The Pulse of Our Congregation November 2009

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

LHI Sukkot Celebration

November 2009 Activities

Rabbi's Message: Rabbi Julie Greenberg

Honoring Sibyl Cohen

Learning Learning Learning

Lunch & Learn - Fall 09 Discussions on "The Prophets"

Are You the Missing Mitzvah Match?

More Connection to the Heart of the City

5770 Yom Kippur Sermon
Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City
by Rabbi Julie Greenberg


Looking Ahead

Marking Life Cycle Events

Making a financial contribution to Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir is a great way to mark special life events, simchas, yahrzeits, etc. We are happy to send an acknowledgement of your contribution to a designee of your choice. Contributions can be sent to our regular P.O. Box address, or contact Evy Simon, at 215-561-7474 or, if you'd like to have an acknowledgement card sent.

Thank you.

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Dear Friends and Members of Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City,

How good and pleasant it is for sisters (and brothers) to sit together. Hinei mah tov umanayim shevet achim gam yachad. With all of the ritual practice available to us, sitting together is still among the most satisfying. We are finishing a full month after our High Holy Days. These days had so much meaning and power in terms of our commitment to transform ourselves and make things right. They also have power as we sat together. We cannot climb inside each other and experience the other one's joy and sorrow; but we can sit with each other and listen to each other, and sing together. We can laugh together and cry together. This spiritual practice of gam yachad (together) changes the energy in the universe. This coming year, I will try to sit with the other more comfortably. Please join me.

Michael Meketon, President
Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City

  • LHI Sukkot Celebration
  • Submitted by Beverly Hayden

    In honor of our fall harvest festival Sukkot, Leyv Ha-Ir members gathered for a service under Sue Frank's sukkah on October 4. Also shown is Michael Meketon, Leyv HaIr President, with lulav & esrog in hand.

    Thanks Sue. It was beautiful!

  • November 2009 Activities
  • Thursday - November 5- 2009, 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
    Council Meeting
    All members of Leyv Ha-Ir are invited to join us at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square.

    Friday - November 6 - 2009, 6:30 PM
    Shabbat Service
    A brief Shabbat Service, followed by dinner, at the apartment of Iris Newman in Center City. It is veggie/dairy pot-luck; call Iris at 215-561-0228 and tell her what you are providing.

    Saturday - November 7 - 2009, 10:00 AM
    Shabbat Morning Service
    Join us for a lay-led service back at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square, followed by a dairy/veggie potluck lunch.

    Thursday - November 12 - 2009, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
    "The Prophets" Class
    Rabbi Julie will lead this "Lunch & Learn" at the Bellevue Building, 200 S. Broad, in the PREIT office. Bring your lunch; beverages provided.

    Thursday - November 19 - 2009, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
    "The Prophets" Class
    Rabbi Julie will lead this "Lunch & Learn" at the Bellevue Building, 200 S. Broad, in the PREIT office. Bring your lunch; beverages provided.

    Friday - November 20 - 2009, 7:30 PM
    Kabbalat Interfaith Service
    Our Kabbalat Interfaith Service will be led by Rabbi Julie with the Leyv Ha-Ir choir at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square.

    As part of the Kehillah of Center City we are invited to attend all of the events that are sponsored by the Kehillah and our larger community. To learn more about these events, check out the link to Center City Kehillah.

    Click here for a complete look at Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir activities for the upcoming two months.
  • Rabbi's Message: Rabbi Julie Greenberg
  • Dear Chevre,

    As part of our commitment to lifelong Jewish learning, we are offering a series on the Prophets this fall. There are two sessions left with a few spaces still open. It has been said that our prophets afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. Their words are complex, powerful, beautiful and incredibly relevant.

    Hear this, you who trample upon the needy,
    And bring the poor of the land to an end,
    Saying: When will the new moon be over
    That we may sell grain?
    And the Sabbath,
    That we may offer wheat for sale,
    That we may make the ephah small and the shekel great,
    And deal deceitfully with false balances,
    That we may buy the poor for silver,
    And the needy for a pair of sandals,
    And sell the refuse of the wheat?
    (Amos, 8:4-6)

    For the mountains may depart
    And the hills be removed
    But My steadfast love shall not depart from you...

    You are welcome to join the interesting study and discussion. (See the calendar and related article for details.)

    Love and Blessings,
    Rabbi Julie

  • Honoring Sibyl Cohen
  • At Leyv Ha-Ir's Kabalat Shabbat, Friday, October 16 a wonderful tribute was made in behalf of our dear, departed member and friend, Sibyl Cohen. This marked the first Sibyl Cohen Memorial Lecture with guest speaker Lori Lefkovitz, PhD who discussed "Bereshit-Gender, Creation and Creativity". Family, friends and members gathered in remembrance.

  • Learning Learning Learning
  • Submitted by Rabbi Julie

    Matters of Life and Death: BioEthics in the 21st Century. At our neighbor shul, BZBI, a seven week mini-course taught by my Reconstructionist colleague Rabbi Margot Stein, starting Nov. 11. Tuition is $190. There is a registration form. You can e-mail or for more info.

    Classes held from 9:30-11:30AM.

  • Lunch & Learn - Fall 09 Discussions on "The Prophets"
  • Rabbi Julie Greenberg will be leading us again in a "lunch and learn" discussion. This Fall's series will be about "The Prophets".

    The Jewish prophetic tradition includes powerful and inspiring moral messages, relevant to our own society's challenges. Join us to study the wisdom of our ancestors as we engage in lively exploration of Jewish values and ethical mandates. Rabbi Julie will guide us by presenting a framework for understanding the times and the texts of our prophets. People with all levels of background are welcome.; every voice enriches the discussion.

    The schedule is as follow, all on Thursday afternoons, 12 - 1 PM: November 12 and November 19. All sessions will be held at the Bellevue Building, 200 S. Broad St., 8th floor, at the offices of PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.) This is a brown-bag (bring your own lunch) event; there is NO CHARGE to attend.

  • Are You the Missing Mitzvah Match?
  • Submitted by Rabbi Julie

    We have a congregant who is interested in volunteering her services a few hours a week as a companion for someone who is mostly housebound in Center City. Marci Fleet has faced physical disabilities herself and knows the value of supportive companionship. As a long-term Council Member, Marci is a leader of Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City. She's also a talented artist and a generally warm-hearted individual.

    When I made this announcement over the High Holy Days, someone came forward asking for Marci's services for her elderly mother but we do not have that person's contact information. If this was you, or if you have a need that Marci could meet, please call one of our Chesed coordinators, Susan Thompson at 215-923-4040.

  • More Connection to the Heart of the City
  • One way to stay in touch with the daily workings of Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City is sign on to our listserv. The listserv is a way to share thoughts, concerns, ideas and events of interest to this congregation. In addition, the Rabbi frequently writes brief messages with uplifting tidbits of Jewish insight. To join the listserv, send your first and last name and e-mail address to Sharon Cooper at Please use the listserv in a respectful way, posting short messages that are likely to be of general interest. We hope you join this internal conversation at the Heart of the City.

  • 5770 Yom Kippur Sermon
    Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City
    by Rabbi Julie Greenberg
  • Download this sermon as a Microsoft Word document


    What a year we have been through. It has been said that we live in a time of more abundance than ever before in history coupled with excessive insecurity and precariousness. When Alan Greenspan himself, who guided U.S. economic policy for almost two decades, says that he is in a "state of shocked disbelief," you know we must be living in tumultuous times. People around the world, including in our community, have faced economic hardship, health challenges, changing relationships and the inevitable demands of growing older.

    On this Yom Kippur maybe you came through the synagogue doors, hoping for some infusion of Jewish wisdom, a grounding in our sources, a connection to community, that will help you live through these times. I hope to share some teaching that might be helpful to you in surviving as a human being on this planet.

    Maybe you've had the feeling of being stressed out, mired in anxiety or burdened by despair, maybe you've grappled with panic or struggled with depression. All of us at one time or another in our lives, are in over our heads. What we have to deal with is simply more than we can handle. Judaism has something to say about all this.

    Reb Nachman taught that suffering is caused by an inflexibility of the mind. Our minds get stuck in a limited place that makes us think we are dis-connected from Source, from Wholeness, from God. This stuck place has us feeling overwhelmed, lonely, cut off.

    We need to grow more adept, more flexible, at experiencing God. I invite you to experiment with experiencing God in two ways, a macro way and a micro way and to grow in your ability to move from micro to macro, macro to micro experience of God. What does that mean, moving between macro and micro experiences of God?

    Two Natures of God: The One and the Many

    A macro experience of God is God in the cosmic, eternal sense, God as Beyond, Forever, Unity, One-ness. You may have experienced God this way in nature: gazing at the sparkling night sky, soaking up the momentousness of mountains, appreciating the endless peace of the desert or the enormity of the ocean. You realize that you are a speck of nothingness compared to the vastness of eternity. Our prayer expresses this with the words, "we are but blades of grass."

    This awareness is of God as Eyn Sof, God as Never Ending, Beyond, Mystery, surpassing human analysis.

    We are all part of this grand unity. Part of the whole. Mordecai Kaplan said that God is when we realize that the sum is greater than all the parts. There are moments during our lives when we get that we are part of the whole, in the same way a cell is part of a body. The body can't be the body without the cells, the cells can't be cells without the body. One is not separate from the other. It is all One.

    A micro experience of God is God in the specific human interactions where purpose, kindness, meaning, and ethical action matter. Our human concerns mean so much to us. We care that the baby be healthy, that our nephew gets the job, that the test goes well, that we find love. In our daily lives we are invested in trying to make the world better; in this realm striving for morality, for positive outcomes, for loving as well as we can, make sense even though you know that from the perspective of a trillion years, none of this matters. In the trillion-year timeframe, God will still BE while human concerns will be entirely insignificant.

    There's a little story that I heard from my friend Rabbi Jeff Roth who heard it from his friend Max Sampson and who knows where Max heard it.

    Two waves are bopping around in the ocean. The first wave says to the littler wave, "I can see farther than you and there's something terrible that I'd like to warn you about."

    The second wave is worried. What could possibly be so terrible? There they are in the ocean, happily being waves.

    The first wave says, "I'll tell you what's to worry about. When the waves get near the shore, guess what happens? They crash. And they aren't waves any more. There's nothing you can do about it. That's going to happen to you."

    The second wave thinks about this for a moment and then says, "I have just one thing to say. You aren't a wave. You're water."

    And that's true for us too. We are merrily going along in our daily lives with our daily worries, like the first wave. But we too aren't waves, we are water. We are part of eternity. We are part of Eyn Sof, the Endless One.

    Two Approaches to God

    Our sages taught that two different mind states access each of these God truths. Expanded consciousness, mochin d'gadlut, allows us glimpses of the inter-connectedness of all. These transcendent experiences tend to be fleeting: a moment of ecstatic love where your small self merges into the one-ness of All; sometimes at a liminal moment such as birth or death, when the small self melds into something more eternal; through serious prayer or meditation or psychedelic practice or even psychotic experience the mind can burst through into an awareness of the unity of all. Experiences in nature also tend to let us see our part in the whole which is why it can feel like revelation when you see majestic mountains, or expansive desert, or float in the immense ocean. For a moment, you're able to surrender into the whole. You feel inconsequential and it's okay, it doesn't matter.

    The other mind state is mochin d'katnut, small mind. Small mind is my own ego, differentiated, individuating, striving for me to be the best me that I can possibly be. Small mind revels in the diversity of all, the spectacular details of individual identity.

    So how does all this tie in with the human emotions that are so hard to live with? Anxiety, panic, despair, terror. In a state of small mind, these emotions bump up against our limits and can feel absolutely overwhelming. I don't know how I can cope. I don't know if I'll ever get through it. It feels awful. Those feelings are real, very real. But our experience of them is affected by what kind of spiritual container they are held in. Are they held by small mind or by big mind? Will the God of particular outcomes, of multitudes of diversity, be your reference point or will the God of universal reality be your reference point?

    Think of trying to hold a pint of water in a teacup. It barely fits. It bumps up against the side of the teacup and maybe splashes out in distress. Now imagine holding a pint of water in an ocean. It's a whole different thing. Similarly, holding intense feelings in a state of small mind feels stressful, overwhelming and constricting. The container is not big enough for the emotion. By contrast, holding intense emotion in a state of big mind, accessing Eyn Sof, there is never-ending spaciousness. Expanding our consciousness, gives us bigger ways to hold our experience. You may still feel terror but your container is bigger.

    How do you grow that container, how do you grow bigger consciousness? There are many Jewish practices for this. The Yom Kippur prayers, for one, come from a place of our own human humility in the face of an immense reality. Tuning in to this truth is hard. Some people read these prayers and resist the language that says we are so small, we are nothing, in the face of a transcendent God.

    Rabbi Alan Lew, z"l, suggests a meditation practice in which you breathe in and on the out breath you consciously expand your consciousness, you press out its boundaries a little further with each breath. You grow your mochin d'gadlut, your Big Mind.

    In the course of a human life, people move inexorably from being separate individuals with our unique, interesting selves, toward re-union with the Whole of Being. The inflexible mind that Rebbe Nachman speaks of, is the clinging to our mochin d'katnut, small self. The ego is designed to self-preserve. Its mandate is to keep you alive and thriving as a separate self. Even though you may suffer, as a result of this separateness, suffer alienation, loneliness, anomie, your ego was carefully crafted to fight tooth and nail against anything that would threaten your individual existence. In this world, your ego is a blessing, that allows you to achieve, develop, interact, nurture.

    Without your ego fiercely protecting your small self, you wouldn't be you.

    However, fight as hard as we might, egos don't last forever. And what happens when the ego begins to slip from aging, from Alzheimers, eventually from dying? Your small self merges into the great Eternal God Self with a capital S. You shift from expressing your Godness through individual selfhood to expressing your Godness through melding into eternity.

    My friend Bobbi Breitman's mother had Alzheimer's Disease. Over a fifteen year period she deteriorated to the point where she needed round the clock care, didn't recognize anyone and in most ways wasn't herself anymore at all. Her situation was one that most of us dread for ourselves or our loved ones. Her mind was completely gone. In fact she got to the point where she didn't recognize anyone who greeted her but she'd take their hand and say, "I love you."

    I was at the Bat Mitzvah of Bobbi's daughter a few years ago when her mother was still alive. She was a little white-haired lady, with her attendant. Whoever was introduced to her she'd take their hand and say, "I love you." Now not every Alzheimer's patient is this way; there are so many different symptoms. But that day, one of Bobbi's friends, Rabbi Sheila Weinberg, who is a leading teacher of Jewish meditation, and who had known Bobbi's mother for many years, went up to greet her. Mrs. Breitman no longer recognized this friend, whom she had seen many, many times. But she took her hand and said, "I love you."

    Sheila turned to Bobbi and said, "She's a guru." With Alzheimer's erasing her mind, she was simply a vessel of love. She had come to a state of self-less-ness that is the goal of thousands of spiritual seekers who dedicate themselves to hours of meditation in the hopes of experiencing mystical union with God.

    We don't have to wait for Alzheimer's to take our minds. We can hone the flexibility of our minds to shift from micro to macro God identity. We also don't have to fear Alzheimer's because the small mind is just joining the Big Mind of Eyn Sof. It is our human, inflexibility, as Nachman taught, that blocks this shift and is the source of suffering.

    But, you might ask, if it is our destiny to eventually flow into the Beyond, the Forever, the Eternal, why not just make that leap right now? If you know that purpose and ethics aren't relevant from the Eyn Sof perspective, that all our human striving and self improvement don't really matter, why not just give it all up, throw in the towel, now?

    Because, God as Eternal Unity and God as specific diversity, are flip sides of the same coin. God is Unity, God is Diversity. It is only our inflexible minds that get stuck not easily seeing this. Our task here in these bodies on this earth, is to manifest the diversity side of God as well as we possibly can, for each of us to express our individual potential, to let that unique tiny God spark in each of us shine. As our prayer says "We are loved by an unending love, ours are the arms, the fingers, the voices; ours are the hands, the eyes, the smiles" that do God's work.

    Rabbi Art Green teaches, it's not that we deny the absurdity of human existence, it's that we defy it. We choose life again and again because we are human. Cultivating flexibility of mind, learning about the possibility of Big Mind, mochin d'gadlut, learning about the God expression of Eyn Sof, might make more bearable our human experience of insecurity and our human reaction to our eventual ego-termination or death.

    On Yom Kippur we are called to peek at the possibility of identifying not just with small mind, not just with the God of diversity but also with Big Mind, with the God of Eternity. Facing truth on this most somber of religious days, each of us has the chance to expand our spiritual flexibility, to move from the micro self to the macro Self and back again. We prepare ourselves for the day when there will be an inevitable reunion with Eyn Sof; from dust we have come and to dust we will return.

    Let us hope that we use this journey of life to deepen our spiritual readiness for the eventual merging of small self into big Self. That's the way of the world, the way of all flesh and the great spiritual traditions are here to help you traverse this well. It only seems like a divide that needs traversing, from the point of view of small self. Small self sees a gap between the I that is me and God. Big Mind knows that All is One anyway and there is no gap. I am already part of God. You are already part of God. We are always connected to that Ultimate Source because we ourselves are an expression of that Source.

    May this be a year of enlightenment and awareness for all. May you find joy in the journey. And let us say Amen.

    Rabbi Julie does spiritual counseling in Philadelphia through her practice, Counseling with Soul. She can be reached at or at 215-843-9592.

    :: 215-629-1995