The Torah wasn’t given in a building, and most of life for our recent and more ancient ancestors was infinitely more connected to the natural world and the elements. The roots of many of our traditions and liturgy--such as the psalms, serve as a response to the wonder and power of the natural world. We were tired of participating in Jewish events that were held inside stuffy, often windowless rooms. It hadn't worked for us as participants in Jewish settings when we were growing up, and as rabbis we certainly felt the limitations there as well.
In the spring of 2013, we visited Daria’s brother in Sebastopol, and fell in love with the community here. We thought, “This seems like the place to build the nature-connected, spiritual Jewish community we’ve been dreaming about.” One year later we left our shared congregational rabbi position in the Midwest and drove across the country with our two young boys, arriving early in the summer of 2014.
On a deeper level, we believe that this approach to Judaism is not only meaningful but is also healing. Too often people find themselves disconnected or turned off by Judaism. This had definitely been part of our own experience growing up. Through each of our "Jewish journeys," that ultimately led us to the rabbinate, we came to see that Judaism could be so different than what we knew and thought we knew about the traditions. We started Zmanim in order to share what we had worked hard to learn, and to offer meaningful, powerful access points that cut through the “extra bulk” that sometimes makes the message hard to personally connect to. We focus on bringing out the deep, radiant core of Jewish life and practice.
Why did we choose the name "Zmanim"? At the bottom of our home page we have the following translation of a Hebrew blessing: "Let us bless the Source of Life that revives us, sustains us, and brings us to this SEASON, this moment." The Hebrew word zman means "season," "moment," or "time" in English. Zmanim is simply the plural of this word. From this you can see why we have a hyphenated name on our website: "zmanim-seasons." This blessing that contains the word zman is called the "Shehecheyanu." We recite it at special "1st time" or "1st time this year" occasions, such as the first time we light Hanukkah candles each year, or the first time our son moved on from his balance bike and rode a pedal bike. We see, then, that Judaism has a "tried and true" formula for "mindfulness opportunities" through this, and so many other blessings. By referring to this particular blessing via our name we are inviting you to slow down and mark time- from the joyous experiences to the painful ones. (You can find a recording of this blessing here.)
Why bother with slowing down in this way? Doing so can enliven us and put our experiences in a greater context than 1) simply rushing through and ignoring the power of the moment, or 2) limiting our experience to what is simply happening to us at any moment rather than sharing it with those who have come before us: all those millions and millions of people who have chosen to mark a Friday evening with candles and song as the sun sets on the horizon and they change their pace of moving through the world, consciously slowing down on Shabbat, or those who have used particular rituals and blessings to welcome new babies into community- both the present community that physically encircles that infant at that moment, as well as the ancient stream of Jewish community that has welcomed children into our traditions for thousands of years. We can feel deeply held, and our hearts can open more fully when we place ourselves into this greater context. Through Zmanim we invite you to join us in doing so.
If you want to learn more about this nature-connected, spiritual Jewish community, with gathering and learning opportunities for adults, children, and the wonderful multi-generational fuller community that is based right here in West Sonoma County please come join one of the Zmanim events, or contact us. We would love to hear your Jewish story and what speaks to you about this vision.
We look forward to meeting you soon,
Rabbis Daria & Josh Jacobs-Velde
PPS Learn a little more about us- Rabbis Daria & Josh- here.