Ten Minutes of Torah: Kol Nidrei


In Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, at the beginning of their first date, Woody asks Annie for a first kiss. As he explains it, he knows both of them will be thinking about it all through the night so wouldn’t it be better to get it out of the way and then enjoy the evening?

I think something similar happens on Kol Nidre as we listen to this most beautiful of melodies, asking God to forgive our shortcomings and transgressions. After the Kol Nidre chant is finished, traditionally – and included in the Mishkan HaNefesh pilot – we feature a verse from Numbers 14:20 wherein God says “I forgive you.”

At first glance, this verse seems strangely misplaced. We just asked that our vows be released and our failures forgiven. The service literally has just begun. The observance of Yom Kippur is barely started. And God says, “Okay. I forgive you.” Talk about anticlimactic! It would be understandable if we said, “Great. Let’s go home before God changes God’s mind!

What is God – Part 7 – God as Rulemaker

Every year we pray that “our Father, our King” will write us into the Book of Life. Last time, we talked about God as Parent. Let’s look this time at the metaphor of God as “the Rule-Maker.”

All of the Abrahamic religions have, at their core, a set of rules that strict adherents will follow. (In Judaism, we are supposed to be able to count 613 of these.) In theory, God has given us, the children of Abraham, the Law, and we are required to follow it. In some versions, we are rewarded if we follow these rules and punished if we don’t. Many non-Jews find it difficult to understand Reform Judaism’s lack of focus on reward and punishment. “Why,” they ask, “would you do what is Good, if not to be allowed into Heaven or to avoid eternal damnation?” I have often said that this is one of the main reasons there are so few Jews – we made a major marketing mistake in not promising eternal bliss in exchange for observing mitvot!

Meet The Fitness Granny – Sandy Kurtz

Sandy Kurtz explains her story of good fitness at any age on her website

I hope that my experience will encourage you to begin your own journey toward fitness.
Please read the blogs on my website Fitnessgranny.com, every day and look at the recipes and fitness tips there for you.
Adapt my experience and methods to what you need to move from where you are to where you want to be.
And now something about my life and why I am doing this.

I am at this writing seventy seven years old.

About four years ago I had inflammation under the bursa which was painful and limited my ability to walk. I was limping around in constant pain so I went to the chiropractor who diagnosed my condition. She worked with me for two years to get rid of the inflammation.

Temple Sholom’s Meatless Monday: Let’s take this dip to the next level!

Have I ever mentioned that Pinterest is both the best and worst thing that ever happened to me? It’s true, and I doubt I’m the only one who feels that way. I don’t even want to admit how much time I can spend there on what is supposed to be just a quick visit. I saw somewhere (maybe even on Pinterest) the following statement: for every diet plan on Pinterest there is at least two delicious dessert recipes. It really is a very accurate statement. For me it isn’t really the dessert recipes that trip me up, because I have to be in a specific mood to attempt baking, but rather it’s the ooey gooey cheesey recipes that get me to ignore my diet and pin away for future use.

Tisha B’Av and the Spirit of Chayim’s Violin

Very rarely would a person walk the streets of Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av (the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av) and hear the sweet Kabbalat Shabbat niggun (melody) of:

Zamru Adonai b’kinor, b’kinor v’kol zimrah.

“Praise Adonai with harp, with harp and voice of song.”

Psalm 98

Yet from under an open tent on the outdoor grounds of a nature museum in Jerusalem, these words wafted gently over a mourning city. On Tisha B’Av, we commemorate the many calamanities that befell our people, especially aching over the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. A week ago, I sat on cushions in this large open tent and listened to the chanting of Eicha (Lamentations) interspersed with modern poetry. Afterward, I raised my voice with others in the singing of kinot (dirges). The vivid images of the destruction of Jerusalem and the brokenness of the people who dwelled there inspired those around me to share spontaneous reflections and meditations on shattered souls. An older man shared a story that his uncle once told him when he was a boy.

What is God – Part 6 – God as a Metaphorical “Helper”

Before addressing this new topic, let’s take a moment to review where we have been. Some of you will see God as a purposive entity, one who monitors events in our lives and acts accordingly. I, and probably some of you, think of God as a metaphor to help us explain and, possibly act upon, our experiences of transcendent mystery. So far, we have talked about metaphors of God as “Creator,” Almighty, Shaddai, Source, Mind, Will. And we have explored images of God as “Holy,” Glory, Kavod, Harmony.

Kendra in Israel! #4

Milat Hayom: Hag

Word of the Day: Holiday

This past Tuesday was Tisha B’av. Not exactly a holiday. Actually it’s a taanit (fast day). I have always wanted to be in Israel for a holiday. To experience what it is like for a whole country to celebrate (or mourn) together. This was as close I have ever come. I have observed Tisha B’av in the past, but only at camp since it always falls during the summer months. At camp there is a familiar ritual. We use a Torah scroll to represent each of the major events that we mourn on Tisha Bav (the destruction of the temple, expulsion from Spain, etc.) We walk around slowly in a circle and sing the song “By the waters of Babylon, we laid down and wept, and wept for thee Zion…” Though the subject matter is serious, it still gives me the giggles to think about this ceremony, somewhat devoid of meaning in absence of a strong connection to the events.

Gan Shalom at The Hallmark

Mitzvah Mitzvah Read all about it!. The children took an afternoon field trip to perform for the senior citizens at Hallmark Senior Living Center.

Temple Sholom’s Meatless Monday: Leave the Chicken – Take the Salad

I spent the Fourth of July holiday with my family in Saint Louis. It was so nice to get out of the city for a few days and be around family. My aunt is a great cook, and I always look forward to nights when we stay in for dinner, because her food never disappoints. She is a big fan of Iron Chef Michael Symon and his show television show The Chew, and one night while we were debating dinner she decided to try this recipe out on us. It was a grilled Greek style chicken and a Greek salad. The chicken was good, but for our purposes we will just focus on the salad. It was phenomenal! You know a salad is good when everyone at the table (a table full of pretty serious meat eaters, might I add) goes back for seconds and even thirds. I know I’ve posted a lot of salad recipes lately, and I promise more variety in the next few weeks, but this was just too good not to share!

Tisha B’av: Ancient Day of National Mourning

This year, the sacred and solemn day of Tisha B’av (the Ninth of Av) falls tonight (July 15) and tomorrow. The day commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, as well as many other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish People. Many Jews fast for a full twenty-four hours (as on Yom Kippur) and mourn the passing of the Temple. The biblical book of Lamentations is sung as a dirge. It is a dark day. Nevertheless, the day has a hopeful side in that, from Tisha B’av we start counting off the seven weeks that lead to the New Year. Tisha B’av is a sad day, but it is also a day of hope.

Over the last one hundred and fifty years Reform Jews have often chose not to commemorate Tisha B’av. In the beginning, since Reform Jews did not look to at the ancient Temple as something they wished to restore, the day did not make sense. In more recent times, feeling sadness at a time when the State of Israel is so robust appeared unreflective of reality. Even so, many Reform Jews appreciate the sadness of the day and are more willing to consider its importance as a day of somber reflection.

Although Temple Sholom has no scheduled activities for Tisha B’av, we hope you will consider participating in one of the many community opportunities that are available. Our neighbor, Anshe Sholom will be offering services and a check of the Chicago Jewish News website will provide other ideas.

We are told by the ancient Rabbis that the First Temple was destroyed because of idolatry and the Second because of gratuitous hatred between Jews. I no longer worry about idolatry but the gratuitous hatred is still a threat. So I pray that, on this Tisha B’av, we can remember how important it is to befriend each other and honor the divinity within.