From the Rabbi

Elul – A Month of Reflection: A Note from Rabbi Barbara

elulToday marks the first day of the month of Elul, the month of reflection.  The shofar is sounded every morning. And so, we begin waking up to ourselves and our souls again.
(I hope you hear our shofar, but if you can’t hear the one being blown in Concord, try here: )

Over the next four weeks, we can begin this process by considering each of the following sets of relationships in turn:

Relationships with family
Relationships with friends
Relationships with workplace colleagues and members of our various communities
Relationships with the earth and the Divine

And of each we might ask the following questions:

  1. How have I added to peace in my home, in my workplace, in my community, on the earth, to my own spiritual connections?
  2. How, in the last year, have I supported and nourished the well-being of beloved family members, friends, colleagues, the earth, and the Holy One of Blessing?
  3. How have I experienced grace of understanding in my home, in my workplace, in my community, on the earth, with the Divine?
  4. In what ways have I increased love in my home, in my workplace, in my community, on the earth, in and with my own spiritual connections?And then we might say, each morning:

    May I be blessed with peace.
    May I be blessed with well-being.
    May I be blessed with grace.
    May I be blessed with love.

    We might wish these things for beloved family members, friends, colleagues, the earth, and even the Holy One of Blessing:

    May you be blessed with peace.
    May you be blessed with well-being.
    May you be blessed with grace.
    May you be blessed with love.

    We might close our practice with this prayer to the Holy One on behalf of beloved family, friends, colleagues, and the earth itself.

    May all beings be blessed with peace.
    May all beings be blessed with well-being.
    May all beings be blessed with grace.
    May all beings be blessed with love.

    May your Elul be filled with nourishment of body, soul, and spirit.

On Healthy Habitats…. From Rabbi Barbara

birdhousesHousing the Wild… Our February 21 Tikkun Olam Project

Dear all,

TOO has a very special tikkun olam habitat program which begins this weekend, from 10am – 4pm.

Part 1: Building bird houses as part of the NC Wildlife Federation’s Island Habitat Program.  We will be building these in the warehouse of Sun Drop Bottling Co. of Concord.

Part 2: In March we’ll be putting up those birdhouses on a small island space in our area.

As a community, we’ve spoken many times about the need to connect and reconnect with the world around us; please consider setting aside some time to get together with V.P. Will King and other volunteers this Sunday to build safe havens for North Carolina’s avian wildlife.  We’d love to see you there!

The warehouse is heated but can still be fairly cool, though nowhere near as cold as it may be outside, so dress in layers! There are tools and materials available for this project.  If you have a favorite hammer or pair of gloves feel free to bring them.  Do please come dressed in work attire, example being; jeans, t-shirt, sweat shirt, work shoes/boots.  Snack items and food for lunch will be provided, but feel free to bring something to eat if you like.  Please let Will King know if you are planning to attend at

Date: February 21
Time: 10 am- 4 pm
Location: Sun Drop Bottling Co warehouse: 360 Old Salisbury-Concord Rd. Concord, NC 28025.  Located on the corner of Hwy 3 and Old Salisbury-Concord Rd., not too far from Historic Downtown Concord.

Best to all,

Rabbi Barbara

Hanukkah-gram, Day 8 – From Rabbi Barbara (Featuring TOO’s Hannukah Waddya Know)

HanukkiahsLast night’s Hanukkah party featured, along with songs, jokes, and a community craft, some truly awesome food. And then, a game of Hanukkah Waddya Know.

Tables competed with each other for the best answers to a minyan of questions.

When asked to name a popular Hanukkah song, one table invented one, using the melody of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” Their version: “All about the nes, ‘bout the nes, no oy…’ll.” (Nes is the Hebrew word for “miracle.”)  Of course, we should have expected it: Our percussionist drily accused this group of being nes-sayers.

You may want to read the winning table’s answers, though, because they are downright hilarious.  You can find them here at “Hanukka Waddya Know at TOO:

Folks, if you missed this event, don’t miss Purim.  One can only begin to imagine what kinds of answers we’ll get then…!

Hag sameach, and blessings of light to you all,

Rabbi Barbara

Hanukkah-gram, Day 7 – From Rabbi Barbara

Day 7 Hanukkah betterAccording to Jewish law (halakha), it is obligatory to light candles, and one should even borrow money to fulfill this mitzvah. If a poor person needs money for Hanukkah candles the community is obligated to provide for him.

We might, this year, spend some time during Hanukkah consider who among us needs candles.  Can we help to pay an electric bill, provide a meal, support a homeless shelter, fund an organization that helps refugees?  In what way can each of us “light a candle” in answer to real human needs?

Hag sameach,

Rabbi Barbara

P.S After Shabbat, recite Havdalah, then light the Hanukkah candles and make the light last!

Hanukkah-gram, Day 6 – From Rabbi Barbara

Day 5 Hanukkah Even BetterThe Rambam had something to say about priorities. (The Rambam is the same dude who goes by the challenging name of Maimonides.)  Maimonides was a 12th century Jewish philosopher and physician who wrote, among many other things, The Guide for the Perplexed. And who isn’t?

So what did he have to say?  If you must choose between spending money on Kiddush wine and lights for Hanukkia, the latter wins.  Those tender, tiny flames are important to our celebration.

They remind us of our own fragility of course.  They remind us of the fragility of all things.

May you all experience the sweetness of Shabbat joined by the tenderness of Hanukkah; may their be rest, light, and comfort.

Hag sameach!

Rabbi Barbara

P.S. Hanukah candles should be lit before the Shabbat candle-lighting time so that we are not working, as it were, after Shabbat begins….  🙂

Hanukkah-gram, Day 5 – From Rabbi Barbara

Day 5 Hanukkah betterWhat’s in a word?
חנה  to settle oneself, to rest
Assiya: Body, making, settling the candles in the Hanukiah

חֲנֻכָּה  dedication, consecration
Yetzira: Heart, forming.  Recite the blessings, light the candles.

חנך   to learn, to make experienced
Briyah: Mind, knowing.  What do you see, recall, know, experience in the flickering of the flames?

חֵן   grace
Atzilut: Emanation, being.  What is the revelation from your consecration of light and love?

Hag sameach!

Rabbi Barbara

Hanukkah-gram, Day 4 – From Rabbi Barbara

Day 4 HanukkahDuring Sukkot, the last of our harvest celebrations, we begin to pray for rain.  Until Pesach, our Amidah prayers will continue to ask for rain.  Why?

Because there are no great sources of water in Israel, harvests depended on the rainfall.  Drought was an ever-present threat to our ancestors.  Water remains at a premium in the region.

Hanukkah is, in turn, focuses on the light.  Light sustains us, light nourishes us.  Spiritually, psychically, emotionally, we crave the light that surrounds us in moments of wisdom, awareness, and strength.

As the candles increase in number, as flames flickering side by side, you might want to ask yourself: What is the kind of light I long for in the days to come?

Hag sameach!

Rabbi Barbara


Hanukkah-gram, Day 3 – From Rabbi Barbara

Day 3 HanukkahDid you know that the rabbis insist that even if all other festivals were annulled, Hanukkah and Purim would still remain?  Why?  Because Israel merited these festivals; the others were simply given to them.

How do some communities make what they have merited extend even further?  Sephardi communities in Yerushalayim arrange for joint meals to be arranged during the Festival of Light. Friends who quarreled during the year are reconciled at shared Hanukkah meals.

Hanukkah is about rededication.  May we rededicate ourselves to friends, family, and community — to our charge in the world, and to its healing.

Hag sameach!

Rabbi Barbara

Hanukkah-gram, Day 2 – From Rabbi Barbara

Day 2 Hanukkah betterSometimes, you just have to wonder: There was oil just for one day. Why do we observe eight days of Hanukkah when the burning was, for one day, no miracle at all?

Well, the rabbis have plenty to say about that.  Here are some of their answers:

  1. The first day of the festival commemorates the military victory of the 25th of Kislev when the Jews rested from battle.
  2. The discovery of the jar was, in itself, a miracle.
  3. The discovered oil was divided into eight portions to last the eight days for the production of new oil. Miraculously, the minute portions burned all day long.
  4. After the menorah was filled with all the available oil, the jar remained full (or variations on that theme).
  5. The jar actually absorbed some of the oil so there wasn’t really enough for one full day.
  6. The fact that the Jews did not despair and had enough faith to fulfill the commandment to light the light at all was itself a great miracle.

I wonder: Maybe we celebrate and include that first day because like beginnings can be, all on their own, miraculous.Day 2 Hanukkah

Consider the beginning of life, the beginning of love, the beginning of friendship, the beginning of the day…

Hag sameach!

Rabbi Barbara

Hanukkah-gram, Day 1 – From Rabbi Barbara

Day 1 HanukkahOne of our most beautiful rituals comes at the close of Shabbat, at Havdalah.  During that ritual we hold our hands up to the light of the braided candle and watch for the interplay of light and darkness.  The light casts shadows on our palms, across our fingers: Light and dark merge in our hands.

These same intersections of darkness and light emerge each night of Hanukkah, when we light candles and place our hanukkiahs (Hanukkah menorah) in dark windows.

This year, please take the time to watch the flickering of the candle flames against the sweet, rich darkness.  Sit not with separation and opposition, but with wholeness.  Honoring the interplay and interconnection of all things is necessary to the work of tikkun, of healing.

May you all be blessed on this first night of Hanukkah to stand conscious of the wholeness of the world despite our fractured times.  And may each and every one of you find healing in those tiny, fragile flames of Hanukkah.

Hag sameach,

Rabbi Barbara

P.S. On the first night three brachot, all three blessings are recited. L’hadlik ner shel Chanukah, She’ asa nissim, and Shehecheyanu. .. For a link to these blessings, click here.  On the other nights only the first two blessings are chanted.  Blessings are recited before lighting the candles. Al always, we don’t speak between a blessing and its corresponding action, so after singing, just let the blessing seep in as you light your candles!

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