Entries by Rachel Barenblat

Using stones for Yizkor

This ritual seeks to connect the Yizkor prayers, recited four times a year, with an embodied experience of memory and connection. The only required element is a basket of stones — smooth river-washed stones are available at landscaping supply stores — which are handed out during the service. The central act is placing the stones […]

Everyone Needs a Break

  Part of a yearlong Torah series on building and builders in Jewish spiritual life.   This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, begins with a set of instructions for when we enter the Land of Promise. Torah tells us to take our first fruits to a special place, tell a ritualized story, articulate gratitude for […]

Every Building Needs a Fence 

  Part of a yearlong Torah series on building and builders in Jewish spiritual life.   In Ki Tetze, Torah says, “When you build a new house, make a railing for your upper story, so that blood-guilt not be held against your house should somebody fall from it.” (Deut. 22:8) What a powerful building instruction: […]

Building Communal Resistance for Elul

Part of a yearlong Torah series on building and builders in Jewish spiritual life.   Resist so that you may exist. This is the charge that the Torah provides (Deuteronomy 16:20) as an introduction to communal living in the Land of Israel. The statutes that follow demand that we end apathy towards injustice. We must […]

Giving is Who We Are

Part of a yearlong Torah series about building and builders in Jewish spiritual life. When I was a kid, I loved watching my grandmother. After each visit to the doctor, when she got good news, she’d put a dollar in the pushkah (tzedakah box). Her joy in that ritual was contagious. I felt so good […]

The Torah of Ikea

  Part of a yearlong Toah series on building and builders in Jewish spiritual life.    I’m a stereotype. Like many people (and especially some men), I have an aversion to following written instructions. I tend to believe that I can figure things out and build things all on my own instinct and intuition. Ikea […]

Building God’s Home Within

  Part of a yearlong Torah series about building and builders in Jewish spiritual life.   I live in a new neighborhood that still is under construction. It had been a neglected golf course, and a developer decided to turn it into houses. My street is an odd assortment of new homes filled with nice […]

Dvarim’s Building Lessons

  Part of a yearlong Torah series on spiritual building and builders in Jewish life.   The book of Deuteronomy begins with a retelling of the story of everything that’s unfolded since the children of Israel left Egypt and began their wilderness wandering. Moshe recounts the last forty years to the children of Israel as […]

Lamentations (Then and Now)

  This responsive reading is intended for congregational use during Tisha b’Av. Most of these words come directly from refugee testimonies (citations below). They have been shaped into the form of a prayer, but have not otherwise been edited in any way. The indented lines are from the book of Eicha / Lamentations.  In reciting […]