Beha'alotecha – Numbers 8:1 - 12:16

How does ritual allow for the building of community practice?

Ongoing commitment to communal ritual requires trust. Another key for community building I learned from Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) while on the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel is mutual trust. It is defined as the "willingness of individuals to join and help others without deep personal familiarity nor with any expectation, just the conviction that this is what other members of a community are doing, so I will do it, too."

In Parashat Beha'alotecha, as Aaron is commanded to light the lamps of the menorah, the focus is on just how to raise the sparks to create a luminous presence. For those Israelites unable to bring the Paschal offering at the appointed time, there is another chance with the institution of a Second Passover. Also, dissatisfaction with the manna from heaven sets in as the Israelites yearn for new tastes.

Each of these scenarios involves an initial enthusiasm that fades, so that the challenge remains how to hold onto that inspiration through a daily spiritual practice. The mosaic wisdom here is instructive, specifically in imparting his (Moses') spirit to the appointed seventy elders. Spiritual practice is bolstered in a community of practice where mutual trust is a given.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork depicts "the cloud of the Lord" that leads the Israelites through their years of desert wandering. "Whether it was for two days, a month, or a year, that the cloud lingered to hover over the Mishkan, the children of Israel would encamp and not travel, and when it departed, they traveled." (Numbers 9:22) Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Naso – Numbers 4:21 – 7:89

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A key community building lesson I learned from Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) during the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel, is the importance of Belonging – a sense that “this is mine,” a feeling of ownership and full inclusion in a group that allows “a community to become part of the definition of one’s personal identity.”

This sense of true belonging is something the Children of Israel yearn for during their ongoing journey, and the twelve tribes attempt to retain connection between one another without sacrificing the need to do so on their own terms and in their own particular manner.

Offerings are made to inaugurate the altar by each of the tribes. While these offerings appear to be identical, each day is described on its own terms. The offerings that each of us make to bolster community will always be unique.

This week’s parsha actually begins at the moment of completion of the grand census taking in the Sinai desert. Parashat Nasotallies those who will be doing the planning and organizing [avodat ha’masah] of transporting the Tabernacle. It is this organization that enables entry into moments of deeper self-reflection [avodat ha’avodah]. Various laws are also revealed including the ritual of the wayward wife, known as sotah, as well as the spiritual practice of the nazir.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: The sotah ritual requires a wife suspected of infidelity to drink a potion which will determine her guilt or innocence. This week’s illustration depicts the profile of a woman accused and awaiting the verdict. In our more feminist era, the ritual is controversial, rightly condemned for its severe patriarchal framing. It is worth noting, though, that the outcome would almost certainly render an accused woman innocent. That’s a far sight better than public execution, which was the usual punishment for suspected adultery in ancient times. What today appears inhumane and sexist may have been a “progressive” invention in its own day. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Americana Jam Band

AmericanaJamBandAmericana is a cholent – a rich stew – of diverse musical dialects and perspectives, including folk, bluegrass, country, soul, gospel, rock, and more.

Like the Jewish experience, though, Americana’s disparate elements work in unison to create an original sound and story that we recognize as specifically American.

Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Derailers, The Lone Bellow, and Son Volt – all of these artists and performers are on the same familiar road, searching for a way back home. We are their fellow travelers.

Congregation Beth Sholom invites you to experience the Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat!

It’s a folk-rock jam session with a Jewish soul, a casual prayer service with country swagger. If you like to sing and/or play an instrument (think piano, guitar, double bass, melodica, harmonica, or vibraphone), pull up a chair and join the jam on select Friday nights in 2017-18. Maybe you won't always play "in the pocket", but that’s not the point – it’s about our journey. Together, we’ll make music in a sacred space and create something new and meaningful as we mark the week’s end and the arrival of Shabbat.

Let's jam on Friday, April 27, 2018! The Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat service is free.

Vayakhel–Pekudei -- Exodus 35:1 – 40:38

The genius of every design by Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was an ability to understand what his community of users really wanted. Jobs was single-minded, and at times ruthless, in directing his designers to respond to community, to "have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."

Community is founded upon shared values and built upon shared practice. The team of wise-hearted artisans who create the Tabernacle and its furnishings as detailed in the previous reading of Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19) are truly inspired and devoted. The co-operative nature of this communal art project is inspiring on many levels. The instructions Moses conveys regarding the construction of the Tabernacle require materials in abundance. Once asked, the response is immediate and the materials arrive in abundance: from gold, silver, and copper, to blue-, purple-, and red-dyed wool, as well as goat hair, spun linen, animal skins, wood, olive oil, herbs, and precious stones. It is likely one of the only capital campaigns in Jewish history where its leader had to ask the members to stop giving!

"My favorite things in life don’t cost any money," Jobs’ once remarked. Jobs had clarity on the design of life, namely "that the most precious resource we all have it time." With that in mind, the strange opening of this week’s reading now falls into place — Moses' assembly of the Israelites begins with reiterating the importance of observing the Sabbath.

Making time sacred is the purpose of the Sabbath. The map of the soul’s journey, as Rabbi Lew (1945- 2009), z”l, taught, "...is the journey from isolation to a sense of our intimate connection to all being." That journey, unique to each soul, happens regularly in spiritual community. It is only when we are dedicated to a spiritual practice as central as the Sabbath that we can truly build communal institutions of lasting value.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's illustration is a depiction of a grape vine trained into the shape of menorah. The picture is inspired by theologian Rachel Adler's commentary on the Mishkan's menorah. She writes, "The menorah is not just any lamp, however. It is a giant lamp of unusual design.... We cannot sustain our presence at the original moment when a startled shepherd sees a terrible and wonderful sight: a tree on fire, unconsumed. We can only make a memory-tree to remind us of that moment, an artifice-tree of hammered gold, which we set afire, not abruptly, but with the choreography of ritual. Our reenactment distorts the story as it enriches it. The memory-tree is no humble wild thornbush, but the richly bearing fruit tree of the promised land, or the utterly stylized tree of modern ritual art." Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Member Profile : Willy Waks

Today, we invite you to meet (or reconnect) with congregant Willy Waks.

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How long have you been a member of Beth Sholom?
Six years.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
Five-and-a-half years now.

Where are you from originally?
France, then Israel, then Dallas. That's the short version, at least!

What kind of work do you do?
I'm retired from my work in IT (Information Technology).

Do you have any hobbies or other pursuits that are important to you? If so, what?
Yes. Road and mountain biking, and also swimming in the Bay (to or from Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge).

What’s your favorite movie, book, or album? Why?
The movie that impressed me most was They Shoot Horses, Don't They?. It's about the plight and injustices inflicted by greed and selfishness.

What’s your most meaningful Jewish memory?
My first son David's bar mitzvah. It was a costume party on Shushan Purim, which can happen only in Jerusalem!

What, if anything, makes Beth Sholom special for you?
Beth Sholom has the right mix of tradition and open mindedness. I enjoy coming and participating in services.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the community?
I already miss Rabbi Glazer. I am sad that he is leaving us.

Photo: Willy is pictured in Dallas, Texas, with his son, David, a Lieutenant in the Dallas Fire Department.

Leilah Goode's Bat Mitzvah

Hello. My name is Leilah Goode. I am a seventh grader at Claire Lilienthal Middle School. I love playing soccer, going to pop concerts, watching movies, and hanging out with my friends in addition to exploring all that San Francisco has to offer.

In Parashat Bo ("Go!"), God commands Moses to "Go to Pharaoh" to continue to plead for the Israelites' freedom. Pharaoh refuses, and his refusal causes additional punishment to befall the Egyptians in the form of three more plagues: locusts, darkness, and, finally, the death of all firstborn Egyptian sons. As the firstborn Egyptians begin to die, Pharaoh relents, and Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses proclaims that each year on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, a festival lasting seven days will be celebrated in order to recall our freedom from slavery in Egypt.

Freedom, at last. In my d’var Torah, I contemplate the privilege of living in a society founded on freedom, the challenges freedom brings, and the vigilance with which we must protect our liberty. Freedom cannot be taken for granted, even in America.

I would like to thank my tutor, Noa Bar, for all her patience and perseverance in helping me learn my segments of this week’s Shabbat torah service. I would also like to thank Rabbi Glazer and Rabbinic Intern Amanda Russell for familiarizing my havurah with the weekly prayers and reinforcing that there are many acceptable interpretations of our stories. Thanks to my havurah and CBS for being part of a collective journey. And thanks to my family for encouraging me to embrace all aspects of my heritage.

Micah Mangot's Bat Mitzvah

Shalom! My name is Micah Mangot. I am a seventh grader at Herbert Hoover Middle School. I enjoy reading, hanging out with my friends, singing, watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my family, and swimming.

In Parashat Va'eira, on God's instruction, Moses asks Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh refuses and God turns the water of the Nile into blood, Pharaoh is ready to let the Israelites go but God hardens his heart. This process repeats itself with the plagues of frogs, hordes of insects/wild animals, boils, and burning hail. Parashat Va'eira ends without any real resolution. Since God hardens Pharaoh's heart, the parsha raises a question of restrictions on our freedom. In my D'var Torah, I explore what restrictions there are on our freedom and how that relates to my bat mitzvah.

Becoming a bat mitzvah is a big moment. What is important is not only the actual service and party, but also all of the planning and learning that happens before. As a result of this process, I have learned perseverance and the skill of trope reading. To me, this is just the beginning of my learning and of being a part of the community.

I would like to thank my tutor Noa Bar for helping me learn the Hebrew necessary, Rabbi Glazer for working with me on my D'var Torah, and my family and extended family for supporting me wholeheartedly on this journey. I would also like to express my appreciation to the congregation.

Member Profile : Mark & Jenny Bernstein

Today, we invite you to meet (or reconnect) with congregants Mark & Jenny Bernstein.


How long have you been members of Beth Sholom?
Mark: Approximately 18 years.

Jenny: About 40 years.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
Mark: Since 1989.

Jenny: I'm a San Francisco native.

Mark, where are you from originally?
Mark: New York.

What kind of work do you do?
Mark: I'm a technical writer and manager at Apple.

Jenny: I'm a graduate student at San Francisco State University (SFSU) in Special Education.

Do you have any hobbies or other pursuits that are important to you? If so, what?
Mark & Jenny: Reading, watching movies, hiking, exploring San Francisco museums and playgrounds with our three-year-old son, Dylan, going to Warriors' and A's games, and taking road trips.

What’s your favorite movie, book, or album? Why?
Mark & Jenny: Our favorite movie is Young Frankenstein. It's hilarious and witty, and brings tremendous joy and endless laughter – never gets old.

Jenny: For books, anything by Joyce Carol Oates. I especially enjoyed Them. I love getting lost in the worlds she creates.

Mark: My book pick is Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez. Amazing writing and a beautiful story.

For album, it's just so hard to choose, but let's go with a three-way tie between Joni Mitchell's Blue, Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town. Oh, and, The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street. Okay. So, four. I'll stop now!

Jenny: I'll go with Florence and the Machine's Lungs.

Mark & Jenny: And we'll both add Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Classic!

What’s your most meaningful Jewish memory?
Mark & Jenny: There are so many! Our top two are:
1. Watching our older children, Anastasia, Daniel, Alexander, and Emma grow up at Beth Sholom and become b'nai mitzvah.
2. Our marriage under the chupah in the sanctuary!

What, if anything, makes Beth Sholom special for you?
Mark & Jenny: The sense of community and the great friends we've made over the years. Also, Rabbi Glazer. His sermons are always inspiring and are profoundly meaningful to us. His spirituality connects us to our Jewish identities and the Beth Sholom community – plus he's nurtured our appreciation for Leonard Cohen!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the community?
We feel grateful to have been part of the wonderful Beth Sholom community for so many years. It is truly our second home – a place where we always feel comfortable, spiritually nurtured, and connected, and a place that has given our family so many special moments and memories over the years.

Yermiyahu Ramos' Bar Mitzvah

Shalom! My name is Yermiyahu Ramos, but you can call me Yehry. I am a seventhgrader at James Lick Middle School and my favorite subject is Spanish. I love to play all kinds of sports, but I most enjoy playing soccer with my friends after school.

This Saturday, December 9, I will be called to the Torah as a bar mitzvah. The process of becoming a bar mitzvah has been very exciting. Many at Beth Sholom have said to me that they’ve been waiting a long time for my bar mitzvah. I am always at the Shabbat services and enjoy them going to them very much.

For my tzedakah project, all the money I will receive will go the Yad Eliezer project that helps the poor in Israel and the Magen David Adom. For a long time, I’ve wanted to donate to those in need in Israel and my project will finally allow me to do so!

I will be reading Parsha Vayeishev, which talks about Jacob and his family dynamics. It especially focuses on Joseph, who gets his coat of many colors, has his famous dreams, and is sold by his brothers to Ishmaelites that later take him Egypt. The Parasha Vayeishev reading ends with Joseph being sent to jail because of Potiphar’s wife and then interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker.

I want to thank those who have helped me through the process of becoming a bar mitzvah. I also want to thank those who are coming to share a very important moment for me, as well as my family for helping and supporting me.

Announcing Valor Grrrls Kabbalat Shabbat !

Kabbalat Shabbat means "welcoming the Sabbath." More specifically, the Jewish mystics conceived of the Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat service as a welcoming of "the Sabbath bride," the Shechinah, or feminine aspect of the Divine. Our new Valor Grrrls Kabbalat Shabbat musical service celebrates this intrinsic feminine nature of Kabbalat Shabbat by spotlighting the music of female singer-songwriters. Through powerful, deeply-felt lyrics and moving melodies, Joan Armatrading, Natalie Merchant, Gillian Welch, and The Wailin’ Jennys help transport us into this other world we call Shabbat. Their beautiful songs inspire in us a commitment to work for redemption by hearkening to a more just and equitable world.

The format of the Valor Grrrls Kabbalat Shabbat service is also central to the experience. We will sit in-the-round so our voices may join together in a soulful core. This "singing circle" arrangement is inspired by Nava Tehila, the celebrated, Jerusalem-based nonprofit dedicated to the creation of innovative and engaging musical prayer spaces.

Each service is co-led by Rabbi Aubrey Glazer and Rabbinic Intern Amanda Russell, with musical accompaniment.

Join us for Valor Grrrls Kabbalat Shabbat on select Fridays in 2018. We’ll meet at 6 p.m. for a community nosh and the service will start at 6:30 p.m. The service is free, but pre-registration is required – please take a quick minute to sign up below.

Adam Zander's Bar Mitzvah

Shalom, my name is Adam Zander and I am a seventh grader at The Brandeis School of San Francisco. My favorite school subject is Social Studies. I love playing basketball and watching sports. I also participate in a musical theater program outside of school.

This Saturday, November 25, I will be called to the Torah as a bar mitzvah. Exactly eight years ago, on the same weekend, my brother, Danny, became a bar mitzvah at Beth Sholom. Coincidentally, I will be reading from the same parsha as he did. I am so happy that Danny will be chanting an aliyah during my bar mitzvah Shabbat.

Becoming a bar mitzvah has been a journey for me, one of appreciating my Jewish background and culture as well as my Jewish education and preparing for my own future. The studying and preparation have been intense, especially when I try to fit it into all my other activities, but going through this process has given me the opportunity to give back. For my tzedakah project, I chose to volunteer with the Food Bank and cook and deliver meals with the Chicken Soupers program at Beth Sholom. For a long time now, I have felt it was important to help needy people get food; I started volunteering at the Food Bank in second grade. I recently started to bring my apron to Beth Sholom on Sunday mornings and deliver meals in the afternoon to the ill and disabled. Even though the last part always makes me sad, it is truly satisfying work.

I will be chanting from Parsha Vayeitzai in Bereshit (Book of Genesis), which recounts Jacob’s journey from Beer Sheba, the land of his father, the biblical patriarch, Isaac, to Haran, to stay with his uncle, Laban. He leaves a young man, often scared and mistrusting. He has an encounter with G-d in a dream in which G-d grants him lifelong protection. There is a question as to whether Jacob can handle this particular blessing. He labors many years for his uncle, marries his daughters Rachel and Leah, albeit in a different order than he intended, fathers many children, and returns to Beer Sheba a man, with a wealth of animals and riches.

I want to thank Randy Weiss for teaching me how to chant Torah and Rabbi Glazer for inspiring me in the writing of my D’var Torah. I also want to thank Henry Hollander for guiding us through the process and orchestrating everything behind the scenes. I especially want to thank my grandparents, parents, and brother for all the love and support in getting me to this day.

Light It Up!

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Join the CBS community in Koret Hall on Thursday, December 14, 2017,
from 5:30 - 8 p.m. to mark The Festival of Lights!

The candles will be burning bright at Beth Sholom as we celebrate the third night of Hanukkah together! Our annual Hanukkah celebration is always a joyous party, but this year we're turning it up to eighteen by introducing some fun new elements including a special, Hanukkah-themed play by Troupe de Beth Sholom and some holiday-inspired rap action with Adam Lowy and Eric Steuer, two talented CBS Family Preschool dads!

Bigger! Bolder! Brighter!

As always, we invite attendees to bring their favorite hanukkiah (Hanukkah menorah) for our communal candle lighting and we'll be spinning happy holiday tunes, but there will also be fun activities for "kids" of all ages and we'll be serving classic Hanukkah eats, wine, beer, margaritas, and more.

BUY YOUR TICKETS BELOW!

LIGHT IT UP! SCHEDULE:
5:30 p.m. - Event begins (CBS Family Preschool & general Beth Sholom community)
6 p.m. - Shabbat School families join
6:30 p.m. - Candle lighting and community Hanukkah play
7 p.m. - Bands/singers perform Hanukkah music - lineup TBD

LIGHT IT UP! ACTIVITY STATIONS:
Face painting
Cookie decorating
Edible dreidel making
"Pin the Shamash on the Hanukkiah" game
Festive Hanukkah photobooth
Magen David art activity

LIGHT IT UP! FOOD & DRINK:
Latkes
Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts)
Salad
Burrito bar (burritos or taco salad)
Coffee & tea
Wine, beer, & margaritas
(1st drink included with ticket; additional drinks: $5 wine; $5 beer; $5 margaritas; $2 soda/juice)

Also, we are looking for volunteers to support the food service, bartending, and some of the activity stations. If you are willing to help us, please visit our SignUpGenius volunteer page to sign-up for a 30-minute time slot. VOLUNTEER HERE!

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Americana Jam Band Returns!

AmericanaJamBandAmericana is a cholent – a rich stew – of diverse musical dialects and perspectives, including folk, bluegrass, country, soul, gospel, rock, and more.

Like the Jewish experience, though, Americana’s disparate elements work in unison to create an original sound and story that we recognize as specifically American.

Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Derailers, The Lone Bellow, and Son Volt – all of these artists and performers are on the same familiar road, searching for a way back home. We are their fellow travelers.

Congregation Beth Sholom invites you to experience the Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat!

It’s a folk-rock jam session with a Jewish soul, a casual prayer service with country swagger. If you like to sing and/or play an instrument (think piano, guitar, double bass, melodica, harmonica, or vibraphone), pull up a chair and join the jam on select Friday nights in 2017-18. Maybe you won't always play "in the pocket", but that’s not the point – it’s about our journey. Together, we’ll make music in a sacred space and create something new and meaningful as we mark the week’s end and the arrival of Shabbat.

Let's jam on Friday, March 23, 2018! The Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat service is free.

Pizza In The Hut (Sukkot Community Dinner)

Sukkot starts this Wednesday evening and the Beth Sholom sukkah is currently being constructed on Eva Gunther Plaza. Time spent in the sukkah is an important aspect of Sukkot – it helps us appreciate the outdoors and annual agricultural cycles, and it gives us an opportunity to come together in community – family, friends, and strangers.

On Tuesday, October 10, at 5:30 p.m., the CBS Family Preschool and Shabbat School families will join the rest of the Beth Sholom community and friends as we gather in our sukkah for the annual community Sukkot dinner, Pizza in the Hut. We'll say the sukkah blessings, shake the lulav, smell the etrog, nosh on pizza, and have a grand ol' time! There will be activities aplenty for the kiddos, and salad, carrots and dip, and dessert will be served in addition to the delicious pizza. It's a BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage) event, and beverages of all kinds are welcome. We'll sing, learn, laugh, and dine...then dine some more!

Register below! The regular price registration deadline is Monday, October 9. (Day-of walk-ins are welcome, but the prices for adults and children 6–12 increase by $5 each.)

Ki Tavo -- Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8

How do you express your gratitude? With words? With a thank-you card?

John F. Kennedy once suggested that "as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

A robust "attitude of gratitude" requires an act that acknowledges a benefactor’s benevolence and communicates one's grateful feelings. This is part of what Moses is teaching the Children of Israel through his own song in Deuteronomy; he instructs his people on how to cultivate the proper attitude for entering the Holy Land – after all, it is being given as an eternal gift. In settling and cultivating the land, the ritual of offering first ripened fruits or bikkurim at the Jerusalem Temple is a key moment in the agrarian lifecycle – here is a chance to proclaim one’s gratitude in community. Gratitude is often learned through our relation to others; thus tithing to the Levites and the needy are opportunities to cultivate gratitude. Sometimes we must see need in our midst to really appreciate the abundant blessings of our lives.

There is follow up here to the episode of blessings and curses that began its articulation in last week’s reading. Moses comments on the development of the Israelites since their birth as a nation; although their sense of peoplehood and commitment has evolved, they have not yet attained the maturity exemplified by "a mind to understand, or eyes to see or ears to hear." (29:3) In other words, aging does not always lead to emotional maturation, and this desert generation is still engaged in an ongoing process of "growing up" amidst innumerable challenges on the journey thus far.

To live by gratitude is our greatest challenge and dearest hope.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is an abstract depiction of Parashat Ki Tavo's dark and despotic venom. The parsha includes threats aplenty and bleak visions of the future that will befall the Israelites should they not "fulfill all [God’s] commandments and statutes." (Deuteronomy 28:15) Here, the venom dances across the picture like ink in water. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Michael Ross' Bar Mitzvah

Shalom. My name is Michael Ross. I'm an eighth grader at The Brandeis School of San Francisco and I am becoming a bar mitzvah this Shabbat, 11 Elul 5777.

A bit about me:
I love to play the electric guitar, and have been taking music lessons at The Blue Bear School of Music for six years. My preferred music genre is rock, but I also play jazz in the Brandeis band. I love cars, and am interested in engineering and modern technology/machines, especially computers. I also play tennis.

My parsha is Ki Teitzei. It contains the greatest number of laws of any parsha in the whole Torah – 74, including laws regarding humane treatment of animals and of the most vulnerable members of society, as well as laws curbing animal instincts such as incest and rape, even during war. Some laws address how we are to treat people and their property, and others how we should please and serve God. We are told to keep all of our disputes between people and not involve nature or animals, again even during war. These laws were all meant to raise the Israelites and ultimately the rest of the world from a selfish and brutal state to an elevated state of community and society.

I have family and friends coming from all over the world, and I look forward to sharing this experience with them and with my Beth Sholom community in which I've grown up.

I hope to see you this Shabbat when I become a bar mitzvah, a son of these many commandments!

Devarim -- Deuteronomy 1:1 – 3:22

Facebook_CoverDesign_DevarimThe great American boxer Muhammad Ali once remarked: "It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen."

When we turn to the repetition of the Law through its namesake (the Book of Deuteronomy, from deutero, meaning "repetition," and nomos, meaning "law"), we find Moses laying out his legacy plan through the repetition of the Law to the assembly.

Part of this Mosaic legacy entails his recounting the Israelites' 40-year journey from Egypt to Sinai, and eventually to the Promised Land. Part of the challenge along the way has been to solidify a cohesive practice. Moses now recognizes that this practice must take the form of sacral deeds called mitzvot.

Tied up with his reiteration of the Law, Moses also recounts the further challenges he faced as leader – countless battles with warring nations as well as the inter-tribal conflicts surrounding division of land. The generation of the desert, still imbued with the Egyptian slave mentality, must die out before a new community can be truly committed to this covenant.

For the legacy to be good and effective, Moses must transmit to Joshua, who engages in "counter-effectuation" — the possibility of conviction emerging from repetition is how the Mosaic legacy is carried forward with his own imprint.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's illustration is a depiction of Joshua. Behind him, loosely rendered, we see spectres of the Nephilim, the giants or fallen angels that reportedly inhabited the Promised Land. Unlike their ten scout companions, Joshua and Caleb believed the Israelites could conquer Canaan's fearsome inhabitants. For his bravery and virtue, Joshua would later inherit the mantle of Moses. "But Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you he will go there; strengthen him, for he will cause Israel to inherit it." (Deuteronomy 1:38) Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Matot / Massei -- Numbers 30:2 – 36:13

Facebook_CoverDesign_MasseiParashat Matot

The final of the four tangible ways of measuring the intangibles of intentional community that I learned with Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) during the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel is Meaningfulness: "My uniqueness is an important resource and influence for the group."

As we read this week in Parashat Matot, Moses divides up the community according to tribes, assigning land and leadership roles accordingly as the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land. The Torah provides two names for the twelve tribes of Israel, both derived from the imagery of the tree: shevatim and matot. While a shevet is a "branch," a mateh is a "staff" – the former attached to the tree, the other detached. In other words, a mateh is a shevet that has been uprooted from its tree.

The twelve tribes embody this tension between unity and division. Eager to settle in plots east of the Jordan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad, later joined by half of the tribe of Manasseh, demand these plots as their portion in the Promised Land. Moses, initially angered by this special request, subsequently agrees – on the condition that they join and lead Israel’s conquest of the lands west of the Jordan.

Today, we continue to face this tension in our modern Jewish tribe. We struggle between mateh and shevet Judaism, between denominationalism and unity, and between Conservative Judaism and "Just Jewish."

Both of these perennial tendencies of creating and grouping community are part of the Tree of Jewish communal Life; the question is how we strike a balance between our need for ideological affinity within a given denomination and the need to be a part of a unified peoplehood.

Parashat Massei

"One can find a squalid America as easily as a scenic America; a bitter, hopeless America as easily as the confident America of polyethylene wrapping, new cars, and camping trips in the summer."

For Robert Kennedy (1925–1968), the U.S. Attorney General (during his brother's administration) and U.S. Senator who was assassinated in 1968, camping is a scenic part of our American pioneering spirit (rather than a squalid one).

So when we read this week of the journey of the Israelites and the record of their forty-two station stops in encampments along the way to the Promised Land – from the Exodus to the plains of Moab across the river from the land of Canaan – we would be well served in reading into it a sense of real joy. As we approached our destination, the boundaries of the Promised Land were traced, and more importantly, Cities of Refuge were designated as havens, places of exile for inadvertent murderers. (How telling that the Cities of Refuge, which are an advanced institution dedicated to creating civil society and thus protecting it from the circle of bloodshed that comes with revenge, are referred to time after time in Scripture – here in Numbers as well as in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua.)

In the final surveying of laws relating to the land, we confronted the issue of inheritance head-on. The daughters of Tzelafochad – as proto-feminists – decide to marry within their own tribe of Manasseh to ensure that the estate which they inherit from their father should not pass to the province of another tribe.

Throughout the parsha, the land ultimately serves as a horizontal platform for action, one that always binds us in a vertical relationship to what is right, just, and compassionate – the divine. Just as we journey across lands here on earth, we must not forget the journey of the soul.

Although journeys on land may be long and treacherous, there is no greater journey than the turn inwards. Each Shabbat, we are offered this chance to slow down and share in this ongoing spiritual journey with our community.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's illustration is concerned with worldly boundaries, the lines we etch into or lay over the landscape to demarcate property and/or spheres of influence. "When you arrive in the land of Canaan, this is the land which shall fall to you as an inheritance, the land of Canaan according to its borders." (Numbers 34:2) Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Take Us Out To The Ball Game!

ChristopherOrevReigerNoahPhilippDaleKleisleyKatherineFreidmanBarboniAdinahRatner_SFGiantsJewishHeritageNight_August2016It's that time of the year again!

CBS invites you to join your fellow congregants and other members of the Bay Area Jewish community for San Francisco Giants Jewish Heritage Night on Monday, August 21.


This annual celebration of Jewish identity and heritage is always a home run of fun, and this year the fellas in black and orange need our cheers more than ever! Our beloved Giants are struggling to keep their post-season aspirations alive, and our supportive voices are needed to help Buster, Madison, and company take on a group of Midwestern beer makers (a.k.a., the Milwaukee Brewers) in what may well be an important late-season game.

We'll be sitting in Lower Box Section 135 (Left Field), with an unimpeded view of all the on-field action. This year, as last, we're offering two ticket packages.

The $36 event package includes:
- 1 seat in the CBS section (Lower Box 135 - Left Field) for the game (begins at 7:15 p.m.)
- A collector's-edition, Lou Seal bobble head with a shofar (produced by the SF Giants)
- Admission to the Jewish Heritage Night Pregame Party, 5 - 7 p.m. in Parking Lot A, just across McCovey Cove. (Live entertainment and food/drink specials will be available for purchase during the pregame party, with proceeds partially benefiting local charitable programs in the Jewish community.)

The $50 event package includes:
- All of the above, plus one of our CBS community spirit t-shirts! (See front and back of shirt below. Click on the image to see a larger view.)
Facebook_SFGiantsPromo

ORDER YOUR TICKET(S) BELOW. (Alternatively, you can drop off cash or check in the CBS office. If drop off payment, please email Beth Jones, or call 415.940.7092, to let us know what size t-shirts you would like to reserve. Sizes available are Adult M, L, and XL and Youth XS, S, M, L, and XL.)

Beha'alotecha – Numbers 8:1 - 12:16

Facebook_CoverDesign_BehaAlotechaHow does ritual allow for the building of community practice?

Ongoing commitment to communal ritual requires trust. Another key for community building I learned from Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) while on the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel is Mutual Trust: The "willingness of individuals to join and help others without deep personal familiarity nor with any expectation, just the conviction that this is what other members of a community are doing, so I will do it, too."

In Parashat Beha'alotecha, as Aaron is commanded to light the lamps of the menorah, the focus is on just how to raise the sparks to create a luminous presence. For those Israelites unable to bring the Paschal offering at the appointed time, there is another chance with the institution of a Second Passover. Also, dissatisfaction with the manna from heaven sets in as the Israelites yearn for new tastes.

Each of these scenarios involves an initial enthusiasm that fades, so that the challenge remains how to hold onto that inspiration through a daily spiritual practice. The mosaic wisdom here is instructive, specifically in imparting his (Moses') spirit to the appointed seventy elders. Spiritual practice is bolstered in a community of practice where mutual trust is a given.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork depicts "the cloud of the Lord" that leads the Israelites through their years of desert wandering. "Whether it was for two days, a month, or a year, that the cloud lingered to hover over the Mishkan, the children of Israel would encamp and not travel, and when it departed, they traveled." (Numbers 9:22) Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.