Welcome to Lab/Shul, an artist-driven, everybody-friendly, God-optional, pop up, experimental community for sacred Jewish gatherings based in NYC and reaching the world.


Lentil Soup to Heal all Wounds: A Note from Shabbat

There was one six year old boy at Lab/Shul’s Shabbat AM this past Saturday at City Winery who had his own agenda – and it was actually exactly what the grown ups were talking about it also. Sort of. How best to reconcile our different needs and find a way to get what we need – and get along – together.

Ezra was worried about the basketball tournament scheduled for this week between the kindergarten and second graders at his school. Is he good enough? Can he take on the bigger kids? Can his Abba – who is no jock – help him practice? Will be be loved no matter how he does in the game?

The rest of us were focused on the Torah tale of the week – exploring the archetypes of Jacob and Esau – mild and wild, jock and geek, instant gratification vs. strategic patience. How do those mythic twins exist inside ourselves and within our society? How can we get the children of these brothers, now in bloody dispute over land and love and borders and dignity – to overcome this hatred? To get along – together?

At a critical scene in the Genesis saga Jacob cooks the famous lentil soup that he will sell to his older brother for the price of the birthright. In true Storah style we asked ourselves what this sale is really about, calling on Isaac, Rebecca, Esau and Jacob to talk from the heart, family therapy style, and help us make sense and amends of our inherited dysfunctional family story- just in time for thanksgiving.  

There was real tasty lentil soup – cooked by Molly’s mom Carol and served as we were exploring the story; the kids, led by Rachel, Jess Ann and Stephen drew their versions of gratitude cards and fed each other with long spoons to really get the point of sharing; Naomi, Glenn, Brian Gelfand and I led the ritual music – delighted to have Brian back with us! Kenny chanted, K’lilaunnamed-9, Yonatan, Barbara and more helped welcome and usher 150 familiar and new friends, many of whom brought some delicious baked goods.

We paused to pray for more peaceful and compassionate days in the world, committed to sitting at one table, eating together, not as others but as brothers, sisters and friends – no matter how different we are. 

Ezra was up there with me for most if it, helping to hold up the purple prayer shawl over those who came up for the Torah, whispering to me at one point of the Storah telling – ‘did that really happen?’, and getting angry when I wasn’t able to respond to his basketball help inquires as we were about to go into the silent amida prayer. He walked off sulking.

But then he came back with one of the prayer flags that kids and adults kept creating at the back of the room. He used his as a private message board – talking to my inner geeky, mild, non athletic Jacob with acceptance and love: I ❤Abba even if he can’t help me with basketball. 

unnamed-10And there was more note I received that morning, from an older gentleman, a white bearded poet who scribbled this in our printed program and handed to me as he danced on to the day: 

‘I am the gateway to the sea, I am the trade wind, winding. 

I am that wound, that’s wound around the moon. ‘ (Bala) 

And finally, David Goldberg, a new member of the Lab/Shul family wrote this about his experience at this Shabbat morning: 

“We were grounded by gratitude, not by loss or fear. I wish all prayer services could be held in a place like City Winery. Enough with these basements and closets: let’s make Judaism look good. The Mavens spoke firsthand about their dear friend Rebecca and her struggles to bring her sons, Jacob and Esau, up in the world. We’ve all heard so many cliches about modernizing Judaism that it’s hard to recognize when someone actually does it. But sitting in a gorgeous restaurant, listening to our friends throw their own experiences and opinions into their retelling of what went down in the portion, one couldn’t help but feel like a new face was being seen, a new form of empathy was being developed. It’s time to see things differently. Time to look forward.”


Thank you Ezra, Bala, David – and all who joined us to eat soup and make together happen. 

See all the pictures HERE.