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Vessel of Discontent

"A papier-maché cup is central to our family's Shabbat.

To help set difficult things aside on Shabbat, every Friday night our family passes around a vessel of discontentinto which each participant is asked to 'drop' whatever is in the way of welcoming Shabbat. Ours is a papier-maché cup created for the purpose, but anything would do.

Some participants give the cup a perfunctory grasp. Some meditate a few moments. Occasionally someone visibly struggles to shed a rough week or a personal issue. A few shrug or sneer. On more than one Friday nightespecially at larger, multi-generational tablesfidgeting or thoughtlessness during the cup's first round has prompted someone at the table to request a second pass. On the whole, the cup provides a way for us, individually and collectively, to recognize the many weights we carry and consider the value of setting them aside, if only for a day.

As my husband Cary says, 'Vacations are once a year, if you're lucky. But Shabbat is never far off.'" 
—Virginia Avniel Spatz and her husband Cary O'Brien on rj.org

Palestinian UN Move Endangers Peace

“[We] resolve to condemn the Palestinian Authority for the unilateral decision to seek upgraded status at the United Nations as counterproductive to the cause of peace….” 
—Joint URJ-CCAR statement issued in December 2012, after the U.N. General Assembly voted 138–9 to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state.” The two organizations also called on Israel to halt plans for expansion of settlements in the West Bank E1 area, stating that it “makes progress toward peace far more challenging.”

Righting the NRA

“The time has come for the National Rifle Association and its members to put our nation’s children and their ‘right to life and liberty’ ahead of the right they claim to own weapons that serve no purpose other than to maximize human casualties.” 
—Central Conference of American Rabbis statement, December 2012

Abracadabra Revealed

“How many times have we heard the TV magicians and playing children use the famous incantation ‘ABRACADABRA’? But how many of us recognize its ancient Aramaic/Hebrew origins? The word contains both ‘Bara,’ meaning ‘to create,’ and ‘Dabar,’ meaning ‘to speak,’ literally translating as ‘I create through what I speak,’ or ‘May what I say come to be.’” 
—Elliot Cohen, founder of a new Progressive Jewish meditation chavurah, Ohr Menorah, in Manchester, England

B’rit Milah Alternatives

“I am by no means advocating the abolition of the ancient rite of circumcision. I continue to recommend b’rit milah, by a mohel or mohelet, on the eighth day….

However, for some families, a decision not to circumcise will be made without our input—or in spite of it—as so many decisions are….[And] in a movement rooted in the value of ‘choice through knowledge,’ we need to find alternative rites for those families. The New Jewish Baby Book by Anita Diamant provides a weath of potential covenant rituals, among them being wrapped in a tallit, being held under a symbolic chuppah, touching a Torah scroll, and having one’s feet washed...which might also be used to provide a covenantal experience for a male child whose parents choose not to have him circumcised.”
—Rabbi Leah R. Berkowitz, from The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Fall 2012