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Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

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woman with a yellow lab dog on a dock at sunset

A congregant asked me recently how I am managing. She meant both the circumstances of my life – single parent, working one job and about to start a second – and our national circumstances, as the new administration makes decisions that deeply distress me. What I really understood her to be asking was how I sustain myself during difficult times.

One of my answers is Shabbat.

Every week, we retell the creation story: for six days God labored creating the world, and on the seventh day God rested and was ensouled. We too can be ensouled, can experience an enlivening of our...

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You know that feeling you get sometimes when you hear a piece of music and it makes your heart want to leap right out of your chest? Maybe it's because of what the words mean, or because of how the melody lifts you, or because of what the song represents in your memory. It makes you want to laugh, and to weep, and to do both at the same time, because it doesn't seem possible to feel so much.

Or maybe there's a person in your life who brings out that feeling in you. You see them across a crowded room and your heart does a somersault. You just want to be near them, to say something...

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Human beings have been paying attention to the ebb and flow of daylight for a very, very long time. Stonehenge, that iconic circle of stone slabs in Great Britain, was built sometime between 3000 BCE and 2000 BCE. Its central sight-lines point to the location where the summer sun rises on the summer solstice (June 21), and where the winter sun sets on the winter solstice (December 21).

In the fifth century BCE, in Persia, December 21st was the most important holiday of the year. It was called Shabe Yaldā, which means "birthday eve." According to Persian mythology, the god Mithra...

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I walked to Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street toward the end of Shabbat, thinking that I was going to wait on a park bench until Shabbat ended and the stores opened, in order to try to buy a Spiderman kippah for our son. (I should've just bought one in Tzfat when I first saw them; I haven't been able to find one anywhere else!) I did stay on a park bench for quite a while, and waited until well after nightfall, and the kippah stores did not open, and finally I walked back to the Old City and treated myself to one last Jerusalem dinner (kibbeh, pita, and hummus, salatim, and a slushy, mint-...

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"Take a moment to settle in to being here," I say aloud. My eyes are closed, but I know there are three other people in the room this morning. I heard them walk in, each to their own place in the sanctuary, and I waited until the sounds of their arrival had ceased.

"Notice how you're sitting in your chair. In your own time, draw your attention from your toes up to the top of your head, and if you find places of tension, breathe into them and let the tension go."

"Now we'll move into a practice of following our breath as it comes and goes. When thoughts arise, as they...

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