Tag Archives: Rosh HaShana

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.


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.


Fold the page as shown above.
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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Rosh HaShana

Rosh Hashana 2



                                                2ND DAY ROSH HASHANA

Book of Yermiayhu, Chapter 31

This week is a triple header- we have the two days of Rosh HaShana followed by Shabbbat Shuva.

 Each holiday we observe has its own special Torah and haftarah readings with a message that pertains to that holiday. This week I am going to discuss the second day of Rosh HaShana and leave you curious about the rest.

Today’s readings from the Torah and from the haftarah teach us tenets of faith, responsibility and repentance- and show us God’s steadfastness throughout difficult times.

Throughout the Torah we are told that if we obey the mitzvoth and follow God’s laws we will have land, crops, and many descendants. If we do not follow the laws our land will not prosper, the rains will not fall in the right seasons, and we will lose our sovereignty. In today’s reading we jump ahead to the time of Yermiyahu where the Jews experienced the aforementioned losses.

Today’s haftarah is from the Book of Yermiyahu.  Yermiyahu lived in Jerusalem about 2600 years ago, around the end of the 7th C. BCE. The Northern part of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians about 100 years earlier and the south was being threatened by the Babylonians. Yermiyahu is telling b’nei Yisrael that God will never abandon them. He tells the people that Rachel is weeping for them in Ramah- trying to intercede for them.

Yermiyahu describes God’s steadfastness. Rachel may weep and the nation may face enemies, but HaShem tells Rachel that she should stop weeping because her work – meaning the raising of her children- will be rewarded and will not be forgotten.

Rosh HaShana is the Day of Judgment. As such it is the most important time for reflection and repentance. The last three verses of the haftarah are the verses that determined this section of Yermiyahu as the reading for the second day of Rosh HaShana.

It says, “I can hear Ephraim (northern Israel) lamenting. “You have chastised me and I am chastised…now that I have turned back I am filled with remorse. I was ashamed and even humiliated because I bear the disgrace of my youth…”

The language is harsh.  We often forget the mitzvoth, the moral ways to do things, the guidelines that we as Jews- as the Or l’Goyim- are expected to uphold. These are the days which are for thinking and considering and soul searching.

Over the centuries with constant repeated attacks from the nations surrounding us we have survived. It is a miracle that we haven’t been wiped out but it is the fulfillment of the covenant God made with us. In verse 8 of the 20 verses here it says God will gather the remnants of Israel from the ends of the earth. And with them the blind and the lame, the woman with the child and the woman in labour. This phrase encapsulates the essence of the haftarah. It is the declaration of God’s promise- that He will remember His people, gather them in no matter where they are, and value each individual whether they be healthy, lame, blind, weak, slow, or ill.

It is easy to forget the destitute, the weak, and the disabled. And as we all know many cultures disregard the rights of women and children. As a group we Jews don’t do that. And God specifically commanded us to be cognizant of the widows, the orphans, the strangers, the poor…

The image I chose for this haftarah is based on a famous photograph from the Government Press Office in Jerusalem. It shows illegal immigrants landing in pre-war Palestine in 1939. Looking at this hodge podge of men one can imagine that they are coming from the ends of the earth coming back to Eretz Yisrael just as HaShem said they would be brought back.

The message of this haftarah is one of hope; of the surety that we are not forgotten and that God will make sure that we will survive. It is also a message that we have to see ourselves and our weaknesses. We should use these Days of Awe for reflection and prayer. We can use this time to strengthen our bonds with our spiritual selves, our community and with our God.

As it says in Yermiyahu v 11- their soul shall be like a watered garden and they shall not languish in sorrow any more.


Have a wonderful and sweet New Year full of joy, health and peace.


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