Yom Kippur children’s service 5778

ב׳׳ה


Good morning, friends! How many of you remembered to bring back your kippot today?

Great! And does anyone remember why I wanted you to bring the kippot back today???

Yes! Because they are bright white in the middle.

Your new kippot are bright white to remind you that the soul you received from Gd is pure. It is, as the Great Chasidic Masters said, like this clear pane of glass … it can allow Gd’s Love and Light, Joy and Happiness to shine through you to all the other people around you.
(shine flashlight through window)

Now, a few minutes ago, all together, we read a list of mistakes that each of us may have made this past year. What do you think happens to our clean souls when we make a mistake? Any guesses?

Well… mistakes put a smudge on our clean souls… So who can think of a mistake that someone might have made this year? Can you name any of the ones we said earlier?
(add smudge for each mistake named)

Oh my goodness, friends, look at what has happened to our pure soul with all those mistakes!! Are we able to share Gd’s Light with others when we are covered with all those mistakes?
(attempt to shine light)

And sometimes, after we make mistakes, we say mean things about ourselves, and you know what that does? It just adds more dirt! That’s not helpful!!
(smudge again)

It’s got to be really hard to get around and be happy with all that dirt on our souls!
(try to look thru window to walk)

So what should we do????

What would you do with the window?

Yes! We would clean the window! And just like the window, we can clean our souls. In fact, that is the process we are here to complete today on Yom Kippur. Our Tradition tells us there are three Jewish activities we can use to clean our souls — Teshuva, Tefillah, and Tzedakah.
(show them 3 bottles)

Can anyone tell me what Teshuva, or Tefillah, or Tzedakah is?

Teshuvah is a Hebrew word that means “turn” … it is about looking inside ourselves, regretting our mistakes, and deciding that we don’t want to make those mistakes again.

Tefillah, as we said earlier in the service, is prayer. It is a chance to tell Gd we are sorry for our past mistakes and to ask Gd to help us not make mistakes in the future.

Tzedakah is giving to others, right? It’s what we do when we put coins in our Tzedakah Box and donate it to charity.

Now, who wants to help me show what happens when we engage in Tesuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah? To help, you have to choose which activity you would do.
(kids spray window with one of three bottles, I wipe)

Wow! Look at that, friends!! Our window is clean… and the same thing happens with our souls. We can clean them off from our previous mistakes and once again be able to share more Love and happiness with others.  And without all that dirt, we are less likely to make mistakes.

So, if you can think of any mistakes that you’ve made in the last year, and if you haven’t said you’re sorry, then today is your chance to apologize and ask Gd to help you do better in the next year, so that you can share more Love with your friends and family.

 
 
 
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hopefully it’ll go as well as Rosh Hashanah!!
g’mar chatimah tovah, jen

Or Hatzadik 

ב׳׳ה


 
Or Hatzadik means “The Light of the Righteous” and . . . it feels like an appropriate day to share a song that I’ve appreciated for a number of years — Or Hatzadik by Yosef Karduner.   

Praying righteous people of every race, nation, and religion shine Light that will help us all find our way to lasting peace and prosperity that can be shared by all people, jen 
 

And, after we dance with tambourines???

ב׳׳ה

 

 
Jewish Tradition commands us each year to celebrate Passover as people who were actually freed from Egypt. It prompts us to look at the world around us and ask such questions as: 

What is my Mitzrayim?
 
To what am I enslaved?
 
What things, people, activities, habits, thoughts, emotions or biases prevent me from accessing my holiest self and offering Gd’s compassion and mercy to myself and to others?

 

And I’ve been thinking . . . if we are to see ourselves as people who actually fled Egypt and crossed the Sea to dance with Miriam and the other women as they played tambourines . . . ought we not take the rest of that Journey from slavery to freedom with the Israelites?  

Why not “walk” the 49 days to stand at that holy mountain, to feel the earth rumble, to see the lightening flash, to hear the Aleph spoken from within the silence, and to experience the awe and wonder of Torah’s revelation??

Of course, we can’t actually put ourselves in the desert thousands of years ago to spend 49 days wandering with the ancient Israelites and learning to have faith in the Holy One.  So, how can we get to that mountain?

Jewish Tradition teaches that we have to prepare ourselves spiritually. We need to spend some time after Passover trying to move ourselves away from the things that enslave us and toward the Holy One of Unity.

Maybe that spiritual preparation happens with a therapist. Maybe it happens in daily meditation or the chanting of prayers. Maybe yoga or exercise is our time to find clarity and reconnect. Maybe we count the Omer each night and engage in a 49-step journey of personal refinement through the emotional attributes of the Sefirot. Maybe we study Moses Cordovero’s ethical treatise on living as a likeness of our Creator, Tomer Devorah (available free from a link here).

The specifics of the process can be particular to each individual, but some process needs to happen if we want to encounter Gd’s presence at Sinai on Shavuot. … Just as Gd didn’t part the Sea until Nachshon, who couldn’t swim and was afraid of the water, was nearly submerged, we can’t expect Gd to give us the gift of revelation if we don’t prepare ourselves by making the journey…

praying our paths reveal blessings and our journeys lead us Home, jen
 
 
 

Hanukkah, The Force, & 2017

ב׳׳ה

“I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.”

meditative chant of Chirrut Imwe, Guardian of the Jedi Temple in Jedha City, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

This week, my 12-year-old son told me he had realized the story of the Maccabees is like the story of the rebels in Star Wars, and that realization led him to start thinking that the true miracle of Hanukkah was that a small group of rebels could defeat a mighty Empire.

I told my son he was correct that the Maccabees’ victory was the real miracle of Hanukkah, and I explained that this connection he had begun to understand between the Maccabees and the Star Wars rebels was why I had always encouraged his love of Star Wars… to help me raise him to be a Jew!!

Faith in The Power greater than ourselves that flows through the universe –regardless whether we call it The Force, or Gd, or The Unity, or any of the thousand other inadequate names– can give us the strength and courage to struggle to create a better future… to fight for what is most just, not only for ourselves but for everyone.  And THIS is why I wanted to raise my son as a Jew and as a fan of the Rebels in Star Wars… so that in his life, when he sees people acting as bullies or sees a situation that is unjust, he will have the faith, strength, and courage of conviction to stand up for himself and others.

We enter this year of 2017 on the same evening that we light eight candles for Hanukkah — may we carry the Light and Holiness of our fully lit menorahs with us into the new year. And, whatever the future brings, may we find strength, peace, and courage in knowing we are One with a Force much greater than ourselves!

with blessings, jen

Live with Joy NOW

ב׳׳ה

We’ve been celebrating Sukkot, the Jewish fall harvest festival.  It is a time when we build a sukkah, or temporary shelter, in which we dwell for seven days.  The sukkah reminds us both of the ancient Israelites who wandered the desert and of the Jewish farmers in Canaan who dwelled in temporary shelters near their fields during the fall harvest.  

But, as Rabbi Alan Lew explains, the sukkah has another purpose — to remind us of “the illusory nature of all houses” and the fact that “Nothing can save us from death.”   This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation at 270 (Little, Brown 2003).   

And what is it we Jews are to do as we dwell in this reminder of our mortality?   Invite our family, friends, and neighbors to join us, and celebrate with a joy greater than at any other holiday.   

Because there’s nothing like death to remind us to live today — NOW, at this very moment — with JOY — and SHARE that joy with others!!

shavua tov, a good week, to all, jen

My New Year Plan

ב׳׳ה

The Plan 
To love with a love too great to fathom, to laugh with a joy heretofore unimagined, to dance through the fire and rise from the ashes, greater than any phoenix mythology fashioned… this is my journey, my quest, my crusade, to embody the grandeur of the plan my Gd made.  

May this New Year be — for all of us — good, sweet, and filed with peace, love, and blessings!
jen

Shabbat shalom!!

ב׳׳ה

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I took that picture Wednesday evening at the local park where my son meets another synagogue member to practice shofar for Rosh Hashanah services.   It’s hard to believe Rosh Hashanah is only 16 days away!  Between getting back into the swing of school (secular and religious) and planning/preparing for the Holy Days, the last month has flown by. 

At some point in the next 16 days I need to spend more time assessing who I am, where I’m meeting my potential, and where I’m falling short — the annual Cheshbon HaNefesh, or accounting of the soul — so that I will be ready to re-set my priorities for the coming year.   It’s not an easy task (and sometimes it’s not a fun task!!), but the only way we can improve is by being honest with ourselves about who and where we are today.  

But that’s not a task for tonight! 

Tonight I’m going to hit “pause” to stop everything that makes life hectic.   I’m going to play Legos with my kids, race our remote control cars, and maybe take a walk.  I’m going to order pizza for dinner and curl up with them to watch a movie or play a game.  I’m going to stop “doing”… stop “trying”… stop “becoming”…  and instead I’m just going to BE in each precious moment with them, and I’m going to truly enjoy them for who each of them is today. 

If you’ve never tried hitting “pause” to share some time with those you love, I encourage you to try it.   You just might find, as I have, the wisdom in Ahad Ha’am’s saying: “More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”   

Shabbat shalom, jen