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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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My mother died during a leap year. I don't mean a Gregorian leap year, where we get one extra day in February. Jewishly speaking, a leap year happens seven years out of every nineteen. When it's a Jewish leap year,... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Velveteen Rabbi
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Two fantastic reviews of Beside Still Waters were published this week. In the Berkshire Jewish Voice, Rabbi Jack Riemer -- whose liturgical work I have often used and admired -- writes: ...Ours is a death-denying culture, in which we are... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
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"How are you," I ask. Often these days the answer is, "Tired." Tired of headlines about the end of democracy, or rising antisemitism, or miscarriages of justice. Tired of the million micro-aggressions of systemic misogyny or racism or xenophobia. Tired... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Moses' father-in-law said to him, "The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone." (Exodus 18:17-18) This... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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There was a photo on your desk. A group of your friends, maybe twenty or more, all wearing pink and red: dresses and suits, tailored and chic, high heels and handbags to match. You were right there in the front... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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That I have thoracic outlet syndrome is not particularly interesting. That a lot of major league pitchers have it too -- according to my brother-in-law -- is marginally more interesting, but not by much. Here is my layperson's understanding: the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Within moments of arrival we're talking about how fulfilling it is to learn from each other across the denominations. R' Evan Krame (The Jewish Studio, Bayit) has designed an icebreaker wherein we withdraw slips of paper from an envelope, each... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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This week's Torah portion (Bo) begins like this: God said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them, and that... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
This is how the year ends. We've carried your memory, and now we dedicate this stone on the far side of the sea. We've carried your memory. Now we look back from the far side of the sea, our footsteps... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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It's been a while since the last time I helped with taharah, the washing, dressing, and blessing of the body of someone who has died. Once I became single, the dynamics of finding childcare for my son on a moment's... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
These letters, kite-string or umbilicus: do they tether you? When I stop writing will you dissolve, a water droplet rejoining the flowing stream? Maybe I'm the one tied to what was, not willing to disentangle. When I wasn't looking this... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
Things I can't know, a partial list: how cold the cemetery will be this time how bruised my heart will feel -- or not -- and most of all would you wear sandals? I don't think the dead pull climate... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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וַיְהִ֣י ׀ בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיִּגְדַּ֤ל מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיַּרְא֙ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י מַכֶּ֥ה אִישׁ־עִבְרִ֖י מֵאֶחָֽיו׃ Some time after that, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his kinsfolk and witnessed their labors. He saw an Egyptian beating... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
I couldn't be more delighted to announce that I've been named in the Liturgist-in-Residence for the National Havurah Committee's Summer Institute 2020, which will be held from July 27-August 2 in Hartford, CT. Here's the text of their official announcement:... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
I know I must have talked with you after unveilings for relatives or friends, but I don't remember what you had to say. Probably we talked about shopping or haircuts or Shabbes dinner, what Marie Howe called "what the living... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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I don't think it was a conscious decision. Consciously, I was thinking: I brought dried limes home from a recent trip to one of the markets in Albany. What can I do with them? Oh, I know. Samin Nosrat talks... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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This week's Torah portion, Vayechi, begins with Jacob on his deathbed. Joseph comes to him with his sons Ephraim and Menashe, and Jacob marvels: he hadn't expected to see Joseph again, and now here he is with Joseph and the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
When we were in Cuba, the rabbis on the trip asked Cuban Jewish communities what they most needed from us. They asked for regular video teachings. That led to Bayit's latest initiative: monthly video teachings, translated into Spanish, for the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
A year ago you kept falling. Bloodied from landing, bruised as though beaten. Dad couldn't lift you, so one night you slept on the carpet until morning. Did you know your children were scheduling frantic conference calls? There was no... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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In this week's Torah portion, Vayigash, there's a poignant moment when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. Last year I was struck by the beautiful Hebrew word להתודע, "to make oneself known" or "to reveal oneself." This year what leapt... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2020 at Velveteen Rabbi
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This is the message I sent to my congregational community this morning. I wanted to share it here also, in case it speaks to any of you. Dear all, I woke this morning to news of yet another antisemitic attack... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2019 at Velveteen Rabbi
The closet in my study holds picture frames, half-empty boxes of stationery, old books, pillows and blankets for the guest bed. And tucked in amid all of these, a small box emblazoned Priority Mail, addressed in your handwriting, postmarked two... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2019 at Velveteen Rabbi
I sit in the quiet. I leaf through your cookbooks. I remember how you loved the beauty shop's bustle. When night falls I sing my way through the door. I want to say look, Mom, we made it. But you... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2019 at Velveteen Rabbi
This morning with my Hasidut hevruta, R' Megan Doherty, I read a beautiful teaching from the Aish Kodesh (R' Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the rabbi of Piaseczno, Poland -- later the rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto.) Joseph's dream, in this week's... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2019 at Velveteen Rabbi
Mom, you're on my mind as the the shortest day approaches. A few years ago you commented to me that it was almost the solstice and that you couldn't wait for the day when the balance would shift and we'd... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2019 at Velveteen Rabbi