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It’s Simchat Torah! Let’s Dance!

Simchat Torah in the Yari’s sukkah.

Ya know how when you throw an epic party and everyone comes and has a great time, and there’s always one last person to leave? It’s like the ultimate Jewish goodbye. Well that’s my analogy for Simcha Torah, and the guest of honor is God, who wants us to soak in every last bit of happiness and newfound wisdom from the weeklong festival of Sukkot. When we welcome guests into our outdoor huts and we gather together in the beauty of nature and under the stars, we are humble and grateful.  We aren’t focused on material things that separates us, but rather the simple joys that bring us together. My mouth is still watering from dipping soft chewey challah into tahini stuffed eggplant and butternut squash soup, a few of the delicacies that wet our appetites for a feast served inside the sukkah of Rabbi Yosef and Mimi David. Consideirng the meal began after sundown, when the stars appeared, it was a late nite before we said our goodbyes. As we walked down the sidewalk together, we heard the sounds of crickets chirping and the faint singing of neighbors down the street who were still rejoicing after a full day of fun in their annual Yari sukkah party with lots of children, families, balloon making, moon bounce, a juggling rabbi, and a dairy meal of pasta, quiche, and sweets that kept on coming. This feeling of joy is what we strive for when Sukkot is finally over and we move back into our homes and return to our everyday lives. We try to maintain the closeness to each other, to God, and to nature.

Rabbi Yari known for his many talents, including juggling at weddings and special holidays.

Children enjoy the balloon making, treats, moon bounce and more.

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My High Holiday Hike With Hashem

I finally found Shari, Elise, Mimi & her daughter Adina.

During the High Holidays, the 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, more Jews fill the pews than any other time of year. Known as The Days of Awe, we push ourselves to do some serious soul searching.  We dig deep during this time of teshuva, a Hebrew word that translates literally as “return” and describes the return to God and with our fellow human beings as we ask (and grant) forgiveness and strive to better ourselves, our souls.

We walk or drive to our places of worship, sometimes having to park miles away and take a shuttle because the parking lot is so packed. Wdon our finest holiday clothes, schmooze with friends, listen to the loud blasts of the shofar, recite special prayers, and read from the Torah. The rabbis wear white robes adorned with silver and gold to symbolize royalty and the annual coronation of God as King of the Jewish people.

On this Rosh Hashanah, I celebrated the birthday of the Jewish people at Nusach Hari B’nai Zion because I feel particularly close to the Orthodox rabbis there, and I gain a lot of insight from the learner’s service afterwards; On Kol Nidre, the eve of Yom Kippur, I helped collect tzedakah, or charity, at Congregation Shaare Emeth, a reformed temple where my kids made their bar and bat mitzvah. When Cantor Seth belts out the Jewish prayer Avenu Milkenu,“Our Father Our King,” his beautiful voice fills the sanctuary. Every year, the rabbis deliver sermons of various themes, their words profound and personal and make me feel proud to be a Jew.

This year, something special happened to me in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, and it took place somewhere without stained-glass windows or a Holy Ark. There was no dress code or crowd of people, either. You see, Hashem a Hebrew term for God, came to me while I was lost in the woods, all alone, wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt, and covered with sweat and bug spray.

I call this story my “A-HAshem” moment.

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Sukkot: What We Learn When Our Walls Come Down

When Yom Kippur ends, another Jewish holiday begins. Sukkot! This week-long pilgrimage festival (October 5-13, 2017) commemorates the time when Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years after escaping from slavery in Egypt. The Jewish people built temporary tent-like structures to sleep, eat, and dwell in, and it’s a mitzvah for us to build a sukkah and to immerse ourselves in nature and God’s presence. At this time in our world, when everyday seems to bring another natural or manmade tragedy, from the hurricanes to mass shootings, we are reminded of how vulnerable we really are. The safety of four concrete walls can’t protect us from harm. Also, when we isolate ourselves in our shelters, we can’t connect with each other. So, Sukkot is a time for our walls to come down, for us to be in touch with not only nature and with God, but also with each other. During Sukkot, we are reminded that God’s presence is bigger than all of us. Sukkot, yet another opportunity to make the ordinary–like an outdoor hut–holy again. Continue reading

The Birth Of An Empty Nester

 

I’ve been preparing to become an Empty Nester since I became a mom. I just didn’t realize it at the time. Now that my son Jack is 22, and is subleasing an apartment in town, and my daughter Sari, 18, is getting ready to leave for college out of state in TWO days, I will join the ranks of Empty Nesters and start a new chapter in my life.

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Counting Down to College

bradley

Next weekend, my son Jack will move into his college dorm as a freshman, and mark the beginning of a new stage in his life and mine, too. As a parent, this is the day I have tried to prepare him to spread his wings and fly out of the nest. Never mind the fact that mama bird is feeling a bit emotional, like the first day I dropped him off at preschool (multiplied by one thousand).

Of course I’m excited for him. He has worked really hard to get good grades, score decent on his ACT, and write an impressive resume and college essay. He deserves this time to explore his freedom, take on new challenges, and meet new people. My biggest concern is that he sleeps into the afternoon or falls out of his loft bed.

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