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Medieval Sephardic synagogue in Castelo de Vide, Portugal

What do dates, pomegranates, apples, spinach, squash, pumpkin, beets, scallions, and maybe even, the cheek meat of a fish have to do with Rosh HaShanah

They are all part of the traditional Rosh HaShanah seder, which begins the festive holiday meal for Sephardic Jews. A seder, an order, to the start of the Rosh HaShanah meal? Yes!

The seder custom originated as a play on words. The Hebrew name for each food of the seder relates either to Hebrew words that...

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White-foamed waves crashing on the beach

I don't find answers; I rearrange the mysteries. The questions rest upon the waves; they are the color of water, changing with the light and tasting of salt.

I think that God is there - not that there is a place where God is not - but I think God likes the waves and the feel of giddy unsteadiness. I think God likes the taste of salt. There are no gates there on the water. They could never stand on the ceaseless waves. And even if some miracle tied them to those shifting tides, any gate would rust or rot in the salted, briny air. Then what good would they be? They could hardly keep...

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Shofar

Speak to the Israelite people thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts. -- Leviticus 23-24

Years ago, I made my own shofar during a program about the history of the shofar at my congregation, Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh, NY, but I was never able to sound it nearly as well as the young children who coaxed perfect blasts out of theirs with what seemed like little effort.

Last year, when the cantor put out a “casting call” seeking...

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A line of young people all reading from their cell phones

Busy with rehearsals, meetings, and anticipation of the upcoming High Holidays, I have trouble sleeping these days. At 11:33 p.m. on a recent night, I laid in bed wondering what, exactly, Abraham’s Facebook page would have looked like. Yes, you read that correctly. Abraham. The Abraham. Abraham, Avinu (Our Father). 

I imagine it as quite complete, featuring a relationship status of “It’s Complicated” and a flattering profile picture of him with Isaac, presumably taken with a selfie stick. Indeed, Abraham on Facebook is confusing and slightly disappointing; in my mind, even he can’t...

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A cupped pair of hands palms facing upward that appears to be holding sparkling dots of light

Years ago, I enrolled our toddler son in a summer day camp at our synagogue. He had happily attended a 3’s nursery school program there, joining his new friends without any drama, so I was baffled when he clung to me, desperate and inconsolable, at camp drop- off.

I asked the counselor and camp director to help me figure out a non-traumatic way to help my son adjust to the camp environment without forcing him to “cry it out” when I left. They hatched a plan that had me sit in the back of the classroom reading a book or newspaper. Visible yet invisible, my son could see me whenever...

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