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“Holding the Fringes” has two very important meanings in my view of Jewish life:

I chose to “name” the sacred work I do in this world: Holding the Fringes.* The opportunity to help others create sacred space is what defines my rabbinic calling — activating, supporting, nourishing, and regularly witnessing the transformative power that resides at and in “the fringes” of our Jewish community and society. The energy at the intersection of ancient, traditional Jewish practices and the energetic spiritual potential is the vibrant growth-edge of Judaism. I have experienced the interest and vitality that exists in these fringes. Even as many 21st century institutions and rabbis worry about the number of people who do not affiliate with a particular denomination or institution, those “spiritual, not religious” folks “on the fringes” have demonstrated to me how much value they place in the arc of Jewish history, the beauty of Jewish customs, and the strength of Jewish values. However, they have often had a negative experience(s) in Jewish spaces. Nonetheless, they yearn for a way to connect that is relevant and responsive to their values and to the presence of beloveds in their lives who are Jewish allies and from other religious backgrounds.

Whether we identify as spiritual or religious or some combination, most of us have a feeling (often without adequate words) about sacredness that is both imminent (of this world) and transcendent (beyond knowing). In Jewish tradition, this source of blessing, gratitude, and abundance is unnamable. For that reason, we reference the Divine Mystery, in prayer, using a four-letter tetragrammaton, meant to be unpronounceable. However, our human need to explain and name everything has generated many names for that Ineffable Name that some call God. Many of us have also been given characteristics and images of God that have created barriers for access. These notions of the Divine are easy to reject or dismiss.

Jewish wisdom tradition provides a unique set of tools to assist us in accessing our spirituality. With intention, we can utilize these devices to:

  • define and focus sacred time and space,
  • weave deep connections,
  • design opportunities to activate memory and vision, and
  • create celebration and wellbeing for ourselves and others.

These are some of my favorite gifts to share as a rabbi and spiritual guide. Sharing with spiritual seekers and skeptics, alike, the Jewish rituals, words, music, and objects that can enhance our ability to notice, cultivate, and appreciate life’s sanctity and to be a blessing in this world.

A tallit (prayer shawl) is a sacred device, worn by many Jews while we pray in the mornings and at other special times, inviting us into relationship with the cosmic Sacred that we call by many names. When we gather the fringes (tzitzit) at the four corners of the tallit, we symbolically unite the four corners of the Earth and ourselves — those places that are most disparate — as we bring them together in our hands.

Holding the knots and twists of the tzitzit between our fingers, we grasp an ancient ritual technology that can open a portal linking us to our ancestors, our children’s children, the deepest recesses of our inner being, and the unity of all creation. The symbolic energy of the tallit is utilized in lifecycle rituals including weddings, baby namings and britot milah (covenants of circumcision), b’nei mitzvah, and funerals. When we wrap ourselves in the fringes, we recite a mitzvah blessing and pull the fabric around ourselves, activating our own personal mishkan ~ a tabernacle of sacredness.

Continually drawing from both the particularity of Jewish thought and expression and the universality of spiritual nourishment that flows from a variety of natural and religious spaces and experiences, I delight in working with seekers of meaning and relationship with the world around us. Our fringes are a location of vibrant energy for connection, and it is my honor to assist individuals, families, and groups explore and appreciate the abundance within Jewish tradition and innovation, and to facilitate opportunities to connect to the Sacred Source.

* Torah teaches that the Sacred Source spoke the world into being, and the first earthling named each creature. Kabalah (Jewish mysticism) teaches that letters and words, are the building blocks of creation - channels of Holy Energy into our world. We, as co-creatives with the Divine Mystery, speak the world into being each and every day.

I look forward to speaking with you about how we might work together to meet your particular interests and needs. Please provide me with some basic information so that I can reach out to you to set up an initial consultation. Include a phone number and a good time of day to reach you. I will generally be in touch within 24-36 hours.

Please note that I disconnect, electronically, on Shabbat (from late afternoon on Fridays through Saturday night). And, if your need is emergent (serious illness or death), call or text me, even if it is Shabbat.

I look forward to meeting you and beginning the conversation.

B’vracha ~ in Blessing,

Rabbi Jessica

Contact Rabbi Shimberg


Nashville, TN 37215