Beginning Again . . .

“Happy Secular New Year!” I said.

“The secular new year doesn’t mean much to me,” my friend said.  “I feel that I get so much more out of the Jewish New Year.  The secular new year doesn’t really provide anything new.”

“I welcome any opportunity to mark new beginnings,” I said, a little sheepishly, since, after all, I am the rabbi of the two of us.  Oh well.  I’ll take it:  any chance to start anew!

As we begin this new secular year, I have some new ideas that I’d like to launch, and—in a spirit of experimentation that I think is good for Judaism and the Jewish People—see how they fare.

The first was inspired by the conference I attended in December, sponsored by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.  Titled, “Rabbinic Moral Leadership Gathering:  Moral Clarity in Turbulent Times,” the conference drew rabbis from all over the country for just about 30 hours of study sessions, discussions, and small group sharing.  It was time well-spent, and I returned to Seattle renewed and re-invigorated for the justice work that lies ahead.

Inspired by chapters in a book we were given, Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority (edited by Rabbi Seth M. Limmer, DHL, and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner), I’ve decided to look at a number of current issues during the next few months of Torah study; I’ve purchased some additional copies for those of you who would like your own.  Each study session will connect to something in the weekly Torah portion.  See schedule below.  All are welcome and encouraged to participate—even if you are not a regular Torah study participant.

Second, as I continue to wrestle with how to make tefillah (prayer) in general and Shabbat services in particular more engaging and meaningful in this very secular culture in which we live, I’m going to experiment with some different structures and approaches during our Shabbat gatherings.  These will take place primarily on Saturday mornings, but also occasionally on Friday evenings.   The first such alternative Shabbat gathering will take place this Shabbat morning, January 5th.  I hope that you will come and consider staying until the conclusion of the service so we can enjoy Kiddush and Motzi together following services.  We will be done by 12:30 p.m.

Those of you who would like to help think of creative ways to express our Jewish lives and practices are invited to attend the Religious Life Summit on Sunday, January 13th, from 2-5 p.m. at KHN.  We’ll be planning the rest of this year, and even begin to think about next year!

Please let me know if you have questions, ideas, or thoughts.

And . . . Happy Secular New Year!

Rabbi Zari


Torah Study:  Seeking Moral Clarity in Turbulent Times


Saturday, January 5th:             Va’era:  “In Every Generation:  The Obligations of our Exodus”

(Drawing on chapter by Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner)

Saturday, January 19th:          Beshallach:  “Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, and Gender Power Balance

(Drawing on chapter by Rabbi Jill L. Maderer)

Saturday, February 2nd:         Mishpatim:  Mass Incarceration through a Jewish Lens”

(Drawing on the chapter by Hilly Haber)

Saturday, February 16th:       Tetzaveh:  Global Jewish Responsibility:  Putting the Olam in Tikkun Olam

(Drawing on the chapter by Ruth W. Messinger and Rabbi Rick Jacobs)

Saturday, March 2nd:               Vayakel:  “Economic Justice and the Social Safety Net”

(Drawing on the chapter by Rabbi Marla J. Feldman)

Saturday, March 16th:             Vayikra:  “Do Not Separate Yourself from the Community”

(Drawing on the chapter by Rabbi Lynne F. Landsberg, z”l)