Friday, August 29, 2014

#BlogElul 3: Bless


Lately I've been having a hard time with words of blessing.
They certainly don't trip off my tongue.

How to speak of blessing when it just doesn't seem right?

But then again...how not?

Last year I wrote about finding the blessings within the darkness.

I could not even begin to imagine what the next months would hold for us.

And yet....there are still blessings to be had.

We say "may his memory be for a blessing."

Blessings aren't always about joy, I've come to discover.
Blessings have more depth than that, I think.

It doesn't make the words that much easier to say, though.

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

#BlogElul 2: Act


Actions speak louder than words.
Well done is better than well said. (Ben Franklin)
The shortest answer is doing. (Lord Herbert)
All know the way. Few know how to walk it. (Bodhidharma)
Do not be wise in words, be wise in deeds (Proverb)

If you read all of these quotes, you would think that words are unimportant and that only deeds matter.

And in truth, actions are important. The high holy days ask us to change our actions.

But there's also our words. Words matter. Words are important. What we say and how we say it? These are important and critical parts of how the world works. If we say the wrong words, the bad words, the mean or uncaring words, the hurtful words, the thoughtless words....

Words matter.
Deeds matter.

It all matters.

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#BlogElul 1: Do


And so it begins.
The month of Elul.

People often ask me how to begin to take on religious observances. "I want to feel more connected," they might say.

"Just do it," I will reply.

Isn't that the Jewish way, after all? Na'aseh v'nishma. We will do and we will hear. It's the way that the Israelites accepted the Torah. Do first, understand afterwards.

So often we are consumed by the understanding, and in our modern way, we want to fully "get" it before we do it.

The work of Elul doesn't always work that way. The High Holy Days don't always work that way.

Sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end, feet first, nose pinched tightly, anticipating the initial shocking cold of the water but knowing that it will soon become a second home. Just do it.

I am approaching this month with incredible trepidation. I'm struggling mightily with the themes of the holy days, let me tell you, and I'm dissolving into tears at just the thought of reading some of those words of the liturgy aloud. And yet, here I am. Doing this thing.

I want the whole world to stop this year and announce that the holy days have been cancelled. I'm not ready for them. I can't be ready, I can't have them here.

And how silly that idea is, I know. My practical self tells me how ridiculous it is.

So here I am.
Trying to make something, something, something....from the nothing that threatens to consume me.

Just do it.
Here we go.
Elul, be gentle....

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

#BlogElul and #ElulGram 2014

For the last few years, I've embarked on a project, and invited the social media world to join with me.

#BlogElul and #Elulgram have inspired, informed, and offered a little bit of additional introspection across the internet for the last few years. By popular request, it's back! 


Elul -- that wonderful and terrifying month that precedes the High Holy Days.

A month of introspection and considering, a month of personal reflection and preparation.
Perfect for blogging and other social media... 

What's it all about?

I have made a list of Elul-related topics, and I'm inviting you (yes, you! reader, colleague, friend...anyone with a desire to share ideas about the holidays) to join me.

But I'm not stopping only with blogging. Sure, it's called BlogElul but you can "blog" in any way you like. Maybe it's your daily Facebook update or tweet. Maybe it's your Instagram photos or your FourSquare checkins (can't wait to see how that would work out -- but please try!). Now we have Vine and other quick-video services -- perhaps a daily 6-second video? Maybe you don't want to do it daily. Maybe you just want to dip your toe into the experience, or just read (and share?) what others write. It's totally up to you.


right-click to save this image and use it wherever you blogElul!
I try to keep it simple, as I've done for the last few years. I've provided a topic (somewhat randomly mixed up) for each of the days of the month of Elul...just write a blog post about that topic on the assigned day! Use the hashtag to share your post, even in your title. This might be a great way to kickstart your blog (are you new at it?) and it might be a great way to get yourself ready for the themes and ideas of the holiday! (I plan to use #BlogElul in all my post titles, so that the hashtag is already there.)

And then there's #ElulGram. It's far more open to interpretation! I'm inviting you to post photos related to the same themes as the blogging project. Maybe you're not a writer or you don't have a blog - so take a picture instead! (And don't forget, sharing pictures is not limited to Instagram, but there is also Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr....etc.) Whatever you do, don't forget to tag it with #Elulgram so we can all share.


The themes are totally up for your own interpretation! I tried to think broadly about the general themes of the High Holy Days, and they are totally open to your own interpretations. There are no rules, but feel free to collaborate, cross-post, share thoughts, etc. This year the words are simple verbs -- do with them as you will.


And yes, I know that the dates include Shabbat. I personally don't blog/tweet/Facebook on Shabbat, but I will post after Shabbat is over. That's my custom but you can do whatever you like.) 


Are you going to play along? Let me know! Leave me a comment here, send me a tweet, or send up a signal fire.... Feel free to grab my pretty badge to announce to the whole world that you're Blogging Elul. If you let me know that you're doing it, we can cross-post, or guest-post, or even just do some virtual hand-holding as the days grow closer to Tishrei. I'll try to link to as many posts and pics as I can - won't it be amazing to all share in the Elul journey together? 


I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you.Elul begins on August 27th (it's always on time), so I wanted to give you a head start if you're going to pre-write some of your posts.


I hope that our shared preparation for 5775 brings meaning and hope, inspiration and enlightenment for all of us.

A text-based list of the #blogElul #elulGram topics:

Elul 1: Do
Elul 2: Act
Elul 3: Bless
Elul 4: Accept
Elul 5: Know
Elul 6: Search
Elul 7: Be
Elul 8: Believe
Elul 9: Hear
Elul 10: See
Elul 11: Count
Elul 12: Trust
Elul 13: Forgive
Elul 14: Remember
Elul 15: Learn
Elul 16: Understand
Elul 17: Awaken
Elul 18: Pray
Elul 19: Ask
Elul 20: Judge
Elul 21: Change
Elul 22: Dare
Elul 23: Love
Elul 24: End
Elul 25: Begin
Elul 26: Hope
Elul 27: Intend
Elul 28: Give
Elul 29: Return

Friday, July 4, 2014

Day In The Life: Cabin, Cabin, Cabin TENT!

I'm back at camp, serving on faculty. People always ask me just what it is that I do all day at camp, so  I'm going to try to give you a snapshot of a day in the life of a faculty member at camp. This was yesterday....

7:45am Tefillah (services) -- this morning led by one of the tzrifim (cabins). We also read a little Torah. All in 14.5 minutes! (Followed by breakfast....scrambled eggs!)

8:40am Shira (song session) and my 3rd cup of coffee...

9:00am Limud (learning) -- Our study theme for this group and this session is the "North American Jewish Experience." Our campers are learning about early Jewish immigration to the United States, and they had an Ellis Island simulation a few days ago. Today they were talking about what it was like to make decisions in the "new world" -- decisions about Jewish identity and how they could be both modern Americans and committed Jews.

10:30am  A little work in my "office" (i.e. my room in the Lodge) while the campers were having swim time

11:45am Ivrit (Hebrew) - a lesson about the Hebrew words of camp. Taught thru a modified game of Duck Duck Goose....tzrif tzrif tzrif....OHEL! (cabin, cabin, cabin....TENT!)

12:30pm Faculty Lunch and discussion. Pizza!

1:45pm Menucha (Rest time)


3:00pm walk to drop the chaverim campers (the little ones, our faculty kids) down at the lake for a boat ride with the babysitters


Then work on tomorrow's and later-on-in-the-session programming on my laptop with other segel (faculty) members

5:00pm - Meeting with a tzrif (cabin) to help them prepare to lead tefillot (services) later in the session. 

6:15pm dinner (stir fry!) followed by a quick change into longs-and-longs (long pants and long sleeves) in readiness for tonight's special event

7:00pm All Camp Tefillah followed by an awesome concert with Rabbi Noam Katz:



Then some late night meetings and a little socializing with the other faculty....

11:55pm off to bed so we can start all over again!

Camp is a lot of work and a lot of fun...doing holy work here in this beautiful setting.

Read more about our work at camp over here on the OSRUI blog, with this really nice post from my friend and colleague, Rabbi David Locketz.

Friday, April 4, 2014

#blogExodus: Free


Free of hairbrushes
Free of pony tails
Free of braids
Free of a veil behind which I can hide....



Want to join in? We're sharing #BlogExodus for the next 2 weeks. All you have to do is use the hashtag and there are suggested prompts on the graphic above (feel free to grab it). Maybe you just want to post on your Facebook or Twitter about these topics...or maybe you want to try #Exodusgram, posting photos related to these themes? I'll be posting my #blogExodus posts here, at this blog, my #Exodusgram pictures on my tumblr site, imabima.tumblr.com, and who knows what else!? It's going to be a busy fortnight!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

#blogexodus 2: Tell


We tell our stories. 
That's what we do. 
It's who we are. 
It's why we exist. 
It's as near as breathing. 
People ask how we can share our lives. 
I say....how could we not. 
We tell our stories. 
It was Elie Wiesel who said:
God created humans because God loves stories. 

Want to join in? We're sharing #BlogExodus for the next 2 weeks. All you have to do is use the hashtag and there are suggested prompts on the graphic above (feel free to grab it). Maybe you just want to post on your Facebook or Twitter about these topics...or maybe you want to try #Exodusgram, posting photos related to these themes? I'll be posting my #blogExodus posts here, at this blog, my #Exodusgram pictures on my tumblr site, imabima.tumblr.com, and who knows what else!? It's going to be a busy fortnight!