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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
We are all of us afraid of the dark. At night, anxieties suppressed or repressed come swimming to the surface of consciousness: am I safe? Am I loved? Am I needed? Is there meaning in the world, or is it... Continue reading
Posted 18 minutes ago at Velveteen Rabbi
For #throwbackthursday, here are three old Chanukah photos. The first two of these are photographs of me with my middle brother. This one's about 30 years old. If you look closely you can see my homemade Chanukah decorations taped to... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Velveteen Rabbi
I have an essay in the Beyond Walls digital magazine this week. My essay is about how writing can be transformative (in the personal / spiritual sense, not the fannish sense), and it's called Transformative Work. Here's a taste: Writing... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
Tonight at sundown we'll enter into the Festival of Lights, also known as the Festival of Rededication, also known as Chanukah. (Or Hanukkah. Whatever. It's a Hebrew word. Its real spelling is חֲנֻכָּה -- I think the English variant with... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
1. Thumbnail punctures peel: the reproachful cat leaps off of my desk. 2. Juncos, chickadees flitting from roof to feeder a quick minuet. 3. Red boots, purple coat: vivid colors bright against snow and trunk and slush. 4. Crumpled tissues... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
Midwinter means a world of white outside my window. Fine lines of white limn every branch and twig. The distant hills vanish beneath a scrim of snow. Midwinter means fragrant clementines like tiny hand-held suns. When I puncture the peel... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
Winter funeral. A forest of old coats transports me to my grandparents' closet, waxy marbles underfoot. In the world to come there are no mothballs. No resplendent lynx pelts from the era before anyone objected to furs. No housecoats or... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
Almost every time I'm humbled and honored to preside over a funeral, someone asks me why we make seven stops. It's Jewish tradition to pause seven times while carrying the casket to the grave. I lead the pallbearers a few... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
I place before you the assertion that Buzz Lightyear, the fictional toy astronaut, is relevant to this week's Torah portion. (This is a classical technique of Torah exploration: begin with an assertion or a verse from somewhere else in Torah,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
Here's the d'var Torah I offered yesterday morning at my shul for parashat Vayishlach. (Cross-posted to my From the Rabbi blog.) "Jacob was alone, and a man wrestled with him until dawn." Torah just told us that Jacob was levado,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
Nishmat Kol Chai / Breath of All Life: Your breath enlivened the first man, You breathe the breath of life in each of us. Today our breath is shortened as we remember Eric Garner gasping "I can't breathe," an elbow... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
We have three-strikes laws for petty crimes but when the justice system fails over and over again nothing happens to change it. — kaya oakes (@kayaoakes) December 3, 2014 I know that I do not understand the American legal system... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
Breath comes slow. Behind the curtain a gurgling: fish tank? Medical equipment? I don't part the veil. Snatches of liturgy wash over me and are gone. My God, the soul You placed in me is pure. Shelter her beneath Your... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
I'm delighted to be able to announce that I have an essay in a new volume called Keeping Faith in Rabbis: A Community Conversation on Rabbinical Education, edited by Ellie Roscher and Rabbi Hayyim Herring, new this month from Avenida... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
We're well into the lunar month of Kislev (which contains Chanukah), and on the Gregorian calendar today is the first day of the month of December. I remembered that I'd written something about this season which had to do with... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
A wise point, Reb Jeff; thank you for making it. I like your change in language and will borrow it, if I may. :-)
Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2014 on Praying for what's possible at Velveteen Rabbi
1 reply
I'm so glad that this speaks to you, Kristin, and that it offers you some helpful language. And I'm sorry to hear about your friend. May she and her loved ones be comforted.
Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2014 on Praying for what's possible at Velveteen Rabbi
1 reply
What does it mean to cultivate hope when the doctors say "there's nothing more we can do"? Hopes for a cure have to be set aside. There will be no miracle, no Hail Mary pass, no eleventh-hour wonder. Every specialist... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
I like your approach. I too find beauty in getting together with family and friends for an autumnal feast of gratitude. And I too want our son to learn the real story of how European colonization took place. Happy thanksgiving to you too, my dear.
1 reply
Thanks for the link to Margaret Watson's blog. My intention with the still from the Peanuts cartoon had been to illustrate the narrative I learned as a child (in the form in which I learned it -- e.g. that very cartoon), which I hoped to then call into question with the blog post's text. My hope was that the post would gently call into question both of these rosy-hued and biased narratives, even as it acknowledged why (I think) the narratives still contain power for us. I may have failed in accurately communicating that intention. In any event, I apologize for the misstep and for causing offense or hurt.
1 reply
Image removed: a still from "This Is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers," 1973. (Removed because a reader observed that it perpetuates the very negative stereotypes which I had intended for this post to call into question. My apologies for... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
I'm mostly offline this week, but I just saw the news that officer Darren Wilson, who shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9, will not face trial. (See Ferguson police officer won’t be charged in fatal shooting and Ferguson... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
I'm deeply delighted that the folks at The Wisdom Daily, a publication which I greatly admire, wanted to reprint a version of a blog post which first appeared here. They reposted my piece about Toni Bernhard's book How to Be... Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
Earlier this fall I was honored by the invitation to offer some words of Torah as part of the Peace Parsha series at Americans for Peace Now. You can read my commentary on parashat Toldot at APN: If this is... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi
We hesitate at the unlit stairwell but two men sitting in the dark nod and point us upwards. Four flights up we reach al-Sendebad: open on all sides, Abraham’s tent in concrete. We sit on plastic chairs overlooking streets, square,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2014 at Velveteen Rabbi