Tu b’Shvat: Celebrating the Impregnation of Mother Earth

In Jewish tradition, when do we celebrate conception? This question is answered by the Jewish New Year for trees: Tu b’Shvat. Tonight (Sunday January 24) starts the Jewish New Year for Trees. It is commonly referred to as Tu b’Shvat which simply means the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat. It almost was known as Echad b’Shvat, the first of Shvat. 2500 years ago, two of our great sages, Shammai and Hillel, argued over when the new year for … Continue reading

Hanukah: Overcoming Your Darkness

Did you know that Hanukah falls during the darkest time of the year? It is the week of the new moon closest to the winter solstice. Why does Hanukah fall during the darkest week of the year? Hanukah is about standing up when things are darkest and defeating your biggest challenge, the one that has been growing for a while and feels insurmountable. What great obstacle is standing before you trying to convince you to give up and that you … Continue reading

The Importance of the Mundane in Judaism

We are in the middle of the Jewish month of Cheshvan. This is a very special month; it is the only month on the Jewish calendar where we are not celebrating something or doing something different. It is 4 weeks of 6 ordinary days and a shabbat. It is also part of the longest period of mundane-ness in the Jewish calendar. We go two months, starting the day after Simchat Torah (the end of the High Holy days period) until … Continue reading

Succot: A Time to Relax and Enjoy

Today is the 3rd day of Succot. It is late afternoon as I am sitting here in my succah writing to you. I have some hot water heating for tea to drink as I watch the squirrels running along the fence, hedges, and trees. And I sit back and relax in my succah and contemplate. This moment really sums up the holy week we call Succot. Just as I am now relaxing and enjoying the results of my work in … Continue reading

Joyous Secrets of Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is a joy! How can I say such a thing about a day that a fast day full of long and boring services? Can you keep a secret? (if you read to the end, you will find that  I am revealing 2 secrets) Yom Kippur is one of the most joyous days of the year.  It is the day we give our souls its annual bath. Think back to when you were a child and had to take … Continue reading

Rosh haShannah: The Beginning of Change

Sunday at sunset we begin Rosh haShannah. It is commonly referred to as the Jewish New Year. However, it also is the beginning of the 7th month of the year, not the first month of the year. So, I prefer to translate Rosh haShannah as the Head of Change. Rosh means head and shannah can mean to change or transform, as well as year. I prefer calling Rosh haShannah the Beginning of Change because it is the beginning of a … Continue reading

Parsha Pinchas: The Torah Goes Out on a Limb

One of the scariest things to do is to step out on a limb. Why? Because you never know if it will break and lead to your falling and hurting yourself. Yet, sometimes this is precisely what you need to do. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. This week’s parsha (Torah portion) is called Pinchas. He is the grandson of Aharon the late high priest and brother to Moshe (Moses). Our parsha is named after Pinchas because … Continue reading

Parsha Korach: Dealing with the Evil Inclination

Last weeks’s parsha (Torah portion) started us down path of negativity. This trend continues with complaints and rebellions by Korach, Datan, and Aviram. While our tradition points out that Korach’s argument is not a lasting one, his name continues to live on as the title of this week’s parsha. Here is a quick recap of this week’s parsha. It starts with the rebellions of Korach and 250 men, and of Datan and Aviram. The rebellions end with Korach and his … Continue reading

Parsha Shlach: Dying to Show a People that They are not Lost

This week we learn about sacrifice. I don’t mean the killing of animals. Rather, I am talking about the willingness of a person to sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole. I do believe Spock (a good Jewish boy, bless his soul) in one of the Star Trek movies essentially said the same thing when he declared, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” I am jumping ahead though. Let me give you the background. … Continue reading

Parsha B’ha’alotcha: What Makes a Person Humble?

This week’s parsha (Torah portion) is a turning point. It starts off with meritous actions and it ends with complaints. It is called B’ha’alotcha and means, “In your causing something to go up,” and it is referring to haShem (god) telling Aharon he is to cause the candles of the menorah to light up. Before I get too much ahead of myself, let me summarize the parsha.   This week, the Torah begins with Aharon being told to light the … Continue reading