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high holidays

Fasting on Yom Kippur Feeds the Soul

Whoever says that wearing white after Labor Day is a fashion faux paux must not be Jewish. During the fall holiday season, white clothing is actually encouraged at Yom Kippur services because it symbolizes purity. Notice the rabbi’s special white robe. Also acceptable on the holiest day of the year are sneakers and rubber flip-flops! Never again will I balk at Sari’s white sandals or force Jack to squeeze into leather loafers that are two sizes too small. Continue reading

Families Seek Forgiveness on Rosh Hashana

While other religions talk about sin and confession, Judaism has its own way of cleansing the soul. It’s called the Days of Awe, a spiritual journey that begins in the Hebrew month of Elul, which directly precedes Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashana is the Hebrew word for “head of the year” and occurs on the first days of Tishri. Rosh Hashana begins the period called teshuvah, Hebrew for “returning to God,” or Ten Days of Repentance. It’s a time for serious introspection, a time to reflect on how we’ve behaved over the past year, and how we can do better in the next one. It’s a time to ask forgiveness for saying or doing something hurtful to a loved one. It’s a joyful yet solemn time to make amends and do whatever it takes to move on and learn by our mistakes. When we make peace with God and another human being, we make peace with ourselves. Sounds like free therapy, only sweeter. Continue reading

Fasting Makes Jews Hungry for More

One of my favorite parts about being Jewish, aside from the rich traditions and ancient wisdom that are passed down to us, is our “it’s-all-about-the-food” attitude. This expression is especially true on holidays, lifecycle events, and pretty much any given meal.

So on the one day of the year when Jews are asked to fast, Yom Kippur, I’m almost relieved to have a chance to cleanse my palette and my soul before I reach for another slice of honey cake again. Continue reading

Shavuot Celebrates Most Significant Event in Jewish History

All these years I thought the most important Jewish holidays were the most celebrated ones, such as when we dip apples in honey at Rosh Hashanah, cleanse our souls at Yom Kippur, and retell our history at the Passover seder. Let’s not forget about the most beloved ritual of all—when we light the menorah at Hanukkah and our heads spin like dreidels from all the gift exchanges.

Actually, turns out that the most significant Jewish holiday has no rituals, no songs, and really no symbols to call its own. Yet the upcoming holiday of Shavuot represents the most momentous event in Jewish history—when the Jews were given the Torah at Mount Sinai. Continue reading

Celebrate Another High Holiday: Back to School

For many parents, the highest of high holidays occurs around the end of August when their kids go back to school. For me, this time of year truly kicks off my Days of Awe when I practice the three R’s: reflect, repent, and revise. Continue reading

Being Jewish Usually Means Dressing the Part

As I struggle everyday to pick my battles with my children, I usually surrender in the wardrobe war. In fact, I let my 11-year-old son Jack and seven-year-old daughter Sari wear what they want for the most part. Jack’s usual attire consists of a Hanes undershirt and athletic shorts. When he dresses formal, he hangs a shark’s tooth around his neck. Sari, on the other hand, showcases more outfits than my fat and skinny clothes combined. Still, she grabs the same striped pink tank top and ruffled skirt every time. Whenever I suggest that she wear something different, she looks at me like I’m as outdated as a taffeta prom gown. Continue reading