There are times when 1 picture is worth 1000 words …

There are times when 1 picture is worth 1000 words …

Day 232. The Pilgrimage

Last night (at sundown) was the first night of Passover; and Jews the world over gathered with family, extended family and friends to celebrate the first of two Seder passovermeals.  The cooking goes on for days and the night goes on forever (if you’re observant).

It is a night of much food and much prayer.  It isn’t unusual to still be sitting at the table at 10:00 or 11:00 pm.  It’s also a time of major, and I mean MAJOR, clean up.  All food not designated kosher for passover MUST be disposed of.  Every pantry, every cupboard has to be emptied.  Same with the refrigerator.

The kitchen has to be scrubbed, from top to bottom.  As in, pretend it’s an operating room, kind of scrubbed.  And everything in it, as well.  As in the stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, Cuisinart, mixer, you name it.  Lots of families (not mine) have separate china, cutlery and glassware for passover.  And the ultra orthodox even have separate kitchens.

Oy!

Like I said, my family was not, and is not, observant.  We did always gather together for a huge, family meal.  One night at my maternal grandmother’s, the second at my father’s.  Which was wonderful.  It was always tons of fun.  But that was it.

I went to art school with a girl whose family were ultra, ultra orthodox.  Her parents used to make a pilgrimage of a Continue reading

Day 69. Special Ceremonies

Yesterday I wrote that I was on my way to Kingston, Ontario for a family ‘do’.  It’s my cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah, which is this morning.  I’ll be heading over to the synagogue, shortly.  Which means I won’t be able to tell you how she did.  I have no doubts that she’ll be terrific.  She’s a great kid.  A wonderful, loving, bright girl who works and studies hard.  She’s always done well in school, and continues to.  So no worries for her, for today.

While Jewish boys have to have a bar mitzvah when they turn thirteen, it’s not a ‘must for girls.  Not a hard and fast rule. I never had one.  They weren’t all that fashionable back then, not that I would have paid attention to that.  If I’d wanted one, I would have said so.  I didn’t.  But it is much more common now. The other difference is,  girls have their bat mitzvahs at twelve.  I have no idea why.

That they have them at all is quite a break in tradition, actually. Jewish women have always been prohibited from participating directly in religious ceremonies.  But I guess there must have been some militant females in the late 19th century (early feminists), because many Jewish communities began commemorating girls turning twelve, with a ceremony.  A bat mitzvah.

The first in recorded history took place in the United States, in 1922, when Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan performed the ceremony for his daughter, Judith; and she was allowed to read from the Torah.  And while this didn’t come close to the complexity of a bar mitzvah, it is significant none the less, because it Continue reading

Day 51. Solemn Holiday

“And this shall be a law to you for all time:  in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall pain yourself and do no work at all…For on that day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all that you have done wrong — before God you will be clean.”  Leviticus 16:29030

So it is described in the Torah. 

Today is Yom Kippur.  Actually it began last night, at sunset; and it continues until nightfall, tonight.  For Jews the world over, it is the holiest day of the year.

Yom Kippur is the day when we are supposed to fast, and spend most of the day in synagogue, in intensive prayer.  The day we atone and ask for forgiveness, for all the wrongs we have committed against God, and each other, during the past year.  The hope, at the end of the day, is that we’ve been forgiven.

For many, Yom Kippur is the only holiday they observe, the only time they go to synagogue.  It is that significant. In fact, fasting and abstaining from work of any kind, are only a part of what it means to observe Yom Kippur.  We are also not supposed to wash, bathe, use cosmetics, deodorants, perfume, etc. Technically, we’re not even supposed to wear leather shoes.  And, needless to say, sex is on the forbidden list, as well.

Why?  So nothing distracts us from ‘contemplation’.  This is a day of contemplation, thinking of and acknowledging our wrong-doing; and praying for forgiveness.  To truly ‘reflect’ we have to Continue reading