Index of Writings
One minute Judaism
Creation

Creation, the birthday of the world. God is the Ultimate Source of All--good, evil and hidden. Human beings stand in awe but, because we are made in the divine image, we have a sense of what God is. When we give birth, write a poem, or repair what is broken, we sense our divine inheritance.

Perhaps Creation happens all the time, with human beings as partners in the event.

Exodus

Exodus: Leaving Slavery in Egypt

Exodus, the moment when the passion for freedom overcame the fear of the unknown. The Red Sea, like birth waters, broke apart, and the Jewish people were born. Jews remember more than Freedom. They remember slavery-three times a day in prayer-because it carries a lesson: how one begins is not so important as who one becomes. This redemption from slavery gave the Jews hope and courage to face the future.

All of us can find hope and courage, too, in knowing we can make Redemption happen when we help another on life's journey.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah: Eight Nights, Eight Lights

"What's the best holiday? Hanukkah, of course. You don't go to heder (Hebrew school) eight days in a row, you eat pancakes everyday, spin your drilled to your heart's content, and from all sides money comes pouring in. What holiday can be better than that?" Shalom Aleichem

How can such a cheery holiday recall such a violent time? On Hanukkah Jews light one candle each night for eight nights to remember the time Judah Maccabbee reclaimed the Jerusalem Temple. Hanukkah not only marks this first great war for religious freedom, it reminds us of the tightrope act of living in two worlds.

2400 years ago Jewish farmers in Israel fell in love with the graceful Greek way. Names such as Jason replaced Joshua, young priests wrestled naked in the gymnasium and operations o reverse circumcisions were popular.

Only when these assimilated Jews were forced to convert o a pagan religion did they object. Zealous Maccabbees saved the day by meeting violence with violence. Without them, Jews wouldn't be here.

But there is another way. The Hanukkah lamp, with all its variety, shows that it is possible to find a balance between being oneself and being influenced by others.

Holidays

Holidays

"These are the set times of God, the sacred occasions which you shall celebrate each at its appointed time." Leviticus 23.4

To know the holidays is to understand Judaism. The key to Jewish belief is this: that one day everyone will behave like God. No more wars, famine or tyranny. Freedom and dignity for all. Human beings, as partners with God, will perfect the world.

Meanwhile, with suffering all around and within, it's hard to keep the goal in mind day-to-day. Yet, by remembering God's presence in past events, the holidays strengthen our hope.

The holidays are connected not only to heaven but to earth. The Jewish calendar follows the 29 1/2 day life of the moon. Each holiday celebrates its season as well as its story. As the world began in darkness, so the holidays begin at sundown.

Wherever Jews live, their celebrations have been changed and enriched by local tradition. Yet, no matter where they live, the message of the holidays remains the same: one day human beings will perfect the world.

In Every Generation

In Every Generation

"Each generation renews what is old and makes holy what is new." Rav Kook

Enter this space with a child's playful heart and open mind. The Passover story directs this flight of imagination: "In every generation each must regard himself as if one personally had gone out of Egypt."

Immerse yourself in this family scrapbook beginning with our spiritual parents, Abraham and Sarah, and discover that we are indeed not alone-every one of us is part of a people, a history and a destiny. Memory redeems no only our ancestors but also ourselves and our children.

Those who came before lead us to a hidden yet indispensable power: they show us who we are.

Passover

Pilgrimage Festivals

"On Passover, Jews eat history." Israel Zangwill

Besides celebrating freedom from slavery in Egypt, springtime, and the beginning of the Jewish people, Passover shows the power of family to keep Jewish tradition alive.

If Jews remember any holiday, it is Passover. The special seder dinner with its delicious foods, its dramatic retelling of the Exodus story and its playfulness, shapes identity.

Where is the rabbi during Passover? At home with his or her family. Then, who leads the seder? Anyone. In every generation Jewish children remember Passover-it's when they see their parents become rabbis for one night.

Moses was a reluctant leader of the Jewish people, we Jews sometimes hesitate to lead the seder. When each of us knows we have the power to lead, we'll be one step closer to redemption.

Pilgrimage

Festivals

Pilgrimage Festivals

"Those are the set times of God which you shall celebrate as sacred occasions..." Leviticus 23;37

Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Festival of Weeks) and Sukkot (Holiday of Huts) are called shalosh regalim, literally three feet. Three times year, Jews in ancient Israel trekked to the great Temple in Jerusalem bringing their spring, summer and fall harvests. What was the inner harvest they celebrated?

Passover leads to the birth of the Jewish people. Shavuot marks the second peak moment, when Jews chose freedom with an eternal contract with God. Sukkot celebrates the journey Jews, as a free people, traveled.

Purim

"A person should be so merry (with drink) on Purim that he does not know the difference between 'cursed is Haman' and 'blessed is Mordechai.'" Talmud. Megilah 7b

The Nobel Prize winning writer, Isaac Bashevis Singer, could have been thinking of Purim when he said, "A fact that is boring is not true." It doesn't matter that dotty King Ahashverosh, wicked viceroy Haman, beautiful Queen Esther , and mild-mannered hero Uncle Mordechai may have never lived. The story of Haman's attempt to annihilate the Jews recurs throughout Jewish history.

Over and over for thousands of years.

How do you live with this agonizing truth? Maybe seriousness is not the only way to deal with life's problems. One day a year turn the world upside-down. Read the story of Esther, disguise yourself, drink until you're muddled, and give away hamantaschen (cookies) and fruit to friends.

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: Sweet beginnings

"Behold, I place before you today life and good, and death and evil....Choose life." Deuteronomy 30:19

Rosh Hashanah, the New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the Jewish High Holy Days, don't celebrate a season or a historical event. Instead they celebrate something intensely personal and extraordinary--the human being's ability to grow and change.

Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world, the birthday of a new self. The work depends upon our transformation. Poverty, sickness and war will end not by divine intervention, but through human beings behaving like God.

The first step begins with the individual. Face your mistakes. Ask forgiveness from anyone you harmed--including yourself. The process, called teshuvah, or return, is painful but it lets you know you're alive. By risking change, you've chosen life.

On Yom Kippur, (Jews) put all their energy into (their connective relationship) with God; (they) don't even eat or drink. Jews end the Yom Kippur fast feeling young and light, eager to start again.

Seeds of Identity

Seeds of Identity

Torah, the book of memories, beliefs and dreams, tells of the events which created the Jewish people.

The Jewish spiritual journey began with Abraham, considered an idol make's son. God promised him: "And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and will make your name great..." (Genesis 12:2). Abraham listened and obeyed, and they claimed one another for eternity.

And the claim continues to hold us as we wrestle with our connection to the earth, to humanity, to God, and to the future. Three defining moments offer clues to these questions of identity: Creation, Leaving Slavery in Egypt, and the Giving of the Torah.

Shabbat

Shabbat

Torah, the book of memories, beliefs and dreams, tells of the events which created the Jewish people.

The Jewish spiritual journey began with Abraham, considered an idol make's son. God promised him: "And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and will make your name great..." (Genesis 12:2). Abraham listened and obeyed, and they claimed one another for eternity.

And the claim continues to hold us as we wrestle with our connection to the earth, to humanity, to God, and to the future. Three defining moments offer clues to these questions of identity: Creation, Leaving Slavery in Egypt, and the Giving of the Torah.

Shavuot

Shavuot: The Festival of Weeks

"Torah is a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to it, and those who uphold it are happy." Proverbs 3:18

Seven weeks, seven days in a week. Seven, a number of power, indivisibility, completion. God made the world in seven days. Shavuot, which means weeks, takes place seven weeks after Passover.

If the children of Israel needed the outstretched arm of God to free them from slavery, they also needed a strong arm pointing them in the direction of becoming complete human beings.

Shavuot celebrates the summer harvest and becoming partners with God to perfect the world. The holiday celebrates the one time God came close and spoke to the entire people, all 600, 000, standing at Mt. Sinai in the searing noonday sun.

On that amazing day, God gave us the Torah and we're still holding it tight.

Sukkot

Sukkot: The Great Holiday

"You shall live in booths 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..." Leviticus 23:42-43

"Whoever fasts on Sukkot is a sinner." Talmud

In ancient Temple days, Sukkot was so glorious that it was simply called "The Holiday." It celebrates both the fall harvest and the ripening of the Jewish people after wandering in the desert for forty years.

On Sukkot, Jew build a temporary hut called a sukkah where they eat, sleep, and invite their friends to share in the fun. Here's a yearly opportunity to remember a holy wilderness trek and to reconnect with the earth.

Sukkot ends with Simhat Torah, the book lover's celebration. Dance with the Torah after you read its last chapter but not because you're happy to be finished. Dance because you get to read it all over again.

The Giving of the Torah

The Giving of the Torah

Creation is birth and Exodus the energy of youth; but these events are not enough. The spiritual journey needs direction. The Giving of the Torah, an instructional manual for becoming a complete human being, is the third key event in Jewish identity. Ours is an age of technological triumph. But machines will not get us closer to knowing what it is we have to do to live with purpose. Like creation and Exodus, Torah continues to reveal it lesson. As the Torah says, "Shma Yisrael. Hear, Israel." We only have to listen.

Time and Space

Time and Space: The Search for the Holy

"You shall be holy for I, your God, am holy." Leviticus 19:2

"Just to live is a blessing. Just to be is holy." Abraham Joshua Heschel

What does holy mean? (For Jews,) what makes Friday night the Sabbath? Maybe holiness is knowing everything matters and everything is connected. It's always here, waiting for us to find it.

But sometimes we forget to look, so ceremonies awaken us to the sacred--they remind us of our power to find God.

Say blessings in the morning to remember you're here. Celebrate historic events to remember you're part of time. Mark personal turning points to remember you're holy.

Anywhere God is allowed becomes hallowed space. Yet certain places carry special memory. For Jews, home is the center of the family, the synagogue is the center of the community, and Israel is, on the highest and deepest level, the center of all.

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