Online Small Groups
So many of us are missing our ties to the community during this time of separation. At Temple Beth El of South Orange County, we strive to be socially and spiritually connected even while remaining physically distant. To that end, we are always looking for ways to create rich experiences for our congregation, even while we are physically apart. One way we are doing this is to continue to expand our video library of discussion worthy teachings with our clergy. Our hope is that you will gather with temple friends and/or others you want to create connection with, via video conference, and use this digital material to inspire meaningful discussions and connections.
The steps to doing this are simple:
- Browse through our library below and identify one or more topics that resonate with or interest you.
- Sign up for a video conference account
(Examples: Zoom has free options for 40 minute sessions and Google Meet for up 60 minutes per meeting free)
- Reach out to up to 8 individuals of your choice OR post your group as OPEN to join here. (You can invite a few friends, your existing small group, people you’d like to get to know more, etc. and then offer the remaining spaces in the group up to our temple community online here.)
- After finding out generally everyone’s availability, set a date and time for the session(s)
- Set up the video conference platform/link for that date and time.
It’s not a bad idea to set up a practice video conference call and do a test run before your real meeting.
- Send out the “link” to those you invited
- On the day of the session, have the video from our digital library queued up and ready to go.
- When everyone is on the video call, introduce yourselves. When you are ready, use the “Share Screen” function to play the video for everyone to watch together.
- When it is over, stop sharing the screen and ask the group the accompanying questions one at a time to leave room for discussion. Help facilitate the discussion so that everyone in attendance has the opportunity to share, if they choose.
God’s Ongoing Creative Process
- Do you believe that you help shape the direction of your life and the world around you? Or do you feel like you are just along for the ride?
- Does your life mirror the painting you want to create? What does it need more or less of? Are you aware of any concrete ways you can make changes?
- What is your response to the idea that God is something you are part of helping create, instead of something objective and untouchable? Does this idea diminish God? Or does it inspire you to be a part of creating a deeper, richer, sense of soul and connection in the world?
The Power of Intention in the Creative Process
- Do you tend to be more impulsive or deliberate in your choices and decision making? What are the consequences in general, positive or negative of your way? Share one positive and one negative example.
- What do you most want to create in your life? Where is that desire coming from? Is that desire rooted in bringing more good, more God into the world? If not, how can you reframe your desire so that it does? What are your next steps?
Bringing Personal Stories into the Creative Process with Cantor Natalie Young
The Path of Torah
- What has been your experience of the “Outer Torah?” Positive? Negative?
- What is the promise, for you, of engaging with Torah?
- What might it mean to walk the Path of Torah? How might that make sense for you in your life, regardless of any kind of “religious” commitment?
The Path of Community
- Explain how being around people with different perspectives can help you grow and live a more fulfilled life.
- Do you find that you choose to spend time with people who have similar political perspectives, lifestyles, or social expectations as you do? Are there any ways in which your social circle does not help you grow?
- In what ways do you think Temple Beth El could help you have an experience of sacred community in which you interact with people of different perspectives around the intention of becoming more the person you want to be?
Finding God in the Darkness
- What are your fears about the unknown? Where do you think they come from?
- Share some personal experiences of choosing to shine light in the darkness? In what ways has that been challenging for you? Why?
The Unknown As The Key to Love and Relationship
- In what ways are you open to the unknown in your relationships?
- Are there ways that you can consciously think or behave in your relationships that acknowledge the mystery and unknowable aspect of the other?
How What We Eat Creates The World
- The opening story of creation in the Book of Genesis claims that vegetarianism is the most ethical way to consume food (it’s what God commands). Do you agree? How does that knowledge affect your own food choices?
- Later in Parshat Noah, some rabbis comment that God gives people permission to eat meat as a compromise to their appetite for it. Is this reasonable? Or should we rise to the higher standard articulated in the creation story?
- Do you see a connection between your ethics and your food choices? Why or why not?
The Courage To Maintain Our Relationships
- Why is it so difficult to claim responsibility for ways that our actions have hurt others? What gets in the way?
- What do we gain by not forgiving others who have hurt us? How do we forgive in a way that is authentic when we are still feeling hurt?
Insights Into Learning From Every Person
- What ordinary people in your life have been your greatest teachers?
- What gets in the way of being open to other people having something to teach you?
- How would orienting yourself towards another as a teacher of Torah change the way you relate to them?
Integrity in Our Relationships
- The rabbis thought that the sotah acted in the direction of her fantasy, but ultimately didn’t cross the boundary. Do you think this is wrong? Why or why not?
- We have fantasies of all kinds – are there any ways that fantasy can enhance relationship or lead to other positive outcomes?
- Do any of the boundaries that are present in your relationships, whatever they are, feel stifling? What do you think that is about?
Making Our Way Through Darkness: Coronavirus, Racial Injustice and Being a Blessing
- What do you think needs to happen for every person in this country to feel and be physically safe?
- What do you think needs to happen to eradicate bias and stereotypes so that we can perceive each other’s true humanity?
- In what ways are you going to help bring some more goodness to the world during these troubled times?
Shabbat: The Inspiration to Keep Going
- How do you balance accepting the world as it is with actively working to create what it could be?
- How does Shabbat inspire you to live a more fulfilled life? If you don’t find inspiration in Shabbat, how might you observe it in a way that creates more meaning and connection?
Aligning Our Hearts with Our Hands
- Do you find that there are situations where you need to act positively towards other people even if you don’t have positive feelings towards them? What are those situations and why?
- Do you believe there are relationships where you “should” feel a certain way about the other person and you don’t? What do you do?
Leadership and Empathy
- What are ways that you experience moments of leadership in your life?
- Where do you experience your “limit” – where you know you are not being as clear or supportive as you could be?
- How do you re-calibrate – to get back on track as a leader, when you are off?
The Challenge of Blessing
Please add the same video to our online small groups page with the following questions:
- How is it that Bilaam could be a prophet – one who is close to God, and also being willing to curse Israel and focus on the negative?
- How do you deal with negative feelings about others without speaking badly about them? How do you stay in relationship with people who you are hurt or annoyed by?
How Our Agendas Shape Our Approach To Truth
- Have you ever resisted information that you think might be true, because it is inconvenient or would cause you to make changes in your life? Describe.
- What sources of authority are valid and worth listening to? What causes you to challenge authority?
- In this current pandemic, how do you relate to the multiple sources of information and agendas?
Building Relationships Through Disagreement
- What makes it difficult for you to listen to other people’s perspectives when you disagree?
- What do you think is the most effective way to convince another person of your perspective?
- How do you communicate with people about the affairs of the world, when it is clear that people receive very different information about what is happening?
Resisting Alienation and Deepening Trust
- How do you notice trust and mistrust operating in your significant relationships? With those in your family, your community, your country?
- In what ways can boundaries in relationships enhance connection? In what ways do they prevent connection?
- In what ways to people create or believe stories about others to affirm and make sense of painful feelings they may carry? What are the consequences of those stories? What are other ways to deal with pain and loss in relationships?
The Choice To See the Fullness of the Other
- In what ways do we label people in certain ways, or believe that they can’t change, in our personal relationships, in community, and in the wide world?
- Are there times when you notice yourself or others being so committed to certain principles or values, that you don’t take the time to imagine what it is like to walk in another’s shoes?