Rosh Hashanah, which starts this year on the evening of September 9th and ends on Tuesday September 11th, is perhaps the most important holiday in the Jewish religion. The two-day holiday, the only one that’s celebrated as two days both in Israel and the Diaspora, is a celebration of the Jewish New Year, during which we recognize the day that G-d created Adam and Eve. In addition to being a celebration of our creation, it is also a time for accounting and judgment of our actions. And, as with most Jewish holidays and customs, we celebrate and mark the occasion with food.
On the Jewish New Year we greet one another with the words Shanah Tovah or Shana Tova u'Metukah, Hebrew for “a good year" or "a good and sweet new year!” As a result, our table is deliberately filled with foods that symbolize sweetness, blessings, and abundance and reflect a hope for happy, prosperous days to come.
If your family is anything like mine, you’ve been discussing, or at least contemplating, the menu for weeks now.
Here are a few of our favorite ingredients to include in your feast, along with JEW-ishly-approved recipes that should impress even the most critical of Jewish mothers or mothers in law.
The Challah is round on Rosh Hashanah, symbolizing the circle of life. It is also symbolic of a crown, alluding to the desire to crown G-d as king. The challah is then dipped in honey instead of salt, our typical Shabbat tradition.
We battled with our parents yearly to find, or bake, raisin-less challah for the holiday. Now that we're in charge, we're team Sans-Raisin-Challah! Challah at us if you agree.
Here is the sweet and salty challah from Smitten Kitchen: it's got figs AND salt, and will make for a fantastic french toast if there are any leftovers.
Apples dipped in honey
One of the most well-known traditions of the Jewish New Year that's been passed down for centuries is eating apples dipped in honey.
The sweet treat symbolizes more than just the sweet new year Jews hope to be blessed with. The apple also represents Gan Eden, or the Garden of Eden, as we celebrate the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.
Fish head (yes fish head!)
Since Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” in Hebrew, many Sephardic Jews will feast on the head of a fish. In Jewish culture, fish represents fertility and abundance, and metaphorically the head represents being a leader and not a follower.
The pomegranate, or rimon, is special for several reasons. The Torah consists of 613 mitzvot. It is also said that the pomegranate consists of 613 seeds, which is why we eat it on Rosh Hashanah. But there's another link between pomegranates and the Jewish New Year -- just as the fruits are full of seeds, we hope we'll be similarly full of merits in the coming year.
We love Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Jerusalem” cookbook for many reasons, and this delicious Roasted cauliflower, hazelnut and pomegranate seed salad is no exception.
The Hebrew word for beet is Selek, to remove, and is eaten to express that we hope our enemies are removed.
This beets and carmelized onion recipe can serve as your base: you can add sauteed mushrooms and anything else you like to dial it up or down. Feel free to take out the feta and pine nuts if you don’t like those. And you can, of course, use fresh beets, rather than canned. Many grocery stores now sell cooked beets in the produce section for lazy people, like me.
The date, tamar, shares sounds with the verb “finish” (tam) in Hebrew and comes with the wish that there come an end to our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us.
Though mentioned often in the Bible, figs are probably most famously associated with the story of Creation. When Adam and Eve have to leave the Garden of Eden, they cover themselves with fig leaves. Some have even argued that the forbidden fruit was actually a fig, not an apple.
I love figs! they're one of my favorite foods to eat on their own or with cheese, when in season. They're sweet and full of flavor and make a perfect sweet addition to your feast. They also look beautiful and can serve a dual purpose as a centerpiece.
In our family, no one skips dessert! This Honey Cake, also from Smitten Kitchen is a perfect combination of sweet and spicy, not your mother’s dry, barely edible honey cake.
Wishing you, and yours, Shanah Tovah u’Metukah. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may we be blessed with many simchas in the coming year.
Every year on my anniversary, Netta says I should write down my thoughts on what makes a successful marriage and I always roll my eyes and chuckle to myself. What would I know? We’ve only been married now for 17 years. We were mere children when we got married, and even when we had our kids. We can fight like cats and dogs. Who am I to provide advice to others on a successful marriage?
And so, I won’t. I won’t tell you steps you must undertake or give you the secret sauce. Because I don’t think there is an easy way to have a successful marriage. Or a single path. Guy and I have fun together. Not all the time, certainly (did I mention the fighting like cats and dogs?). But most days we can still make each other laugh. When something good, or bad, happens, there are only a handful of people I think of calling, and he’s always at the top of that list. Ok...sometimes he’s near the top. A girl needs her sisters and her mom! Perhaps most importantly, I never question his motives. I know he always has my, our children’s, and our family’s best interests at heart. Our goals are aligned and we’re true partners.
That final statement is an interesting one. I don’t always consider us 50/50 partners. This isn’t something we ever discussed, but I consider Guy’s main job to provide for the family and handle the finances, and I consider my main role to keep the home and the children in order. We both work full time, there have been times when we’ve made the same salaries, but I’ve never considered my role to be the breadwinner. We’ve never been in competition, and that’s what I mean by true partners. Guy supports my career, nurtures my relationships with my family, and even (begrudgingly, at times) contributes to JEWishly’s success. In return, I let him ball boy at the US Open and ignore his sneaker addiction.
The other night, Michal asked if I had a modem interpretation of the Sheva Brachot, the Seven Blessings. The Seven Blessings are traditionally shared at Jewish wedding ceremonies and are adapted from ancient rabbinic teachings, beginning with the blessing over the wine and ending with a communal expression of joy. The blessings are about the creation of the world, the creation of humankind, the unity of loving people, and the joy of marriage. With the Internet, there is now abundant opportunity to make the blessings personalized, so rather than sharing the Hebrew and translation, I’ll simply share the categories I shared with her.
A loving home.
Humor and play.
Art, beauty, creativity.
If you and your partner can thrive in these areas, you will have a successful marriage. But how you get there should be your own journey, paved with your partner, family, and community by
Enjoy the path ❤
My sister Meirav recently called me from a business trip and announced she was getting a tattoo. I, of course, gave her all the reasons this was not a good idea, to quickly realize it was not my decision to make. Meirav did listen THIS TIME, but it also had me wondering whether or not a tattoo can be kosher in today's Judaism.
My sisters and I were always told that tattoos were not allowed. Not only frowned upon by our Iraqi father, like short skirts and revealing tops, but by Judaism. We believed Jews with tattoos on their bodies would be denied burial in a Jewish cemetery. One modern reason cited by many is the holocaust and its close association with branding, which I fully understand and respect, but if that were true did it mean that those who have survived the holocaust could not be buried in a Jewish cemetery? That couldn't be true and needed some more research.
Not surprisingly, I found out that the views differ widely, as is true with so many other things in Judaism. Different rabbis hold different opinions, and the old adage about tattoos in a Jewish cemetery also appears to be not so true. So, what's a Jew to do?
Like many other practices and customs, the prohibition is rooted in the text. Leviticus 19:28 states, “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead nor incise any marks on yourself: I am the Lord.” Clear as day, right? There is widespread discussion on whether this is simply a prohibition of tattoos that refer to G-d or all tattoos. In addition, back when the text was written, tattooing was done to mark slaves, often the name of a slave’s owner would be tattooed or branded on his hand or forehead. Some now argue that as tattooing has evolved, Leviticus is no longer valid.
And what about the Jewish symbols, Hebrew words, and other Jew-ish tattoos that one could argue help tie Jews together as a community? in recent years, the tattoo has emerged as a tool for younger Jews to connect to their past and express their personal identify, and many very talented tattoo artists have dedicated their work to do just that.
Some Jews have even begun to tattoo themselves with the Auschwitz numbers of relatives so that the world remembers the atrocities done to their loved ones. Because Holocaust survivors are now dying, the descendants who memorialize them do so because they want to make sure that the world never forgets the suffering their family endured.
Once again, as is often the case, we, as Jews, have the opportunity to adopt the halachic interpretation that most relates to our family and lifestyle. Most who know me well know I'm very much a traditionalist, but I'm also a realist: we live in a world where some of the rules for Judaism, especially non-Orthodox Judaism, have evolved, and will continue to evolve. If we want to be seen as a modern religion where all Jews feel welcome, we need to continue to ask questions, rethink, read between the lines, and try our best to include, not exclude, others.
Hannah, Zach, and Mia, if you're interpreting this as an invitation to go and get inked, read again. But I'm happy to discuss and debate it with you around the dinner table if and when you're ready to do so.
I was sitting in a Broadway show this week for my son’s 5th grade field trip and staring into space when he asked me if I was okay. It is that time of year—finals! Elementary graduation! Camp Packing! All good and wonderful things, but trying to balance them with work and life and all the emotions that come along, is taxing and my eyes were closing during School of Rock. Sorry, School of Rock. I blinked away the sleep and told him I was fine. Just tired. He took my hand in his and held it for the rest of the show. I teared up and held on tight. In a week, he and my daughter will be at sleep away camp for 7 weeks.
They will decorate their area with all of the vital bunk-bed accoutrements we’ve collected over the years, and a collage I almost forgot to make. They will yawn through morning prayers, sing and dance over breakfast, and walk around linked arm in arm with their favorite people in the world, painting their faces and cheering with great ruach as they stumble—their legs tied together as three, their hearts tied together as one. They will work on their Hebrew, folding words like agam and kikar into their vocabulary and they will wear white and look out at the lake on Shabbat and I will count the minutes until Sunday when I will—G-D willing—discover a picture of them in their Shabbat smiles and wet hair, fresh off a camp week steeped in sunshine and sweat and lake water.
They will make new friends but keep the old.
I will cry at the first traffic light I hit after their bus leaves. I will remember that I cried when my mom left me at the top of the hilltop at my own beloved camp, after making my bed just right and hugging me tight and shmushing my face in her hands, squinting back her own tears. I will remember that I got over it the minute a counselor took me to back to the bunk for more unpacking and a dance party.
I will make loads of doctor appointments and I will run and write and eat dinner outside by the water in my town, which I appreciate and breathe in more in the summer. I will take evening walks with my husband and we will go on long weekend hikes and maybe check out a city we’ve never visited, have a conversation we’ve been meaning to have.
Summer camp is a collage in its own right. Snapshots taped up in my memory of best friends and enemies and girl drama and crushes and color war and heat stroke and homesickness and carnivals and bobbing for apples. It was a camp out of time where we would gather under a giant oak tree after Saturday morning services, and sing a resounding When the Saints Go Marching In, played by cute counselors in tie-dye and guitars, and a folksy camp director wielding an acoustic guitar, too, and a hankering for the simple pleasures of summers past. There were wreck hall dances to the soundtrack of 80’s pop and a raucous Born to Run would leave us dripping with sweat and euphoria. We would part ways afterwards, maybe with a quick kiss at the end of a bridge—girls to the left and boys to the right. It would all culminate in a last night of camp bonfire set to Leaving on a Jetplane and the wails of teenage girls afraid of what would come next.
I loved it and I hated it. Some of your kids will love it and some will hate it, too.
The kids will come home and they will maybe even put their laundry in the hamper without being asked and clear their dishes and ask to do Birkat after our first Shabbat reunited. And then summer will fade away with the beginning of a new school year and we will be propelled forward through algebra and lunchroom shenanigans and bat mitzvahs and hopefully, fingers crossed for us all, more good things than bad. Somehow, my son will not be in elementary school anymore and my daughter will be finishing off middle school, and heading in the direction of high school and I will carpool a lot and we will angst a little over book reports and tennis tryouts and lunch packing and it will be hard to get in some writing or even a quick run.
But I will make time for holding their hands tight when I can. I will stifle my yawns when I can, grateful that they lived somewhere without me in a screen-free cocoon of Judaism and song, and that they came back to me—stronger and taller and bronze with memories, and let us say Amen.
When I am scrolling through cable channels late on a sleepless night, there are some movies that I simply cannot pass by. Whether they’ve just started or the final scene is about to start, I HAVE to watch them.
Some movies fall into this category simply because they are excellent – The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption and Cry Freedom come to mind immediately. I immediately get sucked in by the cinematography, the music, the acting or the message. These movies really make me think. They transport me to some other place and time. They inspire me. They give me something that I can truly appreciate. So, it makes sense that I always stop to watch them when I can.
A second group of movies that I cannot pass by all just make me laugh. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, Trading Places and History of the World, Part I all fall into this category. I immediately start reciting my favorite lines along with the cast. I understand my attraction to these movies. They distract me from whatever else is going on in life and make me feel better.
My hunch is that the movies I’ve mentioned so far make sense. However, there’s a third category that I’m a little reluctant to mention. You see – some of the movies on my must-watch list are simply God-awful. I considered not listing any of the movies that fall into this category out of shame, but here are three for your consideration: Waterworld, Rambo and Road House. Really.
I’ve thought long and hard about why these movies have a hold on me. At first, I thought it was the “car-crash” phenomenon. Just as I can’t look away from an accident on the side of the road, my eyes are drawn to a horrible movie. There may be some truth to that, but I think there’s something more at play. These films take me back to the time I first saw them. They return me to an earlier stage of my own life regardless of what’s on the screen. I feel like a kid again when I watch these terrible movies.
If you’ve stuck with me so far, you might very well be asking yourself, “What does all of this have to do with Shavuot?”
Well, the Festival of Shavuot has no menorahs. It has no booths, no matzahs and no greggers. As a result, we might flip right by it as we are scrolling through the channels of Jewish life. But that would be a mistake, because Shavuot has all the elements of a “must-watch” movie.
First of all, it has a compelling story. On Shavuot, we celebrate the giving – and receiving! – of the Torah. It defies logic that a collection of stories, laws and customs from centuries ago has been passed down through the generations so that it lives on today in the form of Judaism. While the Torah has been interpreted and reinterpreted many times to ensure that it continues to speak truth in every generation, it is the same text that our ancestors received and studied many centuries ago.
In addition, the Festival of Shavuot can distract us and make us feel better. After all, there’s cheesecake – need I say more? All joking aside, when we take time out of our busy lives to turn off our phones, tune out our outside obligations and focus on our families and our traditions, we are doing ourselves a BIG favor. Whether we participate in a traditional late-night study session – called a “Tikkun” – or pick up a book with a Jewish theme, we are taking a short break from the craziness of our lives. Delicious dairy foods – blintzes, ice cream and more! – are just a bonus.
Finally, the Festival of Shavuot can transport us to a different time and place. We can imagine ourselves as part of the generation that first received the Torah. Or we can imagine ourselves like Ruth (it is customary to read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot). Often considered the first Jew by choice, she declared that she was going to accept God and be part of our people even though it was not the community into which she was born. Or we can try to place ourselves in any other time or place in Jewish history. Sometimes it takes that kind of thought exercise for those of us born in the community to fully appreciate our Jewishness.
So, let me make you an offer that you can’t refuse: come celebrate the giving of the Fifteen, er, Ten Commandments by studying some Torah, by eating some fun foods and by imagining yourself someplace on the long chain of Jewish history. Happy Shavuot!
~ Rabbi Avi Friedman.
My upbringing has taught me the importance of gifting, of marking a momentous occasion with the appropriate monetary amount or the perfect item.
But...what's the right amount? is money ok? can I give a gift instead? what's that I hear about multiples of 18? AHHH my head if spinning!
Slow down....that's what we're here for, and we've tried to lay it all down for you in a simple way so you can just show up and enjoy the party. With the perfect gift in hand, of course.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah boy or girl will love receiving money. Trust us. They just won't like the part where their parents take most of it away to put into a savings account for future use.
If you're giving cash or check, the most common rule in Jewish gifting is to gift in multiples of $18. In numerology, 18 is Chai (no, not the delicious tea latte), Hebrew for life. Giving money in multiples of $18 is symbolic of giving “chai” or life. So if you were going to give $50, give $54. If you were going to gift $100, make it $108 instead.
And that's where the rules end, and the rest is highly dependent on how close you are to the boy or girl celebrating and how many people are invited; please use the below as rough guidelines, and give what you're comfortable giving:
Giving gifts of Israel bonds is a special way to celebrate meaningful occasions.
Israel Bonds support Israel and can be redeemed in five years.
Mazel Tov Bonds, a special all-occasion gift available for an initial minimum investment of $100 can be purchased online.
E-Mitzvah bonds can be purchased for a minimum of $36.
Visit the Israel Bonds website to learn more.
There are some people who, especially for close friends, will prefer to provide a personal gift, as opposed to cash or even an Israel bond (my son may now have voting shares in the future of the State of Israel based on his current portfolio). The advantage of a personal gift is that its perceived value is oftentimes higher than the actual value, with consideration given to the thought and the time taken, providing the gift-giver additional wiggle room in terms of spend.
My favorite concept is the gift within a gift. Providing something special that contains another surprise gift inside. For a Bat Mitzvah girl, this most often will take on the form of a jewelry box that contains a piece of jewelry inside. For a boy, a beautiful yad (torah pointer) and cuff links or a Shabbat set. A Mezuzah is also very special, and can even be engraved with a custom saying or name.
We are excited to package these items for you through JEW-ishly to make the process easy and assist you in gifting in a meaningful and memorable way. Either select one of the pre-packaged gifts we have available, or contact us to create your own. And remember, we can source and customize (almost) anything with advance notice. Because gift giving shouldn’t be stressful, think of us as your Jew-ish gift concierge.
At the center of every Jewish celebration is food and most certainly, when family is involved, wine. And nothing says Jewish holidays and celebrations more than a good old Manischewitz bottle. But if you're anything like me (not Meirav, she loves Manischewitz) you are looking for something slightly better. So, what's a girl to do on Passover, when the seder is slightly too long, or during the week that follows?
*A caveat: I'm not a big drinker, but when I do drink, I want it to be good. Can you really blame me?*
Your safest bet of course is always wine. Traditionally, you are expected to drink four cups during the Passover seder. Because wine is made from fermented grapes, not grains, it's usually fine. To be 100% sure make sure the bottle has a kosher for Passover label.
For the rest, let's start with the simple rule: if the alcohol is made of wheat, barley, spelt, rye, or oat, it's probably a no go. I know, I know, this sounds bad, but...there are some things you CAN drink so read on.
Any beer made with wheat, barley, spelt, rye, or oat is not kosher for Passover.
Bourbon is usually off the table during Passover as well.
Usually these are not recommended as well.
All domestic vodkas are kosher, some imported ones are as well: Ketel One, Absolut, Belvedere, Finlandia, Grey Goose. They are kosher for Passover if they are potato based instead of wheat.
Your only option with a pesach hekhsher is San Francisco’s Distillery No. 209, which produces a specialty seasonal sugar cane sprit based (different from its year round grain spirits) gin.
TEQUILA (my personal favorite)
Regular or white tequila is the recommended option for those keeping kosher.
Patrón Silver and Roca Patrón Silver are both now certified Kosher for Passover. Patrón has always been certified Kosher, and that certification has now been extended to include Kosher for Passover for Silver and Roca.
But beware: while all Patrón Silver and Roca Patrón Silver tequila is certified Kosher for Passover, some bottles currently on store shelves and online may not yet display the Kosher for Passover symbol.
Looking for some Passover cocktail ideas?
Fill champagne flutes halfway with concord grape Manischewitz. Fill to the top with grape or apple, or apple-grape sparkling cider. Add one lime wedge's worth of lime juice and 2-3 dashes of bitters to each flute.
Sparkling Paloma Cocktails
LOVE & LEMONS
Serves: 4 to 6 drinks
My favorite place to have a margarita in the summer is at bartaco: they truly have it down to a science, and nothing marks the arrival of Spring and Summer better than a good margarita.
Here is their official Margarita recipe, courtesy of Tasty Bev:
Zachlawi demonstrates how to make a Blackberry Mojito and Crushed Ice Mango Margarita that look incredible!
Looking for other ideas? The Sipping Seder has some creative Passover-inspired cocktails.
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) commemorates our liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. Each spring, Jews around the world recount Passover's story at a festive meal called the seder, surrounded by family and friends.
Passover without a seder is like a football game without a quarterback. And the MVP at the Passover table is the seder plate. Nothing on the seder table is randomly selected; the plate is rich with symbolism, meaning, and history. From Zeroa and Maror to Charoset and Chazeret, Passover foods reconnect the seder participants with historical events that happened more than 3,000 years ago.
So what exactly is a seder plate?
In theory a seder plate could be any plate on which you place the symbolic foods of the meal, but many people use a plate made specifically for the Passover seder.
If you have kids, get them involved by decorating a paper plate with pictures of the events or things the seder foods symbolize. If you’re not creative, don’t worry. They’ll probably bring at least one a year from Hebrew School.
Does it matter where the foods are placed on the plate?
Most seder plates label which food goes where, so most people just put each item in the designated spot on the plate.
So..what goes on the seder plate?
There are six traditional foods that go on the seder plate:
1. Zeroa or shank bone:
One of the most striking symbols of Passover is the roasted lamb shankbone (called zeroah), which commemorates the paschal (lamb) sacrifice made the night the ancient Hebrews fled Egypt. Some people say it symbolizes the outstretched arm of God (the Hebrew word zeroah can mean “arm”).
While a roasted lamb bone is traditionally used to represent the zeroa, any piece of roasted meat may be used. Some families use chicken or turkey neck. Growing up we only used the bone, there was no meat on it, so this really does depend on your upbringing and your family's traditions.
2. Beitzah or egg:
Like the zeroa, the egg (beitzah, in Hebrew) stands in for a holiday sacrifice once offered at the Holy Temple. The egg is also a universal symbol of springtime, new beginnings and rebirth -- all themes that are echoed in the story of the Exodus.
The egg is not eaten during the ritual part of the seder; however, many families preempt their main course with an appetizer of hard boiled eggs, which they serve with salt water. This first course reminds those who eat it of the hardships that brought them here.
3. Maror or bitter herbs
Maror, or bitter herbs, symbolizes the bitterness of slavery. Different families use different foods to represent the maror, but it is most typically horseradish or romaine lettuce. Like the Jews' time in Egypt, romaine lettuce is sweet at first, but becomes more and more bitter as time goes on.
4. Karpas or vegetable
Karpas is a green leafy vegetable, usually parsley, used to symbolize the initial flourishing of the Jews in Egypt. According to the Book of Genesis, Joseph and his family moved from the biblical land of Ca'anan down to Egypt during a drought. Once in Egypt, Joseph quickly rose to power as the Egyptian pharaoh's second-in-command -- a revered position that extended special protection to the Israelite people for several generations.
However, when a new pharaoh came to power, he was threatened by the growing size of the Israelite community and enslaved them. This turn of events is commemorated during the seder by dipping the karpas into bitter salt water, which represents the tears shed by the Israelites.
Karpas also symbolizes springtime — which is appropriate since Passover is called Hag Ha'Aviv or the holiday of spring. Some families use boiled spring potatoes, continuing a tradition from Eastern Europe where it was difficult to get fresh green vegetables.
There’s nothing further from maror than charoset (“kha-ROH-set”).
A paste-like mixture of fruits, nuts and sweet wine or honey, charoset (also spelled haroset) is symbolic of the mortar used by the Israelite slaves when they laid bricks for Pharaoh’s monuments. The word charoset is derived from the Hebrew word for clay, cheres.
Jews from Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi) make their charoset from apples, walnuts, sweet red wine and a generous dash of cinnamon. Families from Sephardic descent use dates, figs, almonds and honey to make charoset.
Similar to maror, chazeret is a bitter food (usually lettuce or a root vegetable). The sixth symbolic Passover food on the seder plate, chazeret is not used by all families. Chazeret is more commonly included on seder plates in Israel, where romaine lettuce typically stands for the chazeret and horseradish for the maror.
What else is on the seder table?
Salt water: Salt water symbolizes the tears and sweat of enslavement. Often a single bowl of salt water sits on the table into which each person dips their karpas during the seder. Then, it’s traditional to begin the actual seder meal with each person eating a hardboiled egg (not the roasted egg!) dipped in the bowl of salt water.
Matzah: Perhaps the most important symbol on the seder table is a plate that has a stack of three pieces of matzah (unleavened bread) on it. The matzot (that’s plural for matzah) are typically covered with a cloth. People have come up with numerous interpretations for the three matzot. Some say they represent the Kohen class (the Jewish priests in ancient times), the Levis (who supported the priests), and the Israelites (the rest of the Jews).
The top matzah is referred to as Kohen, for the Kohen takes precedence in all matters.
The middle matzah Levi is broken into two at the beginning of the seder. The smaller piece is left on the plate and is later eaten along with the Kohen matzah in fulfillment of the mitzvah of matzah; the larger piece is put away for use as the afikoman.
The bottom matzah, Yisrael is used for korech, so that every one of the matzot is used for the performance of a mitzvah.
Wine cups and wine (or grape juice): Everyone at the seder has a small cup or glass from which they drink four cups of wine. Traditionally, the four cups represent the four biblical promises of redemption: “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you from their slavery, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments. And I will take you to me for a people . . .” Others say the four cups represent the four letters in the unspeakable Name of God.
Chag Pesach Sameach.
Photo for Israel365 by Yehoshua Halevi
If you have young kids attending a secular school, then you know the rituals: make valentines for the whole class; attend a Heart Hop at school, or a party celebrating friendship with painted cookies and the like. Even I, whose children have always attended Jewish Day Schools, have always marked the day with chocolates and little tokens for my kids. But in the back of my mind I’ve often wondered, is Valentine’s Day in keeping with my Jew-ish roots?
Orthodox Judaism discourages us from celebrating Valentine’s Day, due to the Catholic or Pagan origins of the holiday. But, in truth, nothing regarding the modern traditions of Valentine’s Day is overtly religious.
Little is known regarding St. Valentine. It is widely believed that the traditions tying love themes to February 14th have little to do with the life of St. Valentine himself. Some believe that Valentine’s Day is a Christian reconstruction of the pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia. 20th-century literary scholar Jack B. Oruch attributes the themes of love and romance on Valentine’s Day to Geoffrey Chaucer in the late 14th-Century England. The oldest formal greeting can be traced to the 1500s.
So what’s a Jew-ish girl to do?? There are apparently Jewish laws to help me decide!
We first need to answer if the debated activity has a secular origin or value, and whether the ritual can be rationally explained outside of the event. In the case of Valentine’s Day, today’s rituals of gifting chocolates and corny Hallmark card are logical expression of love, friendship, and appreciation independent of the holiday. Also, the Church doesn’t recognize it as a Christian holiday, and there is plenty of evidence refuting its pagan origins. Next, we need to question if there are idolatrous origins that still exist and whether there are activities that contradict Jewish tradition. We answered the first part, as popular opinion is that Valentine’s Day does not have pagan roots. As for the final question, the desire to express love and offer tokens of love and affection are consistent with Jewish values. So much so, that there is a Valentine’s Day equivalent on the Jewish calendar! Tu B’Av (in 2018 on July 27th), which when said aloud is Tu-Av and very similar to Toe-Av, or the command love, is a day dedicated to matchmaking and fertility.
I’m convinced! I will shower my children and my husband with chocolates, silly cards, and tokens of affection that will make them roll their eyes. Because, after all, how can anyone be against a day that celebrates love?
Wishing you all, today and every day, love and gratitude.
I’m not a new year’s resolution person, never really have been. As I approach my 45th year (gasp!), I’m more realistic that it’s one more thing I probably won’t achieve, so why set myself up for failure? My kids will tell you that I already do many things wrong.
Golda Meir said “Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.” I’ve slowly been adopting that philosophy and, as part of that, setting more realistic expectations for myself as a mother, wife, and as a person.
So what does that mean?
Let’s start with the mothering piece:
This mothering thing is the hardest job I’ve ever had, and just when I think I’ve figured some of it out, life throws another twist my way. My oldest daughter is 13 and will be starting high school next year. In a blink of an eye, she’ll be going off to college. My son will be 11 in April, and like many pre-teens, seeks me and my advice some of the time, while exerting his own independence at other times. With him, especially, I am often reminded of being afraid letting my kids go down steps when they were younger, or playing on the monkey bars at the playground, so they wouldn’t get hurt. I finally realized it wasn’t about if but when. They WERE going to fall down those stairs, or at the playground, or just running around the house. My most important job was to be there and help them up. My youngest just turned five. While I sometimes shake my head at having chosen to do it all over again, I am SO very thankful that I did, and that my daughters are eight years apart! One baby doesn’t need me anymore, but the other most certainly does. My younger daughter still wants me to play with her as she runs around in her princess costumes, making me coffee and breakfast in her play kitchen.. She wants me to play with her, to run with her, to go on field trips with her class. And so I go, I run, I play, I do … as she giggles and laughs … and I enjoy (almost) every single minute of it!
So this year, for the sake of my children I will focus on the following:
-Letting go. I’m a control freak. I’ll admit it, my husband will point it out over and over, and my kids will sometimes suffer as a result. I’m learning to let go...it’s not easy, sort of like a 10-step program for me. I know it’s something I must do to allow us all to be more happy. They will make mistakes, they will fall, but those are the things they'll continue to learn from.
-Obsessing less about their happiness. My kids don’t always get along. And I may be putting this mildly. If your kids are best friends, consider yourself lucky, but I have never had that in my house. I get glimpses of what that might look like, but just as quickly as it begins, it ends and I’m left with the pieces.
I have now resolved to the fact that they may NEVER be best friends, which I’m somewhat ok with. I hope deep down inside that they will, but they’re three very different individuals, at different stages of their lives. My main rule remains the same: while they’re living in this house they must coexist, for all our sanity. So while last year I said I'm going to try and yell less, I'm a year older and wiser, saying I know i'm going to yell, just know I still love you while I'm doing it.
On being a wife:
Mike and I have recently celebrated our 15-year anniversary. That’s a big deal, in my opinion. We have been through a lot, yet I feel like we’ve been really lucky and had it easy. We’ve yet to really deal with the big stuff that life throws at you, and hopefully we won’t, but the realist in me knows it’s coming, and I’m holding my breath. We are partners in crime, always have been. He supports me, and I support him, and for the most part, we agree on how to parent our kids. But lately, especially during the week, we’re two passing ships. I know our relationship won’t ever be the same as when we first met, as we’re in fact different people than the young kids who met 20 years ago. Our relationship is different, and in certain ways, better. But this year I am determined to do the following:
-Bring back the date night. we used to carve out one night a week where we would go out, just the two of us, that has somehow gone away and been replaced by family dinner out. One should not take the place of the other.
-Celebrate the small, don’t wait for the big. I think this is truly where I’ve grown: there used to be the big gifts for the big milestones. Those are certainly nice, but I would much rather get a surprise, you’re awesome because you’re you, recognition. Are you listening Mike?
-Continue to invest in our family together. This seems obvious but I don’t want to disregard it. There is nothing more sexy to me than a father who’s present, and Mike’s always been that. And I’ve always been a believer of it’s not about quantity but quality when it comes to being a parent, which stems for my working full-time for many years and not being around. In 2018, I promise to be more present around my family.
Last but not least, me.
I’m not sure how this has happened, but it has: I’ve pushed my own needs behind everyone else’s. In seeking to make my husband and kids happy, I’ve somehow neglected myself. This year I vow to make more “me time” which I know will make for a happier family unit. This will also require me to say No more than I currently do. It is OK to say no, and not feel guilty about doing so, but again, a work in progress for me.
There is of course no magic formula, and all of this requires work. Some days I will do some of the above better than others, but for me, each day is a new beginning. And just because I wasn’t the best possible mom or wife or person one day, it doesn’t mean i can’t try again the following day.
Happy 2018, or 20חי. In Judaism, the number 18 means “Chai” or “life.” in this year, may we all start creating the kind of self that we will be happy living with the rest of our lives.