A Guided Personal Tashlich

By: Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

The guided meditation above is based on Tashlich; you can use it as an alternative to an outdoors Tashlich or to enhance the ritual.

Last year for Tashlich, we gathered at Mallett’s Creek on Rosh Hashanah afternoon. We were blessed with a warm autumn late-afternoon sun, and we stood for a long time on the bridge over the creek, singing together: ‘Loosen, loosen baby. You don’t have to carry the weight of the world in your muscles and bones. Let go, let go, let go. Holy breath and Holy Name: will you ease, will you ease this pain.’ 

God-willing, next year we’ll gather and sing together as a community again. For this year, we’re offering a guided personal Tashlich ritual to do on your own, with family, or with friends—please just take care to be COVID-safe.

How to do Tashlich this year:

1. Look for a natural body of water that you can access easily. Tashlich is an invitation to cast our sins away into a body of water like a river, spring, lake, pond, or well. Most people prefer natural, flowing bodies of water because it gives the effect of our past deeds being swept away by the current. If you don’t live near a natural body of water or can’t manage to get to one, you can use running water from a hose or faucet. 

2. Try performing Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah. Tashlich is supposed to be performed on the first or second day of Rosh Hashanah. If, however, you’re unable to perform the ceremony on Rosh Hashanah, Tashlich can be done any day during the Days of Awe until Yom Kippur

3. Examine what you’ve struggled with in the past year before doing Tashlich. Tashlich requires that we review our behavior over the last year before we can cast away our deeds. Remember that everyone struggles with mistakes, misdeeds, and accidents, so don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself during this period of review. Keep in mind, however, that the goal of Tashlich is to move forward in the year, rather than to dwell on the past.

4. Collect your “sins” in your pockets. We have provided you with seeds to act as physical symbols of your sins; seeds are safer than bread for the wildlife that live in nearby creeks. Although some people discourage tossing actual items because it stems from superstitious practices, it can be helpful, especially for young people, to visualize our misdeeds being carried away by the water.

5. Walk to the body of water or basin. As you do, try singing, if it feels appropriate. Here are some possibilities (click on the links to hear the songs):

  1. Eili, Eili: Eili, Eili shelo yigameri l’olam. Hachol v’hayam, rishrush shel hamayim, b’rak hashamayim, t’filat ha-adam.
  2. Hashiveini: Hashiveini, ve’ashuvah x2 Chadeish, chadeish, chadeish, yameinu k’kedem x2
  3. Avinu Malkeinu: Avinu malkeinu, choneinu va-aneinu ki ein banu ma-asim. Asei imanu tzedakah vachesed v’hoshi-einu.

6. Read a biblical prayer. The source passage for Tashlich comes from the last verses of the prophet Micah (7:18-20). These verses tell why we practice Tashlich:

7. Cast your sins into the body of water. After your prayer, reach into your pockets and grab the seeds or metaphorical sins, and throw them into the water. Once you let go of them, breathe out and watch them wash away. Only do this when you feel ready. It might take you longer than some other people to prepare for this moment, but don’t feel rushed. 

‘Who is a God like You, Forgiving iniquity and remitting transgression; Who has not maintained wrath forever against the remnant of God’s own people, Because God loves graciousness, God will take us back in love; God will cover up our iniquities, You will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will keep faith with Jacob, loyalty to Abraham, as You promised on oath.’

8. Offer a prayer about your hope for the year. Talk to God out loud about who you are and who you’d like to be in the coming year. If you need help with words, try answering some of these questions:

  • Am I using my time wisely? If not, how can I?
  • How do I want to be there for the people who need me? 
  • What new insights and knowledge do I want to acquire this year?
  • What would it look like to live more fully this coming year?
  • How can I trust more in You, or, how can I more closely align with what is holy in the world?

Special High Holidays Delivery!

AARC Members Will Receive Tishrei Bags in Support of the High Holidays At Home

The High Holidays cannot help but be different this year, but thanks to the hard work of our Tishrei Bag Committee, all of our members will be able to celebrate with a set of thoughtfully curated items. Engaging with ritual objects is an important part of the chagim; the Tishrei Bag project supports us in uniting with our fellow members from our own homes through the vehicle of these shared objects.

The Tishrei Bags will include:

  • Apples and honey
  • 2 pairs of holiday candles for Erev Rosh Hashana and Erev Yom Kippur
  • A yahrzeit candle for Yizkor
  • Bird seed for Tashlich
  • Recipes
  • Special gifts from Beit Sefer families
  • High Holidays schedule and handouts
  • High Holidays prayer book (machzor)

Members can receive their Tishrei Bags in either of two ways: You can pick your bag at 2815 Pebble Creek on September 13th from 1:30-4 pm, or a member can deliver the bag to your house. If you do not pick up your bag on the 13th, a volunteer will bring it to your home.

A special thank you to the Tishrei Bag Committee: Laurie White, Carol Levin, Clare Kinberg, Jen Hall, and Evelyn Neuhaus. Thank you also to our volunteer delivery crew and to the Meadows family for assembling the bags! It takes a village! Please email us if you have any questions about the Tishrei Bags.

AARC To Host A Robust Month of Elul Programming

Throughout history we as Jews have leaned on our traditions to lead us back to ourselves in times of trouble or uncertainty. The month of Elul is one of those traditions: a time of cheshbon hanefesh or an accounting of the soul.

Elul has come at a perfect time this year; many of us are carrying a heavy emotional load due to the current state of affairs. Elul encourages us to take time to look inward and prepare for what’s to come. In this spirit, we are offering a multi-modal Elul experience:

LEARN: Elul Psalms Series, or, What Does a Jew Do With All These Worries, Hopes, and Feelings?

Sunday August 23, 30, and September 6, 2-3:15 pm on Zoom

“All our days slip away.” “Help me stay safe.” “Shield me from the counsel of evil men.” “Look how good and pleasant it was to be together.”

All these phrases are from the Book of Psalms, but they could easily describe our feelings in this moment, too. As we enter into Elul and this unusual season of teshuvah, we’ll use the ancient psalms as an entry point to gentle awareness, creativity, and reflection. Each class will offer a mix of learning, discussion, and writing.

August 23: Introduction and Psalms of Noticing and Gratitude

We’ll talk briefly about what makes a psalm, explore some psalms of gratitude (from the Book of Psalms and contemporary poets), and talk about what it means to be a Jew talking to/about the Holy. Our first writing exercise will serve to ‘prime the pump’ and get words flowing; our second exercise will invite reflection on our values, our voices, and our relationship to the Source. Expect rich discussion and sharing.

August 30: Psalms of Fear and Loss

Today’s focus is psalms of anxiety, fear, and loss. We’ll explore some of these psalms (both classical and contemporary) and then shift into writing together. Our writing exercises will help us give name to our experiences of living through this time of disorientation and grief, and those who wish will be invited to share their reflections in small groups. This session requires particular care because these psalms can evoke or activate difficult emotions. We’ll close this session with a meditative, musical practice designed to help us release our emotions and return to a sense of spiritual safety.

September 6: Psalms of Comfort and Connection

In this session we’ll explore psalms of connection to the Holy and the holiness within ourselves and community. We’ll do a deep dive into a single psalm, exploring how different translations and nuances of language can impact a psalm’s message. We’ll explore psalms both classical and contemporary, and then engage with our final two writing exercises.

LISTEN: Songs of Return, A High Holiday Community Playlist

We’ve started a community playlist on Spotify that already includes some gorgeous niggunim, new melodies, and High Holiday favorites to get us in the teshuvah mood. We want you to listen and enjoy, of course, but also invite you to add your favorites tunes so we can all hear them. To listen, all you need is a free Spotify account. To add music, you’ll need to open the Spotify app on your phone, tablet, or desktop.

BREATHE: Elul Meditation Offerings

A series of pre-recorded meditations from Rabbi Ora and members are now available to stream, below. These themed meditations vary in length and style, and can be listened to on your schedule as many times as you like.

Blessing This Moment (16 min)

Hineini: A Meditation & Chant for Presence (18 min)

Sitting in Divine Light (10+ min)

A Mind-Body-Spirit Integration (6 min)

Gam Zeh Kadosh/This, Too, Is Holy (9+ min)

WRITE: Daily Reflection Prompt

Sign up to receive daily reflection and journalling prompts for the entire month of Elul (August 21-September 18). Created by Rabbi Jordan Braunig, these prompts are “meant to give us time to cozy up to ourselves, to spend a few moments a day with our souls and to maybe learn a thing or two about ourselves.”

SING: Selichot 5780: Creating Holy Space Within

Saturday September 12, 8 pm on Zoom

Our Selichot services will ease us into the High Holy Days with beautiful melodies led by members and Rabbi Ora. In addition to singing and havdalah, we’ll take time to imagine how to create holy space in our hearts and our homes in anticipation of online Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services.

If you have any questions about any of these Elul offerings, please email Gillian.

High Holidays 2019

Shofar

Please join the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation this year for the High Holidays. All the information you need is on our High Holidays website.

High Holidays Schedule

  • Saturday, September 21st, 7:30-8:30pm. Selichot gathering at Amy Rosenberg’s House (1501 Avondale Avenue).
  • Sunday, September 29th, 7:00-8:30pm. Erev Rosh Hashanah services.
  • Monday, September 30th, 9:30am-1:00pm. Rosh Hashanah First Day services.
    • Children’s service from 10:30-11:30am.
  • Monday, September 30th, 5:00pm. Tashlich. Gather at the JCC to walk to Mallets Creek.
  • Tuesday, October 8th, 6:45pm. Kol Nidrei gathering and candle lighting. Kol Nidrei begins at 7:00pm sharp.
  • Wednesday, October 9th, 10am-2:00pm. Yom Kippur morning and Torah service.

Please remember to sign up to volunteer! We need lots of help to ensure that High Holidays services run smoothly.

If you are planning to make use of our childcare services, please sign up here. We need accurate numbers in order to staff the childcare center correctly!

Finally, Rabbi Ora encourages members to participate in services by reading and sharing reflections. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

I look forward to seeing everyone in the coming weeks as we welcome the New Year!

Meet Our Guest Cantor for the High Holidays: Gabrielle Pescador

I am a rabbinic student in the Aleph Ordination Program for Jewish Renewal and plan to join its cantorial track next year. The part of Jewish tradition that I connect to most deeply is davening. I am transported by its potential to crack the heart open and invite healing and personal transformation. I feel the interplay of prayer and music in every cell of my body and want to share this experience in a prayer community to lift all of our prayers together. 

Before entering rabbinic studies, I spent several years working on community projects that integrate art, education and social justice, including making documentary films on incarcerated youth and LGBTQ concerns and creating public art events focused on victims of harsh U.S. immigration policies. I am excited to have the opportunity to serve the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, a spiritual community that values diversity, inclusiveness, tolerance, respect, social consciousness, and artistic expression. 

“How can our water not be fine?”

Today makes 1660 days without access to tap drinkable water. What’s even scarier is there are places all around the country with water worse then Flint and they have no idea yet. — Mari Copeny (@LittleMissFlint) September 11, 2018

By Mark Schneyer

In her Rosh Hashanah sermon this year, Rabbi Ora urged us to “Choose Life,” and focused our attention on issues that prevent people from having access to clean water. I thought it would be useful to list some of the people and organizations mentioned in her sermon, as well as a few related ones::

Finally, Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who stood up to advocate for the kids of Flint at a time when the state of Michigan claimed there was no problem with Flint’s water, has written a new book, What the Eyes Don’t See, telling the story of her fight and some of her own history as well. She spoke tonight in Ann Arbor, and said the title of the book refers both to the invisibility of lead in water as well as “problems we choose not to see.”

She described her inner dialogue when she was deciding to go public with the truth she was learning. “How can our water not be fine?” she said she asked herself. The government had experts testing and overseeing and enforcing the law, the water must be clean. But the evidence told her otherwise and she launched her fight.

 

Rabbi Ora on Elul and Elul Playlist

This year, the Hebrew month of Elul begins September 1 — a nice coinciding of the secular and Jewish calendars. I think of Elul as a kind of pumping-the-brakes on the freewheeling expansiveness of summer; even though it’s usually still warm outside, Elul is a whispered reminder: Fall is coming. Slow down. Get a little quieter. And begin turning inwards. 

Why? Because there is work to be done.

It’s tradition to dedicate the 29 days of Elul to reflection, study, and preparation for the coming Days of Awe. Elul challenges us to use each day to re-connect with our values and attune to the yearning of our souls.

Conceptually, the idea is noble, but acting on it is a bit more challenging. Here are a few resources to help you get started: 

Learn more about Elul from Rabbi Yael Ridberg at Reconstructing Judaism

Psalm 27 (“Achat Sha’alti”) is traditionally recited every morning in Elul. Here’s Rabbi Brant Rosen’s interpretation of Psalm 27 

Listen to a special episode from the Judaism Unbound podcast, Unbounding Elul

Here’s a simple calendar that helps you set a single intention for Elul and track it throughout the month

Thinking ahead? Sign up now to receive a daily email prompt for reflection during the 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur

Is your favorite part of the High Holy Days the music? Here are 2 new niggunim we’ll be using this year – you can get a head start on learning them by clicking the links below:

Micah Shapiro’s Hashiveini

The Klezmatic’s interpretation of Shnirele Perele

Yom Kippur Afternoon Sessions 2019

AARC Yom Kippur practice is to have afternoon sessions of learning, discussion, meditation, and song between the morning service which ends about 2pm and our community Yizkor service, which begins at 4:45pm.  The hour long sessions are at 2:30 to 3:30pm and 3:30 to 4:30pm.

Meditation Workshop led by Anita Rubin-Meiller

2:30-3:30pm

Yom Kippur is the ideal time to grow in our connection with ourselves. This time of guided meditation will focus on fostering gratitude and self-compassion. I will draw on Jewish resources for both. If you’d like to, bring a journal to write reflections in after each meditation. There will also be time for sharing.


Sing, Chant, Walk led by Deb Kraus

2:30-3:30pm

For the past two years on Yom Kippur afternoon, I have found myself outside with other members, singing and chanting our way through the afternoon between services. It’s been deeply meaningful to us, and a great way to pass the time. You are welcome to join us for all or part of this time. I’ll provide some song sheets but we will also have machzors nearby to aid us in our efforts.  We’ll meet outside if we can and inside if we can’t.


Yoga led by Allison Stupka

A restorative session of yoga led by Allison Stupka.

3:30-4:30pm

Introducing Bec Richman, our High Holiday guest Song Leader

My name is Bec Richman, and I am so excited to come to Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation for the High Holidays as your Song Leader. I am currently living in Philadelphia, PA with my beloved partner, Josh (who is also excited to join AARC for the High Holidays).

We are both graduate students – I’m studying to become a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Josh is getting a PhD in Urban Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. I am heading into my final year of school with an immense amount of gratitude to my teachers and my program for affording me the flexibility to pursue folklore, calligraphy, sofrut (ancient scribal arts), and mashgichut (kashrut supervision) as part of my studies. In tandem with my academic program, I have worked as a rabbinic intern for college students, as a hospital chaplain, and as congregational student rabbi. This year, I am honored to be the recipient of a grant that will allow me to build a beit midrash (house of learning) in Philadelphia.

When I’m not in school, I am often training for a triathlon, throwing pots in the ceramic studio, practicing writing Jewish sacred text on parchment, or reading quietly at a cafe. Thank G!d, my life is full and vibrant.

I am honored and excited to come to AARC for the High Holidays. This season in the Jewish calendar calls on us as individuals and as a community to tune into our relationships, behavior, and intentions. I appreciate the annual reminder of our fragility and encouragement to think with care about how to live, and I love the way the High Holiday nusach (musical theme) reflects this holy work. I have so enjoyed working with your incredible rabbi, Rabbi Ora, to plan High Holiday services, and I can’t wait to come sing with you.

Yom Kippur, 2017

Our Yom Kippur services are open, ticketless, and accessible to all. Services will be led by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner and are musical and participatory. Services are held at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Road, the red brick building on the southeast corner of Ellsworth. More details here.

Fri., Sept. 29, Kol Nidrei, 6:45 gathering and candlelighting, service begins at 7pm

Sat., Sept. 30, Yom Kippur Morning and Torah service, 10 am – 2 pm

 Children’s Service, 10:30 – 11:30 am

Afternoon Workshops, 2:15 – 5:00 pm Workshop Descriptions

Yizkor, 5:15 – 6:30 pm, A non-traditional service offering mourners the opportunity to share some words about the person they lost. (Please plan on spending no more than 5 minutes, so all may participate)

Ne’ilah/Shofar/Havdalah, 6:45 – 7:45 pm

Break-the-fast, 7:45 or when 3 stars appear. Reservations are closed now.