Tag Archives: jewish holiday

Eight Wise Hanukkah Insights

by on December 6, 2015

Hanukkah insights

The clock is ticking and it’s time again for those eight crazy nights of Hanukkah. So this would be an apt time for eight wise Hanukkah insights. Well, maybe not so wise but maybe interesting. Perhaps…

  1. I never really understood the fascination with latkes. Sure, because of the miracle of the oil we are supposed to eat foods fried in oil – who thought that was a good idea? – but why latkes? They always seemed like glorified hash browns to me. Well, as with everything Jewish, there’s a story behind this: Seems that the Babylonian king Nevuchadnezzer sent his general Holofernes to destroy Jerusalem, and Holofernes decided he wanted to have Judith, daughter of the High Priest, as his bed mate. She agreed and as a gift, brought him latkes for dinner. He got very thirsty and she gave him strong wine. He got good and drunk, fell asleep, and Judith cut his head off, saving her people. Take note this story has nothing to do with Hanukkah, but oh well, it’s a good story so pass the latkes! As for me, I’d prefer fried chicken. (By the way, the latkes Judith made were made of cheese, so I guess we could think of Cheez Doodles as a new Hanukkah food.)
  2. How come, Jewish composers and songwriters wrote those beautiful Christmas songs that are impossible to escape, yet we, their people, have to sing “I Have a Little Dreidel?” Couldn’t someone write a classy Hanukkah song? Adam Sandler doesn’t count, though his song, now in version 4, has done more for kids’ Jewish identity than Hebrew School.
  3. Most people know that gift-giving is not an old-time Hanukkah tradition. From the Middle Ages on parents gave their children “gelt” (not to be confused with “guilt”) – money – with which to gamble with the dreidel. But what can we do? Capitalism reigns and God forbid our kids be left out of the gift -receiving frenzy. Just remember, we have more to give than toys and as we give let’s remember the most needy among us.
  4. The story of Hanukkah centers of the Syrian Greeks who defiled the Temple sanctuary in Jerusalem by putting idols in it and sacrificing pigs on the altar. When Judah and his small militia drove the enemy out of Jerusalem the first thing they did was to purify the Temple sanctuary. In that time, the Temple was thought of as the home of the Divine, so it was comparable to cleaning out the House so that God could return to dwell among the People of Israel. It’s very hard to survive as a spiritual person without having a sanctuary. What are we to do in our era? Perhaps we should take a page from our deepest mystical teaching that says that God’s sanctuary is within us; It’s in our hearts. As the gospel song goes, “O Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true…” So we need to work on purifying our hearts, polishing our souls, and lighting up the world.
  5. Here a conundrum for you: When Judah came to the Temple all he could find was a little cruse of oil with which to light the menorah, just enough oil for one day. So in an act of faith he lit the menorah and the oil lasted for eight days. That means that the miracle of the oil was only for seven days (you do the math)! So why is Hanukkah eight days? (There’s a fried latke for you if you know the answer.)
  6. Here’s one thing we can learn from the Maccabees: A small group of people can accomplish great miracles. So when we are overwhelmed with doubt and despondency, we can adopt the attitude that we can make miracles.
  7. Don’t forget to include family, friends and community in your Hanukkah celebration. The more people we include the more love and light we create. And isn’t that the idea? To make as much light as we can at the time when the days are shortest and the world is darkest?
  8. Each night when you light the Hanukkah candles, why not dedicate that evening’s candle to a hope you have for yourself, your family, for Israel or for the world? It will make the candle lighting more meaningful and will help us remember that we can make a difference in our world, even if it’s a small difference.

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At-One-Ment: Returning To Ourselves

by on September 21, 2015

Yom Kippur (Hebrew for the “Day of Atonement”) is said to be the most solemn and introspective day of the Jewish calendar. It is the culmination of a ten-day period of reflection, beginning with Rosh Hashanah. During these ten days we are invited to engage in a fearless moral inventory to assess the state of our souls and to reset our moral compasses.

These ten days are traditionally the time to approach people we have hurt, if we have not done Continue reading

Let It Go! The Benefit of Forgiveness

by on September 8, 2015

shofar rosh hashanah yom kippur

Central to the understanding of the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is the simple yet fundamental belief that people can change. We need not be stuck in habitual conditioned behaviors. We need not repeat the same behaviors that are hurtful to ourselves or to others over and over again. We are capable of change and growth. The great mystic and sage Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev taught that it is incumbent upon each individual to believe that with the next breath we can become new beings. The possibility of personal renewal is the great mystery of being human.

The blowing of the shofar – the ram’s horn – is the climax of the High Holiday ritual. The sound of the shofar is meant to cut through our web of routine, rationalization and conditioning, to wake us up to our true nature, which is goodness, love and compassion, and to urge us to leave behind behaviors and actions that cause suffering to ourselves or to others.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer us the personal and communal spiritual task of teshuvah – repentance. Repentance is the self-aware practice of assessing our deeds and our spiritual condition. To participate in the practice of repentance requires a willingness to engage in a courageous moral inventory, to ask for and give forgiveness and to make amends where possible. Repentance is achieved when we recognize and regret our hurtful behavior; we discontinue the behavior and determine not to repeat that behavior in the future. Repentance also requires asking forgiveness from those we have hurt. While we ask others for forgiveness, it is also important that we find a way to forgive ourselves. We are, after all, merely human.

While asking for forgiveness can be hard, offering forgiveness to others can be much more difficult. Sometimes we feel so hurt by others that the possibility of our forgiveness seems impossible. We simply can’t let go of the hurt and the anger. We hold on to our hurt as if it were a prize, a badge of honor. We have no desire to be in relationship with the person who has hurt us. Or, we feel that to forgive that person would be to condone what they did to us.

What we fail to understand is that as we hold on to our hurts and wounds for dear life, all we accomplish is to prolong the hurt. It has been said that holding on to our anger at the person who hurt us, is akin to holding on to a burning coal: the only person who gets burned is us.

Forgiveness does not require us to trust the person who hurt us or to re-establish a close relationship with her, nor does it mean we condone what was done to us. It simply means that we put down our anger and let go of it. As my teacher and friend Sylvia Boorstein likes to say, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better yesterday.” We cannot change what happened, but we can change our attitude about what happened. We don’t need to bear the painful burden of it forever.

Receiving forgiveness from others is a relief; asking forgiveness of others is an act of grace. Either way, forgiveness is a miraculous experience. Without the possibility of forgiveness we would live with constant despair. The promise of the High Holidays is that we can live instead with profound hope.

May this New Year bring us all health, happiness and abundant hope.

 

 

S’mores 2.0

by on May 4, 2015

S'moresS’mores are traditionally a part of the Jewish holiday Lag B’Omer. When you have a holiday that includes having a bonfire, you know s’mores have to be a part of it!  But, personally, I could eat these all year long.  Chocolate. Marshmallows. Graham crackers. Why not?

If you are looking for a more modern twist on an old favorite, here are some upgrades to your go-to campfire dessert , the s’more!

smore-cups-150

 

Baked S’more Cups
By Mindi Cherry

 

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A Healthy Spin on Latkes: The “No-tato” Pancake

by on November 21, 2014

quinoa latkes

Traditional potato latkes are delicious but more and more people are looking for healthier ways to make these wonderful fried patties.  We’ve come up with a recipe that is heavier on protein and veggies and light on the carbs.  And, as a bonus, they taste great! Enjoy!

Quinoa & Veggie Latkes Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

3 cup cooked quinoa (use 1 part quinoa to 1 part water)
1/2 cup grated onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 cup each finely grated zucchini and carrot
1/4 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste Continue reading

Passover Fun Facts

by on April 12, 2014

moses-part-sea-625

Are you hungry for facts and stories about Passover? Here is some interesting information you might enjoy and ponder.

The Burning Bush
We learn in the Passover story that Moses experiences a holy moment with God when he notices a burning bush in the desert. Many historians and scientists indicate that in ancient times, desert brush would catch on fire, spontaneously, quite regularly. This miracle of the burning bush was most likely not that fact that it was burning, but that it was burning without being consumed. This strikes me as a good lesson about the power of observation – sometimes things that seem quite ordinary, are in fact, anything but, and offer us extraordinary opportunities for holiness, and in Moses’ case, finding our destiny.

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