Honor & a New Year

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I discovered Jew Wishes about a month ago. Lorri blogs about Jewish books, films, the Holocaust and other Jewish topics. She often adds beautiful photos to illustrate her posts.

If you want to know more about a book, check her blog first, there is a high possibility she will have read and reviewed it.

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This morning she awarded me the “I love your blog award” in a very kind manner.

To follow the rules, I am now expected to nominate 7 blogs and give them the award.

Because of the pre-holiday rush and since most of the blogs I read daily have been awarded recently, I will take time to think about this before I do my part.

Meanwhile I wanted to wish all my readers, as well as the people they love and are important to them, a year of goodness, happiness and peace.

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Fasting

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As the Yom Kippur fast is only about a fortnight away, here are a few guidelines for a sensible (if not easy) fast.

If you have never fasted before and have decided to take the big jump and join in the Yom Kippur fast, don’t just count on your good will and determination; they help, but aren’t everything. That’s why reading some advice about fasting is never a wate of time.

– A few days before the fast, cut down or cut out foods and drink with high caffeine. If not, you might end up suffering from withdrawal from these products on the fast day. Withdrawal symptoms often mean headaches and headaches may result in nauseas. This is very unpleasant so try not to forget this piece of advice. I even found that drinking a cup of coffee in a few hours before the fast helped. it didn’t prevent me from sleeping that night but I had no headache.
– Starting with breakfast, and even days before, don’t forget to drink a lot of water.
– The biggest problem with fasting is dehydration. Serve melon, grapes, and other foods with high water content before the fast.
– Make sure your pre-Yom Kippur meal is packed with carbo-hydrates and proteins to help you through the fast. On the contrary avoid food with high sugar content.

You may also find Shira Isenberg’s fasting advice on the Jewish Action website useful and informative.

In August, Batya also wrote about fasting. Although she had written this post following Tisha B’Av, her advice is still relevant. I particularly like her conclusion.

The synagogue featured at the top of this post is the Great Synagogue in Dohány Street, Budapest, also known as Dohány Street Synagogue. It is the largest synagogue in Europe.

I Hate it When this Happens

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There was an informal gathering of teachers (organized by a union) at my school yesterday. We have been very busy lately with lots of compulsory evening meetings initiated by our administration, more than in previous years. A lot of us worry about this; we fear that piling up meetings upon meetings won’t solve all the problems we face even though they are necessary to a degree.

However I did not attend the union’s casual gathering for two reasons. First it took place during a school hour and I didn’t want to miss a class as I’ll be away for two days next week due to the High Holidays. Then, with years, I have become wary of political response to school internal issues; I feel it often divides more than it unites us.

As I was leaving for lunch, a colleague came up to me and summed up what the people had just been saying, grieving over the fact that they seemed belligerent and in favor of an hostile letter to the administration rather than sending a delegation of our representatives as a first step.

We were in the corridor, next to the room where the other colleagues were discussing and arguing. I was telling him that I could see his point and would not sign something that was aggressive. One colleague overheard the last word and jumped to the conclusion that I was caling them all aggressive, especially the union man (a quiet man in fact). He then opened the door to join his “friends” and vilified what he called my attitude in front of 30 other people, most of whom are honest folks I rather appreciate even if I disagree with them on this particular issue – or rather the means to get to an end.

The conversation in the staff room stopped and everybody stared at me. I obviously felt awful and hurt that my words had been so distorted and there was very little I could do. I tried to defend myself but felt it was rather useless. I now have the feeling that 30 people think I have been insulting them behind their backs.

Is there anything I can do?

Unetanneh Tokef

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ונתנה תוקף

This medieval prayer is attributed to Rabbi Amon of Mainz. It is associated with Rosh Hashanah as it introuduces  the Kedusha of Musaf on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The story behind its composition and the reason why we now sing this prayer is quite dramatic.

“The great shofar is sounded… A still small voice is heard…
Even the angels are frightened… the Day of Judgment is here…
Who shall live? And who shall die?
Who shall find rest? And who shall be restless?
Who shall be raised up? And who shall be humbled?
Who shall be rich? And who shall be poor?
But – Atonement, Prayer and Good Deeds deflect the harsh decree!
As for Man, he comes from dust
And to dust he shall return…”

Man is like…
Grass that withers… A flower that fades… A shadow that passes…”

You can hear a variety of versions of this beautiful and moving piyyut by clicking here. Even Leonard Cohen wrote his own version, better-known as Who by Fire.

And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling ?
And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
And who by avalanche, who by powder,
Who for his greed, who for his hunger,
And who shall I say is calling ?
And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady’s command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling ?

In the Image

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When her best friend Naomi is run over by a car, seventeen-year-old Leora feels even more lonely and different and withdraws into herself. So when her friend’s grandfather contacts her, Leora’s parents are only too happy to go with her and meet Bill Lansmann. However the young girl is not overimpressed by the old man’s slideshows and feels a little awed by his desire to keep in touch with his dead granddaughter through her friend.

From then on we follow’s Leora’s steps while also going back in time through the Landsmann’s ancestors and their trips between Europe (Vienna, Amsterdam, Kiev…) and the United States.

In the Image is also a spiritual journey as each character confronts his or her attitude towards their judaism and religious traditions. in addition, the novel is a variation on the theme of image, weaving the biblical reference of the title, with the photos taken by the grandfather, paintings in the RiJksmuseum as well as the image people have of others or give of themselves.

This debut novel by Dara Horn is a masterpiece and a must read.

Comforting Carrot Soup

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This recipe is based on Norene Gilletz’s Easy Carrot Soup but the variations are mine.

1 tsp olive oil
1 white (or red) onion
1 red (or green) pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic
4-5 large carrots, cut into chunks
1 potato, or 1 zucchini, peeled and cut into chunks
2 c. vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh dill, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 c. skim milk (or soy milk)
1/4 tsp ground ginger

In a saucepan, heat oil on medium heat. Add onions and pepper. sauté until lightly golden. Add garlic and sauté a little longer. Add carrots, potato or zucchini and broth.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Purée soup, add dill, salt and pepper to taste. Blend in milk and ground ginger. Enjoy.

Falu Red for Ruby Tuesday

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Falu red or Falun red (in Swedish Falu rödfärg) is the name of a Swedish, deep red paint well known for its use on wooden cottages and barns. The paint originated from the copper mine at Falun in Dalarna, Sweden. The traditional colour remains popular today. (Wikipedia)

On Tuesdays, just post any photo you like (it must be one of your own) that contains the color RED and then link to this blog.

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