It began with music and it set with music

After this morning’s breakfast and discussion about the future of the Reform Machzor, the day opened with an inspiring service with music set by Noam Katz, Katie Bauman, and Larry Englander. Dan Medwin brought Visual T’fillah to life and allowed all the service participants to look up. We were given the opportunity to actually look at the bima and at faces of those around us. It was a moment of being a part of the larger community rather than with our eyes only in the book.

Noam, Katie and Larry brought inspirational music to our lips. Some of the music was familiar while other settings were new. What was exciting was how everyone in the room tried out the new tunes embracing something different and engaging in new harmony. As we were reminded, rabbis were lay participants today, and that was awesome!

The music continued in the form of study and yes, in the form of the state of the movement addresses by the CEO of the CCAR, Steve Fox, and the newly installed President, Jonathan Stein. One voice cannot stand out alone in our movement, rather, the harmony of multiple voices are needed to truly remind us, as Steve Fox said in his remarks, “continue to reform Reform Judaism.”

Finally, the evening closed as we wandered the vibrant streets of the French Quarter arriving at the historical Preservation Hall. In this small, what seemed to once be two room, now one “larger” room, hall, New Orleans life exhaled. This is the voice of New Orleans. This is where the music of generations past and generations in the future are inspired and motivated to create, dream and live. This was where 50-75 individuals, sitting and standing in a small space were enveloped in the music of the Hall musicians and let go of concern for personal space and were entranced by the moment.

Preservation Hall should be an inspiration for us, our congregations, and today’s Jewish life. It reminds us that there is beauty in the oldies, yet there is life left to be breathed into each note. That sometimes, following musical notations as written is not enough. You have to feel the moment, let it wash over you and then groove with it. What comes out may surprise you, and it can bless.

Let the Convention Begin

And here we are! 100s of rabbis in one place. Trying to get all of these rabbis into the opening program is always a challenge – we love to shmooze! But here we are.

The programming is going to be amazing and of course high tech. Follow us on twitter, #ccar11, and even check out the questions we have to discussions shared during the programming.

Now let us come together, give thanks for this opportunity to study, shmooze and share.

— RavIma

On the way to CCAR NOLA

Shabbat began with an amazing Mind Body Soul Shabbat. Torah study, yoga service, music and meditation and a spa lunch. Not a bad way to start the journey to the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) Conference.

I’m looking forward to continuing this Shabbat’s exploration of ways to enrich my mind through study, my body through acts of tikun olam, and my soul by spending time with friends and colleagues.

The plane door is about to close but the week is about to open. See you all in New Orleans in a few hours.

Shavua Tov!

— RavIma

Pekudei – What Makes You Whole?

What makes us whole? Is it good health – mind and body? Is it combining our mind with our soul? When do we feel complete? When we succeed in completing a great task? When do we feel satisfied? When we look upon the work that we’ve completed and feel that our goal is achieved?

We end the reading of the book of Exodus this week with the completion of the building of the Tabernacle. It has taken the better part of the year for the Israelites to bring the gifts that were so moved by their hearts, to construct and weave all of the walls and tapestries, and finally to raise the Tabernacle so that God might dwell with the people rather than away.

Each person’s contributions are counted in not only what they bring for the building, but also how they are counted by the half shekel. Yet the Tabernacle is referred to as ha-mishkan echad, the one Tabernacle, the whole Tabernacle. The half shekel that each person brings is symbolic in that we are not whole or complete without God’s presence. Hence, ha-mishkan echad, the Tabernacle helps to complete us by bringing God’s presence to us…with us.

For the Israelites alone in the desert, it was significant for them to not only believe that God was with them, but to also experience God with them. This brought them a sense of wholeness and completeness.

Today, the Tabernacle does not exist, yet our synagogue and our Jewish community does. Yet, how does belonging to the synagogue and community allow us to feel whole and complete?

Some might expect an “ah-ha!” moment, something that says, ‘of course this is what exists.’ But most have to search more deeply for the connection, work harder to experience the “ah-ha!” moment. If we are waiting for it to just happen, I’m sorry to say that we might be waiting for a long time. Hence why it was the Israelites who had to bring the gifts that so moved their hearts. Why they had use the work of their hands to create the community.

Our Torah and our lesson today is that we do not find completeness, wholeness or connection just by standing there and waiting for it to happen. We have to make it happen.

How are you making it happen? How are you connecting to the community? What are you doing to help create “ah-ha!” moments? Please share them with us by leaving a comment.

Here’s to all of our “ah-ha!” moments.