Tag Archives: Rosh Hashanah

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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Shana Tova

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 this weekend. 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.
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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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Noah

No'ach Sig

Isaiah 54- 55:5

Isaiah (prophet)   c. 740 – 681 BCE

Just last week we were at synagogue singing the prayers for rain- “Tefillat haGeshem”. Israel wants the rain for the trees and plants that will blossom in (our)  winter and spring. And wouldn’t you know it, here in Toronto the heavens opened that afternoon and again at night and it poured. I heard that it rained in Israel too.

Rain, like everything else, has to come at the right time in the right amount. We know that sometimes there are floods in one part of the world while there are famine and forest fires due to drought in another.

In this parsha we read about the sinning that  occurred in the world. Gd was upset by  humanity’s excessive evil and  caused a flood to wipe out most of humanity and most of the animal world. After 40 days and 40 nights the rain abated and the world as it was known ended. Noah and his family had to start anew. Gd decided never to destroy humanity again. The sign of this resolution and covenant was- and continues to be- a rainbow.

Last week when I went for a walk in the afternoon rain I saw a beautiful sight. There was a rainbow set in the east sky against steel grey clouds. The unexpected contrast was gorgeous.

The rainbow is a magical thing. It is perfect semicircle in the sky made up of every conceivable colour. Gd has created an image of perfection to remind Himself that although Gd can achieve perfection we mortals can’t. As such we can’t be expected to behave perfectly. Our duty is to try to do the best we can.

In this season, this new year of 5775, those of us lucky enough to live in a country with true autumn can enjoy the colours of the rainbow around us.P1120285

The High Holy Days, also called the “Days of Awe” are behind us. The first readings of the Torah are about new beginnings, explorations and lessons. We prayed for rain but we want the right amount- not enough rain to flood the land and destroy life. It’s a prayer for good things in moderation and a reminder for us to appreciate the goodness and beauty that is around us in the world.

So as you go through the week notice the beauty around you whether it is beauty in changing colours, in the people around you or in the grace of day to day living.

Have a good week and a Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shabbat Shuva

ShabbatShuva sig

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

It’s that time of year again, the count down to the holiest days of the year, Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.

The Shabbat between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur is called “Shabbat Shuva” meaning “The Shabbat of Return”. The first words in the haftarah are, “Return (shuva), Israel, to the Lord your Gd…”  The words direct our thoughts to introspection. Later in the haftarah, in the book of Joel, it says, “Blow the horn in Zion, sanctify a fast…” The illustration for this week shows a leader blowing a shofar. People of all colours- representing people from different corners of the world- are hearing the shofar. Above them is the hand of Gd surrounded by flames, representing Gd’s presence. This illustration is based on a wonderful painting by the American Artist Ben Shahn. Shahn was born in Lithuania and came to America with his family in the early 20th Century. His life was dedicated to human rights and social action, and he expressed that through his prolific art works.

Social responsibility and expression through art is part of our history. This summer my family and I were lucky enough to go to Israel and to Prague, an amazing jewel of a city in the Czech republic. The streets are lined with beautiful, beautiful buildings. Everywhere we turned there were sculptures, embellished doorways, and decorative columns. The curving streets showcased colourful homes and eye catching balconies and windows. 
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We walked the streets and looked at the six synagogues there, synagogues that had been built throughout the centuries. The oldest is the “Alte Neu Schul” (Old New Shul) built in 1254. Two legends surround this amazing medieval structure. One is that the wings of angels transformed into doves to protect the synagogues from fire in the ghetto. The other is that of the famous “Golem” . The story is told that the Maharal, Rabbi Loew, created the Golem out of clay in order to protect the Jews of Prague. It is said that the Golem’s remains are in the attic (but we didn’t see the Golem or his remains).

The newest synagogue was built in 1906 and is breathtaking, inspired by Moorish architecture. It was built as a Reform synagogue and has an immense organ in it.  Two of Prague’s six synagogues have regular services and two of the synagogues are museums to the Jews lost in the Holocaust.

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 The beauty of Prague and the long history of Jews there was put into stark relief by our trip to the Terezin work camp/ transit camp/ ghetto 45 minutes outside of Prague. Walking through the camp where thousands of Jews had walked was more than sobering, and I have yet to integrate my impressions and emotions. Thousands of deported children, infants, women, and men walked those roads and through those doorways. But through the impossibly dark situation art flourished. Painting, theatre, music and composition were produced. Operas and plays were written and performed. Children published weekly newsletters. Although the circumstances were devastating  hope, faith and beauty survived. We saw hundreds of beautiful watercolours and drawings as well as original musical scores and even intricately crafted hand-made dolls. How inspiring!

Prayer was elevated too. A small  synagogue was built in secret. A man named Artur Berlinger decorated a storage room, painting designs and Hebrew quotations on the walls.  He led services there for a small group that lived on the same street. Below you can see stars painted on the ceiling and candles painted on the walls. The wall decoration ws intact until the flood of 2002 damaged them.

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In Prague and Terezin we saw the art of the synagogues and the art of the people. It was all around us in different forms. The art, music, theatre and architecture were created by Jews through different eras for different purposes. Much of it was done by  architects and craftsmen, but much of it was done by non-artists, adults and children, men and women, who loved artistic and creative expression.

 Art, music and creativity help make the world a brighter place.  They bring comfort to the creators and designers. The art can bring ideas, pleasure and even escape to the audience. Positive action, good deeds, political awareness- all these things are important too. So however you approach these holidays, may this be a time for reflection and creativity..
What do you think? I’d love to read your comments.
Shabbat Shuva Shalom,  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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Sukkot 2nd Day

Sukkot day 2copyright Laya Crustcopyright Laya Crust

Sukkot Second Day

Kings I,  8: 2-21

King Solomon, around 952 BCE

Sukkot is one of the many joyous holidays we celebrate. After the seriousness of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur the prospect of eating lovely meals in a decorated Sukkah outdoors is certainly appealing. This year, in any case, we have the possibility of wonderful weather in North America since the holiday is coming in mid- September. Other years when those of us in the north have to wipe snow off our Sukkah chairs we remember why we should be living in Israel.

This haftarah describes the dedication of the Ark, transferring it from the mishkan to the Temple. The cheruvim are described with their wings outstretched sheltering the ark. Nothing was in the ark but the two Stone Tablets from Mount Sinai- think of that!! And a holy cloud filled the Temple- so thick the Kohanim couldn’t see.

There is an exquisite book of illuminated manuscripts from Amiens, France, created around 1280. (The manuscript is currently in the British Library in London.) All the illustrations are beautiful and richly coloured. The picture featured this week is based on one of the manuscript pages.

We see the cheruvim hovering over the ark, the staves of the mishkan, the “mizbeach” (slaughtering table) for the sacrifices, complete with the ritual knives for the “shechting”.

Beside the representation of the ark with the cheruvim are two sides of a Bar Kochba coin, 134-135 C.E.

JUDAEA, Bar Kochba Revolt. 132-135 CE. AR Sela...

JUDAEA, Bar Kochba Revolt. 132-135 CE. AR Sela – Tetradrachm (28mm, 14.07 g, 11h). Undated issue (year 3 – 134/5 CE). Temple facade, the Ark of the Covenant within; star above / Lulav with etrog. Mildenberg 85.12 (O127/R44´); Meshorer 233; Hendin 711. Near EF, toned, light deposits. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the left are both sides of the Bar Kochba coin- one side showing the Temple in Jerusalem and the other showing the arba minim and the etrog. It was incredible to come across that Bar Kochba coin. It shows the religious faith that motivated Bar Kochba and his men in their years of struggle and rebellion. The love of Judaism- and the sanctity of the temple in Jerusalem- is what inspired and fueled their passion.

The medieval painting illustrates the words in the second day of the haftarah. The coins are a moving testament to the centrality of this holiday to the Bar Kochba fighters.

Beautifully there was another set of 36 coins found near the Temple Mount just a few short days ago, on September 9, 2013- a most auspicious day. 

There was also a golden medallion (above) showing a menorah, shofar and Torah scroll. The treasure, found by Dr. Eilat Mazar, is about 1,400 years old. The coins and medallions that are found are tangible proof of the continuous history we Jews have had in the land of Israel. And we are blessed to be able to say, “Next year in Jerusalem” and know that we can be in Jerusalem even earlier- this year!

 

Do you have a theory as to why Bar Kochba chose to use the symbols of the Temple and the four species of Sukkot on his coins? What do you think of the depiction of the “cheruvim” with their faces and colourful wings? I’m interested to read your comments and ideas.

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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.

P1090433

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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