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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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The only thing I know: we are not "there" yet, and I'm not sure where "there" is or how we will feel or with what we will serve. It's scary not having a map to safety. Scarier still that some... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Velveteen Rabbi
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Here I am ready and willing to hear your voice in the golden fire that tips the willow trees with spring sunlight -- to breathe your fragrance on my fingers kissed by rosemary -- to feel you with me night... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Velveteen Rabbi
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My son and I often say, "We live in a society." For us it's shorthand, a reminder about community. We need to be mindful of people's needs, because we live in a society. If a kid is being bullied, stand... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
I was studying Torah with colleagues on Monday night (May 2) when the news broke that SCOTUS is likely to strike down Roe v. Wade. The sweep of fear and grief across the room was palpable. In a sense, this... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Scent-memory. The instant I uncap the bottle, I'm in my twenties again. We used to spend weekends driving around rural New York and Vermont, looking for secondhand furniture at antique stores and junk shops. Even the most weathered, beat-up pieces... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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I'd never before made a shlissel challah -- a challah shaped like a key. Some Ashkenazi Jews have a custom of baking shlissel challah for the Shabbat that comes after Pesach. It's a segulah, an almost magical folk practice: a... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
Forgetting where the car is parked means something important left undone. The structure deflated like punched dough means vulnerability and self-blame. The taxi that makes stop after stop for hours is the same as the airport with no signs: what... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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The Italian place I remember had dark walls, and candles in cut-glass red votive bowls. I thought the owner was Polish. He and my dad were buddies, talked business, smoked cigars. I wore black-patent Mary Janes, drank Shirley Temples, feasted... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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We're in a slightly strange position today, spiritually speaking. We are a Reform congregation, and in the Reform world, Pesach is a seven-day festival -- as it is in Israel for Jews of all denominations. Today is no longer Pesach;... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
Grief, sometimes you're the wise child reminding me you wouldn't even be at my table if I didn't love. Sometimes you're the unruly one insisting life is nothing but an invitation to loss, over and over. You sneer care isn't... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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On Saturday night at second seder we'll begin counting the Omer: the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation. Here are seven new prayer-poems for that journey, one for each week -- plus a prayer before counting,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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I found it in one of my mother's desk drawers. Mostly the drawer contained pens, mechanical pencils, a few thick yellow highlighters. And then there was this little metal case, shaped like a teardrop with a rounded tip. At first... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
I'm fine except when I'm not. Four weeks since the big green tent. I can't bear to listen to the saved voicemail. Most days I make coffee, pack my son's lunch for school, dodge the cold spring raindrops. Then I... Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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The most formative experience of my college years wasn’t in a classroom. It was the collaborative work of the Williams College Feminist Seder Project, which began in 1992. My classmates and I were awakening to the realities of patriarchy and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
Was the roast meat smoky, maybe charred from fire? We'll never know. Back then everyone knew only free people got couches. Gemara says: a wise child asks. Any gender may ask. Two scholars can ask each other. If there’s no... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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This week's Torah portion, Tazria, speaks in detail about a condition called tzara'at. Many translations render tzara'at as leprosy, though that's clearly not what this is. Some other year I'll teach about the different ways our tradition has understood tzara'at,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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My parents in Moscow, late 80s or early 90s. Everything feels unfinished. Every thought that comes to mind is a sentence half-spoken. I jot down one clause -- "the death of a parent casts a long shadow" -- and then... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Rectangular hole. Pile of earth draped in astroturf: like a challah shyly enfolded while we bless candles and wine, like a Torah covered for modesty. This pine box is a cradle for an empty shell. What's left after what made... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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On Shabbat I was reading up on the history of the bagel, and I ran across this: In that era it was quite common in Poland for Jews to be prohibited from baking bread. This stemmed from the commonly held... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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"A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out." (Lev.6:6) Kindling is easy. I nudge a lighter with my thumb: instant flame for the shiva candle on my counter. After seven days that flame dies.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Top row: wedding and honeymoon in 1954, and in the middle, a party at my grandparents' house in 1956. Middle row: Dad and me, circa 1976, 1984, and 1980. Bottom row: with my kid in 2014, with Mom and kid... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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I've always felt the shadow presence of the six million. I grew up steeped in stories of villages, communities, lineages destroyed. My grandfather made it, but his family didn't. Six million Jewish lives ended by Nazis -- their absence was... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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One of the books I brought back from my mother's library is The Bewitched Tailor by Sholom Aleikhem. That's how his name is spelled on the cover. Inside I see his name and another phrase in Cyrillic letters. There's no... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
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Old barrel keys are heavy in the hand. Most have a round or oval bow, though two brassy ones sport criss-cross shapes instead. All have rounded shafts, pin holes of varying diameter, and idiosyncratic teeth. Shaped entirely unlike the keys... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi
On your third yahrzeit I said kaddish riding on a speckled roan surrounded by live oak and prickly pear. My horse was first in line. I wanted to watch my son ride but maybe this was right -- aren't I... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2022 at Velveteen Rabbi