Sep 25 2012
Ever since elementary school, I’ve hated collective punishment. I remember my teacher explained that she was punishing our whole class to incentivize us to police one another’s behavior in the future. I thought that was nuts. I was mad at my badly behaved classmate, although I didn’t tell him or do anything specific about it, but I felt like I was suffering for no reason; it was about something totally unrelated to me. Read the rest of this entry →
From what to wear to what to pray to what NOT to eat, how much do you know about Yom Kippur? Before you head off to synagogue, be sure to take our quick quiz on the Day of Atonement. And don’t feel bad if you get any of the answers wrong–now’s the perfect time to repent for our mistakes.
Sep 24 2012
Rabbi Heidi Hoover is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek in Brooklyn, NY, but unlike most rabbis, Hoover grew up the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. We sat down with Rabbi Hoover to talk about her conversion, swapping clergy stories with her father, and why her Jewish kids believe in Santa Clause.
Do you and your dad ever bond about both being in the clergy, albeit different religions?
Yes! The day-to-day work of a member of the clergy has a lot of similarities across religions. When I was in rabbinical school he once called me to say, “I want to tell you about this committee meeting I just had, because you’re going to have to deal with stuff like this.” Another time he told me I’d inspired him to brush up on his Hebrew, and he called me once to say, “What do you think about [the word] chesed?” A couple of times I’ve called him for advice, in particular one time when I had to lead services in a very challenging situation.
(BTW, I love this question, and it’s not one I’ve been often asked.) Read the rest of this entry →
Last year, Jordana provided us this “Parent’s Vidui”–a list of collective apologies specifically geared for parents during Yom Kippur. This year, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Tuesday, September 25.
The Yom Kippur prayer known as the Vidui, or Confessional, is one in which each Jewish congregation stands up and collectively takes responsibility for its sins. Regardless of whether or not we ourselves have committed a given wrongdoing, we confess to it and thump our chest in contrition. We do so collectively so as to not shame those who have done these things, and to facilitate their admission and recognition of their wrongdoing. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 21 2012
My 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 →
Sep 19 2012
"Sacrifice of Isaac" by Rembrandt
The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (coming to a Jewish community near you next Tuesday night/Wednesday!) are called the Yamim Noraim, or the Days of Awe.
During these days, we’re supposed to think over our lives and how we want to change them in the coming year. We can use them as a launch pad for following the steps mentioned in the Unetaneh Tokef prayer. In other words, we can reduce the severity of God’s judgment by doing t’shuva (turning from our less-good ways), t’fila (prayer) and tzedakah (acts of charity). We hope by doing these things that we can be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year. And during these days, I’ll be writing about parental perspectives on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the days in between. Read the rest of this entry →
Jessica Hoffman’s recent post about her favorite children’s story, The Apple Tree’s Discovery, made me think about my favorite children’s book, Yussel’s Prayer.
I did not go to shul (synagogue) for about 20 years as my children were growing up. Although many disagree regarding their own families, I did not feel that my kids belonged in shul until they could sit quietly and not disturb others and could participate in the davening (prayer service). So even on the holiest night of the Jewish calendar, the night on which Yom Kippur begins and the haunting melody of Kol Nidre is heard, I stayed home. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 7 2011
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!
Oct 6 2011
The Yom Kippur prayer known as the Vidui, or Confessional, is one in which each Jewish congregation stands up and collectively takes responsibility for its sins. Regardless of whether or not we ourselves have committed a given wrongdoing, we confess to it and thump our chest in contrition. We do so collectively so as to not shame those who have done these things, and to facilitate their admission and recognition of their wrongdoing.
Too often, the prayer is recited as rote – we read the words, but do not feel them. Therefore, I’d like to posit The Parent’s Vidui. These are all based on the traditional translations of the Vidui text, altered to place emphasis on how we treat our kids. You may not have done everything in this list, though certainly each of us is guilty of something.
This is a collective apology, to our community and to our children. We confess and hopefully will turn to a new path of better parenting in the year to come.
Ashamnu – We have trespassed onto our children’s privacy and independence by hovering.
Bagadnu – We have done improper things, and have convinced ourselves that our actions were in our childrens’ best interests.
Gazalnu – We have robbed our children by not giving them our full attention when we are with them. Read the rest of this entry →
Several articles have been posted in the past week discussing the Jewish New Year, with a few focusing specifically on the issue of fasting for Yom Kippur. Many people don’t like the concept of fasting, and many people don’t see any religious or spiritual value in fasting. I happen to be a person who likes the concept, and who sees and reaps a tremendous amount of religious and spiritual value from fasting. I also have fasted throughout two pregnancies and through nursing babies and toddlers on demand all day and all night.
Am I better than you for fasting while nursing and pregnant? No. Do I work hard to accomplish this? Yes. Here’s why I put in the effort:
1) Fasting is an important religious and spiritual exercise. Fasting and “afflicting ourselves” on Yom Kippur is described in the Torah, which is my personal guidebook for life. I have made a commitment to find a way to apply the wisdom of thousands of years of history and tradition to modern life and it works for me. Praying, singing, chanting, meditating, and spending time away from work and cell phones and cars and electronics is what we Jews have the opportunity to do every week on Shabbat. On Yom Kippur, doing these things while fasting takes it to a different and much more intense level. As it should be: this is the day our year is, in part, determined. It’s a heavy day and fasting sets it apart as intense and meaningful in a special way.
2) Fasting is symbolically important. By peeling away the material parts of our existence through refraining from the sustenance we live by daily, we get to see what’s left over. Without the rhythms of meals, what drives my day? Without snacks to keep my hands busy or to calm my anxiety, what can I do? Look what we think we need, and look what we literally can go without.
3) Fasting makes us angelic. Last Yom Kippur, as the 25th hour of fasting was coming to a close and we were all exhausted and starving and ready to go home, our rabbi said with a huge smile on his face, ”I wish this didn’t have to end.” And through my exhaustion and hunger, I felt it too. There is a “high” you get when focusing so much on fasting and praying and just being in your head. Fasting makes us like the angels, they say. We make ourselves literally “above” the need for mortal sustenance. On Yom Kippur, we draw near to a different way of existence and it’s heavenly. Read the rest of this entry →