Welcome to our Cheshvan issue.

(L to R: Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Joy Krauthammer, Rabbi Debra Orenstein, Eli Lester, and Rabbi/Cantor Monty Turner on the Makom Ohr Shalom bimah this past Rosh Hashanah. Photo by Mark Reden.)

In this edition:
Relativity, honoring Rosh Hodesh and Cheshvan

Time, Waiting, and Patience - Learning Tools

Craig’s Corner, notes from the rebbetzin

Trailblazers and Innovators

Thank you

Relativity, honoring Rosh Hodesh and Cheshvan
by Rabbi Debra Orenstein

Rosh Hodesh, the monthly New Moon holiday, is also called "Yom Kippur Katan"-- a miniature Yom Kippur. Instead of waiting a whole year for the cleansing, renewal, and fresh start of Yom Kippur, we can have that gift each and every month, as the new moon arrives.

Cheshvan is unique in the Jewish months, in that it has no major holiday, other than Shabbat. Therefore, this "uneventful" month following the busy High Holiday season is an opportunity to integrate the spiritual work of our holiest days into everyday life.

My wonderful uncle, Solomon Mowshowitz, asked me a sobering question when my son was just a few months old: “Don’t you wonder what you used to do with all the extra time you had, before you had kids?”

At various times in the lifecycle and holiday cycle, time feels tight – or stretches out. Cheshvan is expansive. After the rush and time demands of holidays, guests, travel, meal preparation, and the longest synagogue services of the year, Cheshvan feels practically leisurely… open… and, therefore, full of possibility.

Cheshvan is sometimes called “mar cheshvan” – bitter cheshvan, because the absence of a holiday makes it, presumably, less sweet than other months. But the absence of “special occasions” can be a blessing. It is an opportunity to sanctify our normal, everyday routines. What if we “prepared for” the people we see every day, devoting the kind of care and attention we usually reserve for dignitaries and out-of-town guests? What if our daily tasks took on the glow of holy day rituals? In the words of the Talmud, “between what is frequent and what is infrequent, the frequent should take precedence.” (BT Pesachim 114a)

My prayer for you this month is that you experience the absence of a holiday not as a loss, but as “found time.”

What do you want to do with all that extra time this month?

Time, Waiting, and Patience - Learning Tools

The CD Awe Always deals extensively with the subject of time and specifically with lengthening our days, creating expansive time. Listen especially to "Life In Your Years" (Track 2), "Life In Your Years Guided Meditation" (Track 3) , and "Time" (Track 10).

The CD Transformation Now also discusses time, especially the tendency to rush and to be impatient. Listen especially to "Rushing and Rest" (Track 2), "How Can I Be More Patient" (Track 10), and "Loif Nisht" (Track 12).

As a gift to our subscribers “How Can I Be More Patient” is provided here. The track lasts 3 minutes and 20 seconds, but it will give you “five extra minutes,” inspiration for using your waiting time, and a few good laughs.
Click to play

On our CD Reb Zalman Teaches the track “The Sabbatical Year” raises an inspiring challenge: how might we each devote a full sabbatical year to our personal and Jewish development?
Click to play:

All these CD's are available at RabbiDebra.com. Click to order.

Craig’s Corner, notes from the rebbetzin

Buy some CD's. I’d love to be able to place a refill order from the manufacturer. If you have already purchased, I thank you and remind you that they do make great gifts. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Planning and Waiting
The best laid plans are often derailed by the greatest challenges. Just as Kol Nidre and Debra’s powerful Erev Yom Kippur sermon admonished, be careful what you vow and declare (even to yourself) about what you have planned. Hashem may have different plans for you.

I wrote in the last newsletter about wanting and committing to spend time during Elul, the month before High Holidays, meditating and planning to make the most of the upcoming holidays – focusing on actions of the past year and how the next year could be different. And then I was diagnosed with lymphoma, and so much of my time and focus went toward that. The good news is that I seem to have a very treatable, highly survivable type. My treatment and other healing efforts are going well. I hope my ‘pep talk’ about High Holidays offered motivation to some of you. ( I’d like to hear if it helped. ) I learned in a less self-directed and all-too-immediate form a different set of lessons.

Diagnosing my lymphoma was a protracted process (I’ve written about it at www.howscraigdoing.blogspot.com ). From the time of my initial diagnosis until the growing circle of doctors settled on a course of treatment, there were many tests, several procedures, a number of incomplete conclusions, and lots of waiting. The waiting was particularly stressful in this case, and it got Debra and me thinking about waiting - in general. We do so much of it in life, and the stress of waiting can eat us up even when we are waiting for mundane things: lines at the grocery, traffic, anticipating the “ding” of the toaster. This year Debra devoted her Yom Kippur day sermon to the topic of waiting. Exclusively for you e-newsletter subscribers, I am posting her wise and illuminating drash here for you, complete with a handout/worksheet that you can review and discuss with a friend or loved one.

Time is short. Our lives here on Earth are finite. How will you spend this precious time – especially the time around the margins of bigger events? The sermon runs 23 minutes; the sooner you click play, the less you’ll have to wait.


Click here for the downloadable handout/worksheet.

Trailblazers and Innovators

I am honored to be appearing with six extraordinary rabbis on a panel tomorrow, Wednesday, October 21, entitled “Women Rabbis: Trailblazers and Innovators.” Susan Freudenheim of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal will moderate and ask questions of us. The rabbis are Sharon Brous, Denise Eger, Laura Geller, Zoe Klein, Naomi Levy, Michelle Missaghieh, and myself.

I was in the first entering class at The Jewish Theological Seminary to include women, and, before that, I was taking rabbinical school courses as a graduate student. For an entire year before women were admitted, the faculty debated whether or not to include women. Coverage and debates in the media were heavy. Several times, I was asked to debate my professors on television, radio, and in print. It was, to say the least, a bit awkward.

However, it was also a very exciting time. I knew that I was part of a historical turning point, and I took joy in the prospect of entering the rabbinate and helping to bring women’s perspectives to it. Eventually, I edited two volumes (a third is slated for publication) to bring women’s voices to bear on key issues like lifecycle, Torah, and holidays. Lifecycles 1: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones was the first book in Jewish history to begin a discussion of lifecycle with childbirth, rather than with circumcision or marriage. Lifecycles 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life considers each book of the Torah not only as a holy book, but as a personal one – reflecting and shaping the major concerns of women's lives: from family and home (Genesis); to liberation, revelation, and work (Exodus); to food, sex, speech, and health (Leviticus); to the pushes and pulls of community (Numbers); to leadership and transmission (Deuteronomy).

The Deuteronomy chapter in Lifecycles 2 ends with a section entitled “Looking Toward the Promised Land.” In the final essay of the book, “Destiny,” Rabbi Jane Litman, my co-editor, wrote: “Knowing we have a destiny is not the same as knowing what it is. When we stand and gaze, like Moses, into the distance, what do we see? Can we discern the contours and textures of our promised land?” She goes on to point out that the Jewish feminist movement was only, at the time of her writing, about 20 years old, “half the time of the communal evolution of the Jewish people in the Sinai desert. In the Torah’s terms, we are still very much Bemdibar, in the wilderness.” Nevertheless, she went on to make many accurate predictions. I hope that my colleagues and I will be able to do the same tomorrow, and to reflect on our progress so far.

Here is the biggest change I notice: When I was at The Jewish Theological Seminary and for the first ten years after my ordination, I was asked to speak often – and always about women. I was the “women and” speaker: “Jewish women and lifecycle,” “Jewish women and the rabbinate,” “Jewish women and the liturgy,” “Jewish women and the Bible,” etc.

In the last ten years, I have continued to speak widely and to travel as a scholar-in-residence across North America. Yet, I have been asked to speak about women exactly twice: once last year as part of the Valley Beth Shalom “Adult Jewish University” series, and now as part of the Jewish Journal panel.

The frequency and timing tell me that women rabbis are less of an anomaly, more accepted. We have become in most instances, simply, rabbis. Yet, there is a renewed need to reflect and again consider our destiny – as Jews and in terms of gender. How far have we come as a community in terms of women’s inclusion and influence? Where are we going? What are the ongoing gender issues for both women and men? I hope to see you on Wednesday to discuss it all.

-Rabbi Debra Orenstein

Thank You
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- Craig Weisz

Debra reads Torah on Yom Kippur with son Emmett, 5 yrs. old, watching.