A Beautiful Prayer for the High Holiday Season from Rabbi Sarah Bracha Gershuny

It is the eve of Yom Kippur, and I feel I have not done nearly enough – to know my own errors, to resolve the things that pull me out of alignment with my best self, and least of all, to speak with all the people I have come into contact with this year and ask for their forgiveness.
In some cases I know I have been remiss in my behaviour.  In some cases I might not even know.
So here I am apologizing to each of you, in honesty and humility.  Please forgive me for any and all ways I have damaged you this year, whether through something I did or something I did not do.  And please forgive me for resorting to group email.  I wish I could speak with each of you individually.  That is what you deserve.

If I have made you uncomfortable in any way – please forgive me.

If I have been impatient with you – please forgive me.
If I have been presumptuous and arrogant – please forgive me.
If I have been careless with your feelings – please forgive me.
If I have pulled you into error through my own errors – please forgive me.
If I have neglected you when you needed me – please forgive me.
If my speech has harmed you in any way – please forgive me.
As we enter a new year, may we all be blessed by the bottomless source of compassion and pardon.  May we be blessed to forgive ourselves and each other, and to forgive even those we do not know, or who are no longer here that we hold somehow accountable for our suffering.  May we be blessed with complete forgiveness.
And may we, and all those we love, be sealed in the book of life, for a year of compassion and grace, of healing and connection.
Written by Rabbi Sarah Bracha Gershuny

Freedom To Marry

As we prepare for Shabbat, I’m thinking of the two candles I will soon kindle. One for healing, love and comfort for the mourners, families and community of those killed in Charleston. One for love, rejoicing, celebration, freedom, and equality. As I bring in the light of these Shabbat candles into my heart, I send this light out into the world. Shabbat shalom to all.candle-sticks

An amazing day as the Supreme Court of the United States grants the Freedom to Marry for same-sex couples in all states.

Justice Kennedy for the SCOTUS: tumblr_nqk2zqShwa1qfmmkvo1_500

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Rosh Chodesh Sivan: Preparing For Sinai

Last event of the year at University of Maryland Hillel. What a lovely way to end the year with a beautiful, relaxing yoga session with the intention of welcoming Rosh Chodesh Sivan (the New Moon of the Month of Sivan) and to prepare for the holiday of Shavuot. 

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Maryland Hillel Students with Rabbi Sarah Tasman at a special Rosh Chodesh Sivan yoga study break


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Mother’s Day Thoughts

In addition to sending love to all on Mother’s Day, I am also thinking of all those who struggle with this holiday. I do not want to take away from the love and gratitude to moms. But I do want to widen the circle of love and blessings to acknowledge all those who have lost their mothers, mothers who have been bereft of their children, to those who do not have a mother, to chosen mothers and adoptive mothers, and to parents and care givers who wouldn’t call themselves mothers but who do not have a day to be recognized and thanked, and to those struggling to be mothers. I am sure there are all others. And so as always, I am sending love and blessings to all.

Opening one’s self

Rereading this I am reminded why I love teaching yoga, how integral my yoga is to my sense of being a rabbi and educator…especially at this time of year as we prepare for Passover- a time of transformation, moving from confinement to expansiveness, and remembering to breath through challenges.

Opening one’s self to a feeling of inner peace amid the relative intensity of the asana practice — being calm and soft while strong and stable — takes the practice to a deeper level. The breath itself starts to become a mantra in the movement meditation that is asana practice. In this way the practice is one of meditative awareness in which one is more fully consciously attuned to what is happening in the moment. This experiential process — not the religious worship of a deity or insistence on precise form in held poses — is what makes asana practice itself a transformational or spiritual practice. And it is precisely here, in creating a space that encourages the cultivation of clearer awareness that the yoga teacher becomes an awareness facilitator.

Women’s Religious Leadership Panel

Wonderful to participate in the Women’s Religious Leadership Panel at University of Maryland.

Women's Religion Panel

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Women's Religion Panel

Women's Religion Panel

Rev. Kiran Sankhla, Hindu Chaplain at UMCP since 1992 and the first female Hindu chaplain in America.

Irsa Sarkawi, senior Biochemistry major, intern for social change education in the office of Leadership and Community Service Learning and former president of the UMD Muslim Student Association.

Rabbi Sarah Tasman, Senior Jewish Educator for Maryland Hillel since November 2014. She leads a variety of creative Jewish learning opportunities such as Jewish Yoga and 4 Worlds Tu B’shevat Seder.

Rev. Holly Ulmer, Chaplain for United Campus Ministry since 1990. She currently organizes L3: Listen, Learn and Lead, which helps students integrate spirituality with the college experience and a professional future.

Sponsored by Engagement, Memorial Chapel and MICA

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Hazon Rabbis Retreat at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center 

Always wonderful to be at Isabella Freedman. The winter is cold and beautiful, the lake is frozen, and inside its quiet and cozy. The summer hubbub of retreat participants,  farmers, and guests that I usually experience feels like a different time and place from Isabella Freedman in winter.

This year I had the opportunity help plan and teach at the Hazon Rabbis Retreat. The theme, much in line with the mission of Hazon, was creating a healthier and more sustainable rabbinate. An important topic which gently and fully informed the schedule. There was time for learning, praying, meditating, art making, eating, resting, yoga, massages and conversations by the fire. The diverse group came together from all over and it was small enough to really talk with everyone. It was a real retreat. 

I was asked to offer yoga and I led two sessions in the late afternoon on Tuesday and Wednesday. One was a slow flow Kripalu yoga class infused with kavannot (intentions) for rest, rejuvenation, shabbat, breath and light. The candlelit restorative class included a guided meditation on chochmat lev (wisdom of the heart). 

There were many other highlights included learning with Nigel Savage (Hazon), Rabbi Sud Schwarz (CLAL), Rav Danny Landes (Pardez), and davenning with Rabbi Julia Appel, Reb Tiferet Berenbaum and Rabbi Jan Salzman and others. Loved seeing old friends and making new ones of colleagues with whom I hope to stay in touch and collaborate.

It was truly a wonderful retreat. I can’t wait to return to Isabella Freedom again and am reinspired by my vision and intentions for life, practice and work. 

Thanks to Hazon and especially Adam Segulah Sher and Reb Yaakov Reef at Isabella Freedman for all the on the ground planning, support and retreat management.