Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew language’

Sh’mini ‘Atzeret: Remember, remember!

September 30, 2010

As if Gd is swirling around inside the sukkah, saying “Remember, remember!”

The seasonal, agrarian rhythm of the Jewish festival holidays is based on the weather and climate of the land of Israel, not New England.  I know this.  Nevertheless, in seven years of annual dwelling in my own sukkah, it always seems so windy on Sh’mini ‘Atzeret.

As if Gd is swirling around inside the sukkah, saying “Remember, remember!”

Because this is our challenge today: to distill all our new insight and energy into the rest of the year, now that the Tishrei holiday season is almost over.  To take the spiritual shelter of the sukkah into ourselves, and remember.

Remember the soul-searching of Elul, the wake-up call of the shofar. Remember the Melting Heart of Tashlikh, remember teshuvah, the return to our Purist Selves.  Remember Forgiveness.  Remember Joy.  Remember getting back together, with Gd and with each other.

The flimsy structure of the sukkah, with its skhakh-roof  full of holes, reminded us of our vulnerability in life, that even our solid-seeming homes can’t ultimately protect us.  As we read in Kohelet (the Hebrew name for the Book of Ecclesiastes), “Ha-kol havel!” Everything is vapor, vanity, futility.  As if to underscore this point, the electric power is going on and off, my digital clocks are all blinking.  Wake up!  Pay attention!   The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for the Boston area.    There’s rain and thunder and a dramatic WIND.

The season is changing.  The energy is shifting.  Remember, remember!

Ongoing Torah Study in Concord, MA

September 28, 2010

Ongoing Torah Study: Hebrew Roots
Delve deeper into Hebrew texts by examining the Divine, mystical three-letter “DNA” roots of Hebrew words.

When: Tuesday morning, October 5, 2010, 10:15 AM-12:15 PM

Where: Kerem Shalom
659 Elm St.
Concord, MA  01742

Tuition:
October 5: Free

Possible class on Tuesday mornings in 2011, 10:15 AM-12:15 PM
January 11, 18, 25
February 1, 8, 15
March 1, 8
Tuition ~ $150
Information:
Natasha Shabat –  learnhebrew@natashashabat.com
Registration:
Rosalie Gerut –  rosaliege@comcast.net
Kerem Shalom:
www.keremshalom.org

Hebrew Comes Alive in Concord, MA

September 28, 2010

You’re familiar with Barukh atah… but what happens after v’tzivanu? Join master Hebrew teacher Natasha Shabat in exploring a variety of familiar and not-so-familiar Hebrew blessings as a jumping-off point for expanding your knowledge and understanding of Hebrew.  We’ll study blessings for Shabbat and holidays, for different types of food, for greeting the morning, greeting an old friend, and more!  The level of Hebrew instruction will depend on the level of interested students.

Sheheheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higi’anu…

When: Eight Monday evenings,  7:00-8:30 PM
October 18, 25
November 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
December 6

Where: Kerem Shalom
659 Elm St.
Concord, MA  01742

Tuition:
Members of Kerem Shalom: $10/class
Non-members: $15/class
If class size is very small, tuition will be higher.

Information: Natasha Shabat –  learnhebrew@natashashabat.com

Registration: Rosalie Gerut –  rosaliege@comcast.net

Kerem Shalom: www.keremshalom.org

Jewish Holiday Greetings: Sukkot

September 27, 2010
sukkot harvest

lulav, etrog, Hallah, freshly harvested vegetables, Ecclesiastes

It is still perfectly appropriate to wish each other a Happy New Year (or Shana Tovah in Hebrew), just as people continue saying Happy (Gregorian) New Year for many weeks into January and beyond.

But maybe you’re looking for a Jewish holiday greeting more specific to the actual current Jewish holiday and wondering, What is the proper Hebrew greeting during these intermediary days of Sukkot? (September 26-29 this year) and what is the proper response?

Answer: Both come from the Festival Kiddush, as follows:

Person who initiates the greeting says: Mo’adim l’simhah!
Person who replies: Hagim u’z’manim l’sasson!

Hint about pronunciation: Each of the Hebrew words above puts the emphasis/stress on the last syllable.

Try it!

Hebrew Vocabulary:

Mo’adim = moments, “festivals,” “appointed times”
(singular: mo’eid)

l’ = for/to

simhah = joy, gladness, happy occasion

Hagim = holidays, celebrations
(singular: hag)

u’ = and

z’manim = seasons, times
(singular: z’man)

sasson = joy, happiness

Taste of Hebrew: Sukkah

September 26, 2010

Sukkah = hut, booth, “tabernacle,” shelter

Sukkot = plural of sukkah. The name of the holiday we’re in the middle of.

Sukkoh = his sukkah

Homework: See if you can find sukkoh (“his shelter”) in Psalm 27.

Tishrei 17: Quotes from Psalm 27

September 19, 2010
The Dead Sea Scrolls - Psalms Scroll

Image by onBeing via Flickr

The Book of Psalms is called T’hilim in Hebrew.

We recite Psalm 27 every day during the the first 50 days of the 60-day spiritual journey through the months of Elul and Tishrei.  Starting one month before Rosh haShanah and continuing daily through Sukkot and Simhat Torah, Jews around the world repeat the comforting words of the psalmist:

“Gd is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:2)

When you put it this way, our worries and problems suddenly seem smaller and less consequential, don’t you think?  I guess that’s the point.

There’s a beautiful waltz tune that was composed for the Hebrew lines of the following quote, whose meaning is already beautiful.  I’ve been teaching this one throughout the 60-day journey, every chance I get:

“One thing I asked of Gd, that shall I seek: That I dwell in the house of Gd all the days of my life; to behold the sweetness of Gd and to contemplate in His sanctuary.”  (Ps. 27:4)

One line of Psalm 27 that always startles is the tenth verse:

“Though my father and mother have forsaken me, Gd will gather me in.”  (Ps. 27:10)

Yep, that’s really what it says.  Maybe they really did forsake one.  Or maybe one simply grew up and moved away.

The final words of the psalm are comforting to many:

“Hope to Gd.  Strengthen yourself and be encouraged, and hope to Gd.”

Tishrei 13: Sukkot Is Coming

September 17, 2010

image

It’s Day 43 of our 60-day spiritual journey.  If you haven’t already joined in, please come aboard; it’s not too late!

Of all our happy holidays, Sukkot is the only one on which we are actually commanded, straight from the Bible, to Be Joyful.  Now that we’ve been judged on how we behaved during the past year (Rosh haShanah), spent ten days trying to make it right (Ten Days of Return), and got in touch with our purist selves (Yom Kippur), it is time to party.  Yes, it is!

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot always starts on a full moon, on the eve of the 15th of Tishrei. This year (5771) the holiday begins at sundown on Wednesday night, September 22.

Sukkot Basics:

1. Build a sukkah and live in it as much as possible during all seven days of the holiday.  A sukkah is a hut or booth (or “tabernacle”) that we build with a deliberately flimsy structure so that it is quite subject to the weather.   This small hut is built out in the open, directly beneath the sky, not under the shade or protection of other structures or trees.  To make it even more vulnerable, we leave lots of holes in the roof, quite on purpose.  The roofing material, or skhakh (schach), is largely what defines a kosher sukkah.  The skhakh is made entirely of natural material (detached from the ground), provides shade to at least 50% of the sukkah but leaves plenty of holes through which rain can fall.

Living in a vulnerable little house reminds us that ultimately our safety and comfort and happiness all depend on Gd.

My sukkah, with pile of skhakh ready for creating the roof

2. Every morning inside the  sukkah we take up the Four Species and shake them in the six directions.  These comprise the etrog (citron, pictured above), plus three kinds of branches: hadasim (myrtles), ‘aravot (willows), and lulav (palm frond).  The branches are tied together in a bundle that is usually referred to as the lulav.

3. An important part of observing Sukkot is hosting guests in your sukkah. The more the merrier!  In addition to our family, friends, and neighbors, we also invite the “Exalted Guests” in spiritual form, in this specific order: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David.  These guests are called ushpizin, which is Aramaic for “guests.”  There’s a wonderful movie called “Ushpizin,” which I highly recommend, for learning more about Sukkot and just for pure entertainment.

4. On Sukkot we read the Biblical book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes).  Many famous quotes come from Kohelet, including “To everything there is a season,” “The sun also rises,” “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and my personal favorite: “Futility of futilities — all is futile!”

If anything in #4 above reminded you of a song, you’re well on your way to experiencing the joy of Sukkot. Singing and dancing, common expressions of joy, are a big part of celebrating this holiday.

Hebrew names for the holiday include

HeHag (The Holiday)
Hag haSukkot (Holiday of Booths, or “Feast of Tabernacles”)
Z’man Simhateinu (Season of Our Joy)

‘Tis the season.  No matter what’s been going on in your life lately, you must now be joyful.   Sing.  Dance.  Find a way.

Tishrei 4: Returning to Pure Essence

September 12, 2010

From now until Yom Kippur, we are working on t’shuvah, a Hebrew word that literally means “return.”   (Sometimes translated as “atonement” or “repentance,” neither of which captures the real meaning.) (Sometimes it’s transliterated as teshuvah.”) We make an effort to return to our soul, which is our Divine essence.  It’s the quintessential self that we really are.

There is a part of us that is always healthy and good and pure — nothing can harm it.  Not any damage that may have been done to us in life, not even damage we did to ourselves.  We can always return to our true soul.  It is pure, has always been pure, is always intact, no matter what happens.

Personally, I find this one of the most hopeful, optimistic inspirations of the 60-Day spiritual journey.  I love being reminded that regardless of negative events in my life, this pure, unharmed part of me is always there.  I feel more secure  when I remember that my Divine essence cannot be hurt. What wonderful news!

Recognizing one’s true essence is not always obvious.  This is why doing t’shuvah requires effort.

Do you know your true, essential self?

The Chicken and the Eggs: Rosh haShanah Down on the Farm

September 9, 2010

High-pressure afternoon yesterday: Rosh haShanah would begin in just a few hours, my round, holiday hallot — a variation I’d never tried making before — were rising in the oven.  I’d used up the last of my eggs, needed just one more, for glazing the loaves before baking.  So I zipped out to Codman Farm (c. 1740), which raises organic chickens and sells eggs at the Farm Store.

Organic Eggs

Image by Undeleterious via Flickr

Luckily there were two dozen eggs remaining in the store’s fridge; I grabbed one dozen.  As I dropped my $4 into the honor-system pay box, I heard something surprising for that context: low, breathy notes of a flute, wafting from the barn.  I cocked an ear as the notes formed a melody, beautiful and mournful and … familiar.  Wait a second — that’s Avinu Malkeinu!

I went to discover the source, and next thing I knew I was celebrating the eve of Rosh haShanah in a real barn!   The informal, moving service was delightful itself, led by warm, thoughtful people beneath the hayloft; I might have felt moved to blog about my first time davvening in a barn anyway.

Red Star (Sex Link) hen in back yard

Image via Wikipedia

But when, midway through the service, a red chicken wandered calmly through the congregation, heading toward the makeshift bimah as if she planned to cluck some Hebrew liturgy or perhaps even blow the shofar, I just knew I had to share.

L’shanah tovah u-m’tukah!

(“May you have a good and sweet New Year“)