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Challah is special bread for Shabbat. In the poor homes of Eastern Europe, the daily fare was rough black bread. But on Shabbos the bread was a special loaf of white flour and eggs, decorated with poppy or sesame seeds. In some homes the challah is torn apart (to avoid using a knife which can be a weapon) and pieces are handed or tossed around to each guest. For others, the challah is sliced and passed on a special...
Jewish meditation can refer to several traditional practices, ranging from visualization and intuitive methods, forms of emotional insight in communitive prayer, esoteric combinations of Divine names, to intellectual analysis of philosophical, ethical or mystical concepts. It often accompanies unstructured, personal Jewish prayer that can allow isolated contemplation, or sometimes the instituted Jewish services. Its...
Fasting on Yom Kippur is not as obvious as one might think. Nowhere does the Torah explicitly command it. Instead, the verses teach us to “afflict ourselves” without defining the nature of this “affliction.”
We do know that Yom Kippur is about atonement and forgiveness. So how does “afflicting” ourselves through fasting relate to teshuva ? Many assume that fasting is a form of...
Over the course of our Yom Kippur prayers, we recite the Al Chet over and over again.
V’al kulam, Elo’ah s’lichot, s’lach lanu, m’chal lanu, kaper-lanu.
“For the ways in which we have fallen short, oh God, forgive us, pardon us, grant us atonement,” we say. We take collective responsibility for our communal shortcomings, even for the ways in which we may not have failed...
In the sixteenth century, the small town of Safed, located in the mountains of Galilee in northern Israel, was a center of Jewish mysticism. Solomon ben Moses Halevi Alkabets was one of the many mystics who lived and studied there. On Friday nights, Alkabets and his colleagues would dress in white like bridegrooms and joyously dance and march through the fields outside town to greet the Sabbath, which...
The Yamim Noraim (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) are here. We’re tasked with reflecting on our lives and practicing teshuvah (returning). Through teshuvah we examine our actions over the past year, seek forgiveness from ourselves, others, and the Divine and dedicate ourselves to do better next year. These sacred days provide an opportunity to ask ourselves the hardest questions and explore all the...
Salutation to the Dawn
Look to this day, for it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all the realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of achievement,
Are but experiences of time.
For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a...