A couple of weeks ago in our Torah-reading cycle we began the story of Joseph. I love this story for a thousand reasons: it’s so dramatic and passionate and, in its way, so funny. It has that happy ending that sucker-punches us when we realize the whole tribe moving down to Mitzrayim, where they will soon be enslaved by “a new Pharaoh who knew not Joseph....”
It was my turn to give a drash on the opening lines of the Joseph story, in Vayeshev, and--as sometimes happens--I didn’t really have enough time to dive in very deep. So I did what I usually do when I start studying a Torah portion--I read the passage in Hebrew and looked for weird stuff. In this case (Genesis 37:1-11), there was plenty.
I especially noticed a bunch of puns and double-meanings, which are not uncommon in biblical Hebrew. I made a list of them and tucked the list into my tallit bag. When we got to the Torah reading, I talked about some of these puns, and we wondered together what we could learn from these double-entendres.
One in particular led to some interesting conversation and has continued to resonate with me in the weeks since. You may remember that Joseph was the tenth of 11 sons. Jacob, their father, favored Joseph over his brothers. Joseph aggravated them further by having dreams and describing them in great detail. In his first dream, the brothers were binding sheaves in the field and--“Behold!”--Joseph’s sheaf rose up tall, while the sheaves of the other brothers circled around and bowed low.
The root of the Hebrew word for “sheaf” is א׳ל׳מ׳ (alef/lamed/mem). As is often the case with Hebrew, there are other words with the same three-letter root. Turns out that א׳ל׳מ׳ (alef/lamed/mem) is also the root for the word “mute.” There is no obvious connection (at least to me) between sheaves of wheat and muteness. But one could, kind of playfully, read the verse to say something like, “Behold! We were being mute in the fields when my muteness arose and towered over the muteness of all the rest of you, and your muteness bowed down before mine.”
A lot of muteness! Even though that’s not the explicit meaning of the text here at all, it was somehow suggestive, at least to me. And part of the joy and fun of Torah study is following these little shimmers of possible meaning to see where they go. So I started noticing the many times in the Joseph story when things that needed saying were not said. The whole story is carried forward by these terrible silences, until all the brothers are cowering before a terrifying Egyptian lord whom we know, but they do not, is their brother Joseph.
Finally (spoiler alert), three parshiyot later, Joseph explodes with words and tears and says everything that needs to be said. “I am Joseph!” He goes on in a torrent to forgive and rectify and settle so much that needed to be articulated. It is a huge catharsis, for Joseph, presumably, and for us the readers. I love this explosion of words and tears as much as anything in Torah.
That little Hebrew hint about sheaves and muteness has got me thinking about the unspoken, on invisibility and the ways that we hide and disappear. I had a conversation with a friend recently in which she related being at her adult children’s home for a couple of days just after she had taken a big trip. No one even asked her about her travels. Another friend spoke about being with her family and falling back into habitual silence as everyone else planned and talked over her. I think of my dad, who teaches computer skills to seniors: he used to give an annual award to a salesperson at the local computer store who would acknowledge older customers instead of walking right by them as though they were invisible.
I also find myself thinking about artists I admire and how brilliant it is when one can really express one’s inwardness in an outward medium, in music or paint or dance or poetry. It is so exciting to me when I can witness part of someone else’s inner world that has not been muted by cliché or convention or inhibition.
This month we celebrate the gorgeous holiday of Tu B’Shevat, which focuses us on the moment when--deep underground--the sap begins to stir and rise in the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. This is such a pregnant image, sap just beginning to warm and move in the cold ground, preparing to surge upwards and cause a dormant tree to leaf, blossom and fruit.
We think about Tu B’Shevat in environmental terms, as well we must. There is a quality of divine judgement in Tu B’Shevat: we should not blithely assume that the sap will rise as it always does. Every year it becomes more evident to us that this is not a foregone conclusion. We must pray, and act, so that life will continue. This year I feel more urgency than ever to pray and act in community to avert, or at least restrain, climate disaster. When we celebrate Tu B’Shevat on January 20th, our minds and hearts and souls will definitely hold these intentions.
As I think about the Tree of Life in its winter state, about the cold, dense sap deep underground, I think about the life impulse to warm and rise and, might we say, articulate. I think about what in me lies dormant and invisible and inaudible, waiting to rise up and be seen and heard. I think about the people I love and how, no matter how well I think I know them, there is always more to know, always mystery, always a hidden aspect. I think of the long work of listening and being listened to. The theologian Nelle Morton, credited with coining the phrase “hearing into speech,” wrote in her diary:
It was in a small group of women who had come together to tell our own stories that I first received a totally new understanding of hearing and speaking. I remember well how one woman started, hesitating and awkward, trying to put the pieces of her life together. Finally she said: “I hurt… I hurt all over.” She touched herself in various places as if feeling for the hurt before she added, “but… I don’t know where to begin to cry.” She talked on and on. Her story took on fantastic coherence. When she reached a point of most excruciating pain, no one moved. No one interrupted. Finally she finished. After a silence, she looked from one woman to another. “You heard me. You heard me all the way.” Her eyes narrowed. She looked directly at each woman in turn and then said slowly: “I have a strange feeling you heard me before I started. You heard me to my own story” (The Journey is Home, 1977).
While we’re in the deep cold and dark of January, and of the Hebrew month of Shevat, we might want to think about what is hidden and invisible, or inaudible, deep inside each of us. Maybe part of our prayer this year will be that the sap in each of us will warm and rise and articulate in us all new growth and new life.
Tu B'Shevat Seder
Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, falls this year on Sunday, January 20th, and we will celebrate with our annual mystical seder of fruits and wines from 5:30-8:30 PM at the shul. The mystics of seventeenth century Safed taught that, on the full moon of the deep-winter month of Shevat, the sap begins to stir in the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
We hope every year that this sap will rise again, bringing another year of life to the natural world. When we bless and eat different kinds of fruit and drink the four cups of wine (or juice), the ritual draws our souls upward through Four Worlds of consciousness to pray for continued life on our planet.
There will be fruit and nuts and such to eat during the seder, but not a complete meal. The shul will be especially beautiful, candle-lit and full with greens, and there will be much music and chant. Younger children might enjoy coming for the first part of the seder, even if the entire ritual would be a little long; there is a natural moment to slip out after the first cup of wine and tasting of fruit.
You don’t need to bring anything or RSVP. If you would like to help set up the shul and prepare the fruits, please contact Marnie Press at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-1905.
Shabbat Morning Services
Shabbat morning services are held every Saturday morning of the year from 10:30 AM until about 12:30 PM. People are welcome to come for any part of the service. Members of the community often give the davar Torah (“word of Torah”), an interpretation (drash) of the weekly Torah portion. The services are led each week by Rabbi Holub, except when she is out of town. The drash schedule for January is below:
01/05/19 - Vaera - Margaret Holub
01/12/19 - Bo - Margaret Holub
01/19/19 - Beshalach - Raven Deerwater
01/26/19 - Yitro - Bob Evans
In January we will gather at the home of Carol and Jerry Greenberg in Mendocino on the 25th. Contact them at 217-8892 to RSVP and get directions. In February we will be at Rosalie and Irv Winesuff’s on Point Cabrillo Drive.
The joyful celebrations begin at 6:00 PM and include a short service with a vegetarian potluck following.
We have nearly all the hosts we need for 2019; however, things change, so if you would like to volunteer to host a gathering, contact Mina at 937-1319 or email@example.com.
Elder's Conversation Looks Back and Ahead
The first elders’ meeting was in something like June of 2008, so we’ve been meeting in some form or another regularly for over a decade! At our January 8th, 2019 meeting (2:30-4:30 PM at the shul), we’re going to look back on the Elders’ Conversation from its earliest appearance to the present moment and share with each other what it has meant to us to be part of this long, deep, and wide conversation--whether just for a week or two or for many years. Margaret will look back through her files and find some of the topics we have discussed in years past. We’ll remember people who have been at our table in earlier years. And we will look forward and see if there is anything about how we hold these conversations that could change for the even-better.
MCJC Justice Group
2018 was a grand year for the Citizen Scholarship Project as 27 scholarships of $725 (the cost of the citizenship exam filing fee) were awarded. Ten of the scholarship recipients are now citizens and the others are waiting for their interviews. Every scholarship student who has been interviewed and tested has become a citizen--100% success! The MCJC Justice Group (JG) has committed to another year of the project.
Anne Thomas, teacher of the citizenship class, invited her students, their families, class helpers, tutors and members of the JG to a potluck party to celebrate the students’ achievements and the success of the Scholarship Project. It was an evening of games, good food, moving speeches, gratitude for the class and the scholarships, and lots of hugs. It was heartening to see the joy in the faces of people who now have a country to call their own, to call home.
Becoming a citizen is a challenge. Immigrants learn English, study U.S. history, and become familiar with the Constitution, Bill of Rights, governmental structure, and political system. They take an oral and written exam on the curriculum. They deal with government bureaucracy, deadlines, rules, and fees. It is a daunting journey but citizenship changes lives, creating opportunity, mobility, stability and security.
Thank you, to the120+ generous donors and contributors in our community who have made these scholarships possible. We hope you will join us in helping our neighbors on their pathways to citizenship in 2019.
The JG will meet on Thursday, January 10th from 5:30-7:30 PM at the shul. If you would like to receive minutes and reminders about the Justice Group and are not already on the mailing list, please contact Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5673.
The book group will meet Monday, January 28th at 2:00 PM to discuss The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal. Set on a single day in 1632, this engrossing historical novel imagines the complex story behind one of Rembrandt's most famous paintings, "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp," which was commissioned by the Amsterdam Surgeons’ Guild.
The novel opens on the morning of the medical dissection, and, as they prepare for that evening's big event, it follows several central characters: a one-handed coat thief called Aris the Kid, awaiting his turn at the gallows; Flora, the woman pregnant with his child who hopes to save him from the noose; Jan Fetchet, a curio collector who also moonlights as an acquirer of medical cadavers; René Descartes, who attended the dissection in the course of his quest to understand where the human soul resides; and the 26-year old young master himself, who feels a shade uneasy about his assignment. Then there's Pia, an art restorer who is examining the painting in contemporary times. As the story builds to its dramatic and inevitable conclusion, the events that transpire throughout the day sway Rembrandt to change his initial composition in a fundamental way.
The book group generally meets at 2:00 PM on the third Monday of the month, unless it’s a holiday. Please call Fran Schwartz at 937-1352 for information. Gallery Bookstore offers 10% off your purchases if you belong to the book club.
MCJC Board Meetings
The MCJC board meets monthly at 5:30 PM at the shul. The January meeting will be on the 22nd. If you would like to attend, please leave a message on the phone at the shul, 964-6146.
Thanks For Mailing The Newsletter
We are grateful to Roslyn and Bruce Moore for preparing the December Megillah for mailing. If you volunteer for a future folding, stamping, and mailing project, you can do it at home, or another spot of your choosing, in about two hours. Please contact Sarah at 962-0565 or email@example.com.
We Are Only Human
In the recently published MCJC Directory, we made a few errors. We hasten to correct them here in the interest of truth and beauty. Since we won’t be reprinting in the foreseeable future, we ask you to write the changes in your copy.
New Online Megillah
The MCJC Megillah is now available in a new format suitable for online viewing. The new format will adapt itself to any screen size, including smartphones. It is posted on the MCJC website on the newsletter page https://www.mcjc.org/newsletter.
The Mendocino Megillah is published in three formats: hardcopy, emailed PDF, and online web page. You can subscribe to the hardcopy version and have it mailed to you, you can subscribe to the email PDF/ online version, or you can receive both. The Megillah is posted on the MCJC website www.mcjc.org/newsletter.
Any information on changes in mailing address, changes in email address, and changes in email notifications should be sent to Sarah Nathe at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you choose not to be a contributing member of MCJC, we request a $25 annual fee for the Megillah hardcopy or email.
Great Thanks To The Following Donors
Barry Vogel; Roberta & David Belson; Annie Beckett; Rio Russell;Joan Selchau; Robin Epstein; Beatrice Karish; Julie Byers;Katherine Pitcoff; Lorry Lepaule; Danny Mandelbaum & Benna Kolinsky; Jeannette Rasker & Robert Cutler; Claire Lobel; Jo & Norman Budman; Ben & Susan Finkelstein; Linda Jupiter; Allison Trick-Thornton; Ronnie James; Brona Lessen; Sandy Berrigan; Dawn Hofberg & Bob Schlosser; Rosalie & Art Holub; Sally and Lee Welty; Neil & Joy Wilensky; Tanya McCurry; Tracy Salkowitz & Rick Edwards; Gail Porcelain Sullivan; Lew Mermelstein; Nancy & Rick Banker; Susan Hofberg; Reba Simon; Steven Levine; Les & Leora Rohssler; Ronnie James; Henrietta Steiniger; Marinela Miclea; Jessica Morris; Claire Zwerling; Susan Tubbesing & Sarah Nathe;
Joe Zickerman & Ginny Roemer; Susan Miller; Laura Goldman & Dennak Murphy.
Shira Lee in memory of Edie Plotinsky; Myra Beals in honor of Rabbi Margaret Holub; Reba Simon in memory of David & Fran; Marsha Epstein & Aviyah Farkas in honor of Rabbi Margaret Holub & the annual retreat; Meadow in gratitude to Margaret Holub: Thank you for being so present in our community; you enrich my life as well as those of so many others. Blessings, Peace & Freedom, Love.
Contributing Membership In MCJC
Everyone who lives on the Mendocino Coast, and desires to be a member of MCJC, is one. The MCJC Board has set a goal of having every household become CONTRIBUTING members in 2018. We have memberships at Regular, Limited Income, and Family levels, as well as any level possible for you. Please mail your donations to MCJC, Box 291, Little River, CA 95456, or use PayPal on the MCJC website.
When you contribute in memory or honor of someone, an acknowledgment card will be sent to the individual or family. Please include their name and mailing address. Contact Donna Montag at email@example.com
The Mendocino Megillah is published monthly. The deadline for article submission is the 15th of the month before publication. The editor will include all appropriate material, space permitting, with the exception of copyrighted material lacking the permission of the author. Divergent opinions are welcome. Material printed in the Megillah does not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the MCJC Board of Directors.
Please Support the Underwriters Below
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Phoebe Graubard: Attorney at Law. Wills, trusts, probate, conservatorships. 594 S. Franklin, Fort Bragg, 95437. 964-3525. www.phoebelaw.com Member National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Wheelchair accessible.
Rainsong & Rainsong Shoes: From head to toe in Mendocino! Contemporary clothing. Shoes & accessories for men & women. Two locations: Mendocino and Healdsburg. 937-4165 (clothing), 937-1710 (shoes), 433-8058 (Healdsburg). www.rainsongshoes.com/
Raven Deerwater, EA, PhD: Tax practitioner. Specializing in families, home-based & small businesses, & non-profit organizations. 45121 Ukiah Street, Box 1786, Mendocino. Tel: 937-1099. Email: Website: www.taxpractitioner.com
Rhoda Teplow Designs: Original jewelry created with beads from around the world, specializing in brass from Ghana, silver from Israel, and lapis, turquoise and coral from Tibet/Nepal. POB 453, Mendocino CA 95460. Tel: 964-2787. Email:
Sea Shore Sells: New-to-you clothing for everyone, collected and curated by Mirisa Livingstar. She sells clothes...by the seashore! $5 off your first purchase when you sign up at www.poshmark.com/closet/seashoresells and use code SEASHORESELLS
Silver & Stone: 45050 Main Street, Mendocino. Contemporary sterling silver & gemstone jewelry for women & men. Affordable to indulgent. 11:00-6:00 pm daily. 937-0257. Email: email@example.com
Thanksgiving Coffee Co: Local roasters on the Mendocino Coast for over three decades. Certified organic, shade grown coffee & Fair Trade Coffees. Box 1918, Fort Bragg, 95437. (800) 462-1999. www.thanksgivingcoffee.com
Tonk's Tree Service: Hazardous removals, spurless pruning, arborist reports, stump grinding, 60' aerial lift, view and sun improvement. Owner-operated, licensed & insured. Tatanka Russell, certified arborist WE-9236A, lic. no. 798911. 964-6209, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(MCJC underwriters increase their businesses’ visibility to over 300 subscribers and improve their presence on the web. $100/year. Contact Donna Montag at 877-3243 or email@example.com)
MCJC Board and Contacts
(* identifies the MCJC Board members. All phone numbers are in the 707 Area Code)