Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Brief Hiatus

Due to the Sukkot holiday, I am taking a hiatus from posting simply because of time issues.  However, I'll be back!  In the meantime, check out this awesome Chabad video (and it includes Houston, of course!) to get you into the mood for Simchat Torah!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ten Questions for Ten Days: Parts #9-10

Sorry this is coming so late in the day.  I was swamped at work.

Question # 9 - What small step can I take to begin meaningful change?
Are you starting to feel as though these questions are like therapy-lite?  Where is the Judaism in all of these questions?

Well, Judaism is a religion of action.  Intent is very important too, don't get me wrong, but if you think about it, a lot of Judaism centers around activities and experiences.  You light the candles, you shake the lulav, you immerse in the mikvah, you say out loud a loud, you communicate nicely with your spouse.  Having the right intent gets you halfway there, but you need to act on that intent to make it count.

What Judaism actually cares about, and this is something that the Chabad movement emphasizes very well, is that any positive step counts.  Can't take on all of the observances related to Shabbat cold turkey?  Start by not watching tv while you eat dinner on Friday night.  Can't dive into keeping kosher with a cannonball dive?  Try not eating crabcakes for a week, and reassess afterwards.  Can't totally stop yourself from criticizing your spouse?  Try having a critisicm-free hour.

Every little step counts.  What will your little step be?

Questions #10 - What can I do for my people and the Land of Israel?
We are a unique people.  The Jewish people are a communal people; no matter where you go in the world, if you are in a foreign not knowing a single soul and you walk into a kosher restaurant/synagogue/Jewish center, you will be welcomed with open arms, offered recommendations, invited to people's homes for meals, and more (I know because it's happened to me).  Everything that happens to Jews in one part of the world affects the rest of the world Jewish population.

So given all of this introspection and self-reflection, the final questions asks you what kind of role YOUR link in the Jewish chain of history and peoplehood will play.  What kind of impact will you have on all of us?  How will you defend and support Israel?  How will you stand up to anti-Semitism?  How will you ensure the continuity of the Jewish people?  How will you teach your children?

(all ideas taken from this article by Rabbi Benjamin Blech)

Yom Kippur 5771: the day you begin the rest of your life.

I wish everyone an easy and meaningful fast and a new year filled with love, good health, and (to paraphrase a toast in Georgia, the country) may your needs and wants coincide, always.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ten Days of Awe: Ten Questions - Part #7

Question #7 - What should I pray for?
Hm, now that's a loaded question.  Theoretically, you should give this question a lot of thought before the big day comes.  In the words of the wise Spice Girls, what do you want, what you really really want?  Do you want a new car?  Do you want some new living room furniture?  Do you want to make enough parnassah (income) this year to pay for your kid's tuition without having to seek financial aid?  Do you want good health because you work in a hospital and realize that at the end of the day, you can have all the money in the world and it would do you no good if you're sick?  Do you want to find your soulmate?  A better relationship with your mom?

What are your priorities?

(ideas taken from this article by Rabbi Benjamin Blech)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

9/14 Something Special Tuesday update!

Thanks to my husband, I have a new Somethng Crafty for this week.  This just might win the recycling craft award.  This brings Jewish crafts to a whole new level.

If you do this, please send me pictures and I'll post.

Something Special Tuesday: 9/14

Sorry that I missed Something Special Tuesday last week; with all of the Rosh Hashana prep + work, there was just no time allotted for it.  But - we're back this week!  Check it out below:

Something yummy:  When life returns to normal and I won't be cooking Thanksgiving-style meals on a regular basis, I plan on making this taco casserole (kosher, of course!).  And possibly instituting taco night on a weekly basis.

Something spiritual:  Well, check out the Ten Questions for Ten Days posts.  Or anything else on or  Or, and I found this interesting since I have children of my own, read this post about making these holy days meaningful for kids at Beyond BT.

Something crafty:  Ok, all of my creative energy is now being spent in the kitchen.  Sorry.  Come back next week for Sukkah decorations.

Something financial:  Some friends and I initiated a coupon swap.  The idea is that we contribute coupons to an envelope which we pass around to everyone and everyone takes and contributes as much as possible  We're through week 1, so we'll see how this progresses.

Ten Days of Awe: Ten Questions - Part #6

Question #6 - What should I be doing differently this coming year?
You've prayed, you're hopeful, you're optimistic, and you have a dream for the coming year.  What's missing?  YOU.  You need to change some action or behavior or thought process in order to facilitate bringing about the change you desire.  Obviously what you've been doing in the past hasn't been working; what step will you take to change?  Even a teeny tiny step will do.  Why?  Because it's the effort that counts.

(ideas taken from this article by Rabbi Benjamin Blech)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ten Days of Awe: Ten Questions - Part #5

Question #5 - What is my dream for the coming year?
This comes on the heels of the previous question, which asks if you are optimistic about the coming year.  What is your dream?  Is it for world peace?  Is it to buy a house?  Is it for personal growth?  Is it to find a spouse?  What's your goal, what is stopping you from pursuing it, and how can you overcome that barrier?

(taken from this article here by Rabbi Benjamin Blech)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ten Days of Awe: Ten Questions - Parts #1-4

We are now in the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a time of heightened introspection.  Well, heightened is really an understatement; the judgment on each of us that was determined on Rosh Hashana will be sealed on Yom Kippur.  But - there are still ten days of opportunities where we have the ability to change our fates.  The Ten Days of Awe give us the final chance to do true repentance and to do real growth.  This great writer at has ten questions for us to consider during each of the Ten Days.

Question #1 - What should I be grateful for as I begin the New Year?
Life goes by us so quickly that we forget the myriad of things we have to be grateful for: the sunrise every day, our children's laughter, our good health, our sound mind, our parents, our friends, our modern conveniences (hello indoor plumbing!).  My husband and I have a tradition, which we copied from a rabbi and his family who greatly inspired me, to go around the table every Friday night and have each person say what they are grateful for for this past week.  It is important to remember and to say it out loud.

Question #2 - What do I owe G-d for all of the things He's done for me?
Did you get a new job or new opportunity this past year?  Did you meet a new friend who is now your best friend?  Did your kid score well on a standardized test?  Did you find a super bargain at a store for something you love?  Do you owe G-d a simple "thanks" for any of those things?

Question #3 - What can I do to ensure that G-d hears my prayers?
When you converse with someone, what do you do to ensure that they listen to you?  You listen to them first.  Everyone has had those conversations with people where they felt that they totally were not being listened to, and the other person was just talking and talking with no end.  It's the same in our conversation with G-d.  Rav Kook teaches that when we talk, it's through prayer, but when G-d talks, it's through the Torah.  You want to be heard during this Ten Day period?  Then make sure you do some listening (aka studying).

Question #4 - Am I optimistic about the coming year?
Well, in a nutshell, you ought to have something to live for, yes?  Otherwise, it just wouldn't work, right..?  Ergo, you must be optimistic.  Pick a goal for the year, pick a dream - some may call it a "resolution".  Choose to do something for the better, and have hope, faith, and trust that you will be able to accomplish it (with Hashem's help, of course!).

(all questions and ideas by Rabbi Benjamin Blech as presented in this article)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Don't wait, start now!

Every day, with our routine schedules, lunches to pack, meetings to attend, laundry to do, bills to pay, we forget how we have the capability to actually change the world.  Yes - WE have that ability.  A warm smile, a warm meal, an attentive ear - what a simple action can do is open the door to a new world order.  As we launch the new year, think about the power you embody, the people you see every day and the strangers you gloss over, and don't wait for the new year to start changing the world, start today.

Watch this video; it will stay with you forever.

The blog post to rock your month

(month of Tishrei, that is)

I'm not sure that three-day holidays (read: Rosh Hashana and both ends of Sukkot this year) are all they are cracked up to be, but regardless of the logistical challenges they pose, we are supposed to approach them with joy, thoughtfulness, and full-mindedness. 

However, sometimes the logistical challenges can seem overwhelming.

Enter Juggling Frogs and her amazing blog posts.  This blogger has stopped blogging since fall of 2009, but her blog continues to inspire and amaze me.  For three-day holidays like we have this year, she created an extremely handy grid and a lengthy blog post to help you prepare better for these holidays.

Read the full post here.

You can thank me later.