Monday, May 17, 2010

We made it!

Thank you to all those who read this blog and shared in the words of our congregants. And thank you so much to all who contributed as we counted down our march towards Sinai and Torah.

Here's one last bit of learning explaining why we'll have flowers for the confirmation class. See more at

At Shavuot it is customary to decorate the synagogue with greenery. Tradition maintains that Mount Sinai, despite being in the wilderness of the Sinai desert, was verdant, which is implied by the verse in Exodus 34:3, “...neither let the flocks nor herds graze.” Then the mountain miraculously flowered and bloomed in honor of the giving of the Law.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

An Israeli Song

Counting the Omer Day 48
Here's a classic Israeli song. For Israelis, Shavuot has special connection to the land. This song is called, Land, my Land.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

More with Confirmation

Counting the Omer Day 46
I hope the kids like the movie I made. Shh... it's a surprise.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Marching towards Confirmation

Counting the Omer Day 45

The Confirmation class is getting ready to get to Sinai and re-affirm their commitment to Judaism. Here's a preview from Jared Cutler. Disclaimer: this is the product of an exercise I did with the kids. It's a rough draft and should be read as such. Still, in spite of that, Jared captured feelings many in the class express.

Back then (at 13) I was unsure of if I was truly going to stick with Judaism and I was unsure. Now over the years I have come to love being Jewish. It’s very important because now compared to when I was 13. I was much less mature and sort of just did Hebrew school because I had to. Now I do it because I understand Judaism much better and look forward to going to temple and learning something new or to sing a song or to help in the Hebrew school.

I want to confirm the fact that I will be Jewish for the rest of my life. I also want to confirm that I will get my kids Jewish. “No matter what”

I would like to be a Jew for all my life because I like being Jewish. So much, in fact, that I will get confirmed which makes it so I will be Jewish for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Torah Means... to Homer Simpson

Counting the Omer Day 44
As we enter our last days of counting the omer, we keep in mind what it means to leave slavery and turn towards freedom and joy. So today, here's the joy in the form of some silliness. The Homer Omer calendar is a site going on for years now. A pleasant way of counting. D'oh!

Day 43

Well, it finally happened. I'm out. I wrangled as many Torah thoughts as I could. But we have 6 days left so if you are following this blog, send in your idea or cajole a friend. But we've had over 700 hits, lots of people thinking about Torah as we march towards Sinai. We are almost there! Here are some photos of us marching not quite in the Sinai but in the Arava. Thanks to Lev, we greeted the sunrise.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What Torah Means... to Kindergarten

Counting the Omer Day 42

The following are the kindergarten class's response to 'What Torah means to me..."

...Doing mitzvot and giving poor people money - Lauren S.

...Giving poor people money who don't have food - Paris L.

...To put tzedukah in your piggybank - Sam R.

...Giving people money to buy their own house - Zachary D.

...The story of the Jewish people - Noah R.

...Blessings - Emily K.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What Torah Means... to Harvey Kallus

Counting the Omer Day 41

In my line of work, I routinely see people behaving poorly towards family and friends. It is easy to be critical of others, but sometimes harder to remember that we are more alike than we care to admit-generally, we all want the same things for ourselves, our families and loved ones.

I look to the Torah as a model of good behavior and kindness in how I (in saner moments) try to interact with others. It is a general guidepost, sometimes far off, sometimes close by, that often keeps me moving in a positive direction.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 40

Well the experiment with people sharing their meaning of Torah is going well. It would go better if I had remembered to send to my home computer the nice words sitting in my work computer. I'll get them out tomorrow. Shavuah Tov everyone. Ten days until Sinai.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shabbat Shalom

Counting the Omer Day 39

Shabbat Shalom everyone. More words of Torah tomorrow.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What Torah Means to Confirmation Class

Counting the Omer Day 38
Here is our Confirmation Class talking about Torah.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Torah Means... to Cantor Anna Zhar

Counting the Omer Day 36

It is hard to describe in words what Torah means to me. In a certain way, Torah is like music. It has tremendous spiritual power that works in a transcendent way. To me it is much more than a life guide, history, code of moral and ethical laws that our very life is derived from. It is even more than story about creation that leads us to Adonai, the only first source of the universe and our own being. It is more than all our lifetime situations and all the basic knowledge of every science which humankind progress achieved so far. The Torah is our Holy text that has many layers to it. To me, the chanting of Torah has always been a crucial way to understand the sacred text and to come a little closer to the transcendent.

It is a way to interpret the ancient text that connects us to Second Temple time through Middle Ages and continues to grow and change by our modern interpretation. In some sections of the Torah, special melodies are used to interpret the text in a unique way. “The song of the Sea” portion has many different traditions of artistry of Cantillation: the tradition that I learned is when a special melody is used for each phrase in the song that has God’s name in it. This melody does not follow the rules of chanting as my path of life changed when I studied this Torah portion which led me to my final decision to become a Cantor. It has been a very long way from Russia via Israel to America. It is hard to fit my life story in a paragraph, however, when I was a mom of two children, had my successful career of choral conductor, my decision of becoming a Cantor was not an easy one. Before I came to HUC to chant my first Torah portion, I had a dream – the sea was splitting, it was a night, and then it was a day when Torah changed my life forever. It all became together – my God, my passion of music, my love for Israel, my Judaism, and my family freedom – suddenly all at once…

Monday, May 3, 2010

What Torah Means... to Sixth Grade

Counting the Omer Day 35
From our sixth grade Religious School

Daniel Zharzhavsky

The Torah means a lot to us. What it means will now be revealed. The Torah is the Jewish way of life for most people. It’s also the record of the Jewish people. It means God left us the Torah so he wouldn’t have to tell everyone in the world about his love.

Justin Cohen

To me Torah means that it’s an honor for it to even get out of the ark. It also means that the Torah is the most holiest detail in the Temple. The last thing is that the holiest of the holiest thing is to even hold the Torah.

Benjamin Nakagawa

Torah is the way of life for many Jews. The Torah is the way of life for me because it teaches how God made the Earth and the things God made each day for 7 days.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What Torah Means... to Seventh Grade

Counting the Omer Day 37

This is Deborah Freedman's Religious School class - Kitah Zayin.

Torah means that everything I learn in religious school isn’t fake and that it actually happened. Danielle C

Torah means to me respecting God. Arianna C

Torah means and represents the people and our people in history who went through whatever they could to be Jewish. It shows our early history and important times where something affected the whole Jewish tradition. Chloe S

Torah is all about being Jewish. It includes everything we learn about. In the Torah everyone learns their religion and how it got its ways and traditions. It says how all the Jews overcame all their challenges. That’s what Torah means to me. Gabriel G

Torah means holiness. David S

Torah to me means my religion, who I am, and what I stand for. Sarah F

To me, Torah represents my heritage, and my faith. It means that all of the stories we’re told are true and that they actually happened. Torah means that being Jewish is both important and special, so I should hold on to it. Leah R

What Torah Means... to Sixth Grade

Counting Omer Day 34
Here are two students from our 6th grade Religious School.

Steven Dziedzic

To me Torah means religion, heritage and a way of life. Really it’s the only thing connecting all of the Jewish people as a whole because not all Jews celebrate holidays and speak Hebrew.

Michael Levinstein

Torah means that God is there. The Torah gives hope to those in need. It is holy and ancient. If the Torah can last thousands of years, so can the Jewish faith.

God gave us the Torah. By giving us this holy object, He has showed us that He thinks we are special. Without it, we would not know most of our past.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lag B'omer

Today is the 33 day of the counting of the omer. In Hebrew, 33 is represented with two letters, the lamed and the gimel. They are pronounced lag. So Lag B'omer is the 33rd (day) of the omer. In Israel there are bonfires all over the place in memory of an ancient rebellion (that didn't really succeed but that's another story) as well as children playing with bows and arrows, the weapon of choice of that rebellion.

There are some religious restrictions. Many Jews treat the first 32 days of the omer as a semi-mourning period so the men don't shave and there are no weddings held. The reasons for this are shrouded in legend and mystery at best so the Reform Movement long ago cast them aside. The semi-mourning period hardly stands up to any scrutiny. Instead, we celebrate Lag B'omer as a festive day remember our march towards Sinai and remembering that even though that rebellion didn't succeed, the Jewish people did, after a long time, come to be free in our own land. And free to have bonfires all over the place.