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

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

Holy Day Parsha: Freedom is not Just Another Word – It is about Giving

This week’s parsha (Torah portion) is an interesting parsha because what we read depends on where we are. If you are in Israel, then you will be reading parsha Shmini. If you are outside of Israel, then you will be reading a special Pesach (Passover) parsha. Is this because we Jews like to make things difficult? Not really. It goes back to our roots. Without going into all the details, it has to do with how a Jewish month begins … Continue reading

What I Received from Purim

This year I had a quiet Purim.  The last 3 or 4 years I have thrown seudas (Jewish parties celebrate a success and are centered around a meal).  This year I just invited a few close friends and sat around a fire in my backyard. At first something felt wrong and I realized it was because I wasn’t in costume.  So, I put my costume on and as I sipped some whiskey I truly felt the spirit of Purim.  I … Continue reading

Purim is Holier than Yom Kippor

Purim is almost upon us. It starts at sunset Wednesday March 4 and goes until sunset on March 5. It is a day to dress up, give away food (to friends) and money (to anyone and everyone who asks), and get so drunk you cannot tell the difference between, “blessed is Mordechai (the good guy),” and, “Cursed is Haman (the bad guy).” At first glance, this doesn’t sound very Jewish, does it? Wait, there is more… Can you believe that … Continue reading

Succot – Waving the 4 Types of People

Congratulations on making it through the judgements of Rosh haShannah and the purification work of Yom Kippor.  Now it is time to celebrate all our hard work with a week-long holy days called Succot. Succot is strange for holy days.  For one thing we are required to be joyous.  If we aren’t then we are not fulfilling the mitzvah (commandment/connection). Another strange thing is that we are required to take a specific citrus fruit (called and Etrog), a Palm front, … Continue reading

Yom Kippor: What in the World are We Trying to Do?

Friday night starts the holy day of Yom Kippur.  When I was young, and until about 10 years ago, Yom Kippur was an uncomfortable day filled with droning prayers and empty stomachs… and no idea of what I was trying to accomplish or why. Today is a different story.   As the sun sets Friday night and the powerful strains of Kol Nidre start, I understand part of what Yom Kippur is about and how to accomplish it. Simply put, Yom … Continue reading