The Little Oasis

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, April 17, 2020 / 23 Nisan 5780

THROUGH A LENS OF FIRE: Hasidic Insights on the Torah
will return on Wednesday April 15th at 12:30 pm. Please check the CNS calendar for the Zoom link.


As we prepare to enter back into “chag,” it seems the to-do list outstrips the time-to-do. So, apropos of The Little Prince, which one of my boys was recently reading, and the Little Planet from which he came, here is a “Little Oasis.” After the holidays end, I will return to the regular format that includes a summary and questions for the Shabbat table.

First, I want to alert you to this week’s upcoming Unity Shabbat. As context, there are so many creative efforts underway to provide a sense of connection when our bodies must be apart but our spirits are not. Unity Shabbat is part of that wave of connection sweeping the nation. The idea is simple. Our Portland Jewish community will all gather, via Zoom, to light the Shabbat candles together at 7:10 pm on April 17th. As a community, we are hoping to set a world record—namely the largest number of participants in a virtual Shabbat candle lighting ritual. Since we are hardly the largest Jewish community in the country, I hope that you will sign up. Regardless of any records we may break, it’s a sweet opportunity for us to share a moment of kedusha, of holiness with one another.

Preregistration is required. Here is the Unity Shabbat link:

Omer Project at CNS

On the second night of Passover, and for the following seven weeks, Jews find themselves in the period known as the Omer. We recite a blessing each night which includes the countdown of days and weeks that connect the festivals of Passover and Shavuot.

Over the generations, many different templates have been created to mark this period. At its oldest layer, this ritual hearkens back to our early agrarian days during which farmers expectantly waited to bring an offering of new grain to the Temple of old. In later days, the medieval Jewish mystics viewed this block of weeks as possessing different God-like qualities. By focusing our counting on those qualities, such as Chesed or Kindness, they created a self-reflective practice by which we could consider how well we were embodying these divine aspects.

More recently, contemporary Jews have asked a simpler question (about things that count) that can provoke answers that are anything but simplistic. Our congregation, through the efforts of Foundation School and ALIYAH, will have the opportunity to address a different question of things that count. You can respond to the weekly question by texting, or submitting pictures or videos. Please take a moment to thank Rabbi Eve, Mel Berwin and Leah Conley for their efforts in creating this project.

You can follow it on our Neveh Shalom Facebook page, and mark your submissions with the hashtag #CNSCOUNTS2020.

This week’s question is: what counts as learning? What have you learned during this time of social distancing?

Crow Bat Mitzvah

This Shabbat, we are celebrating with Lily Crow as she becomes a bat mitzvah. And we are celebrating a bit differently. After reaching out to all of our b’nei mitzvah families whose celebrations are impacted by the Coronavirus, we developed a number of options to mark the occasion when our teens become full adult members of the Jewish community, and, speaking of the Omer project, count as part of a minyan. Many families have chosen to delay the ceremony until we are permitted to gather in groups again. Others have submitted recordings.

Lily’s celebration marks a third option that was developed in conversation with the synagogue leadership, including our president Jason Kaufman, and after careful discussion with our synagogue’s infection disease consultant, Dr. Lynne Strassfeld.

Lily will join clergy on Saturday morning with only her immediate family in attendance. Her family will sit in the very last row of Stampfer Chapel; when it is her turn to lead, Cantor Bitton will leave his podium (amud) having ensured it is hygienic and clean. Lily will then conclude the service, leading some prayers and sharing with us some words of Torah. In this way, she will be able to celebrate her coming of age while also ensuring that a safe social distance of at least nine feet is maintained.

As with all matters Corona-related, all practices are provisional, based of course on each person’s well-being. In addition, CNS remains committed to following all state and national guidelines as well as best practices per our medical experts. Those are evolving, and we will continue to adjust quickly to all such guidelines and laws. Please look for an additional message about this after Passover.

Mazal tov to Lily and her family!

In the meantime, let me wish you all a meaningful conclusion to Pesach,

Rav D

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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