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Sep 3 2013

Should Young Families Have to Pay to Pray?

By at 11:50 am

pay-to-prayHave you heard the one about the young Jewish couple who have a kid while living in a big city and find themselves searching for community around the high holidays?

You know, the couple who decide to pony up for synagogue membership at a large congregation in their city neighborhood, and then subsequently become involved through the synagogue preschool, the young sisterhood, and various holiday events? This couple basks in the warm glow of baking challah and attending Tot Shabbat services. They introduce their kids–first the one kid, then two–to more Judaism in five years than either of them had been exposed to in over 25. And they enjoy it! Never before had they yearned for Jewish connection and yet here they are, singing the prayers, making Jewish friends, teaching their kids Hebrew. Then, as the creep of Kindergarten approaches, said couple feels the need to find a new home in the suburbs. As a consequence, they leave their big warm city shul and head east (or in this case, north).

Do you know what happens next, in this all-too-familiar-tale? Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 26 2013

How Your Kids Can Help You Mentally Prepare for the High Holidays

By at 10:07 am

balconyWe live on the third floor, and have a little balcony. My 4-year-old has taken to throwing things–toys, couch pillows, books–off the balcony. It’s really not OK, and he knows it. He also knows that if he throws toys he won’t see them again for a while, and that there may be some other consequence, to boot. But he’s 4, his impulse control is not so hot, and he’s testing boundaries.

This morning, I asked him to share the toy he was holding with his little brother, so he ran halfway across the apartment in order to throw it off the balcony. It was a clear f-you: If I can’t have it, nobody can have it. It was the last straw of a frustrating morning, and I yelled at him, really shouted, as I put him in a time out.

There are a lot of reasons why I don’t want to raise my children in a home with yelling. I have a pretty firm commitment to raising them to feel loved, safe, and not afraid in their own home, and a screaming adult is terrifying to a small person. So to have slipped in a way that’s human and understandable but still, well, urgently not where I need to be–it’s a terrible feeling. This morning, I failed my son and I failed myself. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 20 2013

What I’ve Learned From My Son About Hope

By at 3:57 pm

cori son elulTraditionally, during month of Elul, we say Psalm 27–lots of rabbis and other clever Jews have insights as to what it teaches us as we head into the High Holidays. Suffering from mommy-brain is a new part of my fabulous identity as an emah (mother), and I can’t help but think of the psalm in terms of my son. His name, Kaveh (קוה) comes from this particular psalm and in biblical Hebrew, it is the command form of the word hope.

Every morning, Kaveh wakes up, showers us with kisses and hugs, and babbles excitedly about things like breakfast and the people he’s going to see that day. Even if he had a tantrum before bed, or a bad dream during the night. He faces every day as if he was obligated to believe that it was going to be the best day ever.

When my chubby, beautiful toddler is sitting in his stroller and we pass the park, he repeats “Park! Park! Park!” over and over again until it’s no longer in sight. Until it’s truly, truly gone he maintains that it is a very real possibility that he’ll soon be giggling on his way down the slide, even if we’ve already told him that we’re going to the grocery store and there’s no time for the park. He never folds, because he believes that everything is possible. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 8 2013

What’s Your Rosh Hashanah Resolution?

By at 3:32 pm

what's your rosh hashanah resolution?Want to learn how to knit? Do a lot less yelling? Spend a little more me-time?

As Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, fast approaches, we want to know what your Rosh Hashanah Resolution is–a goal, big or small, that you think you can hold yourself to in 5774.

We’ll be sharing resolutions from writers and others on the blog leading up to the High Holidays, and we would love to include some from our readers in the mix. If you’d like to participate, send an email to info@kveller.com with “Rosh Hashanah Resolutions” as the subject line. Be sure to include the following in your email:

1. Your resolution! Tell us in a few sentences what you’d like to do in the coming year.

2. Your first name, and where you live.

3. A picture of you to include on the blog.

More of a Tweeter? You can tweet your resolution to us, too! Be sure to direct it @Kveller and include the #RoshRes hashtag.

We can’t wait to hear what’s in store for you this coming New Year!

For the Month of Elul, Threading Together My Sons’ Jewish Identities

By at 11:53 am

croc with jewish star buttonOn her blog “Ima On and Off the Bima,” Rabbi Phyllis Sommer started something called #BlogElul. Elul is the Hebrew month preceding the High Holidays, and is meant to be a time of introspection as we mentally prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rabbi Sommer has designated every day of Elul to a different topic, and will be blogging about each one and encouraging others to join in.

The #BlogElul challenge spoke to me, as each year I contemplate how to weave bits of Judaism into my children’s day. Bits that over time will be threaded together to form their Jewish identities and sense of self. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 5 2013

The Review of Rosh Hashanah Menus Past

By at 5:02 pm

rosh hashanah apple cakeA few nights ago, I began my annual pre-Rosh Hashanah ritual: “The Review of Menus Past.”

Since 2004 I have kept a record of what I planned to serve each year for Rosh Hashanah. Over the years, the record keeping has been refined.  In the second year of this project, I decided to list who was “responsible” for making the item on the menu like me, Mom A, or Mom B (my mother-in-law and my mom, designated this way because of last names, not priority, of course).

In 2006 I realized that it would be really helpful to add in the cookbook title and page number so that when I went to cook the food I could find the recipe quickly. It turned out to be even more helpful years later when I decided to make something again and I didn’t have to rack my brain to remember where it was (I have a lot of cookbooks). Finally, four years ago I added the schedule of cooking so I knew what I had to accomplish each day to stay on track. (Perfect for my busy life and my type A personality!) Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 24 2012

Rethinking Who Shall Live & Who Shall Die

By at 12:30 pm

breast cancer ribbonIn 2006, my 35-year-old stepbrother was diagnosed with advanced metastatic prostate cancer. Jeremy faced his disease with tremendous grace and humor.

He died less than two years later.

His death was devastating for me. Although we had different biological parents, we became brother and sister when we were both just 2 years old. Only three months separated us, and some of my fondest childhood memories involve our make believe games and mischief together. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 21 2012

What Happens if the Rabbi’s Wife Gives Birth on Yom Kippur?

By at 11:42 am

pregnant woman holding applesMy husband and I started dating when we were 20 and 18. Not too long after that, we had a discussion about the size family we would like to have one day. At the time, he was living in an attic apartment above a family of six kids. He loved watching them interact and play with each other, as well as help each other when needed. So, he said he wanted six kids. This is how the rest of the conversation went:

Me:  No, that’s just too many. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 27 2012

Five Tips for Making the Snazziest Rosh Hashanah Cards

By at 6:02 am
stacey ilyse family photo boardwalk

Show off those precious faces this New Year.

I remember, growing up, getting cards in the mail for Rosh Hashanah. They were always the normal, generic, Hallmark “Happy New Year” type card.

Nowadays, people are WAY more tech savvy and have the ability to create really fun cards that reflect and show off who they are and their adorable kids and family. If you want to give your Rosh Hashanah cards a personal touch this year, here are five tips plus a few resources for creating and producing the picture perfect photo card. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 7 2011

It’s Yom Kippur

By at 12:58 pm

It's not just about the fasting.

Yom Kippur begins tonight at sundown. It’s a serious and somber holiday that’s filled with meaning. Also known as The Day of Atonement, it’s a communal confession of all of the sins we’ve done over the past year. A day of fasting and abstinence. There’s even a prayer where we traditionally beat our chests, to feel the collective sins not just spiritually or emotionally, but physically too. Yom Kippur can be hard for parents to understand–and even harder for children.

So how do you explain Yom Kippur to your kids?

We’ve got a few good places to start. First, check out the basics of the holiday–once you have those down, you’ll be able to answer many of your kids’ questions. Then we have some suggested books to help make sense of the holidays. Personally, I’m a fan of a book called The Hardest Word, which tells the story of a bird named the Ziz who can’t figure out what the hardest word is. (Hint: it’s “I’m sorry.”)

But sometimes saying “I’m sorry” can become rote and meaningless, and that’s not what  real teshuva on Yom Kippur is about. Check out this mom’s take on how to really help your kids understand the meaning of forgiveness and apology on Yom Kippur.

And if your kids are old enough to be interested in the fact that you’re fasting, you can talk about how giving up food on Yom Kippur helps you to think about how important it is to be a good person. Maybe your child might want to “give up” something for the day, like skipping dessert. Or, you could also focus their attention on something else that many people do on Yom Kippur–make donations of canned goods to the hungry. Adding a little social justice to the holiday makes it even more meaningful.

We’re shutting down early today, but we’d like to wish all our readers an easy fast (or no fast, whatever you choose). We’ll be back on Monday atoned, refreshed, and possibly skinnier.

G’mar chatima tova–may you be sealed for blessing in the book of life!

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