Jewish Rituals

Hanukah's Message

Hanukah's Message

In recent years at this time, I have researched the story of Hanukah, dressed up as Simon Ben Mattathias to give “dramatic historical presentations” at synagogues, and even lectured about Hanukah aboard cruise ships.  This year, I’m doing something quite different … 

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Chayyei Sarah: A Modest(y) Proposal

Chayyei Sarah: A Modest(y) Proposal

 

Why do Jewish brides veil their faces? In this week’s Torah Portion, Chayyei Sarah, Rebecca, who has never met Isaac, agrees to travel to his home and marry him.  When she first sees him from afar, she takes her veil and covers herself.  (Gen. 25:65).  This biblical story is the source of our “bedecken” wedding veil ritual. But why did she do it? ... 

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Shoftim: Lost and Found

Shoftim: Lost and Found

I lost my new “Smartphone” a few days ago.  It happened somewhere between my Jerusalem apartment and my arrival at morning minyan.  I think I put it on the bus seat when I opened my backpack to retrieve something that then took my full attention during the remaining short ride.   I remember being surprised when I looked up and saw that we were arriving at my stop; I jumped up, grabbed my backpack, and alighted without checking around me. No one has turned it in.  Yet, prompted by the Jewish calendar, I think that I have gained, rather than lost, from this incident ...

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Naso: G-d's Will?

Naso: G-d's Will?
Most of my synagogue experience has been in Reform schuls.  Near the end of Shabbat services, the rabbi and/or cantor recites the “threefold benedictions of Torah” – the Birkat-Kohanim (Priestly Blessings/Benediction):    
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Playing Catch-Up

Playing Catch-Up

Shalom from Jerusalem! This morning in synagogue, I gave a D’var Torah (short teaching) regarding Parashat (Torah Portion) Emor (Leviticus 21:1-25:23). I look forward to sharing it with you next week.  Why not this week?  Because whereas it is Shabbat Emor here in Israel, everywhere else in the world it is Shabbat Acharei Mot – Kiddoshim (a double portion), which we here read last week.  This difference in reading cycles occurs only for a few weeks every couple of years. Why?  The reason, like much of Jewish practice, combines historical, pragmatic, and “religious” considerations.

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A Passover Pilgrimage of the Mind

A Passover Pilgrimage of the Mind

The drive from Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv up into Jerusalem takes only about 35 minutes in non-rush hour traffic.  After initially crossing the coastal plain, one begins the steady climb of about 2,500 feet into the Judean Hills.  I always watch across the highway for a glimpse of the slowly-disintegrating personnel carriers left rusting as memorials to the soldiers and civilians who died there during the 1948 War of Independence.  Then, I scan the hills for the first glimpse of the “Chords Bridge” tower that now marks the principal entry into the Holy City.  All the while, as my vehicle (usually a van-taxi) downshifts up the mountain, I marvel at the thought of my ancestors leaving their homes and making this laborious and dusty ascent by foot or donkey three times each year.  The book of Deuteronomy

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Why is Passover so popular?

Why is Passover so popular?

During Passover, the normal sequential Torah reading cycle pauses to revisit passages in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that address Pesach observance.  Even in America, where, to a great extent, most Jews limit their ritual observance and are comfortable living in the nominally Christian (or secular) culture, Pesach observance – one or two Seders, eating of matzoh, and chametz avoidance for most or all of an entire week – is generally or closely followed.  Why do Jews who otherwise minimize Jewish rituals cling to those of Passover?  Here are ten possibilities:

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The Restroom Prayer

The Restroom Prayer
One of the most important goals of both Jewish prayer and ritual is to infuse spirituality and meaning into ordinary moments and actions. Our tradition asks/requires us to pray when we awaken, before and after eating, as we prepare to sleep … and a... Continue Reading »
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Jewish Proverb