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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
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 12 hours ago 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 3 days ago 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 5 days ago 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
1 reply
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
Thank you for this beautiful comment, dear Kate. Thank you for your wishes. From your lips to God's ear, as the saying goes.
1 reply
The last Torah portion in the book of Leviticus, Bechukotai, begins with an if/then: "If you follow My engraved-commandments and faithfully observe My connective-commandments..." If we allow God's commandments to be engraved upon our hearts, and if we guard the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
Yes, of course, you are welcome to cite this blog post! All I ask is that you attribute it to me. Mazal tov on your bar mitzvah! Rabbi Rachel Barenblat ("the Velveteen Rabbi")
1 reply
I have a new essay at The Wisdom Daily. Here's a glimpse: I’m in the process of moving through a divorce, and that means I’m in the process of moving. This summer I’ll leave the house that my partner and... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
When I remember you my fingertips tingle. I'm a lilac, petals prickling to spring free. Yearning tangles my tongue. My words become fragrance. My heart overflows like a wadi after a storm. The thought of you nourishes me, dizzies me.... Continue reading
Posted May 30, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
I can't see you, can't touch you can't breathe, because without you -- but I'm never without you. Even when all I am is ache. Especially then. Press my fingers to the delicate bones of my wrist and there you... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
The ALEPH Kallah -- July 11-17 in Fort Collins, CO -- is coming up soon. Register by 11:59pm eastern time on June 3; starting at midnight on that night, a 10% late registration fee will be added. (Also, the longer... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
The ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour began in May of 2015 with a weekend in New York, co-hosted by Romemu and by Yeshivat Maharat. (I wrote about that right after it happened -- Sidewalk havdalah.) As it turned out,... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
On our first morning in Colorado, Rabbi David and I are still on east coast time, so we're both awake by five-ish. Around six we tiptoe out of the house where we are staying, get into our rental car, and... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
Today I'm heading off, with Rabbi David and with our executive director Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin, on the final trip of our yearlong international ALEPH / Jewish Renewal Listening Tour. The idea for the Listening Tour came to David and me on... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
Because I could say your names tasting them on my tongue for hours and not grow tired. Because when you're with me I sparkle like water in the sun. Because I turn toward your light. Because when I remember you... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2016 at Velveteen Rabbi
You will not be surprised to hear that I think it is absolutely worth keeping a blog like this going! :-) Your blog is an oasis for me. I think the writing and painting and drawing -- the creating, and sharing of that creating -- are worth doing even if readership seems lower than it used to be and even if comment counts are lower than they used to be. I don't do as much longform writing as I used to, but I think that's more a function of changed life circumstance (having a little kid, having two jobs) than of the internet's shifts away from longform work. I'm hoping to do more longform writing as life permits, and I hope there will still be people out there who want to be reading Velveteen Rabbi when that day comes.