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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
Oy! Something else to add to my vidui. I thank all the Reb Jeffs I have ever known! You are all wonderful. :-)
Toggle Commented 4 hours ago on A transformative Yom Kippur at Velveteen Rabbi
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This coming weekend, when my community will be observing the solemn-yet-joyful fast of Yom Kippur, the Muslim community will be celebrating Eid al-Adha, "the feast of the sacrifice," commemorating the story of how Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son... Continue reading
Posted 11 hours ago at Velveteen Rabbi
For ten days, the gates are open and the world is fluid. We are finally awake, if only in fits and starts, if only to toss and turn. For ten days, transformation is within our grasp. For ten days, we... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Velveteen Rabbi
I've just shared a post about Yizkor on my congregational blog. It's sparked by the fact that we'll recite the prayers of Yizkor, our memorial service, twice in the span of two weeks: once at Yom Kippur, and again at... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Velveteen Rabbi
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I wonder how many of y'all reading this blog now were reading ten years ago when I attended my first Yom Kippur retreat at Elat Chayyim? I had felt for years as though Yom Kippur were eluding me. I could... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
I actually don't know what the Temple was like in those days; I haven't read those sources. (I'm also not sure I think that any of this ever actually happened -- was Chanah a historical human being who actually did these things, or is she an archetype, a story about the woman who yearned so deeply that she invented prayer as we know it?) I wanted my poem to follow the trajectory of the haftarah reading because I read it as the haftarah on R"H day 1 (chanted the blessings before and after, but read this instead of reading the traditional text). For me it's not a story about the history of the actual temple at all. For me, this story -- and the many midrashim on which I drew in writing this poem -- the story and its commentaries are about yearning and about reaching out to God and asking for what we need. Thank you for reading, and may you be sealed for a sweet year to come!
Toggle Commented 3 days ago on New poem: the story of Chanah at Velveteen Rabbi
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As a child, I loved being able to drizzle my Rosh Hashanah challah with honey. I remember eating leftover challah toast with honey on the mornings right after the holiday. The golden honey pooling on the rich white bread always... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
Thank you for sharing your poem, Susan! Happy new year to you, too.
Toggle Commented 4 days ago on New poem: the story of Chanah at Velveteen Rabbi
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Yes. The stories of Rosh Hashanah all center around bearing children in some way -- the birth of Isaac to Sarah and Abraham; Chanah's yearning for a child -- and that can be alienating and painful. To those who wished for a child but couldn't bear one; to those who struggle with infertility; to those who have lost children; to those who are childfree by choice. And this poem replicates that because it's meant to stand in for the haftarah reading, and it draws on classical midrashim which hammer on these same issues. I don't have a good solution to that, but I wanted to thank you for raising this point and reminding me to be conscious of this.
Toggle Commented 4 days ago on New poem: the story of Chanah at Velveteen Rabbi
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Thank you for reading.
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The story I want to tell you begins on the final day of a retreat for spiritual leaders. We'd been asked to pair up and share a favorite spiritual practice. My partner and I sat facing each other, our knees... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, our haftarah reading -- the assigned reading from the later books of the Hebrew scriptures -- is the story of Chanah, from the book of First Samuel. For the last few years I've... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
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RETURN (ELUL 29) This month is all about return. Take stock of who you are and start again. You can always turn over a new leaf. Nothing's written in stone, no lock is sealed. The important thing is to begin.... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
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GIVE (ELUL 28) Another chance. Is that so much to ask? Give me a do-over. Let me erase these wild formulae from the blackboard and write love letters instead. Hand me that screwdriver; I want to fix the things I... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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INTEND (ELUL 27) And what did I intend, after all? To uncover beauty everywhere. To travel even into the heart of an enemy and unlock the rusted gate. To walk beside someone for a time; to share a simple sunrise... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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My congregation, like many communities, has a custom of holding a short memorial service in our cemetery on the Sunday afternoon just before Rosh Hashanah. It is usually an intimate affair. Those who attend tend to be our oldest members,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
I am so, so glad that these poems are speaking to you! Writing them has been one of the great joys of my month.
Toggle Commented Sep 21, 2014 on A poem for #blogElul 26: Hope at Velveteen Rabbi
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Here's the brief d'var Torah I offered at yesterday morning's Shabbat service at my shul. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) If you only take one thing away from this morning's Torah reading, let it be this: that teshuvah... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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HOPE (ELUL 26) For the heat-cracked soil of our hearts to receive gentle rain. For the winds which fan our blazes to still themselves. For the stains on the cobblestones to be only pomegranate juice. For every parent to wake... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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I've received some lovely feedback on Days of Awe: the Velveteen Rabbi's Machzor for the Yamim Nora'im. One of the most generous responses has come from reviewer Susan Katz Miller, who writes: Meanwhile, many of the most progressive Jewish communities... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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BEGIN (ELUL 25) Of course it isn't easy. You'll wobble on your feet like an unsteady calf. Colors will taste different. Old comforts will be strange. Everyone you thought you knew will look unfamiliar through your remade eyes. Dreaming, you'll... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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We're approaching the doorway between the old year and the new. Just as Jewish tradition teaches us to put a mezuzah on our doorposts, to make us mindful as we transition from one place to the next, the holidays act... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
END (ELUL 24) And every ending is a beginning. Rolling back light before darkness and darkness before light. Making one year pass away and bringing on the next. And when my life ends you'll go on to a chapter without... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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LOVE (ELUL 23) Four tiny books in a printed cardboard box. A handprint, undated—maybe he was two? An autograph-keeper with faded pages inscribed in spidery curlicues of Czech. The onesie and pants and booties we chose for the cautious drive... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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DEAR GOD Spiritual life unfolds in staccato bursts of prayer: @God thanks, help, please. Do You miss the measured curves of pen and ink on cardstock, our prescribed correspondence each morning, picture postcard every afternoon, night's letter brief but complete?... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi