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Jewish Home - Sukkot & Simchat Torah

Celebrate Sukkot: Living in cities and suburbs we forget about the moon. Rosh Hashana is on the first day of the month of Tishrei. It is on a new moon, a moon we cannot really see. Sukkot is on the fifteenth day of the month. It is on a moon that is full, a harvest moon.

A sukkah is a booth (sometimes called a “tabernacle”). Sukkot means booths. It is a hut-like structure that we “dwell” in during the festival of Sukkot. There are three different stories that explain Sukkot:

  • The families of Israel camped in booths (and tents) during their forty years in the wilderness. Sukkot helps us remember the time between Egypt and Israel.
  • The farmers of ancient Israel camped in booths during the harvest season. Sukkot helps us remember to thank God for the food that comes from the earth.
  • The families of Israel camped in booths when they came up to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage. Three times a year Jews came to Jerusalem to bring part of their crops to the Temple. Sukkot helps us remember that all Jews used to go annually to Jerusalem to give their thanks to God.

By means of the sukkah, Judaism teaches the Jew symbolically to look beyond the present into the future. Though the present may be perplexing, seemingly insurmountable difficulties can be overcome. One need only look to see the stars to find the source for inspiration and encouragement.

 

Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing with the Torah,” and is one of the happiest holidays of the year and it comes at the end of Sukkot. On Simchat Torah we celebrate because we are completing the year’s cycle of reading the Torah and are happy to begin the cycle once again.

On the eve of Simchat Torah (Friday, October 8, 2001), all of the Torah scrolls are taken out from the ark and are carried around the Synagogue in a series of processions – Hakafot – accompanied by singing and children with flags. Following the Hakafot we read the last verses of the Torah immediately followed by reading the first verses of the Torah.

 

Jewish Home - High Holidays

Rosh Hashana, the New Year (literally “head of the year”), the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, is solemn yet joyful.  It is known by several names, including: Yom Harat Olam, the birthday of the world, Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance, Yom Teruah, the Day of Sounding the Shofar, and Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgement.

One grand lesson of Rosh Hashanah is that we are, and can continue to be, very good. It is sufficient if we strive to achieve our potential. It is only when we fail to be the fullness of who we are that we are held accountable. Rabbi Zusya said, "In the world to come, they will not ask me, 'Why were you not Moses?' They will ask me, 'Why were you not Zusya?'"

Self-Assessment: Even those of us who wonder about the nature and the existence of God can find a place for ourselves in the rhythms and the texture of Rosh Hashanah. For it is not only God who judges us. In private moments of contemplation, often without prompting, we judge ourselves-when we lie in bed at night, unable to sleep; when we drive long distances with little to distract us; on vacation. It is good to capture those moments, to harness them and channel them into more than passing speculation or the regrets of "if only." Those moments of awareness can mark turning points in our lives. Such is the gift of Rosh Hashanah. Safe in a community busy with self-assessment and turning, we are encouraged to make an honest assessment, too.

When we look carefully, we often find that the texture of our lives is an enlarged pattern of the little things: the times we lost our temper and the times we held our peace, the times our friends could count on us and the times we weren't there, the times we did what was right in our workplace and the times we looked away. We recall the times we took too much, drank too much, spent too much, cared too little; the times we acquiesced when we should have fought back, when we fought hard but for the wrong reason.

When we fail in our task as the partners of God, which we all do at times, we can seek God's forgiveness. But when we hurt others, we must seek them out for forgiveness. God can forgive us only after we seek the forgiveness of those we wronged. They own the hurt. They deserve and are owed the first apology.

Rosh Hashana Seder: Since many families will be at home on erev Rosh Hashana, make it a special evening. There are many resources available to create a Rosh Hashana Seder. There are many resources available - click here.

Symbolic New Year Foods: There is a tradition of eating foods at Rosh Hashana with symbolic values. Click here for a PJLibrary Family Guide.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the Jewish year. The erroneous perception of Yom Kippur as a day of sadness is due in large measure to it being a fast day. The holiday’s goal, however, is not self mortification but rather to bring about reconciliation between people,  and between individuals and God.

Another popular myth about Yom Kippur is that attending services at Temple, accompanied by earnest praying, wins forgiveness from God for all sins. In fact, the only sins forgiven on Yom Kippur are those committed against God. As for offenses committed against other people, the Mishna writes, “Yom Kippur does not atone until [one] appeases his neighbors” (Mishna Yoma 8:9).

Yom Kippur is the only fast day mandated in the Torah (Leviticus 23:27; the verse specifically speaks of “afflicting your souls”). The fast commences an hour before the holiday begins, and concludes twenty-five hours later.

Kol Nidre:  On the first night, the service is inaugurated with a haunting prayer called the Kol Nidre (All Vows). In this prayer, one asks to be released in advance from any vows made and not kept. While the origins of the prayer are uncertain, during the Middle Ages and subsequently, Jews were often forced to vow allegiance to Christianity, but continued to practice Judaism in secret. Through this prayer they begged God to forgive them from those vows which were made under duress.  Today, the Kol Nidre prayer remains a part of the liturgy because of its historical association, its inspirational melody and it great beauty.

Teshuvah:  Teshuvah is a Hebrew word which means “turning back.” Doing teshuvah is a process that involves: recognizing how we have fallen short of our expectations (and God’s expectations for us); apologizing and making amends for doing hurtful things; and resolving not to repeat them. When we do teshuvah, we are trying to turn back to the time before we did them.

Teshuvah is hard work – simply saying you are sorry is not enough.  Teshuvah is doing everything we can to make sure that we never make the same mistake again. Teshuvah is wanting with all your heart and strength to be the best person you can be.

Jewish Home - Passover

(Passover is the pre-eminent Jewish home holiday (although going to synagogue the first and last day is also traditional). Passover is the holiday that commemorates our redemption from slavery and our exodus from Egypt. Moses the shepherd is chosen by God to approach Pharaoh and demand freedom for the Israelites. Pharaoh refuses. After 10 famous plagues, the Israelites are allowed to go. They leave in haste and arrive at the banks of the Red Sea as Pharaoh changes his mind again. The final showdown ends dramatically when the sea splits in two, the Israelites walk through the sea-bed to safety, and the Egyptian army drowns as they attempt to follow the Israelites through the suspended waters. The ritual most observed by American Jews, according to surveys, is not lighting Hanukkah candles or fasting on Yom Kippur, but attending a Seder--a festive spring meal full of symbolism and good food--on Passover. The Passover Seder has endured and evolved, carrying with it some ancient symbols, ethnic foods, and bold universalistic declarations wrapped in the particulars of the Jewish experience. It also has remained in the mind's eye of most Jews as the nostalgic centerpiece of warm and crazy memories of Jewish family gatherings.Perhaps the leading factor for Passover's super-status is--what else--food. In Passover, more than any Jewish holiday, we have the complete melding of food, ritual and symbolism, and thus of body and soul.

THE MAGIC OF THE SEDER

Seder nights are magic. They both transcend and unite history. They are also an ideal learning environment. They provide for all different learning styles. The Seder combines reading, singing, tasting, acting - a little of everything. Seder night also connects us to generations past, present and future. As we sit at the Seder table, Jews around the world sit with their families, singing the same songs, retelling the same story, dipping the same karpas and, hopefully, enjoying a magical time with their families.

As your family sits down to relive the Exodus from Egypt at the Seder, create your own Seder memories. Each of us has wonderful Seder memories from our childhood. Whether it was the first time you were able to ask the Four questions or the first time your child was able to ask them - they are memories that will last a lifetime.

As you prepare for your Seder, remember to involve your children in the process - add songs, stories, special activities. Families have shared stories of the special “Seder Memories” that they have, be sure to create your own. The goal of the Seder is for “every person to see him/herself as if he/she personally went out from Egypt,” (from the Haggadah).

CLICK HERE for a video about the Passover Seder.
CLICK HERE for Order of the Seder Cards.

The Passover Haggadah: There are many different Passover Haggadot available - new ones arrive every year. There's the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel, The Thirty Minute Seder, The (unofficial) Hogwarts Haggadah,  the new Haggadah of the Reform Movement, Sharing the Journey, and the The New Haggadah, Celebrating Freedom, created by Rabbis Rick and Susan Rheins. The list goes on and on. A wonderful resource to create your own Haggadah is Haggadot.com. Their simple platform allows you to create a custom Passover Haggadah, with access to unique content contributed by the Haggadot.com community. Find artwork, family activities, translations and songs in their library to enliven your Seder experience.

PJ Library has made their Haggadah available for download - CLICK HERE.

The Story of Passover: The Story of Passover is quite simple. “We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt, but Adonai our God brought us forth with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm.” On Seder night, our national experience becomes part of the story of our family history. Passover provides children with the opportunity to again ask their parents, “Tell us the story of when we were slaves in Egypt.” The Passover celebration gives us ownership of the Jewish story and its messages, for it is our story - the one that we tell to our children in our own way just as our parents told us in theirs. That is why the two-part essence of the Passover celebration is 1) for “Every person to see her/himself as if he/she personally went out from Egypt” (from the Haggadah) and 2) “You shall tell your child..it is because of what Adonai our God did for me that I went free from Egypt.” (Exodus 13:8).

CLICK HERE to hear the Story of Passover.

PASSOVER WEBINAR WITH RABBIS RICK & SUSAN RHEINS

CLICK HERE to view Passover Webinar from March 29.
CLICK HERE for Passover Preparation Questions
CLICK HERE for Bedikat Chametz (the Search for Leaven)
CLICK HERE for Pesach Songs

PASSOVER LEARNING

Mah Nishtanah - The Four Questions: Many families have the the tradition that the youngest child (or all the children) recite the Four Questions at the Seder. It's important to prepare -

CLICK HERE for a print out of the Four Questions.
CLICK HERE for a guided chanting for review.

What's Different About Tonight?: A  Shaboom video about Passover. CLICK HERE

PASSOVER RESOURCES (click on links)

Seder Ideas: Ideas to make this Seder different from all other Sedarim.
Charoset Around the World: Explore the many different traditions for Charoset.
B'dikat Chametz: A guide for the B'dikat Chametz (the Search for Leaven)
Miriam's Cup: Add the custom of including a Miriam's Cup to your family Seder.
Elijah's Cup: A new tradition for Elijah's Cup.
Passover Song Sheet: A collection of songs for the Passover Seder
Leaven Can Wait - Yummy Passover Recipes
Let's Make Matzah - A recipe to make Matzah
Passover Games - Word Search, Crossword, Soduko and more.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Reform Judaism Resources
My Jewish Learning
Passover Recipes

Passover Videos

There are so many wonderful videos to enhance your Passover celebration.
Click here to view a list of our favorites.

Jewish Home - Purim

Celebrate Purim - Tuesday, March 10, 2020
The memory of redemption and victory have become the foundation of a day of national celebration, the happiest day in the Jewish year. It became the one official "party day" in our year, the one time when nothing must be taken seriously. On Purim it is a "legal" expectation that one should be drunk enough "not to be able to tell the difference between "Cursed be Haman" and "Blessed be Mordechai." For the usually hyper-self-conscious Jewish tradition, Purim is the one day of authorized (and almost total) abandon. There are four mitzvot/actions which have become the essence of Purim:

THE READING OF THE MEGILLAH: The central mitzvah of Purim is that of hearing the public reading of the book of Esther. Whenever Haman’s name is read, it is customary to break out in loud noise to fulfill literally the curse, “May his name be obliterated.”  However, during the rest of the Megillah it is important to listen quietly in order to appreciate best and learn from this story.  We will have a Purim Shpiel (skit) on Sunday, March 8, 10:00 a.m. The Megillah will be read on Monday, March 9, at 6:00 p.m.  

The Purim Shpiel is a wonderful opportunity for children to sense a special feeling in the Synagogue. Even without understanding the context, a child will immediately associate Judaism with pure joy and celebration. He/she will feel bonded to a people and community who know how to laugh, who love their tradition enough to play with it and enjoy it.

THE GIVING OF SHALACH MANOT: Shalach Manot is a simple mitzvah. It is just a matter of giving a gift of two or more kinds of food to the small circle of people you feel are important in your family’s life. This too is another act of celebration, rooted in a command Mordechai gave to the Jewish people after their victory. He said, “these days (Purim) should be observed as “a time to send gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” (Esther 9:22) There is nothing elaborate about Shalach Manot - a couple of hamantashen and a banana on a paper plate specially decorated by your child, or a small basket filled with chocolate and some of your secret recipe cookies - but it provides another of Purim’s wonderful opportunities. The mitzvah of Shalach Manot not only allows for the “joy of giving,” but is intrinsically a statement of connection. The process of making a Shalach Manot list, preparing and delivering these gifts, is a wonderful way of identifying explicitly the family and community who influence your life. It is a wonderful way of teaching that “we are not alone." (Don't be afraid to be the first to start the Shalach Manot tradition).

MATTANOT LA-EVYONIM: One mark of the Jewish tradition’s genius was its innate sense that every moment of significance, every formal gathering, should include an opportunity for giving tzedakah. Tzedakah, coming from the Hebrew root which means “justice,” is the obligation to help those who are in need by sharing part of the wealth we have been fortunate enough to accumulate. From its ancient biblical roots, Judaism had a sense that participation in the total celebration which Purim offered would be a selfish act (and not a force for world transformation) unless tzedakah were part of the process.

A DAY OF CELEBRATION: The Talmud gives us a clue. It says, “When a person enters the month of Adar (the Hebrew month in which Purim falls), joy increases.” (Ta’anit 29a).  Joy and celebration are the central order of the day. Making Purim day into a celebration is an important Mitzvah of Purim. In Megillat Esther, Mordechai commands the Jewish people to make the 14th of Adar into a day of “feasting and gladness.” (9.22).  From this verse, the rabbis made part of the celebration of Purim the participation in a Purim Seudah, a festive Purim meal. In previous generations, the Purim Seudah ranked with the Passover Seder as a major family event in the annual social calendar.

Purim Videos: To view Purim Videos (stories and songs), click here.

 

Wed, September 30 2020 12 Tishrei 5781