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Jewish holiday

Raise The Roof—S’chach —On The Symbolism of Sukkot

You shall dwell in huts (sukkot) for seven days. Every member of the Jewish people shall dwell in huts, so that your generations shall know that I had the Israelites dwell in huts when I took them out of Egypt. Leviticus 23:34

Many years ago when I built my first sukkah in my own backyard, I was super excited to find a pile of freshly cut tree branches in the temple parking lot in carpool line.

It was fate. Or as we say in Hebrew, kismet. Since nobody else was claiming this tree limb treasure, I somehow managed to drag the logs like a lumberjack to my van and shove the messy branches into my newly vacuumed back seat. Little did I know these leafy sticks that I was about to lay on the roof of my sukkah had a name, s’chach  and I was doing a mitzvah. Continue reading

Counting Upward, The Spiritual Journey to Shavuot

Shavuot, a Jewish holiday that celebrates the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai, is around the corner but Jews have been diligently preparing for this moment since the second night of Passover.

The word Shavuot (or Shavuos) means “weeks,” and the Torah invites us on a seven-week, soul- searching journey known as Sefirat HaOmer–that’s when we count up to the days of Omer. This 49-day time period is meant to be a workout of the human psyche so that our soul is in better shape to receive the vast wisdom in the Torah that was entrusted to us by God. We count up–not down–because each day we ascend to a level higher of spiritual refinement, each day we take one step closer to becoming God’s chosen nation. Living in a Covid pandemic world right now, we are doing a lot of counting. We are counting 100,000 American lives lost to this virus that we didn’t even know existed a year ago. We count days in quarentine, days until another part of the economy reopens. During this time, more than anything,  we are reminded that  every day counts, every person counts, every act of kindness counts, every growing pain counts, and, every blessing counts.

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Tu B’Shvat Feast Celebrates Israel’s Birthday of Trees

Tu B’Shvat is considered a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, sandwiched between Hanukkah and Passover, but that doesn’t make this “New Year for the Trees” any less meaningful and fun for your family to celebrate in its fruity, nutty, earthy glory.

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Sukkot Celebrates Fall Harvest…And Much More

Now that Yom Kippur is over and the hard work is done, it’s time to get ready for the next Jewish holiday, Sukkot (Hebrew word for booths or huts),  a week-long harvest festival that begins Sunday night, five days after Yom Kippur.

The festival of Sukkot is one of the three great pilgrimage festivals—the others are Passover (April 8-16) and Shavuot (May 28-30). These holidays celebrate both agricultural festivals and historical events in the history of the Jewish people, when in ancient times Jewish people traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem. In Israel, Sukkot is a major holiday, no work, no school, and everyone is outdoors sharing meals, singing songs, and giving thanks for the bounty of another season.

Also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot is like the American holiday Thanksgiving in that we give thanks for another season of crops that will sustain us, but it is so much more. Sukkot ranks right up there in important holidays because it commemorates the time when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, were freed from slavery, and wandered the desert for 40 years to the Promised Land. Jews today are still on a journey, and holidays like Sukkot remind us to free ourselves from the material things that often keep us in bondage. It’s a time to detach from the comforts we are accostomed to inside our houses and reconnect with the natural wonders that sustain us inside a flimsly little hut called a sukkah (singular word for Sukkot). Continue reading

8 New Things I Learned About Hanukkah

Every year I learn something new about the Jewish holidays, which are all rich in history and dramatic storytelling of survival that influence our treasured customs, traditions, rituals, and, of course, our favorite foods because c’mon we love to eat. Hanukkah, which falls in November or December when the dark days of winter are approaching, happens to be one of the most widely celebrated times in the Jewish calendar. It’s popularity is not because the Festival of Lights is the most sacred holiday but because religious and nonreligious Jews alike embrace the traditions of lighting the menorah, eating latkes, spinning the dreidel, exchanging gifts, and devouring those gold foiled candies known as chocolate gelt, a Yiddish word for “money.” But Hanukkah, which is a Hebrew word for “dedication,” means so much more than enjoying fun and games and splurging on scrumptious sufganiyot or jelly-filled doughnuts.

As early as preschool, we are taught about the Hanukkah miracles of the Maccabees and the oil lasting for eight days, and as we grow up and mature and become parents ourselves, we continue to find deeper meaning of the sacrifices that our ancestors made thousands of years ago and how these lessons are relevant to our modern lives. By celebrating these holidays, sharing the joy with our children, and growing spiritually from each other, we continue to learn, show our pride, and most importantly keep Judaism alive.

So, following are EIGHT fascinating facts that I discovered or re-learned in a new way about Hanukkah this year. Feel free to share your new insights of Hanukkah, too! Continue reading