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Rachel Barenblat
Rachel Barenblat became a rabbi in January of 2011, and has been blogging as The Velveteen Rabbi since 2003.
Interests: Judaism, religion, ecumenism, poetry, motherhood, Christianity, Islam, liturgy, prayer, midrash, fandom.
Recent Activity
I'm honored to have a poem in Not By Might: Channeling the Power of Faith to End Gun Violence, edited by Rabbi Menachem Creditor with a forward by Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. Shannon Watts writes:... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
The folks at The Wisdom Daily have published my latest essay. It's about my sense that divorce happens in the imperfect tense. (The decision to end the marriage may now be in the past, but it's also always continuing in... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
Hi Bob, Thanks for listening to the podcast! Now, in my 40s, I agree that tying ourselves to the cycle of light and dark is a good thing. But when I was 18, that wasn't so clear to me -- and at 18 I bristled at the fact of other 18-year-olds who acted as though their form of observance was innately better than mine. Who gave them the right to tell me that my Judaism was wrong? I grew up southern Reform, and I wanted my parents' household practices to be valued. What that meant when I was a freshman was that I wanted to light candles when I got to services, as my parents had done -- not before class was even out, which is what my more traditionalist classmates wanted to do. When they didn't accept my way of being Jewish, I walked out and did it on my own. I wouldn't necessarily make that choice now, but it was a formative choice for me at 18.
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The absolute highlight of my week: Kabbalat Shabbat with Nava Tehila. My week at Kallah had a lot of highlights. Teaching was one of them -- getting to spend a week teaching some of my favorite classical midrashim (interpretive stories)... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
A while back Rabbi David and I were interviewed for the Judaism Unbound podcast, wearing our ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal co-chair kippot. Our episode is the first episode in a four-part series that will also feature The Kitchen (and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
I had work for a while. The women donated mirrors and I made the basin for the place where God's presence dwells. Since then I've tended goats. What else is there for a coppersmith to do in this unsettled wilderness?... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
On the first day of Big Sky Judaism: The Everyday Thought of Reb Zalman z"l, Joel Segel took us into an imagined conversation with Reb Zalman about rationalism: "I hear where you're coming from. I understand the appeal of the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
Mincha in the mountains. 1. Unlike at last Kallah (when we were on a lake -- an easy natural mikvah), no formal mikvah experiences are scheduled for smicha week. But on Friday afternoon of my first week here, two friends... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
The 2016 ALEPH Kallah begins later today, and I can't wait. This week-long wonderland of learning, davenen, community, and togetherness has been in the works for a long time. Behind the scenes at ALEPH we've been working hard on this... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
Thursday morning davenen. A rainbow of tallitot (prayer shawls); a rainbow of neshamot (souls). 1. On Monday morning, the Fourth of July, we daven in semicircles of chairs beneath the trees. It feels so good to be sitting beside some... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
I'm on my way today back to Colorado for two weeks of ALEPH programming. The ALEPH Kallah begins on July 11, and of course I'll be there for that -- wouldn't miss it for the world. But I'm going to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
In this week's Torah portion, Shlakh, ten scouts are sent to glimpse the land of promise. What they see there terrifies them. The grapes are so big that two men are required to carry a single bundle. They return to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
My latest essay for The Wisdom Daily is online. It's on what one might call "spirituality on the run" -- the challenge of maintaining spiritual practice or spiritual life at the frantic pace (and frequent multitasking) of ordinary life. Here's... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
You watch over my changes. I trust you: I am not afraid. I find strength in your song. I become more myself. Together we draw water in joy from the living well. We draw forth the changes with which you... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
A while back I received a note from Rabbi Jack Riemer, author of one of my favorite revisionings of Unetaneh Tokef, and co-author with Sylvan Kamens of We Remember Them, which I use at every funeral. He had written a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
Oh, Beth, these are lovely. I especially love the watercolor at the top of this post.
Toggle Commented Jun 21, 2016 on Recent Sketches at the cassandra pages
All week I've been thinking about what I might say here in shul this morning. Mere commentary on this week's Torah portion feels insufficient. How can I talk about the rituals of the nazir, one who makes promises to God... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
For three glorious days I'm with you on the mountain. Face to face with your radiance I remember how to shine. I am seen. I open in places I didn't know had been closed. And then it's over. Even in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
I'm home from an extraordinary three day Shavuot retreat at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, about which I hope to write more soon. For now I am struggling, as are we all, to assimilate my fury and my grief at... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
The first fruits offering on Shavuot is an offering of gratitude for abundance. It's not a "sacrifice" in the English sense of the word. When I think of offering up the fruits of my mind and heart, I think of the poems I have written this spring, and the emotions I have felt most deeply, and I imagine placing them before God with open hands -- "thank You for the abundance that flowed into me and made these poems and these feelings possible."
Toggle Commented Jun 14, 2016 on First fruits and flow at Velveteen Rabbi
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A d'var Torah written for the second day of Shavuot at Isabella Freedman, for after the bikkurim / first fruits parade. I wound up speaking extemporaneously, but what I said more or less followed this outline. When we enter into... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
I had not thought about the tension between this very Jewish notion of yearning (yearning for God, yearning for Jerusalem, yearning for the Beloved, yearning for redemption) and the Buddhist teaching that our inability to be fully present creates our suffering. I will have to sit with that. :-) I've been thinking a lot lately about the way we are taught to shut down our yearnings, to diminish them. That feels wrong to me. I think there's a spiritual value in being who we most authentically are, and for me, at least, that authentic self is a self who yearns. So maybe my question becomes: how can I inhabit my yearning wholly without getting caught up in my own stories about an imagined future or imagined past?
Toggle Commented Jun 10, 2016 on Yearning and revelation at Velveteen Rabbi
1 reply
Torah comes in many forms. There's written Torah and oral Torah and the Torah of lived human experience. Revelation comes in many forms, too. Maybe, like the poet Rainier Maria Rilke, you see a piece of art and realize what... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
When I have the luxury of unhurried minutes with you hands wrapped around my morning mug of coffee (flowing with milk and honey because you are with me) the sky becomes clearer, my heart lighter, the road before me streaked... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
Beautiful. I have many thoughts about the interiority of winter and home, and the season now upon us, and the shifts from one to the other and back again.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2016 on Looking In, Looking Out at the cassandra pages