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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
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Woodpecker, snacking. I love our bird feeder. Okay, in fairness, it's not the feeder itself that I love -- that's just a tube of plexiglass with some little bird rests attached. It's the birds who come to the feeder. The... Continue reading
Posted 8 hours ago at Velveteen Rabbi
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For those who don't live locally -- here's the Rabbi Reflections column I wrote for the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of the Berkshire Jewish Voice. (I didn't come up with the title, though I quite like it.) Every winter, as we... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Velveteen Rabbi
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Today I was supposed to be heading to Gambier, Ohio for a very quick visit. Gambier is a town of about 2300 people and is home to Kenyon College. Kenyon College, in turn, hosts the Kenyon Institute where I will... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
Winter in the city is unlovely, all slush and grit. But even here in the country it's not always a picture postcard. Snow which was soft and fluffy when it fell has thawed and refrozen. Driveways are uneven hockey rinks... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
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I sat down this morning wanting to do some writing, and when I let my mind clear, what emerged was this subject. Even as I was writing this post, I had the sneaking feeling I had written something similar before... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
Jonathan, I've been pondering how to respond to your comment. My first thought was: oy, I wish that Reb Zalman were here to explain what he meant himself, because I don't feel entitled to do so. And yet here we are, and I will do my best. I don't think he meant to map different religions to different organs per se. (Just as, when he used the metaphor of the human body to talk about Judaism writ large, he wasn't actually saying that Orthodoxy is the spine and Jewish Renewal is the skin -- he was using the metaphor to express a deeper truth, e.g. that we're all part of something greater and that in order for Judaism to flourish it needs both the elements which hold firm and resist change and the elements which embrace change and growth and are changing all the time.) For me, the meaning of the analogy of various religions to the body is very similar to the meaning of the analogy of Judaism to the body -- that humanity as a whole gains something when all of our religious traditions are able to flourish not despite each other but in relationship with each other. This morning I read a post by Reb Laura: http://sophiastreet.com/2015/01/21/crazy-interfaith-vision/ and found it relevant to what I was thinking about saying in response to you. What I value in her post is the reminder that we live, in the day to day, in binary consciousness. Us/them consciousness. Right/wrong consciousness. And that's okay; that's the way life works. But when we're able to connect with God, or ultimate reality, or whatever term you want to use -- when we're in devekut -- the binary falls away and we see the whole, as God sees it. One of the most radical notions coming out of religious tradition(s) is that the world as we know it is only a partial seeing; that ultimately there's a unity which pervades all things. That's the light in which I see Reb Zalman's metaphor: from the God's-eye view, as it were, we're all part of a unity. And that's why we need to strive not only to see, but also to enact, the bigger unity of which each religious tradition is a part. Because if Judaism is busy fighting with Christianity (or substitute any two traditions there), we're wasting our energy on triumphalism -- we're no better than the preschoolers insisting tearfully that it's MINE, it's not YOURS, you can't HAVE IT! But if we can move into an era where we're all mutually capable of recognizing that humanity needs the unique truths and perspectives and "vitamins" in every tradition, then we can collectively turn our energy to the work of actually healing creation.
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I'm honored that you're assigning it to your students; thank you!
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Donating to Kickstarter campaigns is like giving a gift to one's future self. I didn't come up with that idea myself -- it's Ethan's -- but I thought of it a few days ago when I received a copy of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
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The very first class I took, when I was in the process of preparing to apply to the ALEPH rabbinic ordination program, was Deep Ecumenism. (It's a required class for all students in the ALEPH ordination programs.) Deep Ecumenism was... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday at my shul for parashat Va'era. (At least, this is the script from which I spoke. Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) God spoke to Moshe saying: go and tell Pharaoh, King... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
I wrote recently about three ineffable moments from late last week -- visiting the prayer space where Reb Zalman z"l used to daven, leading prayer with my friend Rabbi Evan Krame, and savoring the davenen on Shabbat morning at the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
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The theme of this year's OHALAH conference is "Integral Tikkun Olam." One of the keynote speakers is Ruth Messinger, the head of the American Jewish World Service. Here are some glimpses of the latter part of her Monday morning keynote.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
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1. Thursday It is difficult to describe the experience of entering into Reb Zalman (z"l)'s prayer room. Parting the curtains, entering a little cave filled with prayer books and holy items and meaningful photographs. Sitting in one of the chairs... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
Today is ordination day. I'm remembering the first smicha ceremony I ever witnessed, nine years ago, when I was new to the ALEPH ordination programs. And I'm especially remembering my own ordination, four years ago: ...And then the seven rabbinic... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
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I'm on my way today to Colorado. I've been going there at this time of year since I started the ALEPH rabbinic program, which is when I became a student member of OHALAH (the association of Jewish Renewal clergy) and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
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It really wasn't my intention to base multiple Hebrew school lessons this year around repurposed undergarments. But sometimes this rabbinic life takes me into places I didn't exactly expect to go. Case in point: yesterday I found myself preparing for... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Here's the d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday. Jacob, on his deathbed, places his hands on his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe. And he says: The angel who rescued me from all harm -- bless these boys! May they... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Happy Gregorian new year! I'm delighted to be able to begin the year with news that I have an essay in a new anthology of Jewish voices on prayer. It's called Shma Koleinu: A Jewish People's Commentary on the Siddur,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2015 at Velveteen Rabbi
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I've been honored to be a part of Zeek magazine for many years -- as a contributor, a contributing editor, and now a board member. What began as a Jewish journal of thought and culture is now one of the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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In this post: another handful of excerpts from, and links to, my favorite posts from 2014. This is the third and final installment in the series. Enjoy! These are rocky shoals and unfamiliar waters, and there is no lighthouse guiding... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Recently I shared excerpts from, and links to, a handful of my favorite posts from early in 2014. Here's the next installment in that series. Ethan makes the case that homophily -- listening only to people like ourselves; that phenomenon... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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My teacher Reb Zalman (Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z"l) frequently told the story of how, when he began studying religion at Boston University, he used to enter the chapel each morning to pray shacharit, Jewish morning prayers. But he found that... Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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I've taken to posting a message on my congregational blog at this time each year, entitled a greeting from the rabbi before Christmas. I wrote it and shared it there last year, and received a lot of response from people... Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Over the course of 2014 I've spent countless hours writing the material which appears on this blog. Some of my posts come together quickly; others take days or weeks to polish and prepare. Either way, they move off the front... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Human beings have been paying attention to the ebb and flow of daylight for a very, very long time. Stonehenge, that iconic circle of stone slabs in Great Britain, was built sometime between 3000 BCE and 2000 BCE. Its central... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi