From Rabbi Johanna Hershenson

Happy 2018! Happy twenty-chai! As the gematria suggests, may this new year be a year of life, health, and abundance!

Since the High Holy Days, we have been bringing attention to mindfulness in our services. We have taken time to sit quietly and notice our breath, notice the tension and discomfort we carry unwittingly, notice that we have the capacity to notice, that we are significantly more than the projections of our minds.

Our worship services are always a balance between traditional and innovative modes of creating a shared experience that connects us to one another and whatever it is that is beyond us but also pulses through us. Some of our melodies and verses are ancient, others are new and unpolished but resonate deeply.

While we will continue to hold space in our services for mindfulness, for drawing attention to everyday obstacles and gifts, we will further explore Jewish modes of mindfulness practice outside our regular worship opportunities.

Beginning January 20th, our monthly Saturday mornings will begin an hour earlier, at 9:00 a.m. rather than 10:00 a.m. From 9:00 until 9:30 a.m. we will learn trope (Torah chanting) together, and then from 9:30 until 10:00 a.m. we will practice sitting meditations, utilizing a combination of Jewish mindfulness techniques. Once we have learned the Torah trope, the entire hour, 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. will be dedicated to alternating meditative chanting and guided sitting practices. At 10:00 a.m. our monthly Shabbat morning service and Torah study will take place.

Also take note of our adult learning series beginning in January, on Wednesday evenings. We will take a look at Jewish mindfulness practices, some from rabbinic and medieval sources, and many from neo-chasidic and early Jewish Buddhist writings. In this course, we will explore and discuss the practices, and perhaps experiment a little bit. Saturday mornings will be for the actual sitting and practice.

Returning to the theme of cultivating balance with traditional modes of study and worship, our weekly Torah study begins again on January 19th, Friday mornings. Together we will explore the classic Torah commentary of Rashi. Rashi's commentary on the Torah builds the next layer of a foundational understanding of Jewish intellectual history following the stories of the Torah in their own context. As our congregation and Torah study regulars mature, so does our study of Torah increase in sophistication. Rashi integrates what he considers the most important ancient rabbinic exegesis with an emerging consciousness of the subtleties of language. He compares languages and word usage in a driven desire to promote an "accurate" understanding of the Torah.

Opening ourselves to what emerges freely in mindfulness practice and simultaneously filtering our regular reading of Torah through the lens of a teacher like Rashi will hopefully create a dynamic tension from which we might learn something new together this year. It is by connecting with others within the context of a whole that we experience the fullness we individually seek.

~~ Rabbi Hershenson's office hours are by appointment. If you would like to set up an appointment, please contact her by email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by phone at 541-213-9880.