View this email in your browser

Temple Beth El of City Island
"Your Shul by the Sea"

Zooming into the Week Ahead 

Mystic Mondays • Ethics • Psalm Writing
Yoga • T'ai Chi • Meditation • Evening Practice
Soul Spa: A Torah for Now

March 22 - 28, 2020
26 Adar - 3 Nissan 5780

In This Week's Dispatch

Schedule Snapshot
Session Descriptions
Spiritual and Cultural Resources
Zoom Tips & Tech Support

Planning Ahead: TBE Book Club
Rabbi David's Message: "The Spirituality of Melting Down"

Dear TBE Members and Friends:

As Corona Week 2 begins, TBE is "Zooming" into more spiritual and social offerings for this time.

Read this newsletter to learn about our offerings for every day of the week – embodied spirituality, learning, prayer, social gatherings and more 
– almost all of them in TBE's very own Zoom room:

• Video and Audio:
• Audio (phone) only:     646.568.7788 x347.646.6955

At the end of this newsletter is a message from R. David about the spirituality of this time.

Please thank TBE's growing team of teachers and facilitators, who are stepping forward to share their gifts: Barbara Gold, Daniella Haney, Tenzin Pelyang and Avra Tietze, and our service leaders Bob Berent, Shari BerkowitzStu Goldstein, Leslie Lichtman-Berland and Monty Renov. We also debut a special weekly class with R. Rachel Barenblat, and expanded offerings from R. David – all free for TBE members.

Our ancestors navigated adversity, and so will we. Even if we may feel like parts of our world are melting down, we're still the little shul that could. All the more so now: with your help, we'll do it together. See you online!



Offerings will be in TBE's new Zoom room except as noted.  
Click here for a larger version of schedule.
Read below for session descriptions.




The Zoom room will open 10 minutes before each offerings, which will begin and end on time. If you arrive late, thank you for entering on "mute."  

Embodied Spirituality

EVENING PRACTICE (Patreesha Daniella Haney)
7:30pm Sundays & Thursdays

We'll use Jewish and world wisdoms to de-stress body and spirit for evening wind-down and gentle sleep. Come with intention to cleanse and purify.

YOGA MONDAYS (Patreesha Daniella Haney)
7:30pm Mondays

TBE's gentle yoga and yogic breathing sessions continue online. Suitable for all: no experience necessary. Participants must have a signed consent on file.

MORNING MEDITATION (Tenzin Pelyang & Barbara Gold)
10:00am Tuesdays & Fridays

Come f
or spiritually nourishing journeys of consciousness. Suitable for all: no experience necessary. Please take session in a quiet and comfortable location.

QI BY THE SEA (Avra Tietze)
10:00am Wednesdays

TBE's gentle T'ai Chi / Qi Gong sessions continue online. Suitable for all: no experience necessary. Participants must have a signed consent on file.

Learning for Heart, Mind & Soul

2:00pm Mondays

We'll survey core tools and texts of Kabbalah (Jewish mystical tradition) to harvest the spiritual potency of these upside-down days of challenge. We'll start with a high journey into the Jewish sefirot of transcendence, including one that really is called corona.

2:00pm Wednesdays

TBE's service leader teams will explore the sources, texts and deep meanings of the liturgies of Kabbalah Shabbat and ma'ariv. (Limited to service leaders only.)

2:00pm Thursdays

Pirkei Avot is Judaism's ancient wisdom text for ethical living, written during a period of crisis and upheaval. We'll hear its words echo in our own moment of challenge. (There's no overlap if you completed TBE's Pirkei Avot series: join us again!)

2:00pm Fridays

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat (Velveteen Rabbi), spiritual poet and blogger, will teach on writing psalms – what they are, how they enliven the heart, and how we can add our own voices to tradition's tapestry. Sessions will include guided writing exercises and frameworks for writing our own psalms. This offering will be in her synagogue's Zoom room:

• Video and Audio
• Audio only: 646.568.7788 x679.820.498


Shabbat: Our Day of Soul

KABBALAT SHABBAT (R. David & TBE Service Leaders)
7:30pm Fridays

Join us for a musical welcome to Shabbat. Have our regular Friday evening siddur (prayerbook), candles, wine/juice and challah/bread. In honor of our Passover journey, R. David will lead Kabbalat Shabbat services until April 17.

10:00am Saturdays

R. David offers a weekly
Shabbat-themed journey into parshat ha-shavua (the weekly Torah portion). We'll surf the Book of Leviticus and its ancient rites of transforming spiritual states – a timely calling for this moment. 

7:30pm Saturdays

Bring the light of your soul as we send Shabbat out and welcome the week ahead. Each week will offer a social justice opportunity for tzedakah to power our prayers. If you have a talent you wish to share – a song, poem, or reading – here's a chance!

Social Connections

10:00am Mondays & Thursdays

2:00pm Sundays & Tuesdays

It's open time with R. David for anyone who wants to drop in, connect, ask anything, etc. (Now's a great time to ask the question you always wanted to ask.) For matters that feel confidential, please email R. David to make an appointment.

12:00pm Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays

TBE's Zoom room will be open for anyone who wants to hang out for midday greetings. Bring lunch and connect with neighbors, friends and colleagues. 

5:00pm Sundays, Tuesdays & Thursdays

TBE's Zoom room will be open for anyone who wants to hang out on the far end of a long day. Bring a beverage and connect with neighbors, friends and colleagues. 


Spiritual & Cultural Resources

As unprecedented as this challenging time is for everyone, also unprecedented is the breadth and quality of online connectivity.

Disconnected as we all sometimes may feel, each day brings more and more spiritual resources that we can tap into for connection, learning and nourishment.  
Knowing that online opportunities are endless, here are just a few that you might want to explore:

R. David also is available to meet with you. Come online during "drop-in" hours, or make an appointment for private phone/video session. You can reach him:

Phone:           914.552.9219
Facebook:     @davidevanmarkus


Zoom Tips & Tech Support

If you're totally new to Zoom... Here's a brief online video to help orient you to Zoom.
Note the Zoom change. Please discard all prior Zoom links and connection instructions. All online gatherings (other than R. Rachel's class on Psalms) will be in TBE's new Zoom room:

• Video and Audio:
• Audio (phone) only:     646.568.7788 x347.646.6955

Tech support.  TBE assembled a cohort of volunteers to help with Zoom. If you have a technical issue with Zoom, email us at or call us at 718.885.3090. Please remember that tech support is not available from session facilitators or service leaders. If you encounter a connection issue before or during an online offering, please dial in by phone.

Arrive early.  Our offerings begin and end on time. Zoom rooms will open 10 minutes early to help acclimate.

Treat time and place as sacred.  Online gatherings can be as sacred as we make them. Come online as if you're coming to shul. Please be in a quiet place without outside disruption: it'll make all the difference to you and others.

Turn on your cameras.  Our first week on Zoom taught us a few things: online community connections can be real and nourishing, and they're most real and nourishing if everyone turns on their cameras. The more we treat our gatherings like the "real" gatherings they are, the more they will feel that way to everyone. Thanks for being a good Zoom citizen!

Join sessions on mute.  As you enter TBE Zoom spaces, please mute computers and phones. There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to speak freely.


Planning Ahead: TBE Book Club

Even in these times, we still can plan ahead.

TBE's "Books and Bagels" Book Club is still scheduled to launch Sunday, April 19 at 12:00pm (though we may need to ask everyone to bring their own bagels). We'll be discussing
Wounds Into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma by Rabbi Dr. Tirzah Firestone.

Order the book via the above link or any online book seller.

Interestingly, while the recommendation for this book comes from TBE's Task Force on Antisemitism and Spiritual Response, its theme is repeated in one of our spiritual resources for reading about Jewish response to the pandemic. As Jewish Preparation for the Pandemic notes, Jewish experience navigating and responding to crisis has given Jewish life a rich and diverse toolkit for this moment of challenge. 

Reading about our collective past and its impact on our collective present, we can use those spiritual tools for healing and wholeness, for today and tomorrow.




These are times that try our souls. Nobody needs me to say so. This truth is becoming even more glaringly obvious with each passing day.

What began in disbelief, perhaps as a bad dystopic dream, has become undeniably real – and we're all affected in our own ways. The first days brought an adrenaline rush or perhaps a surreal novelty, along with fervent hope that worrisome public health projections were overblown.

That first phase is ending. 

As our region and country drag into this second week of corona crisis, the reality of a long-duration history-shaping experience is starting to sink in. As we absorb that reality, we're starting to see signs of meltdown.

What do we see? At the individual level, initial reactions to the crisis are melting away: people are even using words like meltdown to describe what they feel. Collectively, governments and economies are melting from structures of decades if not generations. 

For some, the first response has been positivity, strength, determination, focus, resilience or defiance. For some, the first response is to feel impatient, irritable, angry, worried, scared or numb. Odds are that you feel a jumble of impulses shifting within: me, too. We might adapt by reaching for routine, familiar comforts, familiar vices or reserves of strength.

Whatever anyone's first feelings and initial responses to the corona crisis, odds are that you or someone you love is starting to melt past those first responses. If that describes you, whether now or in the days ahead, know that you're not "doing it wrong." To the contrary, you're on a path that spiritual tradition knows very well.

Meltdown is part of spiritual life. From ancient Israelite civilization's Bronze Age and Iron Age foundations, our ancestors used the metaphor of melting down metal to describe one of our fundamental relationships with the One we call God. In this metaphor, the soul is like metal, and God is like the metal worker who uses heat to refine and transform us.

With today's eyes, I see the Bible's "melting down" metaphor repeating in our sacred texts. It's in Isaiah 48 and Proverbs 17, Jeremiah 9 and Malachi 3, Psalms 66 and Zechariah 13. Words attributed to different prophets and leaders, in different parts of Bible in different centuries and situations, similarly depict God like the smelter, the refiner's fire melting us down.

Some might read these texts to depict a God of fury or punishment, as proof that the corona virus is a divine punishment. Well-meaning sages wrote that about the 1300s black death (bubonic plague outbreak): anything so big and seemingly un-natural had to be holy punishment. More recently, similar ideas attributed divine punishment to the late 20th century AIDS crisis, deadly hurricanes, and the 9/11 attacks.

That's not my theology. I don't believe that "God did this" as "punishment" – though this moment certainly has much to teach about how truly connected we all are. We must learn those lessons.

Rather, I receive these sacred texts as teaching core truths about the soul and spiritual life that tend to be revealed during times of challenge that try our souls.

To me, the One we call God is a loving power of transformation. That's the Name that Moses heard at the burning bush: Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh / "I will be what I will be" – Ever Becomingness, the Power that Transforms. Our desert ancestors followed that divine pillar of fire wherever it led them, through many dark nights, finally to the Land of Promise.

God as refiner's fire, burning bush, pillar of fire – all metaphors for an enduring foreverness that can light any darkness. And as Viktor Frankl wrote, what gives light must endure burning.

Us, too. We who are made in the divine image shine inherently: that's what spirit does. Even if our light is concealed behind layers, the light is still there. Into all life – as individuals, and as groups small and large – come times that melt away those layers and even transform our core. The spiritual alchemy of meltdown reveals anew the radiant essence.

This holy transformation might be slow or swift, smooth or jarring, but one common adjective – then and now – is that it can feel like melting down.

Meltdown is not fun. It can so scramble us that we might feel like we don't fully know who we are. If we could interview a caterpillar inside a chrysalis, it might have a tough time describing what it feels like to melt down, because it's melting down into mush. It might not know that the mush is Becoming a butterfly.

The corona crisis will challenge us, maybe to our core. As we move into Week 2 and absorb the realities of long-duration uncertainty, we ourselves may feel like we're changing, even like parts of our lives are melting. Our usual ways of being and coping might melt down, too. They may leave us feeling vulnerable, unmoored, like mush, scrambled, sometimes even unknown to ourselves.

During spiritual meltdown, it's normal to feel irritable, impatient, afraid or out of sorts – and that's without a pandemic and social distancing, without harrowing news and uncertain times. Lots of emotions may come, perhaps quickly. Some of us may lock down and go numb. It's all part of it.

So, spiritually speaking, what to do?

First, know that you're not "doing it wrong." If meltdown moments come, know them for what they are. Know that your feelings fit these times. Know that our spiritual ancestors knew these kinds of experiences and described them much as we're describing them now. Know that there's continuity and familiarity in that, even if this moment feels immense and unprecedented to us.

Second, know that other people are feeling it, too. Know that others might be feeling any or all of the emotions of meltdown. Know that people's reactivity and your own may bounce off each other like pinballs. Knowing that others might feel as you do, let yourself feel kindness, patience and compassion – and let others feel kindness, patience and compassion for you.

Third, dedicate this time, and any inner sense of meltdown, to this process of spiritual alchemy. Intend that our meltdown be to reveal our clearest and brightest light in partnership with the Source of Light. Dedicate this time to learning and becoming – for yourself, your loved ones and community. 

Fourth, take good care of your bodies – the physical vessels for heart, mind and soul. Eat well. Exercise. Get fresh air safely. Use the physical flow of time, light hours and dark hours, to help structure your days to keep the physical body resilient.

Fifth, reach out. I'm here for you. We're here for each other. Nobody must travel this path alone.

If there's magic here, it's not a magic that I or anyone can manufacture. In so many ways, now more than ever, we truly are together and connected by shared experience and shared essential humanity. There's magic in that. There's also magic in the spiritual alchemy of meltdown – in our choice to name it, claim it and use it wisely.

That's what our ancestors did. That's the path that our sacred texts and traditions map for us. Especially now, let's travel that sacred path together. 

Copyright © 2020 Temple Beth-El of City Island, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp