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Sep 30 2014

Bribing Kids with Candy at Temple is Not Cool

By at 9:49 am


My husband, toddler, and I just attended Rosh Hashanah services at our parents’ temple, and the highlight for my son was the blowing of the shofar. Granted, we’d been talking it up well in advance of services, but it was such a thrill for him to stand near the rabbi while it sounded repeatedly. But that excitement was quickly overshadowed by what happened next: Following the blowing of the shofar, all the young kids who had gathered around the bimah were given candy. This happened every time the shofar was blown, and frankly, I wasn’t happy about it.

First of all, from a nutritional standpoint, the idea of my 2.5-year-old consuming a series of sugary candies (chocolates, marshmallows, etc.) in the hour leading up to lunchtime was enough to drive me crazy. Candy is something my son gets sparingly, and while nobody forced him to eat it, I wasn’t about to risk a major public fit by yanking it out of his hands while all the other children around him indulged. (As a side note, I think it’s a better practice for adults to ask a young child’s parent if it’s OK to give him candy before proactively offering it up. When I host play dates, I always ask the adult guests if it’s OK to put out certain foods and beverages before actually doing so.)

But the bigger issue I have is that the distribution of candy almost seemed like a bribe to get the kids to keep coming back to hear the shofar. I can’t speak for the other children, but my son was excited enough about the shofar to have gone up to the bimah repeatedly, without needing any outside encouragement to do so. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 18 2014

How the Shofar–and My 2-Year-Old–Helped Me Make Sense of a Somber Summer

By at 1:59 pm


Every year around this time, Jewish families visit the graves of their relatives. Tradition. The high holidays are lurking around the corner. The shofar gets sounded in synagogue on a daily basis during the month of Elul, a time of eager anticipation. Maimonides teaches that the shofar is a type of alarm clock for all of us immersed in a spiritual slumber. Wake up, cries the ancient ram’s horn.

Somberness has been my recurring theme these past several months, given the violent climate of our world: The war in Israel. Violence in Ferguson. ISIS’ ongoing murderous rampage. I have also spent my summer working as a chaplain in a hospice, having been inspired to do so after my bubbe’s passing last winter. And I realize, as much as I would like to, I’m not quite emotionally ready for an alarm clock just yet.

I feel overwhelmed. How do we release ourselves of the imminence of traumatic feelings, especially when the disasters have not fully resolved? Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 27 2014

Welcome to the Month of Very Loud Noises

By at 10:42 am


This morning started with a blast. Actually, many blasts. Our shofar has emerged.

Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first day of the Hebrew month preceding Rosh Hashanah. There is a minhag (custom) of blowing the shofar every morning during Elul except for Shabbat and the day before the New Year. Though this traditionally takes place at synagogue after Shaharit (morning services), my spouse and I have a practice of blowing the shofar at home. We’ve been doing it for over a decade, having bought a shofar for our first wedding anniversary, but it takes longer than it used to. Instead of one person waking up the neighbors, now all four of us blow the shofar each day, my two kids eager and impatient for their turns.

We keep the shofar on our mantel until the High Holidays are over. When we have guests, they have a uniform reaction upon seeing the long spirals: “Isn’t that type of shofar harder to blow?” They are surprised when we tell them that not only is it easier to get sound from a long shofar than a short one, but even our kids can produce a recognizable “tekiyah.”  Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 28 2011

I Need Store-Bought, Thematic Snacky-ness And I Need it Now

By at 10:55 am

See? Those Bugles look just like a real shofar.

Every year before Rosh Hashanah I stock up on bags of Bugles: the corn-chip snacks fried in the shape of cones. I don’t even care how fatty or salty they are. I must have them.

Around a holiday, most nutritional considerations get eclipsed in favor of the greater good: transforming the ordinary into something special and memorable. And for my family, this includes Bugles. Why?

Bugles are miniature, edible shofars. Not by intention, but by conversion. They are hollow and tapered like tiny horns of plenty, and occasionally they’ve frizzled in the fat long enough to twist into a convincing arc like a real ram’s horn.

We use them as shofars for the Lego and Playmobil people. We use them as shofars for ourselves. We decorate mini muffins with them and sing Happy Birthday to the World. And we do this whether we are 4 or 14 or 46. They’ve become a taste and toy of Rosh Hashanah.

Until now.

Last week, I came home with half a dozen bags for a children’s program at the synagogue. And then I looked closer at the label. Where was the hecksher, the symbol of kosher certification?  It’s always been there. So, I go online and discover what the kosher world has known since March, 2011: the Orthodox Union (who administers that hecksher certification) has discontinued kosher certification due to “operational changes in the production sites.”

My synagogue has rules about such things. These bags, because of the sudden disappearance of two letters, will not be allowed in the building. I might just as well try serving pigs-in-a-blanket. Read the rest of this entry →


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