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Virtual Shabbat Box Archives: December 2022

December 30-31

Bryan Schwartzman reports on the pilgrimage to the South for Jews of African descent who serve as leaders of the Reconstructionist movement. Participants were able to engage in healing work and visit sites imbued with trauma within a Jewish and Black context.

A group of Black people talking in an art gallery

President Joe Biden just signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act protecting the rights of same-sex and interracial couples to marry. Hila Ratzabi marks this historic occasion with a joyful blessing.

Two brides kissing under a chuppah with a rabbi in the background

Though we continue to Zoom across geography, Jessica Moise-Grodsky’s blessing for scheduling a “Zoom Shabbat dinner” with some distant family, which she composed about two years ago in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, remains relevant for us today.

A Black woman on a video call with six other people on a desktop computer

Rabbis Annie Lewis and Yosef Goldman created this ritual to mark the occasion of the first yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of a loved one in one’s home, after sundown on the night of the yahrzeit.

a collection of polished stones, one in the middle with an etching that says Remember

Tiferet Welch’s poem drashes on what she sees to be the essence of this week’s par’shah: The truth-telling of family can be a complicated business.”

A person silhouetted against the sky with their arms outstretched

December 23-24

This year Hanukkah and Kwanza overlap. According to Dr. Tarece Johnson, “these celebrations are an opportunity for us to reconnect with our community and remember the miracles of light, love and hope.”

A young Black family celebrating Kwanzaa and Hanukkah

Rabbi Jessica Lott teaches about the apocryphal story of Judith, a Jewish hero whose story is connected to Hanukkah.

Illustration of the Biblical figure Judith

Rabbi Jill Hammer explains that in North African countries, the seventh night of Hanukah, Judith’s night of triumph, was set aside as Hag haBanot, the “Festival of the Daughters,” which falls on Rosh Hodesh Tevet.

A young child lighting a menorah with 7 candles

Ariel Neshame Lee created this meditation for the eighth night of Hanukkah, when we light eight candles. In Jewish mysticism, the number eight represents pure potentiality, transcendence, infinity.

Abstract image of yellow lights on a dark background

The story of Hanukkah invites us to kindle lights in the darkness, and to overcome despair with hope and action. In this spirit, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum reflects on the extraordinary work of her community, and how it embodies the fundamental connection between spiritual life and social activism.

Podcast cover for Activism

December 16-17

Rabbi Jason Bonder discusses hanukkiyot, the Hanukkah menorah, and shows how to light the candles for the holiday.

Close-up of someone wearing a talit lighting the menorah

Adva Chattler guides you in making a family Hanukkah favorite and cousin to the latke aruk  as a delicious way to remember the miracle of the oil.

Fried vegetable patties

Bryan Schwartzman shows how the entire history of Hanukkah and its observance demonstrates the Reconstructionist understanding that Judaism is “the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people.”

Black and white historical photo of an elderly Jewish man doing a construction project

Maoz Tzur (“Rock of Ages”), is a Hanukkah classic. Rabbi Alan LaPayover demonstrates how a Reconstructionist take on this medieval poem reframes our understanding of the Festival of Lights.

Video still of lit candles

We invite you to recite the Hanukkah blessings, composed by Kolot: The Center for Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies, on at least one night this year using the feminine pronouns for God. Does your sense of the Divine shift?

A young girl with an older woman wearing a kippah

These discussion starters by Solomon Hoffman are as relevant now as they were in 2016. How do we grapple with and respond to this moment in America and more deeply explore each of our own identities?

Glass menorah with red candles against a blue background

Using this Hanukkah folktale, George Kelley explores how sometimes when seeking justice, we need to find how to get out of our own way.

video still of multicolored candles

Cara Hamilton likes to read a poem at the moment the candles go out, a bit of solitude when the lights are gone.

Black and white photo of a menorah

December 9-10

As the days get shorter and darker, Rabbi Janet Madden’s poem anticipates the illumination that will come with the “Festival of Lights.”

Lit candles in a dark space with plant branches

Rabbi Jay Michaelson separates myth from fact and explains why Jacob Frank’s radical philosophy may have been a precursor to how many non-Orthodox Jews relate to the tradition today.

Podcast cover image: The Heretic

This week’s Torah portion, Vayishlah, contains the story of the reconciliation between Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau. Rabbi Lewis Eron teaches how reconciliation goes hand-in-hand with spiritual maturity and emotional growth.

Three Black men in pastel shirts standing close together and laughing

Rabbi Shelia Peltz Weinberg guides us in imagining a star in the sky — warm, soothing light just for you.

Soundcloud cover image of stars in the sky

In this poem, Tiferet Welch has taken some of the mystical meanings of the Hebrew letters of Shir Hashirim, “The Song of Songs,” and written them into stanzas.

Brightly colored Hebrew letters on a dark background

December 2-3

The time of Covid has changed religious communities. And according to the Rev. Katie Day two high-profile events and the rise of antisemitism (and all hate crimes) have transformed our understanding of security. But is it in ways we would rather not have changed?

Letter blocks spelling Stay Safe

In the wake of recent shootings Alden Solovy’s poem is all too timely and relevant again and speaks to our communal grief, anger and exasperation.

lit votive candle in the snow

Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg leads this meditation, which is a good practice anytime that you find yourself stressed, confused or fearful.

Field of wildflowers

From a conversation preceding the holiday of Shavu’ot Rabbis Jeremy Schwartz and Deborah Waxman speak about modern Hebrew poetry and how modern Hebrew poets take apart traditional language and ideas and create something new from ancient building blocks.

Podcast image: Hebrew Poetry

As a nod to our father Jacob, who dreamed a dream of angels, we present this poem by Suzanne Sabransky.

Person sitting on a mountaintop looking out over a mountain range

The Reconstructionist Network

Serving as central organization of the Reconstructionist movement

Training the next generation of groundbreaking rabbis

Modeling respectful conversations on pressing Jewish issues

Curating original, Jewish rituals, and convening Jewish creatives

The Reconstructionist Network