Archives for March 2012

Purim 2012

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Passover Reflections: March 25 – 31, 2012

The Kabbalah of Passover

A few years ago, at our annual Bet Alef Community Seder, I shared with those in attendance — members and non-members alike — a tradition that has been in my family for, I suspect, many generations. Growing up, I remember looking forward to this ritual where my grandfather (of blessed memory,) at the beginning of the Seder, would come around the table and gently tap the top of our bowed heads with the still untouched Seder plate, while chanting a short phrase in Hebrew. It felt like I was participating in a millennia-old ritual, being blessed through the hands of my grandfather by all the symbols of the Seder plate touching the crown of my head. It was always a deeply humbling moment that never failed to give me chills.

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Passover Reflections: March 18 – 24, 2012

Mah Nish’tanah? What Has Changed?        

Although we closed the Book of Exodus last week, with Passover around the corner, its stories linger still in our consciousness. This is the time of the year, personally, when I delight in re-opening the Passover Haggadah and in looking inside for more treasures to be revealed. Two years ago I compiled a new version of the Bet Alef Haggadah, drawing from many sources and teachers that have inspired me along the years. I thought, this year, that I would invite you into my own process of preparing myself to meet the holiday, by sharing excerpts from the Bet Alef Haggadah that call to me:

Egypt in Hebrew is Mitzrayim. Mitzrayim means “narrow places.” Our Egypts are those places in our lives that have become lifeless — aspects of ourselves that feel constricted, bound up, unable to be expressed. Our Egypts [also] represent our falling into the dullness of everyday life, the deadening routine of an existence where we have lost consciousness. The Haggadah tells the story not only of our Exodus from a physical Egypt, but perhaps most importantly, our exodus from an Egypt of a deadening mindless rut, where things lose their taste and meaning as a consequence of repetitiveness. Delving into the Hebrew for the word “Haggadah” suggests a way out of our enslavement. The word comes from the root “nagod” which means “to oppose”– to go against that which exists within the repetitive banality of our day-to-day existence.

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Torah Reflections: March 11 – 17, 2012

Parashah (portion)Vayak’heil – P’kudey – Building The Inner Tabernacle   
Exodus 35:1 – 40:38

This week’s Torah reading brings us to the close of the Book of Exodus. In these final moments the Israelites build all the many pieces of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which Moses is to later assemble. S’fat Emet (Rabbi Leib Alter of Ger – 19th c. Poland) comments that many of the verses in our portion echo, in their wording, verses from the story of Creation that began the Book of Genesis. It is as if the last lines of the Book of Exodus serve as a mirror to the first lines of the Book of Genesis. The word m’lachah, usually translated as “work,” for example, repeats at least ten times in our combined portions this week. This is the word used in Genesis to describe God’s “work” of creating. Furthermore, we read in Genesis: “And God saw all that He had made… Thus were completed the heavens and the earth… Then God blessed the seventh day….” [Gen. 1:31 – 2:3] S’fat Emet compares this with this week’s reading: “Thus was completed all the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting…And Moses saw all the work that they had done… And Moses blessed them.” [Exod.39:32 – 43]. For the S’fat Emet, this parallel in both stories hints at the redemption of all Creation, the ultimate fulfillment of God’s work. With the building of the Tabernacle, the work of Creation is finally complete. And as our story concludes, the Cloud of Glory can now come down to earth; the Presence of the Holy One can now come to dwell in the Mishkan: “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the Eternal filled the Tabernacle.” [Exod. 40:34]
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Bet Alef’s 2nd Annual Phone-a-Thon

Happening Now!

 You spoke and the Board listened! Rather than spending enormous volunteer time creating an auction or other fundraising event, the consensus at last year’s community meeting was that a phone-a-thon fundraiser was the easiest and most direct way to raise the additional monies needed to meet our annual budget.

Your additional gift to Bet Alef will help your spiritual community thrive, and continue to be a place for you to connect with others seeking to learn, grow, and live conscious lives of wholeness, joy and celebration.

Our amazing community exists ‘for you’ and ‘because of you’. There’s no one else to pick up the slack…We need everyone’s participation and energy.

Our goal is $10,000, so please, when you receive your call, give generously to YOUR Community. Here are some examples of what your donation could support:
$3000…insurance for one year
$1200…sponsor one Shabbat service at Unity
$ 800…our accountant for 4 months
$ 500…music for one Shabbat service at Unity
$ 135…light and sound for one Shabbat service at Unity
$ 50…phone bill per month

Every single gift makes a difference. We are very grateful for your continued support.

You can send a check to Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue P.O. Box 50201, Bellevue, 98015 or donate online below.



Torah Reflections: March 4 – 10, 2012

Parashah (portion) Ki Tissa – When You Lift Up The People  
Exodus 30:11 – 34:35

The holy day of Purim is this Thursday. The main commandment that our tradition calls us to fulfill on Purim is that of reading the relatively short tale recounted in the Book of Esther. Purim is also known to be a day of great rejoicing; of carnival where people wear costumes and masks, and engage in raucous partying that includes a certain level of inebriation. But one of the more wholesome components of this unique holiday is that of gift giving. With the somewhat happy ending of the Book of Esther, we read: “Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in the unwalled towns, made the 14th day of the month of Adar a day of gladness and feasting, a holiday, and of sending portions (mishloach manot) to one another.” Excerpted from the text, this “mishloach manot,” this “sending of portions,” has been transformed by our rabbis into a holiday tradition which consists mainly of sending gifts of food to friends and members of the community, as well as to the poor. Our rabbis teach that the Jews of the Book of Esther, in their celebration and gift giving, were responding to the accusation leveled against them by Haman –the evil Jew-hating character in the story– when he castigated them for being “a scattered and divided nation.” Our sending each other gifts, in contradistinction, both demonstrates and reinforces how united we are as a community. It brings peace and harmony within our walls, as our gifts are an expression of our love and care for each other.
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Torah Reflections February 26 – March 3, 2012

Parashah (portion) Mishpatim – You Are The Eternal One  
Exodus 27:20 – 30:10

This week’s Torah portion speaks of the ordination of Aaron and his sons into the priesthood. Ornate garments are designed by the artists among the people for the ceremony, sewn together and decorated with gold, precious stones and colorful fabrics. In all, the celebration lasts for a week, throughout which sacrifices are made and a special altar is built at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, in the Presence of the Eternal.

For there I will meet with you, and there I will speak with you, and there I will meet with the Children of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by My Presence. I will sanctify the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. I will dwell amidst the Children of Israel and I will be God for them, and they may know that I am the Eternal One their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt to dwell in their midst. I am the Eternal One their God. [Exod. 29:42-46]

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Presenting: The New Bet Alef Worship Service Booklet

Rabbi Olivier has compiled a new worship booklet for our Shabbat services.  This booklet will debut and make its inaugural performance at our March 16 Meditative Services at Unity.  We are excited to give you a sneak peak (see below) of this booklet.


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