Communal Evening


After spending Yom Kippur in Antwerp last week, I expected Sukkot to be disappointing in comparison. All the more so as I do not get the days off and still have not come round to building my own sukkah (an idea which is both tempting and daunting as far as I am concerned).

However on Tuesday I got a FB message from one member of our tiny community telling me that we were all invited for the Friday evening service followed by a meal in a family sukkah. Our hosts are a middle-aged couple with three children. His family comes from Algeria while hers is from Tunisia.

The hostess had prepared a very appetizing meal with a distinctly Sephardic flavor (pizzas, makoud, tuna-filled savory pastries, dates, …) I had contributed by making an apple cake (not a Sephardic dessert at all) whose recipe I had found in Kosher Revolution. This cake is absolutely delicious and I have made it three times in two weeks. It proved to be a success once again.

Quite a number of people turned up and it ended up being a wonderful evening and a meaningful continuation of the High Holidays.

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 4)


Rabbi Telushkin adds one phrase to Rabbi Riemer’s list: “I am sorry”. He acknowledges that for most of us this is far from easy yet indispensable if we sincerely wish to heal the pain we might have caused.

Disagreements and feuds do happen; this is unfortunately part of being a human being. Yet, especially at this time of year, we are mandated to make ammends with the people we have harmed.

Rabbi Telushkin reminds us that:

a person who sincerely repents on Yom Kippur will be forgiven for any sins he or she has committed against God. But the Day of Atonement cannot bring about forgiveness of sins against any other person until one goes to the person one has hurt and speaks healing words.

While this is certainly a hard thing to do, at least for me, I welcome the yearly opportunity and reminder.

Therefore if I have hurt you in any way through my comments (or lack of) or through clumsiness, I hope you will accept my apology and forgive me.

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 1)

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 2)

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 3)

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 3)


The third and fourth phrases Rabbi Riemer encouraged people to say more often were “How are you?” and “What do you need?”. Rabbi Telushkin explains that by asking these questions we take into account the person we are addressing as an individual, and not in their relation to us.

Conversely at present in France, people tend to say “tu vas bien?” which more or less corresponds to “you’re fine?”. This leaves very little room for the person we are talking to to say no and explain what is wrong. Unwillingly we are sending the message that we just want to be polite and go on with our own life without taking the risk of being disturbed by something we might not want to hear.

I find the second sentence more difficult to apply in my everyday life -except when dealing with people I am close to – but maybe this is because I am not trying hard enough.

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 1)

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 2)

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 2)


The second thing Rabbi Riemer encouraged his congregants to say more often is “I love you”. To make his point Rabbi Telushkin narrates the following story:

Once, a man stood at the grave of his wife following her funeral. After
some time had passed the Rabbi who conducted the service gently tried to coax
the grieving widower back to his car.
“You don’t understand, Rabbi,” the man wept. “I loved her.”
“I know you loved her,” the rabbi responded, “but you really should go home
now and try to rest.
“But I loved her, Rabbi” the man continued. “I loved her…and once, I almost
told her.”

Of course this is exaggerated and meant to make us smile. However Rabbi Telushkin reminds us that it is important to utter these simple words every now and again to the people who are dear to us.

I once read of someone who always made sure he and his wife had not quarelled – or had made ammends if they had argued – before he left his home. He emphasized that we never know what the future had in store and he didn’t want to feel sorry for the rest of life in case anything happened to her.

This struck me as a very sound piece of advice and one that we can extend to parents, children and close friends.

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 1)

Pre-High Holidays Musings (part 1)


As a way to prepare for the High Holidays, I re-read Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well by Rabbi Telushkin last Shabbat. I unfortunately believe that, in this area, there is always room for improvement, at least as far as I am concerned.

After dealing with the power of speech and Jewish law on this topic, Rabbi Telushki devotes a chapter to “words that heal”. He cites Rabbi Riemer and a sermon he once delivered on Yom Kippur asking his congregants to be careful about what they say to others. He urged them to use four simple phrases more often in their every day dealings with their fellow men. Rabbi Telushkin then suggests we add another one.

The first sentence is to say “thank you” more frequently. This reminded me of an anecdote I read in a parshah commentary by Rabbi Sacks a couple of weeks ago.

Because of his functions, Britain’s chief rabbi and his wife regularly give dinner parties. Obviously when these visitors leave they thank their hosts. Yet once a guest also asked to be taken to the kitchen to thank the people who had made and served the food. This unusual guest was no other than John Major, Britain’s former Prime Minister. He may have been less charismatic than his predecessor but he was obviously a man who did not believe it was below him to express gratitude.

Every day we come across a lot of people who do things for us – whether they are relatives, friends, colleagues, cleaners… Thanking them is easy, takes very little time and contributes to making the world a better place, even if it is in a very modest way.

Action vs Kvetching: Update


Some of you may remember my Action vs Kvetching post where I complained that French civil servants would now get fewer days off for the Jewish holidays.

At the time I sent a few emails round. Apparently, someone else had noticed this and had brought it to the attention of the Minister in charge of Civil Service. Thus I got an email today from the French Chief Rabbinate with an attachment from the Ministry of Civil Service which rectified the previous regulation. We will definitely get two days for Shavout and Rosh Hashanah.

Action vs Kvetching


Dear readers, you nearly got a kvetching post where I lamented the fact that the French administration changed the rules concerning – changed as in “cut down” – the days non-Christian civil servants like myself can take off work for their own religious holidays. But then I was interrupted by a phone call and have not had time to resume the post.

Therefore I decided not to go into the boring details here but to send emails to the Chief Rabbinate and a few Jewish organisations instead. I realize that, between the Chagim and Shabbat, this is not a perfect time yet I was so irrate I felt I wanted to do something about it.

I don’t plan to post a full weekly review tomorrow as this blog, along with most of the other blogs I read, has been quiet this week however I still can’t resist sharing a few links.

Making our Days Count: Thoughts on Counting the Omer by rabbi Marc D. Angel

Time to uncover the matzahs, a question raised by Mrs.S.

Bitter to Sweet Radish Salad, Leora shares more recipes than she announces