Monday, April 30, 2007


This weeks portion comes from Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23 (sorry I missed last week's parsha). In this parsha, G'd tells Moses, among other things, that the High Priests must keep them self clean in mind, body and spirit. They are not to be involved with the preparation of dead bodies, they must marry virgins, all must not use G'd's name in vain... In my search for a d'var torah, I found a site which I found really interesting that I am compelled to share with you The Comic Torah. I hope I am not punished for this...

And for some Judaic art... how about some Netilat Yadaym... ritual hand washing vessels from Carmit of the Ethnic Arts Cooperative.
Learn more about ritual hand washing and cleanliness here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ring that bell

Lecha Dodi was composed by Rabbi Shlomo Halevy Alkabetz (1505-1584), one of the Kabbalists of Safed. He arranged the poetical composition so that the first letters of each stanza spells out the name of the author, a practice quite common among liturgical poets. Although several versions of a hymn by this name had been circulating at that time, this is the one that was adopted by Rabbi Issac Luria, the foremost authority among the Kabbalistic masters.

This song has been described as perhaps one of the finest pieces of religious poetry in existence.

After the Minchah service, as the sun cast its setting rays over the distant hilltops, this saintly mystic and his disciples would go out into the fields to stand on one of Sefad's magnificent slopes. Gazing out upon plunging ravines and soaring heights, they would open their hearts in song as the sunset swelled into a cadence of changing colors: "Lecha dodi, likrat kallah; P'nei Shabbat, nekablah." This refrain concludes each of the nine stanzas of the hymn, in which Biblical phrases from the books of Shoftim, Yeshayahu, Yirmeyahu, and Tehillim are pieced together to create a liturgical mosaic. There is scarcely a phrase in the entire hymn which is not borrowed from the Hebrew Bible.

Only the first two and the last stanzas relate to the Shabbat theme. The rest reflect the Jewish longing for redemption, which includes the restoration of Yerushalayim and the coming of the Mashiach. Each of these other six stanzas describe another stage in the process of redemption.

The words of the refrain and the last two words of the hymn were taken from the Talmud. The Talmud relates that every Shabbat eve, Rabbi Hanina would don his finest garments and declare: "Come, let us go out to mee the Shabbat Queen." Rabbi Yannai likewise put on his festive clothes and declared: "Come, O Bride, Come, O Bride"

I thought I had seen everything... but then Midrash Pottery made these Shabbat Bride Bells... perfect for ringing your family to the table to light the Shabbat Candles together. (And this post even fits with my wedding RING theme of the week!)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I saw you at Sinai

Looking for your bashert (soul-mate)? You’ve probably already seen him/her – at Sinai. When the Torah was delivered, every Jewish soul stood at Mt. Sinai with his or her soul-mate, according to the Midrash (Jewish commentaries). Now all you need is someone to reunite you. For more go to Jewish San Diego Journal and learn how many have found their mate.

Once you found your one true love, you will need to invite everyone to your wedding. The Ketubah Tree has designed some wonderful invitations- and they have thoughts of everything from soup to nuts (including the menu card). Below is the invitation from their Bashert collection. The one on the right has the vellum overlay in place. Lovely.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Next on our list....

Groom- CHECK. Ring- CHECK. Invitations?
I have shown you some absolutely wonderful wedding bands. We also need to consider invitations to our simcha, don't we? There is are a lot to show and here is today's beauty:

(Amit Yaffe is an) Israeli born artist living in Reisterstown, Maryland USA, with my husband and two sons. I have studied Graphic Design and Art at the WIZO- Hadassah Neri Bloomfield School of Design in Haifa, Israel, in 1981-1985.

After working as a graphic designer for several publishing houses in Israel for many years, I decided to work independently, and began to express myself through different media.
My artwork consists of decorative painting, murals, faux painting, hand-painted furniture, mosaics, watercolor prints/collages, invitations and greeting cards.I like to use watercolor, acrylic and collage techniques to create bright and colorful works of art.

My watercolor limited edition prints collection includes prints/collages embracing motifs, blessings, shapes, colors and symbols inspired by the Jewish tradition.
More recently, I have expanded my art product line to include unique invitations and announcements, greeting cards, contribution cards and other gift items for organizations, charities and individuals celebrating special family events and holidays.

By creating affordable paintings, prints, Ketubot, cards and invitations inspired by the rich Jewish heritage, I hope that anyone will be able to purchase, enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the Jewish tradition represented in my artwork.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Yom HaAtzmaut- HATIKVAH

כל עוד בלבב פנימה
נפש יהודי הומיה
ולפאתי מזרח קדימה
עין לציון צופיה
עוד לא אבדה תקותנו
התקוה בת שנות אלפים
להיות עם חופשי בארצנו
ארץ ציון וירושלים


The art is from Myra Mandel at her website, Art from the Well.


From "The New Jewish Wedding"~ By Anita Diamant ~

“We acknowledge the Unity of all within the sovereignty of God, expressing our appreciation for this wine, symbol and aid of our rejoicing.

We acknowledge the Unity of all within the sovereignty of God, realizing that each separate moment and every distinct object points to and shares in this oneness.

We acknowledge the Unity of all within the sovereignty of God, recognizing and appreciating the blessing of being human.

We acknowledge the Unity of all within the sovereignty of God, realizing the special gift of awareness that permits us to perceive this unity and the wonder we experience as a man and a woman joined to live together.

May rejoicing resound throughout the world as the homeless are given homes, persecution and oppression cease, and all people learn to live in peace with each other and in harmony with their environment.

From the Divine, source of all energy, we call forth an abundance of love to envelop this couple. May they be for each other lovers and friends, and may their love partake of the same innocence, purity, and sense of discovery that we imagine the first couple to have experienced.

We acknowledge the Unity of all within the sovereignty of God, and we highlight today joy and gladness, bridegroom and bride, delight and cheer, love and harmony, peace and companionship. May we all witness the day when the dominant sounds through the world will be these sounds of happiness, the voices of lovers, the sounds of feasting and singing.

Praised is love; blessed be this marriage. May the bride and bridegroom rejoice together."

Sarit Wolfus is the creative spirit behind this crowning glory of a ring.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mazal Tov, Ryan

Early among my posts was one about yads as Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts. I took my own advice and purchased this one from Seeka for my cousin who becomes a Bar Mitzvah this week. I doubt he looks at my blog so you all can see it first (and I won't have time to post tomorrow so I am doing my Shabbat Post early).

And for this week, one which has been colored by some horrible events here in the United States and across the world a poem by Tal Sorek, Age 12, Beersheva, Israel

I had a box of colors
Some warm, some very cold.
I had no red for the blood of wounds
I had no black for the orphan's grief.
I had no white for dead faces and hands.
I had no yellow for burning sands.
But I had orange for the joy of life.
And I had green for buds and nests.
I had blue for clear skies.
I had pink for dreams and rest.
I sat down and painted

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Top 25 Fears about A Jewish Wedding.

By Brian Fox of Jewish San Fransisco
25) The inside of the yarmulkes read Fled and Groria Groldberg.
24) While signing the $1,200 handmade ketubah, you sneeze and leave a pen mark across the parchment that looks like Zorro’s handiwork.
23) During the ceremony, a guest whom you don’t even know desperately tries to wake her spouse, who is snoring.
22) The custom-made, handcrafted bridesmaid dresses begin to fray before the women even reach the chuppah.
21) As you circle your husband-to-be for the seventh time, you trip, and trying to brace yourself by grabbing him at the waist, you accidentally “pants” him.
20) You raise your leg to stomp the glass; get a cramp and hop around like a pogo stick tearing your new wife’s $3,000 dress and crushing her big toe.

19) The rabbi begins by saying, “In a few short months I’ve come to know the bride and groom very well. And let me say that Fled and Groria...”
18) The flower girl trips and, at the top of her voice, screams out the new curse word she heard on “NYPD Blue.”
17) Grandma thinks it’s a good idea to give you her old, borrowed and blue ... nightie.
16) At the reception, the video of your bachelor party is accidentally shown instead of the “Couple’s History” video.
15) Uncle Louie shows up at the black-tie reception wearing a puffy tuxedo shirt opened to his belly, Bermuda shorts and black socks with sandals.
14) The chuppah, held up by four poles and four distracted polesmen, collapses onto you and the rabbi just as you’re getting ready to say, I do.

13) The bandleader announces you to the guests as Mr. and Mrs. Fled and Groria Groldberg.
12) During your first dance as a new couple, your father and father-in-law loudly argue over who is paying the band.
11) In a haze of too much celebration, the best man forgets his prepared speech and “improvises” with a roast featuring every better-left-unsaid story about the groom he can think of.
10) In a haze of too much celebration, the maid of honor forgets her prepared speech and “improvises” with a trip down memory lane of every better-left-unsaid story about the bride she can think of.
9) The band forgets its sheet music so you and your guests have to dance the hora to the Macarena for 45 minutes.

8) During the “chair dance,” both fathers throw out their backs sending you and your spouse to the floor — and them to the chiropractor.
7) Confusing your wedding with the Fineberg bat mitzvah, your party planner brings 25 Powerpuff Girl centerpieces.
6) Your 13-year-old brother, mysteriously tipsy, steals the microphone from the band and practices his Haftarah — cracked voice and all.
5) Aunt Sadie tries to stuff the entire brisket into her purse for “a little nosh later.”
4) You throw the bouquet too far and it lands in the seven-tiered cake.

3) At the end of the reception, just before you climb into the limo to ride off to your honeymoon, the photographer tells you he forgot to put film in the camera.
2) The five-piece band brings only saxophones.
1) Your wedding dress is so complicated, it takes you three hours to get out of it

These lovely rings are from Mendelea... some are more appropriate for anniversary gifts or engagement gifts rathern than bands because of their open nature... but all are lovely nonetheless

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

With this ring...

Choosing wedding bands is more than just picking out something that matches one's engagement ring. It is custom that the wedding band be a solid piece of metal, symbolizing the the continuity and strength of the couple's love. No gems are allowed- the love of marriage requires no adornament.

Here are a couple's rings designed by Joshua Edelstein. I have included his commentary.
My friends Marty and Suzanne came to me to design both their wedding rings, although not specifically looking for a matching set. For his wedding ring, my friend Marty chose to have a Hebrew quote from the Song of Songs etched on his ring. מצאתי את שאהבה נפשי (matzati et she'ahavah nafshi) means "I have found the one in whom my soul delights" and is a lovely sentiment frequently used in the context of a wedding; in fact I'd put it on a previous wedding ring only seven months before creating this one.

Suzanne's engagement ring is a simple, beautiful solitaire set in a narrow white gold band, and we wanted to create a design that both complimented and enhanced it. I came up with the idea of using a scalloped-out half-round wire design to create a wider band with lines that were the same width as the band of the engagement ring. The four beaded applique triangles inside the concave surface of the ring are intended to evoke the diamond solitaire.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I have to admit, I was feeling a bit uninspired... Looking for something to post about for a while.

WEDDINGS. LOVE. MARRIAGE. While it is forbidden to marry during the Omer, there is not a prohibition against PLANNING your wedding (or engagement). For the next few weeks lets think WEDDING.

I googled the word Shidduch and found there were over 46000 sites. Apparently the World Wide Web is very involved in matrimony.

I am trying to recall my single days (the early part of the last decade) and I remember many a blind date. I was lucky to find my "nice Jewish boy who read books" but the search was long and arduous.

I recall that among the hardest part of my (series of ) first dates was dressing the part (fashion has never been my strength). A few of my first dates were at temple... I would carefully choose my outfit, and then choose just the right piece of Jewelry to go along with it (one must always let one's dear ones know what you like).

Here are some pieces I like... They were made by Steve Cooper- a man I knew in my single days. He and his wife Karen worked at Camp Kutz for years and I remember when they announced that they were getting married.. I was so happy to find Steve's work on line. I am thrilled to share these with you today. I have to find out if Steve is making wedding rings!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tazria -Metzora

Tazria Metzora two parshiot which cover Leviticus 12:1-15:33 must be the favorite parshiot of dermatologists for in it there are the regulations for dealing with those whose skin (and clothes and home) are afflicted with tzarat, symptoms that were inflicted on an individual due to their sins.

We have come far... we don't blame people for their afflictions. So on that note, for no other reason than it feels righ today... I post a Mi shebeirach.
(Lyrics by Debbie Friedman and Drorah Setel)

Mi shebeirach avoteinu
M'kor habracha l'imoteinu

May the source of strength who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing
And let us say: Amen.

Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M'kor habracha l'avoteinu

Bless those in need of healing with refuah sh'leimah
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit
And let us say: Amen.

To those in Blacksburg, VA... all our thoughts and prayers are with you

The paper cast Mi shebereiach is from Allison Tobin Clark a North Carolina artist.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Shabbat in the House

You may have noticed that I like Jewish art just for the sake of it being art and Jewish. It need not have a purpose (like a seder plate or tzedakah box). Here is a gouache painting from Helene Fischman displaying a wonderful Sabbath table.

And for your Shabbat Reading Pleasure... this blog posting from the Fly Fishing Rabbi, Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer of Syosset NY. Not exactly about home, but about family and friends... Thanks Rabbi!
Not too long ago, I received a surprising e-mail. It was from one of my high school teachers in St. Louis. I had not spoken to her in over 13 years. (Yes, I am young at 31 years old.) Her name is Mrs. Bernstein. But now I call her by her first name, Sarah. It turns out that Sarah had run into my mom at the grocery store. My mom told Sarah that I am a rabbi and passed on my e-mail to her.

So Sarah and I traded an e-mail or two. As we were writing back and forth, it turned out that we had a lot more in common than I realized. We both love writing. And we both are really into fly-fishing! We had even been to some of the same rivers in Missouri. And Sarah took a trip to Montana, which is a dream for me. Sarah told me how much she loves being in nature and the solitude of fishing alone on the river.

It was at that point that I realized, I just found a new friend. Here was a woman who on the surface seemed very different than me. Sarah is retired, I am just beginning my career. We grew up in totally different times and generations. And yet Sarah and I share a deep connection in our love of nature, solitude and trout.

It some ways, it is natural to look for friends among people who come from similar backgrounds and times. But my encounter with Sarah taught me not to limit myself in friendships. I learned that if I cultivate within myself an openness to friendship, I might meet new friends in places that I never expected.

It turns out that being open to friendship does not just apply to former teachers, it also applies to family. In the bible, Jethro was the father-in-law of Moses and also his friend. Like Sarah and I, Moses and Jethro did not have much in common on the surface. Jethro was a generation older than Moses. Jethro was a priest of Midian and not-Jewish.

Despite these differences, Moses and Jethro got along famously. Jethro even helped out his son-in-law. Jethro realized that Moses was over-worked and told him to delegate. Moses saw the wisdom of his father-in-law and took the advice. It is clear that Jethro truly cared for Moses. And Moses was humble enough to listen to his father-in-law. It was a beautiful friendship.

In many families, the relationship between a spouse and an in-law is strained. It is a cultural cliché that a woman and her mother-in-law cannot get along. Not too long ago there was a movie out with Jane Fonda that illustrated this very point. It was called: Monster-in-law.

Yet you would be surprised at the number of people I talk to who have a close relationship with their mother or father-in-law. It sometimes comes out when I am meeting with a family before a funeral. Not too long ago I met with a woman, Patricia, whose father Sam had died at the age of 91. For a long time, Patricia shared stories about how much she loved her dad Sam and how good he was to her. And then Patricia?s husband Jon began to speak.

Jon said that he never had a close relationship with his own father, but he was very close to Sam, his father-in-law. When Jon and Patricia were about to be married, Jon was young and was just getting started in his career. And he did not have a lot of good clothes.

One day Jon came over to show his father in-law his wedding suit. When Sam saw it he said: no way, this is not nice enough. My son-in-law cannot get married in this. So Sam took Jon shopping at Bloomingdales. And Sam bought his son-in-law a brand new expensive suit. After that beautiful beginning, Sam and Jon developed a very close relationship. Jon ended the story by saying: Sam was not my father-in-law, he was my father.

In these reflections on fly-fishing, father-in-laws and friendship, I realized an important lesson. We can reach out to family and friends. We can be like Sarah my English teacher and Jethro who helped Moses and Sam who bought a wedding suit for his son-in-law. For when we welcome others into our lives, it is we who are truly enriched and blessed.

By the way, I adore my Father-in-law (and my dad, too).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The case for Jewish culture

From My Jewish Learning
Why should anybody be surprised at the effect arts and culture has on American Jews? The fact that a music concert should draw people to the core institution of Jewish life, people that might otherwise never or seldom attend shul, confirms what should be obvious: that the arts and culture are nearer the heart of Jewish life, and nearer the hearts of Jewish people, than many community leaders admit. The 1990 National Jewish Population Survey, which indicated that more people identified themselves as "cultural" than as "religious" or any other category, further brings home the point. Our search for renewal and continuity should begin where people are often the most touched and inspired: the concert hall, the book of poetry, the film, the dance floor.

Arts and culture can help renew Jewish life because their dynamic, spiritual, and emotional nature can inspire individuals, create a sense of community, and provoke radically new ideas. This renewal can take the form of connecting with those outside the purview of Jewish institutional life, reenergizing those Jews within the community, and perhaps even bridging the gaps between different Jewish communities.

Although "the arts" refers basically to music, drama, literature, etc., "culture" is a much more difficult word to define. Often taken to mean the sum total of how a community articulates who and what it is, the sociological definition excludes almost nothing, and is too broad for the purposes of this discussion. I understand Jewish culture to refer primarily to the arts, as well as to the humanities and the exercise of the intellect.

The text of this laser cut is written by the Israeli artist Enya Keshet and speaks from the heart. The Hamsa (in the shape of a hand) is a symbol of good fortune, long life, and protection from the evil eye. The imaginary buildings around the text are a reminder of Jerusalem. She created this circular piece as well. More lovely Jewish art for our lovely Jewish homes!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bless this house (2)

I know that my family and I are truly blessed. My boys are young. Even though my six year old talks about joining the service, I think it is unlikely that he ever will. I trust it is only a stage. I support the armed services but I know that I don't send my children to a war zone. Selfish- yes, but I am a mother first and foremost.

Given that I am thinking of my new home, I can't help but reflect on the families whose loved ones may not becoming home or if they do return, they return different from when they left. Below is a story about a Jewish Soldier in Iraq. For the complete story please go to this link from the Jewish Soldier Foundation.

Shortly before press-time, 26-year-old Army Specialist Joe Kashnow’s right leg was amputated below the knee, a procedure necessary due to wounds he sustained during his tour of duty. Iraq “was everything,” Kashnow says. “It was miserable. It was wonderful. You’re away from home. You’re away from every creature comfort of your life, everything that’s been a part of your life. Every day was different.” ...

On September 17, 2003, Kashnow was driving a Humvee north of Baghdad when a bomb detonated nearby. The explosion broke both bones in his calf and damaged two arteries. Kashnow’s faith is helping him. “I believe very strongly that things are somewhat meant to be, in addition to free will,” he says. “Being Jewish is a big part of who I am. I’ve handled this pretty well, actually. I’ve never really sat around and done the ‘why, oh why has this happened to me?’ thing.”

As Kashnow was preparing for surgery, he was overseeing the Jewish Soldier Foundation ( Based in Kashnow’s hometown of Baltimore, the JSF sends Jewish goods to servicepeople overseas, which he says are hard to come by, and advocates for their religious rights in the armed forces. The JSF plans to lobby Congress to give Jews Shabbat off when based in the United States–a goal that resounds on a personal level for Kashnow, who is Shomer Shabbos and has had difficulty maintaining his observance. After his recovery, Kashnow hoped to expand the JSF web site’s Wall of Honor, which currently recognizes four Jewish servicepeople who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraq provided a few high points for Kashnow’s Jewish life, though: while stationed in Tikrit, he paid a visit to the palace of Saddam Hussein’s second wife, Samira Shahbandar. “I’m probably the first person to daven and lay tefillin in Saddam’s palace,” he boasts. Kashnow was brought up with what he described as Conservative Judaism, but he is moving toward modern Orthodoxy. “To me, it’s a constant road,” he says. “Anyone who’s truly into their religion never stops growing.” ...

In contrast to the trauma of war Arel Mishory, a Philadelphia native created these fun pieces for a Peaceful Home. I definitely see them in a brightly colored kitchen. And who wouldn't mind clock watching if this was the clock you were watching?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bless this House (1)

My husband and I are buying a home (actually our 6th one- I have moved 7 times with this man during our 14 year relationship. I AM a virtuous woman). My commute to the hospital was just so long, as was his.
I am fairly easy about homes- I want something that is comfortable, but which will allow me to put my stamp on it. With this blog, I am getting the opportunity to see lots and lots of beautiful Judaica (some of it costing more than a year's mortgage) but a lot is affordable for the average collector. Over the next few weeks, I will be showing pieces that I think would be lovely in my home- or yours. Let me know what you think.

First let's see about home blessings. Can't you see this in your foyer or mine?
It is large at 18.5" high but would surely make an impression on all who enter.
The artist is Raphael Abecassis
The works of Raphael Abecassis are characterized by an integration between excellent technical performance, a refreshing and original combination of colors as well as clear and perfect compositions. Raphael combines beautiful color and form with meaningful texts and proceeds to cut out elements to give the piece more depth.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Shemini (the eighth day)

From Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47
After seven days of investiture into the Priesthood, Aaron and his sons assume their offices and offer communal sacrifices on the EIGHTH day (Shemini). A fire from God, symbolizing Divine blessing, consumed their offerings.

Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, brought an incense offering on their own initiative, and are struck down by God for their actions. Instructions from God and Moses to Aaron and his remaining sons with respect to public displays of grief make it amply clear that the priests hold a consecrated and elevated position, which takes priority over their personal needs. To prevent a recurrence of priestly error, the priests were warned to refrain from imbibing any intoxicant.

The sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, took a pan, and placed fire within, and put incense upon the fire. They brought before God a strange fire which they had not been commanded to bring. A fire came out from in front of God and consumed them; they died in front of God. Moses said to Aaron, 'This is what God had referred to, "I will be sanctified by those close to me, thus I will be honored by the entire people,"' and Aaron was silent. (Leviticus 10:1-3)

I find this one of the most interesting parts of Leviticus... what really happened at the alter? What could those two boy priests have done that was so evil that they were smote by G'd in front of their father? This is a source of much discussion from the rabbis... Take a look at this.

The art work today two interepretations of the letter Chet by Sarah Leah. The letter Chet is the eight letter of the Hebrew Alef Bet. Sarah Leah shares this Kabbalahistic explanation for the letter chet: In meditation the letter CHET frequently presents itself as a door way. It is safe to go through this particular doorway because it is constructed of a VAV and a ZAYIN which, by virtue of their numerical value, allude to the name of God as explained above. It is also possible to ask for an ANGEL to guide one when passing through the CHET. For more on Kabbalah, explore here.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Dodi Li

During the Shabbat which falls during Pesach many congrgations choose to read from Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs. “The whole Torah is Holy,” says Rabbi Akiva, “but The Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.” The Shir HaShirim expounds on two relationships between the individual and his or her lover and that individual and G'd.
It is no wonder that many artists are inspired by the test of Shir Hashirim. Among the few those whose inspiration appears to have been divine in nature is the artist Debra Band who created an illustrated manuscript of the Song of Songs. The Jewish Publication Society published a 160 page edition that is available to all of us and I believe would make a phenomenal engagement, wedding or anniversary gift. (I am already thinking ahead to my beloved's and my next anniversary).
Please enjoy a few of these plates from the book and remember this Shabbat (and everyday) to tell your beloved that you love them.

And download these versions of Dodi Li from Gratz College.

No scissors for Omer

I could not help but wonder why one does not cut one's hair or shave his beard when mourning (as during the omer period). I found this answer in Jewish Way in Death and Mourning By Maurice Lamm

Archie Granot, whose work graced my second JJ post, created this beautiful omer calendar, but remember, he cuts paper, not hair.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A period of mourning

As I mentioned yesterday I knew nothing about the Omer period, including that it is a period of mourning. Why? Exodusfrom Egypt- good. Receiving the Torah at Sinai- good. Then why do we mourn? This answer is from the Women of Reform Judaism.

The period of counting has traditionally been a somber period of reflection and mourning. In the First century, thousands of students of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Akiva were killed by a plague during this period as punishment for disrespecting each other. In commemoration, weddings and festivities are not held and we’re not meant to have our hair cut. However, this all changes on Lag BaOmer. The plague is believed to have ended on this 33rd day of counting, thereby causing it to be a source of celebration.

After the end of the plague, Rabbi Akiva took on new students. One of them was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, traditionally thought to be the author of the Zohar (“The Shining Light”), the mystical commentary on the Torah. To commemorate this light, bonfires are typically lit to celebrate Lag BaOmer.

Some historians believe that the story of Rabbi Akiva’s students is allegorical and that the story is really a reference to a Jewish revolt against the Romans led by Bar Kochba and that the period of mourning is to honor those who died in the uprising.

These omer counters are from the Judaic artist Arnold Schwarzbart of Knoxville, TN (wow, he is a neighbor). Of these works, Arnold says "The text is 49 letter pairs that serve as a reminder of the sefirot for each day's meditation. Tradition is that one meditate on each of the lower seven sefirot, and how all the other sefirot relate to one another. This idea comes from the mystical texts that describe ten attributes of the Divine and are mirrored in mankind. These meditations are intended as preparation for Shavuot and the reenactment of receiving the Law at Sinai."

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Counting the Omer

I have to admit, I knew nothing about counting the omer until I did some reading about it. The more I read, the more things made sense. Passover is about the Exodus from Egypt. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah to the people. The omer is what bridges these two special events together. At its most basic, the Omer is a unit of measure- like an inch or a kilogram. During the 50 days of the omer, one does not marry, have parties or such. Even haircuts are forbidden. There is an exception to those rules... but we will talk about that when the time comes.

Traditionally, the counting occurs with the reciting of a blessing. For more information about this 50 day period, take a look here.

I have been amazed at how artists take religious moments and turn them around into artistic adventures. For example, here is this quilted Omer calendar from the artist Elizheva Hurvich.

This Omer Calendar was created in the Jewish year 5760 (2000) during the seven week counting period between Passover and Shavuot. On one side, seven rows of seven patchwork squares represent the 49 days which bridge the two holidays. Each square can serve as a visual meditation for the day. On the other side, embroidered in Hebrew, is the blessing one recites every night to fulfill the commandment of counting for these seven weeks (Leviticus 23;15 - 16, which reads:"You are to count from the day after the day of rest [Pesach] from the day you brought the Omer-waving offering until you've counted seven complete weeks. On the day after the seventh week, you will count 50 days...")
Also embroidered on the backside is a another text which can be used as a meditation before the counting. It can be translated:

May there be sweetness, Adonoy Our G-d, for us and may the works of our hands be substantial for us, may G-d establish the works of our hands.

This piece is made out of patchwork fabric. It can be read from the left to right, or reverse. It's way of "telling" time is not a tradition, linear, numerical reading. Like the traidition of "women's" arts, which speak in the tastes of food, in cookbooks, quilts, children's clothes and costumes, in a day to day life, this piece is soft, with undertain "boundaries," as the embroideries move from square to square, without much regard for the grid format.

How was your seder?

We had a very pleasant time. My kindergartener read the four questions for the first time. He did a great job having not prepared for it (other than hearing them repeatedly for years).
My matzoh balls were great- not low fat but YUMMY.
And I made two cakes- a banana cake and a coconut torte.

Hope you all had a wonderful evening.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Happy Passover

I love it when I find that someone has found this blog and references to it. It ensures that more than my father and I are reading it.

Here is the latest link I found- and to a really cool, non-Judaism related blog (its about decorating and design, another of my interests).

Behind the Curtain - funny thing is I would have thought this blog was about the mechitza.

Better get back upstairs and finish the messy part of cooking! Enjoy your seder tonight.


Leviticus is not full of action and intrigue- lots of dos and don'ts. The parsha Tzav continues as a how-to manual for ritual sacrifice.

From Rabbi Yehuda Appel of Cleveland is this d'var torah Saving Others Embarrassment

For many years my wife worked in Jerusalem as a volunteer collecting and distributing clothing to the poor.Experience had taught her that it was too embarrassing for the poor to simply receive a "hand-out." Instead, often the clothes would be "sold" for quite nominal sums, freeing the beneficiaries of shame.

My wife also discovered that the condition of the clothing was critical. The poor people were far more sensitive to the way their clothing looked than an average, middle class family. Often, nice clothes would be rejected by the people because it did not appear brand new. I believe this was also due to their underlying feeling of embarrassment.

The Torah, in discussing the "sin offerings" to be brought to the Temple, shows great sensitivity to the feelings of the poor. The Torah permits each person to bring an offering according to his or her means. For example, a wealthy person could bring a bull, while a poor person could bring a flour offering.

But wouldn't it have been simpler for the Torah to simply suggest that everyone bring flour offerings?

In actuality, there was a great benefit in bringing an animal offering, for those who could afford to do so. First of all, it gave the wealthy an opportunity to give what they felt was a significant gift to the Almighty. More importantly, there was a tremendous psychological device associated with the sacrifices.When a person brought certain animal offerings, he would confess his sin while placing his hands on the animal. Then he would watch the animal being slaughtered. It was this stark emotional experience that would hopefully deter the person from sinning again.

Given this, the problem remained how to alleviate the embarrassment of the less fortunate when bringing their flour offerings. What the Torah does, in fact, is go out of its way to change its phraseology concerning the offerings of the poor. In all other instances, the Torah speaks the one bringing an offering as a "person." But the Torah refers to the one who brings a flour offering as a "soul."

The Talmud says that this change in terminology shows that in God's eyes, it is not the value of the offering that counts, but rather the intention behind it. Because the poor person may live from day-to-day not knowing where his next meal is coming from, it may well be that the flour offering of the poor was greater than the rich person's bull.

There's a basic question we should be asking? If the Torah is so sensitive to potential embarrassment, then how is it that everyone - whether rich or poor - brought a "sin offering" to the Temple? The activities in the Temple were a public event! So wouldn't everyone automatically know that they were bringing a "sin offering" offering because they'd transgressed?
To minimize this potential embarrassment, the Torah prescribes that all "sin offerings" be slaughtered in the same location as the "burnt offering" - which was brought primarily as a voluntary offering, and thus lacked any negative connotations. Therefore, when a spectator would see a sin offering being brought, it would be unclear whether this was a sin or burnt offering. In this way, the transgressor would be spared embarrassment.

As in so many places, in both bold and subtle ways, the Torah emphasizes to us the importance of never causing another person the pain of embarrassment.

These tzedkah boxes from Vessels of Light are simple and earthy in design. The art of faith creates in this world while paying close attention to the creator of all. Man is commanded to resemble the creator. Through the art this connection can be felt the most. ″Vessels of Light″ join the four elements - fire, wind, water and earth. May your vessels be plentiful.

Have a great seder(s).