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Rosh HaShanah

Elul is the Hebrew month that precedes the High Holidays (Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur). Some say that the Hebrew letters that comprise the word Elul – aleph, lamed, vav, lamed – are an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” a verse from Song of Songs that means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Most often interpreted as love poetry between a man and a woman, the phrase also reflects the love between God and the Jewish people, especially at this season, as we assess our actions and behaviors during the past year and hope for blessings in the coming year.

Several customs...

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The bimah is the heart of a temple's sanctuary – a gathering place for life cycle events, the focus of our High Holiday worship rituals, and the site that draws us together when we seek comfort from pain.

In 2007, I was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. In my case, it has lived up to its name, and has progressively weakened my body from the waist down, leaving me wheelchair bound. With the loss of my mobility, I also lost the ability to be called for an aliyah, to see the open Torah scroll, to participate in Selichot services, and to join with...

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As a teenager, I would sit on my bedroom floor listening to old records of Belgian singer-songwriter, poet, and performer Jacques Brel. I didn’t need to keep a journal, because his lyrics wove together everything I felt at the time. Brel had a fire within, and his anger, longing, passion, and truth blazed through every word he sang. His music, raw and real, transformed and fed my soul; it informed and shaped who I am today. 

In 1968, Brel’s music was brought to America as a musical revue, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, with the songs translated into English....

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I’ve often been taught that as the people of Israel, named after our forefather, we are meant to struggle with God. It just never occurred to me that could include the struggle to remain upright.

I recently asked a number of rabbis why we stand during certain prayers during worship. They told me:

“We stand in order to show respect to God.”

“Standing helps us to highlight the central parts of the service.

“Standing is actually the norm from a period when services were much shorter. We’ve since added in sitting parts.”

“Standing brings us physically...

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The new year is a time associated with revitalization, a chance for new beginnings, the opportunity to create healthier habits and stronger relationships – and for Jews, the new year comes not once but twice a year.

As summer days draw to a close and fall’s first gusts blow through the air, we celebrate Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year, and one week later, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. These holy days, arguably the most important in the Jewish calendar, offer the opportunity to revisit the year that has passed and take stock of the way we have engaged with the world in the...

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