Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Public Service Announcement

From an amazing Jewish organization that I have worked for and support! Somewhat risque, but hilarious and for a great cause.

A PSA from the American Jewish World Service

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shalom Sesame Returns!

Some of my earliest Jewish memories revolve around watching Shalom Sesame tapes (VHS) -- they were a Hanukkah gift from my mom. I still have those videos and love them. Now there is a new generation of Shalom Sesame and you can get a sneak peak. Through the hard work of one of my classmates, Charlie Schwartz, there is a wonderful website called Media Midrash that provides access to hundreds of videos with curricular content. I encourage all of you to enjoy!

Click Here for some clips from the New Shalom Sesame!

Access Texts!

Couldn't make it to one of my teachings or want to look back at something we learned together?

Visit this site to look at my previous text studies and presentations.

Always feel free to email me at raisaacs@jtsa.edu with further questions or comments.

Planning Ahead: Dates for December Visit

I will be in Waterville December 2-5th. My visit will be full of Hanukkah related events for people of all ages. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Schedule for November Visit: Nov 4-7

My next visit is coming up soon!

Thursday, November 4, 2010, 6:30 pm

Dinner with Rabbi Isaacs at Colby College, Dana Dining Hall

Friday, November 5, 2010, 9:00 am

Friday Morning Minyan in the Colby Hillel Office

Friday November 5, 2010, 6:00 pm

Potluck Dinner at Beth Israel Congregation

Friday, November 5, 2010, 7:00 pm

Friday Night Services at Beth Israel Congregation

Saturday, November 6, 2010, 10:00 am

Saturday Morning Service


If you're interested in meeting with me privately or suggesting other programming, always feel free to be in contact at raisaacs@jtsa.edu or risaacs@colby.edu

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Special Love Story: Thoughts on Chayyai Sarah

Often when we think of love stories in the Bible, we assume that marriages were arranged, loveless, and purely commercial and reproductive. However, the love story of Rebecca and Isaac defies the stereotypes. While Abraham's servant does find Rebecca for Isaac, she consents freely to follow him for the sake of marrying Isaac. Moreover, there is a gorgeous scene at the end of the portion that highlights the humanity of their relationship. According to the midrash, not only did Isaac lose his mother Sarah, but Rebecca had also lost her father. We know this, the rabbis say, because only her mother and brother consented to her leaving and blessed her upon her exit. Isaac and Rebecca completed each other in a very profound way. Through their love, they do not replace their parents, but they help each other in the process of healing and creating a new family to call home. Even though it is rare that the Bible tells us about the emotions and inner thoughts of characters, the portion ends with this line:

סז וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק, הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי-לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה, וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ; וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק, אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ.

"And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebecca, and she became his wife; and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted after/for his mother." Genesis 24:67

We can never replace another human being. However, our relationships always have the potential to be sources of comfort, healing, and vitality. This week, let us think about how we can play these roles for one another. We can and must seek to complete each other through love and compassion for stronger families and communities. It is a beautiful lesson from our sacred text and an example we should strive to follow.

Israeli Song of the Week: Through Foreign Eyes

Often as the days become shorter and the year gets under way, we need a little encouragement. The song, Eineim Zarot by Rona Kenan has always provided me with solace. One of the lines in the chorus is ani lo afsik leirtzot I will not stop desiring. This is a great song to keep us going when we are ready to run out of gas. And it is gorgeous.

Through Foreign Eyes

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Schedule for October Visit -- October 21-24

Thursday, October 21st 6:30 pm
Book Group
We will be discussing the classic book As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg. It is a tale about a young rabbi torn between his love of Greek literature and Jewish law. It is one of my favorite books of all time. Contact the synagogue office for location and further details.

Thursday, October 21, 8:00 pm

Queer Spirituality: Judaism and Gay and Lesbian Issues

Integrating contemporary news and classical texts, Rabbi Isaacs will be discussing gay and lesbian issues in the context of Jewish law, literature, and culture. Location: The Pugh Atrium at Colby College

Friday, October 22, 9:00 am

Morning Minyan in the Hillel Office

Please join Rabbi Isaacs to learn about weekday prayer and daven (pray) Shaharit (the morning service.) Services will be followed by some learning with Rabbi Isaacs and breakfast in the spa.

Friday, October 22nd 5:30 pm

Candle Lighting

Come for Candle lighting on the Bridge in the Pugh Center. In addition to Shabbat blessings, we will be singing and doing some learning.

Friday, October 22nd, 6:00 pm

Pot luck dinner at Beth Israel Congregation

Friday, October 22nd, 7:00 pm

Shabbat Evening Services

Saturday, October 23rd, 10:00 am

Shabbat Morning Services

Sunday, October 24th

Hillel's Annual Parent's Weekend Bagel Brunch Location and Time TBD.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Finding Light in Dark Places

Many of us have heard about the recent tragedy of a Rutgers student who killed himself after being outed online. One in three teen suicides is committed by a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered kid. It is essential that as a Jewish community, we provide support and guidance for all of our teens, and especially those struggling with their identity. Moreover, whenever we witness bullying, we must step in and protect our kids. Too long we have allowed this kind of abuse either because we do not take it seriously or because our homophobia prevents us from taking appropriate action. This week's portion is about making light for ourselves and those we love during our darkest, stormiest, and most isolated times. I encourage our community to sign this pledge with Keshet, a Boston-based organization committed to creating a more inclusive and just Jewish community.

Sign Here and Learn More About How We can Create an Inclusive Community

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Israeli Song for the Season

Ivri Lider, one of the biggest names in Israeli music, covered a song called "Bo" ("Come") for the movie Yossi and Jagger. It is a song about coming out of the shadows and into a space of honesty, light, and happiness. When thinking of a something meaningful to share for this time of year, this iconic song came to my mind.

Click Here for Music Video

Making Light for Ourselves

This past weekend, summer instantly disappeared. The weather dropped twenty degrees over night and the sky darkened dramatically. It seems appropriate that we read Parashat Noah this time of year. A rich and perplexing verse is found in this portion. God tells Noah, "A LIGHT (ZOHAR) YOU SHALL MAKE FOR THE ARK." When trying to figure out what the word "Zohar" meant, the rabbis had the following discussion in Genesis Rabbah , a compilation of sacred stories about the Torah:

R. Hunia and R. Phinehas, R. Hanan and R. Hoshaia could not explain [the meaning of ZOHAR]; R. Abba b. Kahana and R. Levi did explain it. R. Abba b. Kahana said: It means a skylight; R. Levi said: A precious stone. R. Phinehas said in R. Levi's name: During the whole twelve months that Noah was in the Ark he did not require the light of the sun by day or the light of the moon by night, but he had a polished gem which he hung up: when it was dim he knew that it was day, and when it shone he knew that it was night. R. Huna said: Once we were taking refuge from [Roman] troops in the caves of Tiberias. We had lamps with us: when they were dim we knew that it was day, and when they shone brightly we knew that it was night.

In order to make it through long journeys, we must all make lights for ourselves. We cannot always rely on others to provide us with this illumination. Rather, we need to prepare ourselves before we endeavor in the dark. We need to find the skylights, precious stones, and torches in our lives to give us the direction and comfort necessary to weather the storm.

Taking Joy in Torah

My past visit to Waterville was full of richness and joy. On Thursday morning, Cantor Deb led us in beautiful and moving song for our observance of Shemini Atzeret, praying for Israel and remembering those we love who have passed on. We had a blast on Thursday night making caramel apples, enjoying chocolate from Israel, reading stories, dancing, singing, and learning more about the Torah. Finally, on Friday night candle lighting at Colby College drew in a great crowd. Friday night at Beth Israel Congregation also was filled with great homemade food and moving prayer. It was inspiring to see so much energy in both Waterville Jewish communities and I'm looking forward to my next visit October 21-24th.