Unhappy Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013
Sad man holding pillow

 (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

I know what it’s like. I’ve been there: Unhappy Thanksgiving.

 

The details are private and personal, but the larger picture: the family gathering that is more painful than fun, the lonely Thanksgiving far from people you love, the holiday when there is an empty chair at the table – I’ve been to all those Thanksgivings, and they were miserable.

 

One of the blessings I count today is that this year is a good year for me: I’m surrounded by family, in a happy home, with food on the table, and the turkey is paid for. I have what I need, and more.

 

Not all years were like that. And I know, for someone reading this, this year isn’t like that. I’m truly sorry that you are having an Unhappy Thanksgiving this year. If I had a magic wand, I would heal all the hunger, and the loneliness, and the poverty, and the broken hearts – but I have no magic wand.

 

All I can tell you is that this is just one day. If the sun is shining, take a walk. If you can identify a blessing, give thanks for it. Gratitude is often the beginning of something good, weirdly enough.

 

But know that I know you are there, and I’ve been there. I wish you better years ahead.

 


Moving Day

November 19, 2013
Cartoon depicting Moving Day (May 1) in New Yo...

Cartoon depicting Moving Day (May 1) in New York City in 1869 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I wrote “more tomorrow” I forgot that I’m moving on the 19th. (Now you are wondering, how can a person forget something like that? But writing does that for me, one reason I took the NaBloPoMo challenge to write my way through November.)

Who knows what insomnia may bring, but for now, this is it. I’m hoping for a good night’s sleep, because I know I need it.

By the time you read this, I’ll already be in motion.

 

 


October Requires Pumpkins, Right?

October 3, 2013

rabbiadar:

To the Nth posted this soup recipe, and I replied with soup enthusiasm. Then she made a brilliant suggestion: “Do we get bonus points if we combine soup-making with your hospitality challenge?”

To which I have to say, “Heck, yeah!” So here is a new angle on the Hospitality Challenge: share soup or any other quick, easy, inexpensive recipes that might be good for serving to your guests!

The prize: honor and undying gratitude from other Hospitable folk.

By the way, I recommend you check out her blog. She’s fun.

Originally posted on To the Nth:

Happy autumn, y’all! We’ve made it through the marathon of the Jewish fall holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah all come tumbling one right after the other) and visits from both our families. The picture I have in my head for an ideal October involves space to breathe as the days grow shorter and the Florida heat and humidity approach marginally acceptable levels. Oh, and also a lot of soup.

We love soup and eat it even at the height of summer, but I have to admit there is a special joy in it when there is a chill in the air. I came up with the following recipe over the summer when Sampson was flying late and I was pawing through the pantry for something quick, easy, and just a little more sophisticated than ramen noodles. Random canned goods to the…

View original 162 more words


And Here’s a Stick Bug Just Hanging Out on the Side of My Garage

September 29, 2013

rabbiadar:

Miracles abound!

Originally posted on Whatever:

You know. Like you do. I don’t know why this thing surprised me when I saw it; I think I just assumed stick bugs didn’t live in Ohio. Surprise! I was wrong.

View original


7 Questions About Sukkot

September 17, 2013
English: Etrog, silver etrog box and lulav, us...

Etrog, silver etrog box and lulav (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, yesterday I talked about the heart of Sukkot: it’s about hospitality, welcoming guests, being a guest, sharing food, being outdoors with other Jews and with friends and neighbors.

And I am pretty sure that someone was thinking, yes, but that’s not really Sukkot. You want the terminology and stuff, right? So now we’ll talk about that.

WHAT IS SUKKOT? Sukkot [soo-COAT] is the plural of Sukkah [soo-KAH], which is the Hebrew name of the little booth we build for the holiday. You may also encounter the Yiddish pronunciations, [SOOK-us] and [SOOK-uh]. It’s also the Jewish harvest holiday that follows the High Holy Days.

WHEN IS SUKKOT? Sukkot is a fall harvest holiday. It begins on 15 Tishrei, the fifth day after Yom Kippur. It lasts for eight days (seven days in Israel). It will begin on the evening of Sept 18, 2013. On the first two days and the last day of Sukkot observant Jews do no work.

WHY DO WE DO THIS? Sukkot started as a harvest holiday. Nowadays it is a chance to foster our relationships with friends and family. Remember, we just spent the last six weeks mending our relationships — now it’s time to enjoy those improved relationships! The little sukkahs also remind us of our temporary dwellings in the wilderness, and of the impermanence of most possessions. The observance of Sukkot is commanded in Leviticus 23:40-43.

HOW DO WE OBSERVE SUKKOT?  Sukkot is unique in that we actually build the place where we celebrate it fresh every year. A sukkah (soo-KAH) is a little shed built to very precise directions, open on one side with a very flimsy roof of branches or reeds. We build it outside and eat meals in it. Some people actually sleep in their sukkah. Many Jews entertain guests in the sukkah, and in Israel, many restaurants also have them for customers to enjoy. It’s customary to decorate the sukkah with hangings, artwork, and home-made decorations.

WHAT IS A LULAV? Observant Jews also “wave the lulav.” It’s a bouquet of palm, willow, and myrtle, held alongside an etrog (citron) and waved to all the compass points, with a blessing. If you want to learn about waving a lulav and etrog, you can find more information here.

ARE THERE ANY MOVIES ABOUT SUKKOT?  Yes!  There’s a very funny Israeli film Ushpizin which is set in a very traditional community in Jerusalem during Sukkot. Ushpizin [oosh-pee-ZEEN] or [ush-PEE-zin] are visitors to the sukkah.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A SUKKAH? Most synagogues build a sukkah. Calling them to ask about activities in the sukkah is a great way to learn about your local synagogues. Even if it is not practical to have a sukkah at home, however, you can do some similar activities:

  • Go on a picnic with family or friends.
  • Get out in nature! Go for a hike!
  • Invite friends over that you haven’t seen for a while.
  • Reach out to someone you think might become a friend.
  • Reach out to someone who seems lonely.
  • Get to know your neighbors.
  • Reconnect with someone you’ve been meaning to call.
  • Rejoice in the natural world, however you best do that!

Sukkot is a great time to practice the mitzvah (commandment) of Hachnasat Orchim, Hospitality.  Whether you spend this Sukkot as a guest or as a host or (best of all!) a little of both, I hope that you are able to spend some time with friendly people, enjoying the fall weather!


Why is the Jewish Calendar so Weird?

August 31, 2013

Time Selector

Elul, the month of looking inward, is almost over.  Wednesday night is Erev Rosh HaShanah, the evening of the New Year.

Jewish “days” start at sundown, because in Genesis 1 it says, over and over, “It was evening, and it was morning.”  This is something that takes some getting used to, if you don’t grow up with it:  the day begins when the sun dips below the horizon.  The fact that you’ve been up for hours has nothing to do with it.

Jewish living is like that, tilted 90 or 270 degrees from Western secular life.  The day begins at sundown.  The year begins in the fall.  (Also in the middle of winter and in the springtime.)  Sunday is yom rishon, the first day of the week (and it begins on Saturday night.)  The whole thing is cockeyed.

There is no doubt about it, we are a stiff necked people, as the God of Israel comments to Moses in Exodus 32:9.  Only a stiff necked people could insist on their own cockeyed timetable for thousands of years of diaspora, tripping over other people’s holidays and calendars and clocks and whatnot.  Ask anyone who asked for Rosh HaShanah off this week:  it’s a nuisance.  Yet we stick out our stiff necks and insist on it year after year after year, annoying our bosses, confusing our neighbors, and making some paranoid types certain that we are Up to Something, an international conspiracy, perhaps.

Why not accomodate?  Why not assimilate?  Why not go with the flow, for crying out loud?

We stick with it because time is sacred.  The traditional story is that the day begins at sundown because Genesis says so.  But we could as well read it the opposite direction:  we have that story to explain, to remind us, to keep stepping to that Jewish drummer:  it was evening, it was morning, it was the first day.  The creation story doesn’t tell us “how the world was made,” it tells us how to look at the world.  It’s easy to say, the day begins when I get up in the morning — then the world revolves around my state of consciousness. It’s easy to say, the day begins at midnight, because the government and mutual agreement say so.  But Genesis says, “It was evening, it was morning,” to throw us off balance, to say, “Stop!  Look!  Think!  PAY ATTENTION!”

Pay attention, because some years, like this year,  Rosh HaShanah is “early.” Mind you, it always comes on the first day of Tishrei, but if you usually live on the Gregorian calendar, this year 1 Tishrei comes on the evening of 4 September, which is unusually early in September. Pay attention, because while in the “regular” world it is 2013, in the Jewish world, it is about to be 5774.

Notice the passage of time.  Notice the cycle of seasons.  Notice when the sun goes down and comes up, and that will require you to take your eyes off the computer screen, off the TV, off your own navel, and out to the horizon.  Live out of step with the ordinary, so that you will step lively.  Pay attention.

Pay attention, because as Chaim Stern z”l wrote for Gates of Prayer:  “Days pass and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles.  Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing; let there be moments when Your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk.  Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns unconsumed.   And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness, and exclaim in wonder:  How filled with awe is this place, and we did not know it!  Blessed is the Eternal One, the holy God!”


Sunshine!

August 9, 2013

sunshine-award

What a nice surprise!

I’d never heard of the Sunshine Award until this blog received a nomination for it earlier this week from writer, editor, and history researcher Serendipity Chronicles. According to SC:

The Sunshine Award honors writers who are working to “light up the dark corners” of readers’ minds. It’s a true writer’s honor – a high five given from one scribe to another not just in appreciation of his or her written work, but in recognition of how challenging it can be to put that work out there for all to see – and to keep putting it out there even when the writing Muse is off on a vacation cruise.

Most importantly, it’s an affirmation of the world view that showing kindness is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Thank you to Serendipity Chronicles for nominating me – how very kind of you to give me this encouragement!

Perhaps the best prize is the opportunity to nominate other wordpress blogs for the Sunshine Award.  My nominees are:

Hope Avenue

Sojourning With Jews

It’s Just Something to Think About

The Fat Chick Sings

rachelmankowitz: the cricket pages

and yadda yadda yadda… I made aliyah

The Squeaky Robot

Rules for Nominees of the Sunshine Awards 

  1. Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post.
  2. Include your own responses to the Q&A below.
  3. Pass on the award to 10 – 12 deserving and inspiring bloggers, give them the good news, and link to their blogs.

Q&A for Sunshine Award Nominees (replace the existing answers provided by Serendipity Chronicles and include the updated Q&A as part of your own post in which you accept the award):

  • Favorite color? Chnges constantly.
  • Favorite animal? Poodle.
  • Favorite number? Five.
  • Favorite nonalcoholic drink? Lemonade.
  • Favorite alcoholic drink? Guinness.
  • Facebook or Twitter? Twitter
  • My Passions? My spouse, my sons, teaching.
  • Giving or Receiving Gifts? Both equally.

12 Facts about the Month of Elul

August 6, 2013
English: A man demonstrates sounding a shofar ...

sounding a shofar at a synagogue in Minnesota. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Elul is the name of the last of 12 months in the Jewish Calendar.
  2. Elul is not mentioned in the Bible.
  3. Most years it begins in August of the secular calendar. In 2013, it begins at sundown on August 6.
  4. Traditionally, it is a time for looking back over the year past, taking stock, and making apologies and amends for mistakes and wrongs.
  5. For religiously observant Jews, it is a time for teshuvah (click the link for more about teshuvah.)
  6. Both of these forms of retrospection are a preparation for the High Holy Days.
  7. During Elul many synagogues sound a blast on the shofar [ram's horn] at morning services. The sound of the shofar is said to awake the sleeping soul.
  8. Many observant Jews also recite Psalm 27 every day from 1 Elul through Hoshana Rabbah, the end of Sukkot.
  9. Selichot, special services of penitential prayers, are offered during Elul.
  10. Many Jews visit the graves of relatives or friends during Elul. It is a form of respect for the dead, and also a reminder that our lives are finite (a theme of the High Holy Days.)
  11. A greeting for Elul is “K’tiva chatimah tovah” – “May you be written and sealed for good.” This is a reference to one of the major metaphors of the High Holy Days, the Book of Life. 
  12. For more about Elul, check out this article by Rabbi Reuven Hammer.

Shiva Minyan

June 9, 2013

mishkantefilah

There are days when I bless my lucky stars that I get to be a rabbi.

I spent the early evening tonight with a grieving family. They had come together to mourn the loss of a man in his fifties, dead of cancer. He was a gifted musician and human being, and everyone who knew him misses him terribly.

These days, many Reform families opt out of shiva or shorten it to one or two days. They give many reasons. I suspect that for many of them, the idea of a whole week of official mourning is a frightening prospect at a time when they are already disoriented and upset, and I can understand that. It’s a shame, though, because shiva can be wonderfully healing.

This family has chosen to embrace the process of mourning. They’ve opted for a real week of shiva: for seven days his widow is staying home, surrounded by family and friends. I am a rabbi temporarily serving at their synagogue, and I have been invited in to lead the evening prayers most nights.

Last Thursday evening after the funeral the entire group was in shock. They were in that deep place of mourning where there is no consolation, only grief. I steered them through the service, hearing voices in the group check in and out as they were able. This was clearly a family that had just suffered an unthinkable loss. When we reached the point in the service where I offer the option of sharing stories or sitting in silence, they opted for silence. We sat quietly for a good five minutes. Afterwards, someone mentioned that it was good to be quiet together; they were all exhausted.

Tonight the mood had shifted. The family was relaxed but no longer exhausted. They are beginning to absorb the loss. The dog greeted me, snuffling, and a few people chuckled at his obvious pleasure at the “messages” from my dogs.

Tonight we sat in a circle. I began the service with “Hinei ma tov,” a song about how good it is to be together. We used some of the alternate prayers in Mishkan Tefilah for a House of Mourning. Since we began shiva last Thursday they’d been looking through the book a bit and several had requests for readings that they liked. There were song requests, too, and we sang “Oseh Shalom” twice because someone remembered a favorite melody. I let the service take the shape they needed, then we finished traditionally, with Psalm 23, El Male Rachamim, and Kaddish.

I said my goodbyes and slipped out. As I left, family and friends gathered in the kitchen, getting plates of food. Life is returning to this house, slowly but surely.


Beginner’s Guide to Brit Milah (“Bris”)

April 5, 2013

English: A new born baby in his Godfather's ha...

You’ve been invited to a bris! If this is your first bris, there are some things that you should know.

1. WHAT’S A BRIS? A bris, or brit milah, is the ritual circumcision of a Jew. A bris is not merely a medical procedure, however. It is a symbol of the Jewish partnership with God, the covenant of Abraham. For the son of Jewish parents, a bris is usually on the 8th day after birth.

2. WHERE? A bris may take place in a home, in a doctor’s office, or in a synagogue. If you have been invited to attend as a guest, dress for the place: a bris at a home will be a bit more casual than one at a synagogue.  When in doubt about dress, ask!

3. TIME? A bris is often scheduled for the morning, usually on the eighth day after birth.  The actual bris takes only a few minutes, but there will be schmoozing before and schmoozing and a festive meal afterwards, so allow an hour or even two.

4. WHO PERFORMS THE BRISA bris is performed by a mohel (moyl),  a Jew who has been trained specifically for this ritual. Generally,  liberal (Reform or Conservative) mohelim (mo-heh-LEEM) are physicians who have received additional ritual training. Orthodox mohelim may be doctors, or they may have graduated from a program that trains mohelim in surgical techniques, aseptic techniques, and Jewish ritual and law.

5. DO I HAVE TO WATCH?  No. The mohel will tell everyone where to stand, but unless you are the sandak (the person who holds the baby and delivers him to the mohel) you are unlikely to see much anyway. If blood bothers you, don’t look.

6. DOES IT HURT THE BABY? At most of the brissim I have attended, if the baby cried, it was when his diaper was removed (cold air).  An experienced mohel will do the circumcision as painlessly as possible.

7. PRESENTS? It is not customary to give a present at a bris. However, if you wish to take a baby gift or something for the parents, it is OK to do so.  “Gag gifts” such as one might have at a baby shower  are in poor taste, however; this is a serious religious ritual.

8. GREETINGS “Mazal tov!”  A bris is one of the happiest occasions in Jewish life, when the covenant moves to the next generation.

9. NAMING A Jewish boy receives his name at the bris. Many parents do not call him by name until after the bris; before that he is simply “Baby Lastname.” If you ask about the name and they are cagey about it, that’s what’s going on – go to the bris and you will learn the name when everyone else does.

 


Hannagirl50's Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

so long as it's words

so long as it's words... words and worlds

takingthemaskoff

addiction mental health stigma

Prinze Charming

Connecting the Hopeless Romantic Community Together

here and now...

life on the lone prairies...

Chasing Rabbit Holes

This site is the cat’s meow and the dog's pajamas

50 Shades of me

DARKYBLUE

JAMESMAYORBLOG.COM

This WordPress.com site is the cat’s pajamas

Your Well Wisher Program

Attempt to solve commonly known problems…

annamosca

Just another WordPress.com site

Converting to Judaism

The Oys and Joys of Choosing A Jewish Life

Witty Worried and Wolf

If this is midlife, I could live to be 120!

Bojenn

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Confessions Of A Hollywood Nobody

A journey along the path most traveled.

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

Sarah's thoughts on science, spirituality, and practicality

Do science and spirituality clash or collaborate? Also.. how to love God and not be a jerk about it.

CONFESSIONS OF A READAHOLIC

Every READER is a different person!

The Bipolar Bum

Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.

A Very Narrow Bridge

The world is a very narrow bridge; the important thing is not to be afraid. ~Nachman of Breslov

So This Priest Walks Into a Bar...

Beer, music and a thirst for God

jewish philosophy place

Aesthetics & Critical Thought

Unpublished In Tel-Aviv

Tales of an unpublished author a long long way from home...

Chava's Footsteps

The journey of an "interfaith" Jew

Mizunogirl's Blog

Words about Running, Reading and other "stuff"

A secular Jew in Indianapolis

Philosophical, Theological, and Other Reflections

Embodied Torah

Exploring what it means to LIVE Torah ...

Oy Vey Out Loud

Struggles, strife and tsuris

analyse196

"We must dare to invent the future" - Thomas Sankara

Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols

Exploring the meaning of cemetery symbols and other graveyard mysteries. For genealogy sleuths, taphophiles and goth kids.

More Than Greens

There's so much more to vegetarianism than rabbit food...

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,580 other followers

%d bloggers like this: