Jewish Holidays

As the Moon Waxes, So May Our Understanding Increase

By: 
Virginia Avniel Spatz

This is a kavanah (meditation/intention), inspired by Women of the Wall, for prayers at the new moon, to share for individual or congregational use on Rosh Chodesh, at the announcement of the new month or at another appropriate time.

In Solidarity/For Understanding

Oh God, our God and God of our ancestors, everything we accomplish is but a reflection of Your gifts to us, much as the moon only reflects the light of the sun. At Rosh Chodesh, only the barest sliver of moon is visible to us, and there is much we cannot see.

Today, too, we see but a sliver of Klal Yisrael, the whole of the Jewish world, from our separate Jewish communities. There is much we cannot see.

As the moon waxes, so too may our understanding of the wider Jewish world, particularly, those with whom we differ:

Renew our lives, we pray,
for a life of peaceful co-existence in our religious variety;
for a life of goodness, enriched by a widening sense of community;
of blessing;
of sustenance;
of health;
marked by piety and fear of sin,
as we recognize the image of God in each individual;
free from shame and reproach,
as we renew our efforts to guard our tongues and our thoughts;
of abundance with honor;
filled with love of Torah, in all its facets, and reverence for You,
in which the worthy desires of our hearts will be fulfilled for good.

May the One who has done wonderful things for our ancestors, who redeemed them from slavery to freedom bring us from the narrow confines of our own philosophies and practices to a wider understanding and love for our people, scattered to the four corners of the world. Bring us together toward an Israel united, for life, rejoicing, happiness, salvation and consolation. And let us say: AMEN.

Virginia Avniel Spatz is the program director for Clergy Beyond BordersOriginally posted on A Song Everyday.

A Prayer for Simchat Torah

By: 
Rabbi David Wirtschafter

“Rejoicing in the Torah” doesn’t require us to find joy in every verse.

It doesn’t mean that we concur with every choice made by the people in it.

It doesn’t demand that we defend the indefensible or excuse the inexcusable.

It doesn’t imply that we should be happy about passages that break our hearts.

Rejoicing in the Torah is found in the freedom to study it when, where, and with whom we wish.

We experience happiness with it when we wrestle with its conflicts and struggle with its challenges.

It becomes a source of gladness when even its most disturbing passages increase our desire to do good.

“It is a tree of life” when we treat all life with care, a “light to the eyes” when we look where we are going, a “path of peace” when it inspires us to work for a better world.

As we restart the process of reading it, let our renewed study bring newfound hope, meaning, and joy.     
​May this be our blessing and let us say:

Amen. 

Rabbi David Wirtschafter is the rabbi of Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, KY.

The Season of Healing

By: 
Alden Solovy

This is the season of healing:
Of healing our hearts and minds,
Of healing the moments we share with each other
And the moments we share with ourselves.

This is the season of memory:
Of remembering our parents and grandparents,
The love of generations,
The holiness of our ancestors.

This is the season of stillness,
The season of silence and quiet:
Of deep breaths,
Of open eyes,
Of compassion and consolation.

This is the season of healing:
The season of grief turning to wonder,
Of loss turning toward hope,
The season that binds this year to the next,
The season that frees this year from the next,
The season that heralds the redemption of spirit
And our return to God’s Holy Word.

© 2017 CCAR Press from This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day.
 

Alden Solovy is a liturgist, poet, and teacher. His teaching spans from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem to Limmud UK and synagogues throughout the U.S. Before making aliyah to Israel in 2012, Alden was a member of Beth Emet-The Free Synagogue, Evanston, IL, and a regular participant in worship at B'nai Jeshoshua Beth Elohim, Deerfield, IL. He’s the author of Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing. His writing also appears in several CCAR Press books, including an anthology of his work, This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day.

Daily Blessings: Donning the Tallit

Optional: Before the blessing for donning the tallit

Some add this meditation before saying the blessing on the mitzvah of wrapping oneself in the tallit.

Bar'chi nafshi et Adonai, Adonai Elohai, gadalta m’od, hod v’hadar lavashta. Oteh or kasalmah, noteh shamayim kay’riah.

Bar'chi nafshi et Adonai, Adonai Elohai, gadalta m’od, hod v’hadar lavashta. Oteh or kasalmah, noteh shamayim kay’riah

Bless, Adonai, O my soul!
Adonai my God, how great You are.
You are robed in glory and majesty,
wrapping Yourself in light as in a garment,
spreading forth the heavens like a curtain.

Blessing for the Donning of the Tallit

Spread the tallit wide in front of you and look at it while saying this blessing.

Once the blessing is complete, wrap it around yourself. Many wrap it over their head for a few moments, to fully surround themselves in the mitzvah, before settling the tallit back on their shoulders.

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hitateif batzitzit.

Blessed are you, Adonai our God,
Sovereign of all,
who hallows us with mitzvot,
commanding us to wrap ourselves in the fringes.

An Alternate Un’taneh Tokef

By: 
Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler

On Rosh HaShanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

That this year people will live and die,
some more gently than others
and nothing lives forever.
But amidst overwhelming forces
of nature and humankind,
we still write our own Book of Life,
and our actions are the words in it,
and the stages of our lives are the chapters,
and nothing goes unrecorded, ever.
Every deed counts.                
Everything you do matters.
And we never know what act or word
will leave an impression or tip the scale.
So, if not now, then when?
For the things that we can change, there is t’shuvah, realignment,
For the things we cannot change, there is t’filah, prayer,
For the help we can give, there is tzedakah, justice.
Together, let us write a beautiful Book of Life
for the Holy One to read.


Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler is the spiritual leader of Temple Sinai in Sharon, MA.

 

A Rosh HaShanah Prayer for Our Clergy

By: 
Alden Solovy
For Our Clergy

As the New Year approaches, let it be our job to feed our clergy with love and care. Let it be our sacred calling to lift them up as they lift us. 

Our clergy carry our communities on their backs. Funerals and weddings the same week. Torah conversations with b’nai mitzvot, private conversations with the newly-divorced and hospital visits on the same day. It can be an emotional whip-saw and an intellectual drain.

The list goes on. Preparing sermon after sermon. Eulogy after eulogy. Counseling couples. Baby namings. Brit milah. Learning new Torah to teach Torah afresh. Representing the Jewish community in interfaith and civic settings. Writing new music. Caring for our Hebrew schools and adult education classes.

It’s real. It’s personal. It’s as steady as the flow of life and death. It can take a toll spiritually, emotionally, professionally. Sometimes, even the most caring and energetic clergy can run out of gas.

At almost every difficult moment of my life, a rabbi has been at my side. At almost every moment of celebration, a rabbi has been there. These are sacred callings.

As the New Year approaches, let it be our job, as congregants, to feed our clergy with love and care. Let it be our sacred calling to lift them up as they lift us. Let us see with fresh and grateful eyes the hard work and the loving hearts that they commit to us.

For Our Clergy

God of sacred callings,
Bless the work of our clergy,
Who carry us through our lives,
Our joys and our sorrows,
In holy service,
Our broken hearts,
Our festive moments,
And our deepest yearnings.

May their dedication serve as shining lamp of love.
May the works of their hands bring merit in heaven.
Bless them with health and long life.
Guard them from taking our traumas into themselves.
Protect them from loneliness and isolation,
Shielding them from the spiritual and emotional pain
That can come with a life of service.
May they have find peace and comfort in their own moments of need.

Blessed are You,
God of All,
Who, with love, provides the world
Dedicated leaders of faith.


Alden Solovy is a liturgist, poet, and teacher. His teaching spans from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem to Limmud UK and synagogues throughout the U.S. Before making aliyah to Israel in 2012, Alden was a member of Beth Emet-The Free Synagogue, Evanston, IL, and a regular participant in worship at B'nai Jeshoshua Beth Elohim, Deerfield, IL. He’s the author of Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing. His writing also appears in several CCAR Press books, including the newly published anthology of his work, This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day.

View all posts by Alden Solovy

A Hanukkah Prayer of Lights

By: 
Rabbi Warren Stone

Source of Creation and Life of the Universe 
We gather together on Hanukkah
As Jews of conscience
with a deep spiritual bond to the lights of freedom.

We are grateful for the inner might of the Maccabees
Who fought to reclaim a Jerusalem in despair 
And rekindle the lights of human freedom.

Freedom has many faces: 
Freedom from war and conflict or threats of terror
Freedom to have a secure home
Freedom from hunger, poverty and despair.

Freedom is deeply personal as well:
Freedom to express one’s gender identity without fear
Freedom to express one’s racial identity without fear
Freedom to make choices about of life and deepest beliefs
Freedom to live our faith in all of its beauty
without negating anyone else’s.

Our Hanukkah menorah with its eight branches and
Kindling light
Remind us of the diversity on our Earth
Bound together with a branch of Oneness.
It is a reminder that we are interconnected as a
Global Community.

We are diverse yet equal in our world: Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Hindi,
Buddhist, Sikh, and Humanist.

At times of deep darkness instead of walking in fear
Let us kindle Godly lights
Lights within and lights beyond
And let us increase these lights each day
To light the way for All. 

Rabbi Warren Stone serves Temple Emanuel.

Unless You Know: A Poem for Yom HaShoah

By: 
Rachel Lipetz MacAulay

Unless you know
what it is to look
at black & white proof
at lambs led to slaughter
at herds of the lost
at ghosts of a people
And know they were yours
And know they are you

Unless you know
the deluge of tears
for strangers not touched
for family not met
for babies not kissed
for laughter not born
And know they were yours
And know they are you

Unless you know
a childhood full
of ghosts at the table
of monsters in shadows
of stories of suffering
of prayers said in vain
And know they were yours
And know they are you

Unless you know
that your people lie still
in piles of teeth
in hills of thrown shoes
in stubs of lit candles
in graves long forgotten
And know they were yours
And know they are you

Unless you know
that guilt is ingrained
that grief never ends
that hate comes in waves
that life carries pain

Do not tell me you know
what it is that I feel
unless you know they were yours
and know they are you

 

©2016 Rachel L. MacAulay All Rights Reserved

Rachel Lipetz MacAulay is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, social media manager, and project manager. She blogs at Challa and Haggis.

Festival Candle Lighting: Passover, Shavuot, Rosh HaShanah, and Sukkot

Candle Lighting

The candles are lit before the blessing is recited.  On Shabbat, include the words in parentheses.

The first recording below is the candle blessing for a weekday; the second recording is for the candle blessing when the festival falls on Shabbat.

Hebrew text for the blessing for the lighting of the candles for Yom Tov with parenthetical inclusion for Shabbat

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel (Shabbat v'shel) Yom Tov.

Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the world, who sanctifies us with mitzvot and calls upon us to kindle the lights of (Shabbat and) the Festival day.

Passover Evening Blessings: Kiddush - Blessing over the Wine, Weekday Version

Blessing over the wine for the festival of Passover

Hebrew text for the blessing over the wine for the Festival of Passover.

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, borei p'ri hagafen.

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, asher bachar banu mikol am v'rom'manu mikol lashon v'kid'shanu b'mitzvotav. Vatiten lanu Adonai Eloheinu b'ahavah moadim l'simchah chagim uz'manim l'sason et yom chag hamatzot hazeh z'man cheiruteinu mikra kodesh zeicher litziat Mitzrayim. Ki vanu vacharta v'otanu kidashta mikol haamim umoadei kodsh'cha b'simchah uv'sason hinchaltanu.

Baruch atah Adonai, m'kadeish Yisrael v'hazmanim.

Blessed are You, Our God, Ruler of the world, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

Bessed are You, Our God, Ruler of the world, You have chosen us from all peoples, exalting us and sanctifying us with mitzvot. In Your love, Our God, You have given us feasts of gladness and seasons of joy; this festival of matzot, season of our freedom, a holy commemoration, a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt. God, You have chosen us from all peoples, consecrating us to your service, giving us the Festivals, a time of gladness and joy.

Blessed are You, who sanctifies our people Israel, and the Festivals.

Shehecheyanu

We recite the Shehecheyanu, thanking God for allowing us to reach this day.

Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higianu laz’man hazeh.

Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season.

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