Why I’ve Decided to Join a Synagogue
BY SOFI HERSHER for ReformJudaism.org
When I was 9 years old, I watched several large sections of my synagogue burn to the ground. It was 1999, and Sacramento, California, was in the midst of a spree of white supremacist violence that would claim the lives of two gay men, and see fires set to several synagogues and a local abortion clinic. I can still smell the smoke.
In times such as these, it is not just buildings that are damaged. Acts of hate damage our minds and our bodies, our individual and collective sense of security, our identity, and our place in the world. Back then, the entire congregation, as well as large swaths of the greater community, came together to rebuild. Events were held to reject discrimination; a hate crimes task force was launched; a library was remade. In many ways, Sacramento became a better place to live than it was before. In the aftermath of destruction, came collaboration and solidarity and hope.
Isru Chag (the Day After the Festival)
By Naamah Green for Hidabroot
Isru Chag is the day after the three festivals. What is the source for its name, and what customs are kept on this day?
1. Isru Chag is the name of the weekday that follows the three festivals. The Hebrew dates for Isru Chag in Israel are: 23 Tishrei (after Sukkot), 22 Nissan (after Passover) and 7 Sivan (after Shavuot), and outside of Israel, a day later.
2. The source of the name is the verse in Psalms: “Tie the sacrifice (isru chag) with thick ropes to the corners of the altar.” The sages explain “The verse considers one who makes a special meal on this day (thereby “connecting” this day to the previous holiday), as if he built an altar and offered a sacrifice on it.”
History of Sukkot
This article is featured in our Sukkot & Simchat Torah Guide. For more articles, recipes, crafts, and ideas, visit here.
BY MJL STAFF
This agricultural holiday dates back to biblical times and has evolved over time.
Following on the heels of the High Holidays, the holiday of Sukkot represents a shift from somber reflection to joyous celebration, and from introspection to an outward display of thanks for the earth’s bounty. Unlike the High Holidays that precede it, Sukkot is a seasonal agricultural holiday and one of the three pilgrimage festivals.
Living in Booths
According to the Torah, on this holiday we should “live in booths (sukkot) seven days…in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:42-43). These “booths,” therefore, are a visible symbol of God’s beneficence, one that has its origins in the agricultural tradition. We view Passover not only as a commemoration of the redemption of the people from Egypt, but also as a time of planting. In a similar manner we view Shavuot not only as the time of the giving of the Torah, but also as the season of the first harvest. Like them, Sukkot is understood as Hag Ha’asif–“the holiday of the ingathering” of the harvest.
Coming home: The meaning of Yom Kippur
This article is featured in our High Holiday Guide. For more articles, recipes, crafts, and ideas, visit here.
By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks for ABC Religion and Ethics
Yom Kippur this year begins on the evening of September 29.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgement. At no other time are we so sharply conscious of standing before God, of being known. But it begins in the strangest of ways.
Kol Nidrei, the prayer which heralds the evening service and the beginning of the sanctity of the day, is the key that unlocks the Jewish heart. Its melody is haunting. As the cantor sings, we hear in that ancient tune the deepest music of the Jewish soul, elegiac yet striving, pained but resolute; the song of those who knew that to believe is to suffer and still to hope, the music of our ancestors which stretches out to us from the past and enfolds us in its cadences, making us and them one. The music is sublime. Tolstoy called it a melody that "echoes the story of the great martyrdom of a grief-stricken nation." Beethoven came close to it in the most otherwordly and austere of his compositions, the sixth movement of the C Sharp Minor Quartet, opus 131. The music is pure poetry but the words are prosaic prose.
Rosh Hashanah FAQ: All About the Jewish New Year
BY MJL STAFF
What is Rosh Hashanah about exactly?
Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is simultaneously a time of great celebration and subtle trepidation. It is a day to celebrate our creation, but also a day of accounting and judgment for our actions. On Rosh Hashanah, we relate to God as the Ultimate Judge. The Book of Life is opened before the Divine Being and we become advocates for our personal inscription into this book. We review the choices we have made over the past year, our actions and our intentions, as we attempt to honestly evaluate ourselves. You may want to consult this list of questions to help in your introspection.
What is a shofar?