With Rosh Hashanah rapidly approaching, many of us find ourselves frantically cooking and getting ready for the holiday. Let’s take a few minutes to enjoy the preparations. Here are two cute craft projects and a challah recipe to help get yourself and the kids in the holiday mood.
Bubble Bee Rosh HaShanah Card:
- Paint bubble wrap with yellow paint.
- Stamp painted bubble wrap onto a piece of paper. Now you’ve got a honeycomb.
- Dip your (or your child’s) thumb into some yellow paint, and put a couple of thumbprints on the honeycomb.
- Draw lines, an eye, a mouth and wings on the thumbprints.
- Write “Shana Tova” or any other holiday message.
Origami Shofar (Great as a table decoration)
- Start with a square
- Fold in half, then open
- Fold one side in to the center line, and then the other side
- Fold one side in to the center line again, followed by the other side
- Fold the bottom point up
- Fold the top point down about half an inch
- Make three pleated folds
- Fold paper in half, with the open parts on the inside
- Pull the bottom of each pleat to form a curved shofar
Round Cinnamon Bread Machine Challah
- 1½ Cups Water
- ⅓ Cup Oil
- 2 Eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 5 Cups Flour
- ¾ Cup Sugar
- 1 packet (or 1 Tablespoon) yeast
Mix all ingredients according to directions of bread machine. Add additional flour as needed to form a ball. Let rise in bread machine. Punch down dough, take challah (click here for an explanation), and split the dough into two equal halves. Roll each half into a rope, tapering one end. Sprinkle the dough with cinnamon-sugar, rolling it around to coat as completely as possible. Starting with the tapered end, wind the rope loosely into a lightly greased 9 inch round cake pan, starting at the center and working outwards. Let rise in a warm spot for an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water, and brush over the risen loaf. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon-sugar, if desired. Place the cake pan atop a baking sheet; this will insulate the bread’s bottom crust, and keep it from browning too much. Put the challah in the center of the oven, and bake it for 30 to 35 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, until challah is browned and sounds hollow when tapped.
As we approach the High Holidays, I reflect on their rich liturgy. One prayer that never fails to move me is the one recited just after the Mussaf Kedushah service on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and shortly after Yizkor on Yom Kippur. It speaks of the fragility of humans (Adam) and ends by describing life as a “dream that flies away so quickly—ke-halom yauf” A very apt simile, in my opinion.
Dreams are certainly important aspects of human psychology and development. The Bible is full of dream episodes (e.g., Joseph’s various dreams and his skill as an interpreter of dreams). The Talmud, too, has much to say about dreams and their symbolism. “A dream is 1/60th of prophecy,” declared the sages (Berakhot 57b). There are all kinds of dreams, as we well know. There are pleasant dreams and nightmares; painful ones and hopeful dreams; dreams that are recollections of past events and auguries of things to come. And we parents generally wish our children, as we put them to bed, “sweet dreams.”
Dreams have assumed even greater significance these days. Sigmund Freud studied dreams which he considered to be a revelation of the unconscious, and he meticulously interpreted the dreams of his patients. We all love the song, “To dream the impossible dream,” which Don Quixote sing in that memorable musical. I can never forget Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s extraordinary, “I have a dream” sermon which I was privileged to hear personally in Washington DC on that memorable August day in 1963—a life-changing event for many of us. And I am fond of the favorite saying of the late Senator Robert Kennedy: “Some people dream dreams and wonder, ‘Why?’ I dream dreams and wonder, ‘Why not?’”
My late mother-in-law, Nehama Teller, spoke a richly idiomatic Yiddish. She loved to teach me Yiddish proverbs and aphorisms. There is one about dreams I invariably quote: “Der ganze leben is a holem. Nur zul er zein a zissen holem—all of life is a dream. May it only be a sweet dream!”
So as we prepare spiritually for the High Holidays, what better prayer can I offer on your behalf? May the dream of life for 5777 be a sweet one for you and your dear ones, for America and for Israel.
The Sensation of Freshness / Parashat Netzavim 5776 / Deuteronomy 29:9 -30:20
When I first read the following paragraph in the opening of God in Search of Man (Heschel), I was stunned. Absolutely stunned! Allow me to share these words, add a few comments, get back to our Torah reading and check in with Rebbe Nachman.
It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion-its message becomes meaningless.
I had been at the crossroads of my Jewishness. So much in Jewish life seemed irrelevant, dull, oppressive, (and) insipid. Fortunately my mother saw my perplexity and put Heschel’s work into my hands. I opened this book with its focus on the decline of Judaism due to a creed, habit, the past, heirlooms etc. Judaism had become stale. And Heschel breathed freshness into Jewish life!
And Heschel was only being true to the text. When you read the Bible and you’ll notice the word הַיּוֹם֙ (today) occurs 458 times in the entire Tanach, 135 times in the Torah, and 13 times in our parasha. אַתֶּ֨ם נִצָּבִ֤ים הַיּוֹם֙ כֻּלְּכֶ֔ם לִפְנֵ֖י יְקֹוָ֣ק אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם – You stand this day, all of you, before the LORD your God . . . The religious life is to be alive, vital and spontaneous. It’s to feel something magnificent, every moment of our lives, about being alive. It’s about being called upon in love and devotion and responding with love, delight and devotion. The Bible is not about history or the past, as it is a command to wake up – today!
And Rebbe Nachman (Sichot HaRan #51) writes that getting old is a betrayal of our identity. It is actually forbidden to get old and we are commanded to practice hitchadshut – to live with freshness and spiritual vitality every day of our lives.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah!
Rabbi Dov Bar is a Schechter Alumni Parent and Former Head of School
As part of the Parent Association’s Creative Arts and Sciences Program, honey beekeeper Birgit DeWeerd, visited with first graders to share her experience as a beekeeper and her vast knowledge of all things bee. “First graders enjoyed visiting with the beekeeper this week as they explored a day in the life of a beekeeper. The children learned how honey is harvested and about all different kinds of bees,” First Grade Teacher, Marla Quinn, shares, “In class, first graders reflected on all of the new information they learned. A favorite fact was that queen bees lay about 2000 eggs per day! It’s good to “bee” a first grader!”
How do we show our children what it means to be gracious? A central theme of כי-תבוא / Ki Tavo is graciousness. This week, we will be reminded over and over again that the land is a gift and that we must show reverence for this offering.
This started me thinking. What are the ways that we as parents model graciousness for our children? When we receive answers that may not be as favorable as we would like, how do we react? Do we let them slide off our back, or do we make a big deal? Our children are always watching to see how we behave in each situation. There are times that test our graciousness more than others.
My family just lived through an experience that totally tested our stamina – a move. The many details of moving can be daunting in the best of circumstances. Transplanting children to a new community evokes many emotions – leaving their home, “tearing” them apart from their friends, and being the “new guy” in almost every situation. After many tears (mostly from the adults) and sweat, we arrive ready to enter new communities.
In this week’s פרשה / parsha, we are told to acknowledge how much has been given to us. This can be challenging sometimes. Showing constant appreciation might appear disingenuous. Both of my children have had to begin to build new relationships. For my son, who is in second grade, this means summoning up the confidence to assert himself with children who have spent the past two years together.
The first two days of school were tough. For a kid who is socially skilled, he was by his own admission, “fine,” playing by himself. I, on the other hand, was not convinced. I asked myself, “How will the school integrate him into the group?” Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry for very long. On Thursday, Raviv bounced into the car to tell me how he had played wall ball with a new friend.
At that moment, my suspicions were confirmed. Schechter was indeed the right place for our family. The school has already shown us the graciousness and hospitality embodied in כי-תבוא / Ki Tavo.
Bil Zarch is a Schechter parent and the Director of Camp Yavneh
As we embark on the new school year, we have established five cultural norms that will serve as the underlying values that will anchor our community:
Respect & Kindness / כבוד
Collaboration & Partnership /שיתוף פעולה
Spirit & Enthusiasm / רוח
Passion for Learning & Growth / למידה וצמיחה
Personal Excellence /מצוינות אישית .
The purpose of establishing cultural norms is for each member of our קהילה (community) to have a shared agreement of how we treat one another and our surroundings. My goal is for these cultural norms to become synonymous with our school.
This week’s פרשת השבוע (Torah portion), Ki Tetze / כי תצא , outlines a situation that helps us understand the cultural norm of Respect & Kindness / כבוד. If a person stumbles upon a mother bird and her nest of eggs, the תורה (Torah) commands us to send away the mother bird before taking the eggs, to spare the mother grief in her loss. While this is a complex מצוה (commandment), the simplest lesson here is to be kinder than is necessary.
In my first week at Schechter, I have witnessed beautiful moments where our children are kinder than is necessary. In Mrs. Y’s 2nd and 3rd grade classes, a child who is helped by a friend publicly expresses thanks by writing her friend’s name on the class board. In the middle school, one of our students broke her ankle the day before school started and her friends have established a rotation to push her wheelchair from one class to the next and help her with her backpack. On Friday, a 7th grader blew the shofar at afternoon תפילה (prayer) as is customary to do in the month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah, and her friends cheered her on with great applause. And in Gan Shelanu, our Tukim and Yonim classes learned about “bucket filling” where the children fill up their invisible buckets with acts of positivity, kindness, gratitude and compassion.
I hope that in the new year, each of us will seek out ways to role model respect and kindness, and the other cultural norms, to create a stronger Schechter that we are all proud to call our קהילה (community).
Fifth grade students are ready for Rosh Hashanah! During a shofar workshop, they learned everything there is to know about a shofar, including how to make their own authentic shofarot. Each student went home with their own shofar that they made themselves. Students are invited to bring their shofarot back to school this Friday to sound them together.Tekiah g’dolah!
Mazal Tov on the start of a new school year at Solomon Schechter! What a zechut (meritorious opportunity) to invest in your child or children’s Jewish future by equipping and empowering them with a day school education! Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe of blessed memory identified two primary modalities of Jewish education: planting and building. When we build for our children a Jewish education, we marvel how brick is layered upon brick, developing into a well-constructed whole: Hebrew language acquisition, knowledge of the Bible and Oral Torah, a grasp of Jewish history, etc. When Shabbat and the holidays come, our children know what to do, what blessings to recite, what songs to sing, and what rituals to enact. But, a Jewish education is also like planting. We plant within our children the seeds of the love of God, Israel, and Torah, of the Jewish people and humanity. We sow deep in the soil of our children’s soul Jewish pride and an ethical responsibility to stand up for the right and the good. We plant within them a profound sense of Jewish purpose, and a desire to join in, if not lead, the effort to redeem our world. Just as our parents and grandparents planted for us, so we plant for future generations.
For the most part, building takes place in school. Planting, however, is a full partnership between parents, teachers, and community. Our plantings must be constantly watered at school, at home, at shul, and everywhere else. And while the building results are immediately visible, the fruits of planting are more variable, given that seeds germinate, sprout and flower on their own schedule.
Here are three things parents can do to partner in Jewish educational building and planting.
- Pursue adult Jewish education for yourself. Show your child how important a Jewish education is to you.
- Let your child become your family’s teacher. Create a weekly opportunity for your child to share his or her Jewish education with you.
- Family chavruta. Study Torah together as a family, either all together, or one on one.
May this New Year be one of beautiful construction and fertile planting!
Benjamin J. Samuels is the rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Newton Centre.