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"You are a child
of the universe, no less than the trees and stars." text +audio.
The famous poster and the
hit song. Read, listen, or watch it and feel inspired.
Visit our Tradition Pages:
The Jewish Spiritual Tradition
Expressions (in Hebrew)
Shalom (shah-LOHM) Literally, means “Peace.”
It is a way of saying "hello" or "goodbye" to friends,
Mazel Tov (MAH-zl TAWV) literally means, “Good
This is the traditional way of expressing congratulations.
It can be used to congratulate someone for getting a new
job, graduating from college, or any other happy event. It
should not be used to wish someone luck in the future.
Rather, it is an expression of pleasure at the good luck
someone has already had.
Yasher koach (YAH-shehyr KOH-ahkh) Literally, means “Straight
strength.” Figuratively, “May you have strength, or
may your strength be increased.”
It is a way of congratulating someone for performing a good
deed. In essence, you are wishing this person the strength
to continue doing this good thing. It is most commonly used
in synagogue, to congratulate someone after he or she has
participated in some aspect of the service.
Shabbat Shalom (shah-BAHT shah-LOHM) means, “Sabbath
Peace or peaceful Sabbath.”
This is an appropriate greeting at any time on Shabbat,
although it is most commonly used at the end of a shabbat
L'Shanah Tovah (li-SHAH-nuh TOH-vuh) meaning - “A
It is a common greeting during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New
Jewish - Judaic
Beliefs (for Sept 5)
- Unlike many religions, Judaism has no dogma, or
formal set of beliefs which one must hold in order to
be a Jew. Central to Judaism is the belief that there
is only one God, who created the world and is
all-knowing and all-powerful. Judaism is the oldest
surviving monotheistic religion.
Commandments - were given by God to Moses at Mount
Sinai and must be observed by all Jews. Five
Commandments deal with the individual's relationship
with God and five deal with the individual's
relationships with other people.
Commandments - or mitzvoth - are found in the Torah
and include the Ten Commandments. Because Judaism
focuses more on actions than beliefs, religious Jews
are expected to follow all 613 commandments. In
actuality, many pertain to rituals carried out in the
First and Second Temples by the priests and are not
relevant today. Some commandments have been adapted to
modern times, such as the prohibition against lighting
a fire on the Sabbath. This has been interpreted to
include turning on electricity, which is forbidden on
the Sabbath even though it was unknown in Biblical
Principles of Faith - Moses Maimonides lived from
1135 - 1204. He was a rabbi, physician and philosopher
who was born in Spain, lived in North Africa and
Palestine, and died in Egypt. He wrote many theological
works which remain important today. He composed 13
principles of faith that are widely accepted. These
include the uniqueness of God, the importance of the Torah
as God's law, the coming of the messiah (redeemer), and
the resurrection of the dead.
If you wait to find the meaning of life,
will there be enough life left to live meaningfully?
As he thinks in his heart, so he is.
As you teach, you learn.
Do not be wise in words, be wise in deeds.
First mend yourself, and then mend others.
A bird that you set free may be caught again,
but a word that escapes your lips will not return
Denominations and Worship (for Sept 12)
Judaism is divided into three major movements in the
United States: Orthodox Judaism (the only
movement of Judaism recognized in Israel today; Reform
Judaism, which believes that the individual has the
right to adapt religious beliefs and traditions to suit
contemporary society, and emphasizes the ethics of
Judaism; and Conservative Judaism - which
attempts to conserve Jewish law and tradition, while
adapting it to contemporary needs.
Religious Jews are required to say their prayers
three times a day. Most of the prayers can be said
alone, but certain prayers require the presence of a
minyan, consisting of ten adult male Jews. In addition,
prayers and blessings are recited throughout the day
before eating and drinking and on other occasions.
praying, Jewish males wrap themselves in a white prayer
shawl. A skull cap, called a kippah or yarmulke, is
always worn during prayers and religious Jews wear one
at all times. Phylacteries or tefillin, two small
leather boxes containing portions of the Torah, are
wrapped around the arms and head by black leather straps
during the morning prayers.
Torah, which is the Hebrew Bible, two other important
Jewish Religious books are The Talmud (a compilation of
discussions by rabbis over several hundred years), and
The Kabbalah (a series of writings growing out of the
tradition of Jewish Mysticism.
Jews go to
synagogue to pray together. The synagogue acts as a
house of study, for traditional Jewish males continue to
study throughout their lives. In Orthodox synagogues,
the men and women are separated from each other with a
partition. Services are usually conducted by the rabbi,
but members of the congregation can also lead the
service, and a rabbi is not required. The heart of the
service is the reading of a portion of the Torah.
and most Conservative synagogues have egalitarian
participation, in which women read from the Torah and
Do not be wise in words, be wise in deeds.
Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah (for Sept 19)
Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah are Jewish coming of age
rituals. Bar is a Jewish Babylonian Aramaic word
literally meaning 'son', while bat means
'daughter' in Hebrew, and mitzvah means
'commandment' or 'law'. Thus bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah
literally translate to "son of commandment"
and "daughter of commandment".
non-Orthodox Jews celebrate a girl's bat mitzvah in the
same way as a boy's bar mitzvah. The age of b'nai
mitzvah roughly coincides with physical puberty.
The bar or bat mitzvah ceremony is usually held on the
first Shabbat after a boy's thirteenth and a
girl's twelfth birthday, following an intensive period
Jewish law, when Jewish boys become 13 years old, they
become accountable for their actions and become a bar
mitzvah, and are called to read the Torah in the
synagogue. The boy is now considered a man in the eyes
of the Jewish religion and obligated to fulfill the
commandments of the Torah. A girl becomes a bat mitzvah
at the age of 12 according to Orthodox and Conservative
Jews, and at the age of 13 according to Reform Jews.
reaching bar mitzvah, the child's parents hold the
responsibility for the child's actions. After this age,
the boys and girls bear their own responsibility for
Jewish ritual law, tradition, and ethics,
and are able to participate in all areas of Jewish
community life. In addition to being considered
accountable for their actions from a religious
perspective, b'nai mitzvah may be counted towards a minyan
(prayer quorum) and may lead prayer and other religious
services in the family and the community.
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a
single moment before starting to improve the
world." Anne Frank
Jewish Holy Tablets
Shabbat, The Jewish Sabbath and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement
(for Sept 26)
Holy days are celebrated in prayer and family time. The
weekly holy day is
Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated every week from sundown on Friday to nightfall of Saturday. It is a time to regroup and pray, to eat and rejoice, to spend time with family and friends, to study and share—to focus on a person’s spiritual side.
Yom Kippur, known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. This year it is celebrated on October 3-4. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and prayer, spending most of the day in synagogue services.
Its central themes are atonement and repentance, to release the “sins or transgressions” of the past. The message of Yom Kippur from the Torah is about discernment:
“Just as God separated the light from the darkness (Gen 1:4) so we are called to discern between the realms of the holy and the profane, the sacred and the common, and the clean and the unclean.”
The Jewish Sabbath (for Sept 26) -additional info
Shabbat means "resting." As is recounted in
the beginning of the Book of Genesis, when God created
the world in six days and refrained from creating on the
seventh. The observance of Shabbat by the Jewish nation
is mandated in the fourth of the Ten Commandments.
ushered in on Friday afternoon with the lighting of
candles by women and girls. Following the special
Friday night Shabbat evening prayers (preferably in the
synagogue) the family partakes of a festive meal which
is an integral part of oneg Shabbat, "delighting in
the Shabbat." It is opened by the Kiddush
blessing over a cup of wine or grape juice, and the
Hamotzie blessing over two whole loaves of bread called
As cooking and baking is not allowed on Shabbat, much of
the food preparation is done in advance.
morning, the family holds a prayer service which
features the weekly public reading of the Torah. After
the prayers is another festive meal, complete with
Kiddush and Hamotzie. In the afternoon, the family
enjoys a smaller meal, called Seudah Shlishit.
after nightfall on Saturday. It is marked with the brief
Havdalah, (separation) service which marks the
departure of the holy day of rest.
"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for
info from 2013
September 2013 Focus:
"a light unto the nations"
Hanukkah - Festival of the Lights
Hanukkah (also known as Chanukah or Chanukkah), or the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greeks in 2nd century BCE. When the Maccabees entered the temple to purify and rededicate it, they discovered that there was only enough oil to light the temple menorah for one day. They lit it anyway and a miracle happened. The lamps burned continuously for eight days until more oil could be brought to the temple. That is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. This year,
Hanukkah will occur between November 27-December 5,
The spiritual meaning of Hanukkah is one of faith in God; in remaining true to one's traditional beliefs even when forbidden to do so by the authorities and is a story about the courage of the Maccabees. They risked their lives and won against all odds because they believed in the courage of their convictions.
Candle Lighting Ceremony
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The typical Menorah consists of eight branches with an additional raised branch. The extra light is called a shamash (or shamus) and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to have a light available for practical use. Using the Hanukkah lights themselves for purposes other than celebrating and meditating on the Hanukkah is forbidden.
Candles are added to the menorah from right to left (like Hebrew writing). The shamus candle is lit first, then the blessings are recited while holding the candle. Using the shamus to light the Hanukkah candles, they are lit from left to right (newest to oldest). Candles must burn for more than half an hour and are left burning until they go out on their own ( normally one hour).
Blessing over Candles
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe
Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us
to light the lights of Chanukkah. (Amen)
Blessing for the Chanukkah Miracle
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe
Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time
Shehecheyanu (Who Has Kept Us Alive)
This blessing is recited only on the first night of
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe
who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season (Amen)
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and like most Jewish
holidays there are food customs associated with it. One of
the most popular and well-known food customs on Rosh
Hashanah has to do with dipping apple slices into honey.
This sweet combination stems from an age-old Jewish
tradition of eating sweet foods to express our hope for a
sweet new year.
In addition to symbolizing our hopes for a sweet new year,
according to Jewish mysticism the apple represents the
Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of God). During Rosh Hashanah
some Jews believe the Shekhinah is watching us and
evaluating our behavior during the past year. Eating honey
with apples represents our hope that the Shekhinah will
judge us kindly and look down on us with sweetness.
Beyond its association with the Shekhinah, ancient Jews
thought apples had healing properties. Rabbi Alfred Koltach
writes in The Second Jewish Book of Why that whenever King
Herod (73-4 B.C.E.) felt faint he would eat an apple, and
that during Talmudic times apples were frequently sent as
gifts to people in ill health (pg 328).
The Blessing For Apple and Honey
Though apple and honey can be eaten throughout the holidays,
they are almost always eaten together on the first night of
Rosh Hashanah. Jews dip apple slices into honey and say a
prayer asking God for a sweet New Year. There are three
steps to this ritual:
1. Say the first part of
the prayer, which is a blessing thanking God for the
Blessed are you Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Creator
of the fruit of the tree. (Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu
melech Ha-olam, Borai p'ree ha'aitz.)
2. Take a bite of the apple slices dipped in honey.
3. Now say the second part of the prayer, which asks God
to renew us during the New Year:
May it be Your will,
Adonai, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You
renew for us a good and sweet year.
(Y'hee ratzon mee-l'fanekha, Adonai Elohaynu v'elohey
avoteynu sh'tichadeish aleinu shanah tovah um'tuqah )
The shofar is a Jewish instrument most often made from a ram's horn, though it can also be made from the horn of a sheep or goat. It makes a trumpet-like sound and is traditionally blown on Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.
According to some scholars, the shofar dates back to ancient times when making loud noises on the New Year was thought to scare off demons and ensure a happy start to the coming year.
The shofar is such an important part of this holiday that another name for Rosh HaShanah is Yom Teruah, which means "day of the shofar blast" in Hebrew.
The shofar is blown one hundred times on each of the two days of Rosh HaShanah. If one of the days of Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbat, however, the shofar is not blown. The person who blows the shofar is called a Tokea (which literally means "blaster") and it is no easy task to perform each of these sounds.
According to the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides, the sound of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is meant to wake up soul and turn its attention to the important task of repentance (teshuvah).
For time immemorial, whenever Jews found themselves in difficult situations, whether individually or communally, they would open up the Book of Psalms and use King David's ageless poetic praises and supplications to beseech God for mercy.
The Midrash tells us that when King David compiled the Psalms, he had in mind himself, as well as every Jew of every generation and every circumstance. No matter who you are and what the situation, the words of the Psalms speak the words of your heart and are heard On High.
A Psalm by David
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing. He lays me down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters. He revives my soul;
He directs me in paths of righteousness for the sake of His Name.
Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff-they will comfort me.
You will prepare a table for me before my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil; my cup is full.
Only goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord for many long years.
The Torah is composed of 5 books called in English Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They chronicle the history of the Hebrews and also contain the commandments that Jews are to follow. Rabbinic Judaism holds that the Torah extant today is the same one that was given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. Maimonides explains: "We do not know exactly how the Torah was transmitted to Moses. But when it was transmitted, Moses merely wrote it down like a secretary taking dictation....[Thus] every verse in the Torah is equally holy, as they all originate from God, and are all part of God's Torah, which is perfect, holy and true."
The Talmud is the repository of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom, and the oral law, which is as ancient and significant as the written law (the Torah) finds expression therein. It is a conglomerate of law, legend, and philosophy, a blend of unique logic and shrewd pragmatism, of history and science, anecdotes and humor... Although its main objective is to interpret and comment on a book of law, it is, simultaneously, a work of art that goes beyond legislation and its practical application. And although the Talmud is, to this day, the primary source of Jewish law, it cannot be cited as an authority for purposes of ruling... Though based on the principles of tradition and the transmission of authority from generation to generation, it is unparalleled in its eagerness to question and reexamine convention and accepted views and to root out underlying causes. The talmudic method of discussion and demonstration tries to approximate mathematical precision, but without having recourse to mathematical or logical symbols. ...the Talmud is the embodiment of the great concept of mitzvat talmud Torah - the positive religious duty of studying Torah, of acquiring learning and wisdom, study which is its own end and
SPIRIT CALL Sept 13 -
President's Message on the Jewish Tradition
Considered the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur is the day when Jews reflect on the past year as they atone for their sins. Known as the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Sept. 13 and continues until nightfall on Sept. 14, At this time, Jews use the time as a time of cleansing to seek forgiveness for sins committed between man and God. They make a pledge to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the new year.
The holiday includes a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer. There are five prayer services over the course of the day.
The singular prayer of Yom Kippur is the "Al Chet", a recitation, said aloud and in unison, of a formal list of 44 sins and omissions expressed throughout the Day of Atonement. The goal of the "Al Chet" prayer that is said many times during Yom Kippur services is to get to the root of the problem, so you can eliminate it entirely. These 44 statements are not a list of mistakes, but rather identify the roots of mistakes.
Some examples of the 44 "sins and omissions" include: We atone
For the mistakes we committed before You under duress and willingly.
For the mistakes we committed before You through having a hard heart.
For the mistakes we committed before You without thinking (or without knowledge).
For the mistakes we committed before You through harsh speech.
The prayer is also as an expression of *group* responsibility for the sins of the individuals.
Traditional Jews thump their chest with their fist at every sentence. Usually this is done gently, symbolically, but traditional men may vigorously "beat their chests" in expressing their repentance.
The blast of the shofar (or ram's horn) signals the end of the Day of Atonement and marks the time when congregants head home for the highly anticipated "breaking of the fast" meal and family celebration.
We acknowledge the spirit of this sacred holiday and wish our Jewish brothers and sisters a peaceful celebration.
SPIRIT CALL Sept 6-
Message from the President
The holy celebration of Rosh Hashanah begins this weekend, signaling the beginning of the Jewish New Year. This inspiration is called "Meaning In Time," shared during the Morning Service of Rosh Hashanah:
"God of all lands and ages, the ground under our feet is holy; the light that shines for us is Yours; the world glows with your presence. You are just beyond the horizon of the mind, a vision new to us yet seen before, like a memory of the future, a promise already kept.
We remember Abraham and Isaac walking together toward their mountain; Jacob dreaming of a ladder to link heaven and earth; Moses turning aside to look at the common bush burning with a divine flame; David dancing before the Arc of Your Covenant; a shepherd prophet roaring Your word like a lion; the days and years of our own lives - a search for light in a dark and dusty time. And we remember a rainbow."
-from Gates of Repentance
"a light unto the nations"
are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Yourself - Flames of Achievement
Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with
all your life.
Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks
into flames of achievement.”
Meir, fourth Prime Minister of Israel
life of all creatures and our own lives are One;
profoundly dependent upon each other....
We call our ancient scroll of wisdom, the Torah, a 'tree of
for it, like Earth's great forests sustains us.
Torah teaches that creation, in its great diversity,
is harmoniously interconnected.
Like the trees, we too need strong deep roots for
The uplifted branches of trees point to our future.
The Psalmist was right when he said,
'like a tree planted by the waters, we shall not be
- Rabbi Warren G. Stone
"The general purpose of the Torah is twofold:
the well-being of the soul and the well-being of the
The well-being of the soul is ranked first but … the
well-being of the body comes first."
- Maimonides (1135-1204)
the foremost rabbinical Torah scholar, physician,
i.e. The well-being of the soul is more important,
well-being of the body comes first, for it is the context for spiritual development.
Your deep soul hides itself from consciousness. So you
need to increase aloneness, elevation of thinking,
penetration of thought, liberation of mind - until finally
your soul reveals itself to you, spangling a few sparkles of
"The Essential Kabbalah", Daniel C. Matt, ed.,
Wisdom & Daily Experiences
teachers ultimately agree that true wisdom does not come
from outside of us, but from within. And it does not come
from within because we want it. It comes when we live
in a way that invites wisdom. It comes through direct
We can learn about the spiritual experiences of others, or
we can bring meaningful practice into our own daily lives.
We can learn about mysticism, or we can practice being
-from "God is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of
by Rabbi David A. Cooper
The Lord is my
shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me
beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of
righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a
table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
---end of big