Posts Tagged ‘Jewish New Year’

Testimonials from My Hebrew Students

December 29, 2013

“You’re a terrific teacher, and our students are very, very fortunate to be learning with you. You are really helping them learn.  So thank you!” — Rabbi Andrew Vogel, Temple Sinai, Brookline, MA

“Natasha is a treasure.” – attendee at NewCAJE, August 1, 2010

“I have studied Hebrew with four other people over the past ten years, and none of them match Natasha. I am just thrilled with the progress I am making.” — S.B., college professor of sociology

“Your teaching style and enthusiasm have stayed with me over the years. Now I study by myself, but memories of your class echo in my head. When I started studying with you, I didn’t know the Hebrew alphabet; now I understand most of the Torah portion each week. Thank you for the inspiration.” — A.D., professor of medicine

“This Hebrew class is the highest point of my week.  I look forward to it for the other six days.”  J.L., engineer

“You are an enthusiastic and caring teacher.” — S.L., rabbinical student

People who study with you that I have met along the way over the years are deeply grateful to you for what they learn and how they learn from you. — Rabbi Alan Ullman

“Thanks to your class, I’m more mindful in services and I am actually able to read the real text.” — R.K.

“You made me think, darn you!” — attendee at NewCAJE, August 1, 2010

“I was dead tired and could hardly focus on anything. But learning Hebrew with you woke me up. You could make a dead person learn Hebrew.” — F.P., physician

“This is the first time I got past the place where I always used to get stuck.”– C.C., homemaker

“Wow! I just went to a bar mitzvah and when it was time for the Torah reading, I sat back to enjoy the musical chanting, not expecting to understand anything. I was just sitting there listening when suddenly words and even whole sentences started jumping out at me. I realized, it’s a story and I understand it. Whoa! This is a whole new level! Thank you for that.” — R.L.

“I think there is some magical way that you communicate a knowledge of Hebrew directly.” — P.S., college mathematics instructor

“These days, Hebrew seems to be everywhere.” — J.L.,

“This class is like a cool lemonade on a hot sticky day.” — L.W., general contractor

“Great class. Great group. Great teacher!” — J.H., college English professor

“I have enjoyed your classes very much, as you are an excellent teacher.” — T.B.

“I was able to start reading things I couldn’t read before. I can keep up in services much more than before.” — C.C., Homemaker

“This class is exactly what I need.” — S.G.

“I just love this!” — M.W., rabbinic pastor

“I wanted to let you know that I very much enjoyed the classes. You are a great teacher.” — N.F.

“Now that I know what it (Torah text) means literally, I feel more confident in doing my own interpretation.” — M.A.

“I am thoroughly enjoying the class.” — N.F.

“I like your teaching style — friendly but very professional and focused on task.” — E.F.

“This class is a blessing!” — L.W., general contractor

“Thanks to your class, I am more inclined to try to understand Hebrew words when I read them in the siddur (prayer book).” — A.T.

“You are extremely knowledgeable and you encourage students to try without judgment about outcome.” — M.B.

“I appreciate your supportive and helpful manner. You encourage us without making us feel “dumb” if we make mistakes. You answer questions but stay with your lesson plan. I look forward to coming

“You’re so validating!” — S.D.

“Thanks for introducing me to the miracles of Hebrew!” — L.W.

“This is a whole new world!” — M.W., rabbinic pastor

“I got chills during High Holy Day services! For the first time, I was reading and singing and following along the actual Hebrew.” — L.W., newspaper editor

“I REALLY appreciated all the Hebrew you’ve taught me at High Holiday services this year. I was thrilled that I could read well enough to keep up with prayers I didn’t know or forgot since last year. And, I especially enjoyed understanding so many words and phrases throughout the liturgy; I could actually piece together chunks of what I was reading! It really expanded, and in some cases changed, my understanding of the prayers.” — R.L.

“You are a great, amazing teacher!” — D.P.

“I have enjoyed your dedication, depth of knowledge, patience and encouragement. I would love to continue.” — M.B.

“It was really fantastic to understand a lot of the prayers during the high holiday services. It really adds an extra layer of meaning to my prayers.” — L.W., general contractor

” I will never forget your launching me in learning Biblical Hebrew.” — J.H., golfer

“In the last 30 years I tried to learn Hebrew many times and always dropped out. I have now been learning Hebrew with Natasha for 3 years and I am loving it, really learning it for the first time. The siddur and the Torah have come alive for me.” — S.D., yoga teacher

“I have to tell you that you are such an incredible teacher!!” — S.K.

“During services one Shabbat I glanced at a Biblical selection in Hebrew and was astonished to realize I could understand the whole paragraph, not just a phrase or a sentence. Very exciting!

“I feel grateful to you for the way that you approach teaching, and I feel like I can ask anything and not feel stupid! So, thank you, especially for that.” — S.K.

“I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your classes and how rewarding it is to be able to read the Torah in Hebrew!”

“Thank you for all the wonderful education.” — J.D.

“Many thanks. The classes were wonderful. Interesting, well prepared and taught. You are terrific.”

“Thanks so much for a fabulous class. I really enjoyed it and services really are nicer when I can follow along.”

“There’s something so special and interesting about Hebrew that it’s hard not to think about it regularly.”– S.M.

“I wish to thank you for the opportunity I had to study with you. You helped me move along my path!”

“This is such fun!” — M.W., rabbinic pastor

“I’ve been in many language classes and Natasha stands out as focussed, encouraging, knowledgeable, efficient, curious, and tolerant – way beyond the norm. Natasha is a terrific teacher!” — B.W., author

“Natasha’s classes are outstanding, and I will continue taking them as long as she offers them!” — I.K.

“For the first time in my life, I know where we are in the prayer book and where we’re going.” — S.B., college professor of sociology

“Thank you for your wonderful instruction.” — J.F.

“I’ve taken Hebrew classes for years and never enjoyed it, but this class is one I look forward to each week.”

“Thank you for all of your help in getting me to this point. I can (almost) understand most prayers that I read, and am finding translating Biblical passages (at least in the Torah portion!) easier each week.”

“My mother is so impressed with my ability to read Hebrew. Never too old to be happy if Mom’s impressed.” (from a 50+ – year-old student) — H.S.

I really enjoyed the classes and felt like I made enormous progress — I can actually follow along in services (and understand some of the words!). Thanks again for sharing your wisdom and joy.

“Natasha uses her creativity to integrate Jewish holidays, rituals, and current events with the requisite vocabulary and grammar. She always makes the content vivid and memorable.” — D.M.

“Natasha brings incredible enthusiasm to her teaching. She has motivated me … to make a real commitment to studying Hebrew.” — D.M.

The Moon and the Month

October 18, 2010
The Moon as seen by an observer from Earth. So...

Look upward and see the almost-full moon.   When the moon becomes completely full, you’ll know it’s the 15th of the current Jewish month.   Right now we’re in the month of Heshvan.

Or, just remember that in the Jewish calendar the new moon is always the new month.  In fact the Hebrew noun for “month” is HOdesh, and the Hebrew adjective for “new” is haDASH. Their shared linguistic root is perfectly obvious.

The new moon/month is always occasion for a Jewish holiday.  It’s called Rosh Hodesh in Hebrew, literally “head of the month.”   (Recall that Rosh haShanah means “head of the year.”)

Paradoxically, the English word “month” comes from the English word “moon,” and yet they are not (any longer) tied together.   Can you look up at the sky and be able to tell that it’s October 18?

Tishrei 30: Everything You Do Matters

October 8, 2010

Have you ever stopped to think that everything you do matters?

Today is the last of our 60-day spiritual journey.  Today’s theme for contemplating, journal writing, and awareness, is “Everything You Do Matters.”  Quoting from Rabbi Jacobson:

“In Jewish mystical thought, space, time, and matter are understood to be forces of Divine energy — sparks that fell to earth at the time of Creation, which became embedded in all aspects of existence; these sparks must be elevated in holiness for the world to achieve perfection as per the Divine plan.

This is why the little things you do in life are sometimes more important than the big things — the journey is sometimes as or more important than the final destination: going to work, people you meet on the way there, the cup of coffee you drink while waiting for the bus, the piece of paper you throw in the trash can — all are changed by your actions.”

I wish I could remember this wisdom more constantly.   It’s not that I don’t believe it — it seems powerfully true.  But sometimes when things are hard, or I have to make difficult choices, I forget that everything I do matters.  When I’m fortunate enough to remember (or read about it!), life feels better.  More complicated, perhaps, but in a good way.  It really does require stopping to think about.  I hope it matters that I’m posting this today.

It’s a new moon.   Tishrei is over.  Heshvan is beginning.*  Time to move on, and try to remember: every little thing matters.

Hebrew vocabulary:

*Heshvan = a month of the Jewish calendar

mar = bitter

This new month is sometimes called Mar Heshvah, which means “bitter Heshvan,” because it has no holidays in it.

(or Mar Heshvah, which means “bitter Heshvan, because it has no holiday

Last Three Days of the Jewish New Year Journey

October 5, 2010

Click to get free emails about the 60-day journey

The first time I read 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays, by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, it was summer 2006.  I followed his suggestions for thinking hard about my life, my personal goals, and how to enjoy the Jewish new-year season more deeply.  I made lists, wrote in my journal every day, read the daily essays, asked myself the daily questions, and did my best to do the daily exercises.  It changed my life!  And I learned a lot about the Jewish holidays, too.

Anyone can still sign up for Rabbi Jacobson’s free emails about the 60-day journey, even if you haven’t been following along over the past 57 days.  Just click on the image of the book.

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!

More Jewish Holidays!

September 29, 2010

Three more holidays in our Jewish New Year Holiday Season:

Tishrei 21, which ended at sundown tonight, was Hoshana Rabba (“the Great Hoshana”), which was the final day for waving the lulav and etrog.

Tishrei 22 began at sundown tonight, initiating the holiday of Sh’mini ‘Atzeret (“the Stopping of the Eighth,” i.e., the eighth day, and truly the end of, Sukkot), a less-famous Jewish festival.  Among other observances, we say goodbye to the sukkah until next year.

Tishrei 23 is when we celebrate Simhat Torah, which means, literally, “the joy of the Torah.”  We read from the very end, then rewind the scroll all the way back to the beginning and read from there.

It is truly a holiday cycle.

Hebrew grammar:

Simhat is the s’mikhut (construct) form of simhah. The noun modifies the next noun.

Simhah = joy

Simhat = joy of…

Elul 15 – Full Moon, Full Reflection

August 26, 2010
Fullmoon

Image by Αλεξάνδρα via Flickr

Today is the full moon of Elul.

The full moon reflects the light of the sun.

Everything we see is a reflection of ourselves.  “You are what you see.  And you see what you are.”

It’s Day 16 in our 60-day spiritual journey, and we face some hard questions:

1. Do you recognize your own flaws when you see them in others?

2. Do you see the goodness around you?

The Thirteen Attributes of Divine Compassion radiate during Elul — even when we’re immersed in mundane activity.  It’s the power of Elul.

In exactly two weeks, at the new moon, the Jewish New Year begins, with Rosh haShanah, literally “the head of the year.”

Jewish New Year Cards – Quiz #1

August 24, 2010

NYcard1-frontThis pretty picture appears on the front of a typical greeting card you might send or receive for the Jewish New Year (in Hebrew: Rosh haShanah).

Quiz:  What are the images in this photograph?   What is the significance of each image?

(Come back soon for answers to this and upcoming quizzes about the Jewish New Year.)

Quotes along the Spiritual Journey: Elul 4

August 15, 2010

Elul 4

These are some of my favorite quotes from Rabbi Simon Jacobson, gleaned from his essay “The Truth Within,” for the fourth day of Elul.

ON RELIGION AND FREEDOM: If your experience of religion is not freeing, then you have fallen into a man-made trap.  Freedom is Divine; it cannot be human.

ON TRUTH: The truth resonates.  When we hear it, we know.

ON TEACHING: Great masters or teachers can’t give us anything we don’t already possess; they can help in one thing only — to open our own pathway to the truth within.

High Holidays for a CHANGE

August 4, 2010

“…rejuventate [your] High Holiday experience and discover the transformative resonance in this most profound and sophisticated of psycho-spiritual systems called the Jewish High Holiday season.” — Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Meaningful Life Center

How do you prepare for the Jewish New Year?  Do you

  • buy High-Holiday tickets?
  • say goodbye to summer and prepare for fall?
  • get your kids ready for school & after-school?

What about you? Your soul, your spirit, your life’s direction and meaning?

Now is your chance to make the changes you’ve been longing for: the approach of the High Holiday season offers the opportunity to actualize your dreams!

Join Natasha Shabat on Tuesday evening, August 10th — the eve of the New Moon — at 7:15 PM, to begin your journey.

WHEN: Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 7:15 – 8:45 PM

WHERE: Congregation Kerem Shalom, 659 Elm St., Concord, MA (www.keremshalom.org).

Cost: $10.

For more details, click here.

For more logistical INFORMATION and to REGISTER: Contact Rosalie Gerut at rosaliege@comcast.net or 978-460-1015.

Copies of the book 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays, by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, will be available for purchase ($25) at the event.

Can’t make it on August 10 but still want to join the journey?

  • Request a recording of the event: Rosalie Gerut (rosaliege@comcast.net or 978-460-1015)
  • Send email message to Natasha Shabat to find out about joining others for next steps in the journey.  Subject line: I want to join the journey.
  • Subscribe to free daily emails about the 60 Days from the Meaningful Life Center
  • Buy the book 60 Days (see above) at your local book store or online (Amazon, MLC, etc.)
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