Yom Kippur children’s service 5778


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.


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



There are many truths,
but none of them is Truth,
so the only answer is Love.
We must summon compassion
when we least think we can
and offer it to those
who think that we won’t.
For then bridges are built,
one person to another,
that will carry us all to Heaven.


praying shabbat brings more shalom to us all, jen

my little ukulele experiment


Yes, that’s a ukulele. 

And, yes, I’m learning to play Jewish songs on it to lead family services and Tot Shabbats.  

And, yes, I’m having more fun than should be possible for someone who tried (very, very unsuccessfully!!) over a number of years to learn to play guitar.  

And, yes, I may fail miserably with this little ukulele experiment, but I’m going to have LOTS of fun trying!!!   

You see, over a decade ago, my Rabbi encouraged me to let go of my need to be perfect and to instead embrace the idea that only through trial-and-error would I begin to test the limits of my potential to “become” as an image of Gd.  It took me way too many years to begin living that philosophy, and now that I am, I can’t wait to see what I find to challenge me next!!    

The immense JOY to be found in every day of this Journey — living as a spirit having human experiences, rather than a human having occasional spiritual experiences — never ceases to amaze me . . . jen 

And, after we dance with tambourines???



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

make me a vessel


make me a vessel
shattered apart to be built anew, please make me a vessel who’s worthy of You, who can carry Your Spirit and hand out Your Love, who finds others to help me so we might be enough to counteract all the violence, anger, sadness, and fear swallowing a world too blind to Your Abiding Presence here  
peace and blessings, jen 

Shedding Our “Skin”



When I found “him” . . . 


Antennae unfolded . . . 


Here come the long back legs . . . 


I have been called to shed a skin many times–to change a perspective, an internal barrier that may once have protected me but now serves as a block to growth. I have been called to peel away a persona that simply does not fit the evolving truth of who I am. I have been called not once or twice, but many times to reconsider what I believe to be true, to strip away assumptions, to form a new skin, born of the raw materials of the old one, but somehow different. I have been called to get out of my way and allow newness and grandeur to emerge.

Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar, The Dance of the Dolphin: finding prayer, perspective, and meaning in the stories of our lives, p.88 (Jewish Lights 2001).

This Shabbat, may each of us find the courage to let go of an assumption, to change our perspective, or to reconsider what we believe to be true . . . for though it can be terrifying to shed our “skin,” that shedding is the only way we can free ourselves from the confines of the past and open ourselves to grow into a future in which we are renewed over and over again, in grace and mercy, by the one and only infinite and eternal G-d . . .

May Shabbat bring shalom to all, jen