Tag Archives: Rosh HaShana

New Year Thoughts

art by Laya Crust, inspired by Ben Shahn

Rosh HaShana is a day of deep prayer and meditation- as well as an opportunity to connect with family and friends. Put another way, the time of prayer allows us to connect with ourselves and then connect with others. The Shabbat between  Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva- a Sabbath of return.

The Haftarah for Shabbat Shuva begins, “Return o Israel unto the Lord your God…”  Within the haftarah we are told to blow the shofar, and gather together.

I’ve been thinking about the act of personal prayer and our place in society and the world. Much of the New Year and Day of Atonement is spent  in personal prayer. What do we get out of personal prayer? What are the benefits?

On the first day of Rosh HaShana we read the story of Hanna, a childless woman who goes to the Temple and prays silently, moving her lips, but making no sound.

art by Laya Crust

Hanna was the first person in Jewish text who prayed silently. She expressed her thoughts to God, conversing with God and stating her needs and desires. Hanna must have been a person who knew herself well. She did something unconventional and clarified her personal path to allow herself to go forward.

We live during a time that is full of natural disasters, spiritual disasters, leadership disasters and international tragedy. It’s possible that the world has ever been thus, but with the existence of internet, twitter, skype, cell phones, and immediate news we are aware of the international calamities immediately. The fascism and racism exposed in Charlottesville and the genocide in Myanmar are but two of the horrific “human rights abuses” (understatement if there ever was one)currently taking place in the world. The global peace watchdog- the UN is a disaster. The forest fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides and droughts are all natural disasters that have destroyed lives and communities around the world- all disasters we have witnessed in the last couple of months.  It is very difficult for some of us to know what to do, how to respond to these world crises both man made and natural.

It makes me think of another narrative in the bible.

Elijah was a prophet who was being hunted down by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Although God told him to face his accusers Elijah decided to hide in a cave on Mount Horev in order to avoid his dangerous and overwhelming realities. God finally tells Elijah to step out of the cave. First a huge, violent wind comes by, breaking the mountains and rocks. Then after the wind there was an earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire. God was not in any of those forces. After the fire there was a still, small voice, and God was in that voice. At that point Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle , stood in the entrance of the cave , and “behold, there came a voice to him.” (Kings I 19: 13) The voice was the voice of God.

This story encompasses my thoughts about prayer and personal prayer.

Each of us is a compilation of experiences. Within our psyche we carry the lessons we have learned from parents, grandparents, teachers, wise individuals, illnesses and events we have experienced. We carry ethical truths based on what we have learned. Those ethical truths are God’s voice. It is the still small voice that speaks to us and can help us unravel difficulties that we face in a day or in our lives.

It is a thought I will take with me. As I enter synagogue to pray or meditate, like Hanna I will focus on my own prayers rather than pose for others. As the shofar is blown I will hear that pure, unusual call and know it is calling all Jews from every corner  of the world. When I am distressed by the earthquakes and fires and hurricanes I will listen to the still small voice and work out how I am able to best help and contribute to making the world a better place.

May you have a meaningful Rosh HaShana, May your year be one of health, peace, tranquility, and goodness throughout the world.

Shana Tova,  Laya

 

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Rosh HaShana- Happy New Year!

P1090432

art and design by Laya Crust

Rosh HaShana always seems to creep up before we know it, and this year more than ever. September has just started. We just enjoyed Labour Day. Students are getting back to class. And, guess what?  Rosh HaShana starts next week. To make things a little better I thought we could do a craft together- make a pop-up card with a pomegranate theme.

The pomegranate is beautiful. It’s one of the biblical seven species of Israel, and it’s a favourite fruit for the new year. It is often used as a special fruit for a blessing on the second night of Rosh HaShana. There is a theory that each pomegranate has 613 seeds- the number of “mitzvot” or commandments we were given to observe.  By choosing the pomegranate we are acknowledging the 613 commandments.

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We want our friends, relatives-  and ourselves- to have a happy, worry free, healthy, peaceful, year.  Here is a New Year’s card that you can make yourself. Go ahead and have some fun.

Start by printing the picture below on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper: We’ll call it ” Model 1″

rosh hashana 2

Fold the sheet in half lengthwise.

P1090425Take your page and cut along the solid line through both halves of the paper. DO NOT cut through that blank space in the centre of the half circle near the words “without any”.P1090427Now you have cut the shape of a pomegranate.

Fold the page in half widthwise. The message “Shana Tova u’Metukah” (in Hebrew) will be on one side and all the text will be on the other.

P1090431

Fold the page as shown above.
P1090430
Pull the pomegranate gently towards you.  The pomegranate should extend out and the rest of the card folds in the opposite way. Does that make sense? So, below you can see all the steps.And here is the ultimate greeting!P1090432..

P1090442So get out the honey cake and a cup of tea, print up a couple of pages from “Model 1” and with just a pair of scissors a piece of paper and some patience you can wow your friends and impress your family with a 3-D card!

If you are a teacher you might even want to do this with your class.

All the best for a wonderful, healthy and peaceful  New Year!

Laya and family

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Days of Awe 5777

ShabbatShuva sigart by laya Crust

Haftarah:   Hosea 14:2-10,   Micah 7:18-20,   Joel 2:15-27

This year I was at my wonderful little shul where we have the most beautiful tefillot (prayers) imaginable. Every year we are treated to the niggunim  (tunes) and heartfelt prayers that come from the souls of two wonderful brothers. Aaron and Jeremy have been leading us in prayers and shofar blowing for many years.

I based my painting at the top of the page on a piece by the American Artist Ben Shahn. His life was dedicated to human rights and social action, and he expressed that through his prolific art works. His paintings, graphic art, photographs and essays are devoted to the “human condition”.  The strength of human beings to survive difficulty and stand tall in the face of  adversity and unfairness runs through his works. I love the music and the movement he brings to his compositions.

Image result for ben shahn paintingsImage result for ben shahn poster

Shahn’s work communicates the struggle of the human spirit to succeed, not just to survive. He paints individuals and groups overcoming the destruction of their homes and their belongings…but continuing in spite of it. He represents those who are trodden upon but rise up in spite of it. He reminds us that we don’t live in a bubble. We must care for ourselves and those around us. Those are among the meditations of Rosh HaShana.

We are reborn each day. Each day we have the opportunity to make new choices and make them good choices. Each day we can forgive ourselves for what we didn’t do yesterday, or what we wish we had done differently. We can begin anew and strive to have a fulfilling day.

I take it back to the painting at the beginning of this post. The sound of the shofar is the sound of remembrance. It is the sound of Gd’s “still, small voice” that resides inside us. It is the sound of faith and of fighting for what is right. We all- regardless of race or colour- can hear the still, small voice, and carry it with us.

 Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur are “The Days of Awe”.  They are a gift that we as Jews were given in order  to reflect on our values and our goals.

Enjoy this time and have a wonderful Shabbat.

with blessings for a good year of peace, joy and health,

Laya

 

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A Sweet New Year

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Next week, on Sunday evening,  we greet  Rosh HaShana  – the Jewish New Year

Pomegranates are in the stores- they are in season in Israel- and we buy them to grace our tables, and use in recipes.

I published this recipe previously but am doing it again because I think it makes a delightful Rosh HaShana dessert treat. I call it “Pomegranate Bark”. It’s the same idea as almond bark but it’s chocolate with pomegranate seeds, fresh ginger and a sprinkling of salt.

20150201_115733[1]You’ll need:

1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips

a pomegranate

fresh ginger root or candied ginger

a sprinkling of salt (I would suggest Malden or kosher salt)

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Remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Put them on a piece of paper towel to absorb any moisture that may be on the seeds.

Peel a 1 inch section of ginger. Slice the ginger and dice it into tiny pieces. (You can toss the ginger with a small amount of potato starch to absorb  the moisture from the fresh ginger.)

20150201_122338[1]Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler.

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Combine 1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds with 1 Tbsp. of ginger, and stir into the melted chocolate.

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Pour onto parchment paper and smoothe it out. Sprinkle with a little kosher or Malden salt.

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Chill the pomegranate bark in the refrigerator or freezer. Serve and enjoy.

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Have a wonderful Rosh HaShana.  May it be a year blessed with sweetness, love, peace, health, and good fortune of all sorts.
Good wishes from my family to yours,

Laya

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VaYeilech- And He Went

ShabbatShuva sigart by Laya Crust

Our haftarah is a combination of readings from Hosea, Micah and Joel, known as Shabbat Shuva. The reading begins, “שובה ישׂראל Return, Israel, to the Lord your Gd…”

This haftarah is always read on the Shabbat before Yom Kippur. As in the painting above, people from all the corners of the world gather to hear the shofar and pray.The

The Torah reading is “VaYeilech”, in which Moshe continues his farewell to the children of Israel. The nation is in the desert, ready to enter the Promised Land. Moshe is standing before them and wishing them strength and courage as tey continue into Canaan.

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art by Laya Crust

Moshe spent much of his life leading this nation out of slavery and to  freedom. He started with their parents and grandparents in Egypt and continued with this generation and their children in the desert. Chosen by Gd he led them through wars, drought, and internal revolts. He began the journey with his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam but they both died. At this juncture Moshe was the lone leader ready to appoint a successor. It seems that as life shifted Moshe’s emotions shifted too. In VaYeilech he sounded more like a father than he ever had before.

He began by saying, I am 120 years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. The Lord told me, “You will not cross the Jordan.”  Moshe continued by telling the nation that Gd would continue to guide and protect them. Three times in this parsha we read the words “חזק ואמץ“,  “be strong and have courage”. Moshe was aware they depended on him and that however much he himself wanted to finish the journey with b’nei Yisrael he couldn’t.

With these words he gave the nation guidance for the future- words to carry in their hearts, recognition of their potential, and strength to continue.

Moshe knew his journey had ended. He had led an incredible life, devoting himself to Gd and His people. He knew that he had not been perfect but his entire life was dedicated to carrying out what he knew his purpose was and doing it in the best way possible.

In these days between Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur that is part of what we should think about. This is a time to consider what our mission in life is and to carry it out in truth and an open heart.

Have a meaningful fast.

I wish you, your family and friends a year of health, happiness and peace,

Laya

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Netzavim – VaYelech

NitzavimIsaiah 61:10 – 63:9

Isaiah (prophet)- c. 740 – 681 BCE

This year both parshas Netzavim and VaYelech are read on the Shabbat before Rosh HaShana. Being the week before Rosh HaShana in some circles it is called Shabbat Selichot.

In parshat Netzavim HaShem tells Moshe that he is about to die and will “lie with his fathers”. HaShem tells Moshe that subsequently the people will stray and pray to false gods, forsake their covenant, and do evil. Gd says that He will take them out of Canaan until they start to obey the commandments. It’s pretty tough talk.

The haftarah is an interesting accompaniment to the parsha. As in other haftaroth that we have read recently God is presented as a bridegroom and the nation of Israel as a bride. There are two lines in this haftarah that are often sung at weddings- (excuse the transliteration) “um sis chatan al kallah, yasis alayich elokayich “. “And as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride so will your Gd rejoice over you.” ch 62 v 5…

The imagery of the haftarah isn’t restricted to that of a bride and bridegroom. Another theme is the reestablishment of a splendid Jerusalem where  Jews will live in safety and abundance.

This picture shows  Jerusalem with the Temple in the centre, based on a representation of Jerusalem from a ketubah from Padua, Italy, 1732 . (Many of the classical ketuboth from Italy had a painting of Jerusalem at the top or the bottom.)  The Jerusalem here is joyful and colourful. I remembered the phrase where the Jews are described as a “royal diadem”- a crown.  Jerusalem is  like a crown among cities and b’nei Yisrael like a crown among the nations.  The painting here is bright and colourful like the gems in a crown. In the text Isaiah tells the people that God has set watchmen upon the Jerusalem’s walls, and that watchmen may even be angels.

This is the last parsha and haftarah before Rosh HaShana. As we enter this time we remember Gd’s promises to us and the covenant we entered with Gd. The parsha and haftarah balance each other- the parsha warns us of our sins and punishments, while the haftarah reminds us of Gd’s support.

 

So, think of Israel and Jerusalem as a jewel in the crown as you read the haftarah this week. Enjoy buying honey and apples- or whatever byou decide to do – in preparation for the coming festivl.

Have a Shabbat Shalom, Laya

 

 

 

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Shana Tova

A do it yourself happiness project.

Rosh HaShana and the days until Yom Kippur are high energy and high anxiety for some of us. Ultimately we want our friends, relatives-  and ourselves- to have a happy, worry free, healthy, peaceful, year.  I adapted some blessings wishing for those exact things, wrote them in Hebrew and English, and designed a pop-up New Year’s card that you can make yourself.

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Start by printing the picture below on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper: We’ll call it ” Model 1″

rosh hashana 2

Fold the sheet in half lengthwise.

P1090425Take your page and cut along the solid line through both halves of the paper. DO NOT cut through that blank space in the centre of the half circle near the words “without any”.P1090427Now you have cut the shape of a pomegranate.

Fold the page in half widthwise. The message “Shana Tova u’Metukah” (in Hebrew) will be on one side and all the text will be on the other.

P1090431

Fold the page as shown above.
P1090430
Pull the pomegranate gently towards you.  The pomegranate should extend out and the rest of the card folds in the opposite way. Does that make sense? So, below you can see all the steps.And here is the ultimate greeting!P1090432..

P1090442So get out the honey cake and a cup of tea, print up a couple of pages from “Model 1” and with just a pair of scissors a piece of paper and some patience you can wow your friends and impress your family with a 3-D card! Have a wonderful New Year! Good wishes from me and my family!

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