?

In the age of Facebook and Instagram it can be easy to use social media aa a distraction. However, it can also be a tool for motivation, accountability and support. How so? Take a photo of yourself, your book, your cup of tea, your journal or art supplies before or after your 30 minutes and use hashtag #redidicatehannukah . This may inspire others! And I want to see what you’re doing too! Please tag me so I am sure to see your post and can offer you encouragement and support.

Good luck! Warmest wishes and blessings for Hannukah,

Rabbi Sarah

Like the winter festivals of light in cultures all around the world, Hannukah falls at the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. Not only are the nights growing longer but they are darker too, moving toward winter solstice. Additionally, Hannukah falls on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, at a time when the moon is waning in a further darkening night sky.

Hannukah encourages us to literally light a fire in the darkness, to kindle light at the darkest time year. For those in the southern Hemisphere where Hannukah falls in the summer time (what?!), the lighting of candles has a similar yet inverse meaning of celebrating, growing, and expanding light.

For so many of us, the winter brings with it seasonal affective disorder and depression. A poignant yet anachronistic midrash (rabbinic story) tells of Adam, the first human, who grew so sad the first year of his life as the light was decreasing at this time of year until the holiday of Hannukah provided some much needed light. The story of Hannukah itself, though not in the Hebrew Bible, records the military victory of the Israelites, and the retelling of it in the Talmud (the rabbinic compendium of Jewish legal discourse) layers on the miracle of the oil lasting for 8 nights as a foundational narrative of hope for the Jewish people.

For these reasons, the themes of Hannukah are at once universal, communal, and yet personal as well.

The personal act of the lighting the candles, adding one each night, is to see the light increase when it would otherwise be decreasing at this time of year, can be deeply meaningful.

I have memories of my grandparents coming to spend Hannukah with me and my siblings when were kids growing up in West Hartford, Connecticut. Even today, when I close my eyes and see their faces illuminated by the glow of the candles, it brings tears to my eyes.

The practice of pirsum ha'neis (literally “publicizing the miracle” of Hannukah) of placing the Hannukah menorah in the window, is to proudly (often defiantly or dangerously) display the lit candles to passersby. In doing so, we multiply the lights in the reflection of the window as well, and offer the light of hope and renewal to those around us.

May the lighting of your Hannukah lights increase the light in your heart and in your soul.

Rabbi Sarah

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This past week I participated in the Kenissa: Cross Training conference at the Pearlstone Retreat Center, outside of Baltimore. On Monday morning, I woke up early to lead services with Kohenet Keshira HaLev Fife. As I was walking to the main building, I noticed the sunrise coming up through the trees about 6:30am as I walked from my cabin to the main building. I loved seeing that breath of pink coming up from the earth in the distance.

For our opening and closing song we chanted Mah Norah HaMakom Hazeh (music by R’ Shefa Gold) with Keshira playing harmonium, which is a verse from this weeks Torah portion meaning “how awesome is this place”. In the book of Genesis, Jacob speaks these words when he wakes up from the dream of the angels going down and up the ladder and his encounter with G*d.

Truly it was an awe-some experience walking and seeing this moment of sunrise, and truly it was awe-some to lead the services together with some one who speaks my soul language, and truly it was awe-some to create a space and invite others in to show up fully as themselves with their strengths and vulnerabilities and they did.

Grateful for this awe-some experience, among many others this past week. With blessings for a Shabbat of peace and awe.


With the new moon, we begin the Hebrew month of Kislev. Just like the moon, we go through phases and cycles. Pausing to notice where we are in the moon cycle gives us an opportunity to check in with ourselves. One thing I love about the practice of observing, celebrating and learning about Rosh Chodesh (the Jewish wisdom of the new moon), is that there is so much connection: the themes of the month often connect to the seasons and as well as what is going on in the Jewish calendar and year cycle.

With the new moon of Kislev, we can really feel a shift towards winter as the nights grow longer and darker as we move towards Hannukah on the 25th of Kislev. One major theme of Kislev is tapping into and kindling dreams, both the ones that happen when we sleep and the ones we envision when we're awake. Every Torah portion this month contains dreams.

What have you been dreaming of lately?

What are the dreams you are nurturing this month?

I know many of us are still reeling from this mornings news about the shooting at Tree of Life Or L'simcha synagogue in Pittsburgh that happened this morning. The last I heard 11 were killed including 2 police officers. As far as I know, everyone that I know in Pittsburgh is safe, but of course, they are shaken.

It's something that affects so many us - if not all of us. While it happened to their community, and they will be working to repair and heal from this devastating trauma, that pain ripples out from their community and touches us all. Whether we are Jewish or not, whether we live in Pittsburgh or not, whether we knew the victims or their loved ones or not. It touches us because we are human and human life is sacred. An act of hatred like this cuts so deeply into the sense of shalom (peace) and shalem (wholeness) that we strive to create and cultivate in our lives, for ourselves and our families, and in our communities.

Tomorrow, Sunday, October 28th, I'll be joining Pleasance Lowengard Silicki, Rita Stevens and lil omm yoga for a community gathering. I'll be offering some opening words of comfort and blessings for healing. Please join us if you are in need of a space where we can hold each others pain. We are opening this gathering to anyone who wants to join us.

If you want to join us, we are gathering at 3pm-5pm at the BOLD Center in Tenleytown.

Come in comfy clothes to stretch and move, bring a yoga mat and a journal.

4000 Chesapeake St NW, Washington, DC 20016

Feel free to just join us, no RSVP necessary.

If I can be of support to you at this time, please let me know.

Rabbi Sarah Tasman


Cheshvan is the month following all the holidays that occurred over the last month during Tishrei. There are no holidays other than Shabbat this month, giving us a chance to return to the rhythms of our daily lives.

For this reason, it's a time when and is considered a time to get back to real life, when the real work of being our best selves begins.

It's also a time of Autumn, when we notice the trees shedding their leaves, the wind picks up and nights grow darker in the northern Hemisphere

What are the daily practices that help you live as the person you want to be, or support you?

What's the real soul work you need to commit to?

Wishing you a meaningful month of Cheshvan,

Rabbi Sarah

The 10 days from Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) though Yom Kippur (the day of attonement) are called the 10 Days of Teshuva or the Yamim Nora'im, meaning the 10 days of return or the 10 days of holiness/awesomeness. That name, Yamim Nora'im is where the phrase High Holy Days comes from, or more colloquially, High Holidays. Additionally, the Shabbat (Sabbath) in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called as the the Sabbath of Return, or Shabbat Shuva in Hebrew.

What does Sabbath of Return mean? This can raise a lot of questions. Who is returning? Why? What for? Is it just about humans or what about G*d? The way that I think about is this: It's all of the questions and all of the possible answers. It's the earth turning, it's the seasons changing, it's people returning to synagogue each year, it's G*d turning G*d's attention back to us when we turn our attention to G*d, it's us turning towards ourselves to take an honest look at our lives, it's each of us coming back to our families or loved ones, or coming home to our truest selves.

I'll add one more meaning. This afternoon, before getting ready for Shabbat, I dusted off my yoga mat and rolled it out. I got back on my mat, and immediately my body sank down into a child's pose and just started breathing. It's like I hadn't been breathing until I stepped back onto the mat. My breath deepened, my body, moved, I began to sweat, I picked up the pace and then slowed down again. As I began to move through my asana (movement) practice, my breath synced up with the movements. Inhaling as my limbs expanded, exhaling as my body contracted.

A thought arose during my practice. Wow. It feels so good to come back to my practice. Truth be told, it had been a while, so I didn't know what to expect. Spiritual and physical practices ebb and flow, but it had really been while. But I was almost surprised how good it felt just coming back to my practice.

And then, another thought arose: Shabbat Shuva.

Shabbat of Return.

Returning to my yoga practice, turning to my self-care, returning to my body and breath. It felt so good to be doing this just for myself. Something purely for my own physical and spiritual health.

After my practice, I laid on my mat a little longer instead of getting up right away after savasana (final resting pose). I put on one of my favorite Kirtan (Sanskrit chanting) songs, Baba Hanuman, by Krishna Das, and I just allowed my body to move and breath. My hands moved like a conductor, then swam through the air. I lifted my legs as though I was dancing while still laying on my back. I just enjoyed my body moving in any way it wanted to. I didn't think too much except to notice how free, peaceful, and joyous I felt.

Shabbat Shuva.

Coming back to my practice.

Coming back to myself.

Coming back to my soul.

And maybe that's what Shabbat Shuva is all about.

However you get there, it's about returning however you need to.

It's about returning to your soul however you get there.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Sending blessings on this last Shabbat of the Jewish year 5778 as we prepare to enter the new year 5779 on Sunday evening, with the start of Rosh Hashanah. May you find new growth, deep meaning, joy, creativity, and love in the coming year.

Monday, September 10, 2018 - I'll be leading family services for the New Synagogue Project. The service will include a guitar, fun songs, a story for Rosh Hashanah, shofar blowing, and apples and honey. It's not too late to register for services (tickets are free/donations appreciated) with this start up congregation in Petworth. The main service is led by NSP's founder Rabbi Joseph Berman and guest Rabbi Monica Gomery (classmates of mine from rabbinical school!). Visit their website to sign up: https://newsynagogueproject.org/

Looking for some Rosh Hashanah resources you can use at home with friends or family? For funny, irreverent, secular-spiritual resources to download from JewBelong.com, click here.

For easy to use/print free Holiday booklets from InterfaithFamily to use at a meal or gathering, click here.

If you are looking for a full body ritual to prepare yourself fully for entering the Jewish New Year, or spiritually getting ready for Yom Kippur, or another life transition, consider making an appointment to at the mikvah for a ritual immersion in water. Visit adasisrael.org/mikvah for more info and to schedule. (Please note, the mikvah is not open on Shabbat or Jewish holidays).


Rosh Chodesh Tishrei is said to be eclipsed or covered over by Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which falls on the first night of Tishrei. This also starts of the 10 Days of Awe (the High Holiday Days) culminating with Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement or At-one-ment.

Tishrei is so full of one holiday after another - Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur which are followed by Sukkot, the week long Harvest holiday and ancient pilgrimage festival, and ending with some additional festival days of Shemini Atzeret and Hoshanah Rabbah (said to be days of great supplication - so if you didn't get all your prayers by Yom Kippur you still have time), and end in Simchat Torah, celebration the conclusion and restarting of the yearly scriptural reading cycle including holding and even dancing with the Torah.

This new month and the new year invite us to see ourselves a anew, to celebrate and to take stock of our lives. We are also given the opportunity to let go the past year.

How will you let go of the past and celebrate the new?

What is holy in your life?

What fills you with awe?

Shanah Tovah U'Metukah / Blessings for a Good and Sweet Year,

Rabbi Sarah


This Sunday is the full moon of the month of Elul, my favorite month of the calendar because it's all about spiritual preparation. It's the time for starting to look towards Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins on Sunday, September 9. For tips, suggestions, resources for writing prompts and reflection questions, read my most recent blog post on Rosh Chodesh Elul.

What can the full moon tell us?

In the Jewish calendar, the new moon is the first of the month and the full moon is the 15th of the month. The full moon or the 15th is half way through the month. Looking up and noticing the full moon of Elul reminds us that Rosh Hashanah the Jewish New year is in 2 weeks!

For those of us who always feel like the Jewish High Holidays sneak up on us no matter how late they are, you may be thinking, ONLY TWO WEEKS?! You may be busy with the end of summer, getting back from vacation and the start of the school year, new job or family responsibilities, and overall feeling like it's a crazy time of year. Well it is.

For others, you may be thinking, oh, good, I've still got two whole weeks to get ready. That's still two weeks of summer, labor day, and time do some journalling and intention setting for the New Year. And figure out how you want to observe and celebrate the high holidays this year.

The full moon of Elul is reminder to set aside some time to be in nature, reflect on the year gone by, and check in with yourself. Check in with your self-care, your habits, your relationships - and - think about where you need to let go, reach out, or make amends. Then, notice what you feel like. Do you feel lighter, freer, more grounded, more ready for what's next? Does this process allow you to make some space in your life for what you really want?

So, we've got two more weeks til Rosh Hashanah. As one of my coaches, Pleasance Silicki, teaches: you've got all the time you need. In fact you've probably got more time than you think. You've got 168 hours each week, how do you want to use those? Just make sure you're using your time in the way that is best for you and your life.

How will you use your time during the next two weeks of Elul?

Shabbat Shalom and warmest wishes,

Rabbi Sarah

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The Hebrew month of Elul begins August 11-12 with the new moon. Rosh Chodesh Elul (literally head of the month or beginning of the month) marks the turning of the seasons toward the Jewish new year which will fall a month later with Rosh Hashanah on Sunday September 9th.

The month of Elul is a time for reflection, meditation, and "spiritual accounting" of the soul (in Hebrew, Cheshbone Hanefesh). This means taking stock of the year gone by, what went well and what didn't, considering relationships and where you might need to make amends or do some repair work, and how well you did with the goals you may have set for yourself last year. All of this spiritual preparation is necessary for entering the upcoming new year with a clean slate, as your best self, with room to set new goals and intentions for who you want to be in the world.


That sounds intense!

Well, yes, it can be.

That's why we have a whole month for this spiritual work. One of my coaches talks often about this hard reflection stuff. The act of examining oneself, really holding up a mirror, is not easy. That's why Byron Katie calls it doing "The Work". It's not supposed to be easy. But through this process of self-inquiry and reflection, we can grow.

A month seems like a long time, but it goes by fast, especially with vacations, getting ready to go back to school, new life transitions and everything else that comes with the changing of the seasons.

I encourage you to set aside sometime during Elul. Perhaps it's once a week or once a day to do some journaling and reflection. If you're new to a daily or month long practice like this, schedule the time on your calendar. Right now. Ask a friend to do it too and be accountability buddies. Or let me know how I can help you.

Here are some more Elul resources!

If you're gathering with a group for the month of Elul, check out At The Well's Elul Moon Manual with an article I wrote on mindful practices for Elul.

My spiritual writing teacher of over 10 years, the brilliant Merle Feld is now offering her weekly Elul writing prompts online at Starting on Sunday, August 12. View them here.

My friend, Rabbi Jordan Braunig has been offering daily Elul writing prompts for the last number of years. He writes, if you'd like to jump into our Elul journey, please fill out this form.

If you are looking for other Elul resources or personal Jewish life coaching, please let me know!

Warmest wishes,

Rabbi Sarah


I always thought the "Dog Days" of summer referred to the end of the summer, when days were long and hot. Images of folks sitting on the their front porches in rocking chairs drinking ice tea come to mind. Sometimes it's a Norman Rockwell painting or wafting memories of listening to the News from Lake Wobegan that are conjured in my mind. I can hear the whir of a fan or hum of an AC window unit in the distance as melted popsicle juice runs down chins of the children running through the yard.

However, this year, I learned that the Dog Days refers to the 40 days that fall more or less after summer solstice, beginning July 3rd and ending of August 11.

According to the The Old Farmers Almanac The phrase “Dog Days” conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer. The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days: the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. The rising of Sirius does not actually affect the weather (some of our hottest and most humid days occur after August 11), but for the ancient Egyptians, Sirius appeared just before the season of the Nile’s flooding, so they used the star as a “watchdog” for that event. Since its rising also coincided with a time of extreme heat, the connection with hot, sultry weather was made for all time: “Dog Days bright and clear / indicate a happy year. / But when accompanied by rain, / for better times our hopes are vain.”

I love this Canis Major Constellation by Adam Johnson that I found on Pinterest.

This year, the official end of the Dog Days of summer coincides with the new moon of the Hebrew month of Elul, marking the beginning of the month of contemplation, meditation, and reflection before the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins on Sunday September 9th, 2018 at sunset. The month of Elul is a time for spiritual preparation, in which we are to review the year gone by, work to repair relationships, and consider our deeds as we prepare for the New Year and the Days of Awe (which are the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Elul is also a time to begin thinking about our goals, intentions, and hopes for the year to come.

May your Dog Days be bright and clear bringing with it a happy new year.

Happy Summer!

Rabbi Sarah

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According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon and is a time for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season. The month of Av falls at the height of summer in the northern hemisphere and can be a difficult month. The holiday of Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av) commemorates the destruction of the Temple and many terrible things in history. For many, the three weeks leading up to Tisha B'Av are considered a time of mourning. However, the energy of the month shifts on the full moon as we celebrate Tu B'Av (the 15th of Av) or the closest thing to Jewish Valentines Day when matches were made. It may feel like a roller coster of emotions as we move from brokenness to wholeness, destruction to love. Notice your energy and emotions.

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In honor of the summer solstice, I offered a Summer Refresh Art and Yoga retreat on June 22 at the Center for Mindful Living. Here is a recap of some of the tools I shared for keeping calm and cool when the heat of summer feels like it's at full blast. Let me know if any of these tips have helped you or if you have other practices.

  • Pranayama (yogic breathing) called Nadi Shodhana or Alternate Nostril Breathing. If you need a refresher, check out this video from Yoga with Adrienne (I love her yoga videos as well - great for practicing at home and special topics). This is great for relaxing or before you meditate or practice yoga. It is also especially good if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. It can also help clear sinuses, deepening the breath and support immunity. Try it for 5-10 minutes and see how you feel. Even just closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths to let the body, mind, and breath settle can be so helpful.
  • Restorative and Gentle Yoga is grounding, relaxing, calming and cooling to the body. This is great to practice at any time, but especially in the summer when it is best to avoid hot yoga or higher-intensity yoga. You can utilize pillows and blankets you have at home and experiment with what poses feel good. Even a few minutes on your mat to move the body, lubricate the joints and match breath with movement can be great for you and support flexibility. Check out these resources from Yoga Journal that you can do at home.
  • Essential Oils - these are natural plant and herb essences that are used for aromatherapy, healing ailments, and to support your overall health and wellbeing. Some are invigorating and some are relaxing, and others have specific benefits and uses. I shared frankincense (all powerful, healing, and good before prayer or meditation), lavender (de-stress), peppermint (cool down, lowers fever, aids digestion), tangerine (fresh citrus, pick me up), and breathe (opens the sinuses). You can learn more at Doterra.com or ask me any questions. If you are interested in buying some essential oils there are two brands I recommend: Doterra and Young Living. Those are two reputable and respected companies that produce high quality essential oils. But don't be surprised that they aren't inexpensive. I purchased a Family Essentials Kit (10 bottles) from Doterra in 2012 and it hasn't run out yet. If you are interested in exploring these more or have questions, feel free to let me know. You can also find less expensive brands at Whole Foods and many other retailers including TJ Maxx but I cannot vouch for the other brands.
  • Rose Water Spray can be nice in the summer for a refresh and to keep skin hydrated. You can even find it at Trader Joe's.
  • Ayurveda - this is the sister science to yoga and it's all about self-care that is right for your body, your energy, your personality and your dosha (your mind-body-energy constitution). Learn more on the Banyan Botanical's website or let me know if you are curious or have questions. Additionally, each season is associated with a dosha. Summer is connected with Pitta, the dosha associated with fire. It's good to be mindful of this in the summer when the natural Pitta in all of us can be exacerbated.
  • Eat cooling, refreshing foods, especially seasonal fruits and veggies to balance the season of Pitta. You might find your appetite is different in the summer. See how you feel increasing season, cooling, water-filled fresh foods and minimizing hot, heavy foods. Watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, cucumbers, etc.

Shabbat Shalom! We had a wonderful day at the Summer Refresh Art and Yoga retreat. Hope you have a relaxing weekend.

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According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon and is a time for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season.

Iyar is a month of healing as the name of the month is an acronym in Hebrew for "Ani Adonai Rofecha" meaning "I am G*d your healer." What kind of healing do you need this month? As you take a few deep breaths, consider your mind, body and spirit. How can you nourish each of those parts of yourself? What kind of self-care can you do to support your own healing? Who can you ask for support in your healing journey?

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According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon and is a time for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season.

Sivan is a month of warmth, springtime, flowers blooming, and unification (which makes it a popular time for weddings). We also celebrate the holiday of Shavuot this month and commemorate the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. As you notice the flowers and trees, the weather becoming warmer, take some deep breaths. What is the Torah (instruction) you want to receive? What teaching do you need in your life now? Breathe deeper and you make space in your heart to receive.

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Happy New Moon of Tammuz! I’ve been teaching about Rosh Chodesh (the new moon) for over a decade and it’s still one of my favorite spiritual practices! According to the Jewish calendar, each month begins on the new moon and is a time for learning about the wisdom of that month and setting an intention. Each month has attributes and characteristics that often correspond to the season. Tammuz began yesterday and in the northern hemisphere is a month of heat, bright sun, and long days, coinciding with Summer Solstice (June 21). Notice when the heat arises for you this month. Maybe that heat will light a fire in your belly or maybe it will burn you. Be careful. Breath and try to balance the intensity with cooling, refreshing practices. Sending blessings for peace and relaxation, renewal and creativity.

What’s your intention, hope or wish for this month?

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When I served as the rabbi in Fairbanks, Alaska, during the summer of 2011, I experienced my first midnight sun. It was so bright most nights that I placed tin foil over the window to get some shut-eye before I discovered blackout curtains. But then I came to understand it was a magic time. We'd light candles for Shabbat at a fixed time since sundown was long after we'd gone to sleep. Gardens were lush and friends picked veggies for me at 11pm as a parting gift after a late evening. Sometimes we'd stay up late just talking after art night or finishing the last of the moose meat that had fed a family through the winter and spring. We made the most of the golden light of the never-setting sun. Summer Solstice, the longest day and latest sunset was a thing to celebrate. But in Alaska, I also learned that Summer Solstice was bittersweet. It was the turning point in the summer. After Solstice we knew the evening light would grow shorter and eventually the sunset would come a little earlier each night thereafter.

So my questions for you this summer, wherever you live, are how will you make the most of the light and warmth of summer? How will you savor it? What brings you light and joy and how will you bring that into the rest of your summer days and nights?