A Night of the Mind, A Night of the Soul

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, March 29, 2019 / 22 Adar Sheni 5779

Tiny House Build Continues

Please stop by the upper parking lot on Sunday from 12-4 and lend a hand as we continuing building a tiny house to help transition someone out of homelessness. No experience necessary and you’ll feel really good taking part in a tangible mitzvah. And no, you don’t need to stay all four hours. Contribute your time as you can.

Summary: This week Rabbi Kosak talks about two upcoming programs.

There’s always so much going on in our community. Some people have even told me it’s too much. But behind all those different programs is a lot of human passion and a deep desire to connect with our congregational family in many different ways.

We all want and need a place in a community, that sense that we belong to something of value. CNS is blessed with a richness of ways to do that. Our hope is that you seek—and find—your path to connection. That’s the promise of synagogue; it’s a mandate CNS tries to live up to, toward which we continue to stretch. I hope during this, our 150th year, you’ll invest some of your heart and mind here and find yourself enriched by our many ways to learn, grow and connect.

Two programs are happening this week that I am grateful to have had a hand in. One is a presentation on epigenetics, a field of science that tracks the ghosts in our souls. The other is a Moth-like evening of story in which young Jewish adults will offer up five minute accounts of the unexpected ways that Israel changed the trajectory of their lives.

An Epigenetic Master

On Wednesday evening, we have the rare opportunity to learn from Dr. Michael K. Skinner as part of our year-long series on Science and Spirituality that Mel Berwin, Ingrid Siegman and I have been working on. With the help of some discretionary fund dollars, we have been able to fly Dr. Skinner in from Washington State University in Pullman Washington.

Dr. Skinner is one of a handful of researchers at the forefront of epigenetic research. This cutting edge science is still coming into its own after initial resistance from other biologists. After all, the basic insight of epigenetics is that some of our traits can be transmitted across generations without those changes being encoded in our genes. Not so long ago, that was practically heresy. But as we are now learning, moments in our lives can ripple to our offspring.

One of the benefits of having Dr. Skinner this Wednesday night (7pm) is as a prelude to Yom HaShoah next month (and which CNS is hosting this year). Part of his research has shown how trauma can be transmitted epigenetically, and he will touch upon the ways that Holocaust survivors have passed on that experience to their children and grandchildren.

In other words, there are ghosts in our souls and minds. In Judaism, we observe the yahrzeit of our relatives. By remembering the anniversary of their death, we keep their memories alive. What epigenetic offers is how we literally “re-member” their bodies and experiences into our bodies. That makes me take pause. We understand so little of how God’s universe operates. Every so often, an unexpected discovery peels off another layer of the divine plan, and we stand in awe at how much mystery will always remain. Occasions of awe like that are without a doubt a form of religious experience.

Matters of the Heart

Then on Thursday night, Israel360 has been partnering with Moishe House to create an evening of storytelling. At least 6 young adults will share short, real life accounts of how Israel changed their lives. These narratives are not the images on the news. They are about more enduring matters, eternal matters, really. They are stories of love and loss and discovery of the self. They are stories of being human.

Our own Brian Rohr, who was a professional story teller a few years before he joined us, provided an evening workshop for those who are participating. I had the opportunity to learn with him and the group and it was really worthwhile as this also gave me the chance to meet some very fine individuals.

I hope you’ll attend this Thursday at 7 pm.

Shabbat shalom,

Rav D

Shabbat Table Talk

  1. What striking character traits have you inherited from family members?
  2. Do you have an Israel story? How did that story impact you?

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.

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