Encouraging Days of Awe

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called hayamim hanoraim, – the days of awe. They are days of repentance, reflection and making things right with God and fellow man. I already wrote about the slichot going on in our city, and in addition there are various other special events during this time. Yesterday evening we were at a concert called “Singing prayers”, with a strong theme of repentance. 

From the concert with Yitzchak Meir last night.

From the concert with Yitzchak Meir last night.

As I feel this special air and atmosphere in Jerusalem these days, I am very encouraged. While people around the world only hear about violence and terror in Jerusalem, there is also this living and thriving people building something great here!

There are Jews who say that they will come on Aliyah to Israel only after the Messiah comes and makes everything right, – well, I am telling you, it is happening, and those of us who are here get to be a part of it!

A photo from the Slichot-tour. One of those timeless photos.

From the Slichot-tour. One of those timeless photos.

Yes, Israel is a secular state, and there are things we would have liked to see different, but if we just open our eyes to the wonderful processes going on here, we have great reason to be encouraged! Where else does the news-person on the radio greet everyone with “May you have your name written in the book of life”? And where else is one invited to prayer at the supermarket (or at IKEA!)? Where else do tens of thousands come out for prayer in the middle of the night?!

Tomorrow night we start Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the whole year, the Day of Atonement. We fast from both food and drink and Israel takes a 25 hour break from regular daily activities. No radio or TV broadcast. The streets that are normally packed with cars are empty, with the exception of people out walking (of children biking) in the middle of the street. There are long prayer services happening from the beginning of Yom Kippur and basically until it’s end, – and they are very well attended!

Even in anticipation of this holy day, I am filled with awe over the sanctification of this time that God has set apart. And to get to be here in the holy city of Jerusalem and pray at that time… What a privilege!

With this I am wishing all of us an easy fast and a meaningful Yom Kippur!

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Slichot in Jerusalem

Last night we had one of those only-in-jerusalem-experiences. We joined with the slichot-prayers, which are prayers for forgiveness leading up to Yom Kippur. And what impressed me the most was the masses of people coming out to this!! We were there from 11 in the evening until 2 in the morning, and our city was absolutely packed with people! There were 400 busloads full of people coming from around the country to take part in this, in addition to all those who were able to come by their own car or public transportation. And this is going on for a month!

Can you see all the buses?

Can you see all the buses?

It was just amazing to see the rivers of people making their way to the Western Wall. And then to see the completely packed plaza at the Western Wall and hear the prayers loud and clear in the middle of the night!

And to think that this is at 1.30 in the morning! #onlyinjerusalem

And to think that this is at 1.30 in the morning! #onlyinjerusalem

We were there together with our son’s class, and as a guide we actually had my husband’s former principal. We walked around and saw beautiful sights of Jerusalem and learnt new things about old places.

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One of the highlights was when we sat on a rooftop in the Old City and sang and prayed slichot-prayers ourselves. – Lord of Forgiveness! We have sinned against You. Have mercy on us! 

New year, new beginnings.

We have just celebrated Rosh Hashanah, which many people call the Jewish New Year. But really, we are celebrating the creation of Adam, not of Avraham, so in a sense it is a New Year for all of humanity!

Pomegranats from our own garden.

Pomegranats from our own garden for Rosh Hashanah.

Either way, it is a great time for new beginnings, so I thought maybe I would take the opportunity to start blogging again. I have missed it, and have written many a blog post in my head, that just never made it to the blog… So here is to hoping for a new start! 🙂

Our Rosh Hashanah table.

Our Rosh Hashanah table.

We had a very good Rosh Hashanah celebration. Of course I really enjoyed the preparations too, – there are so many good times involved! Expectation and preparation, cooking and baking, planning and decorating!

Making Challah napkin rings.

Making Challah napkin rings. The round challot symbolize the cycle of the end of one year and the beginning of a new one.

I very much enjoyed doing a several of these things together with my nine year old daughter this year. She really took ownership and wanted to be involved!

Preparing lots and lots of challot together.

Preparing lots and lots of challot together.

And then as we sit around the decorated table, going through all the traditional blessings and prayers, I try to totally LIVE and be present in the moment. To really taste the apple dipped in honey, and to say each blessing for the new year with intent. I take in the smells and the tastes, looking at the sights of the dear ones around me, friends and family, people so dear to my heart. And you know, to keep it real, it is never all perfect, – however much you prepare, you cannot totally plan how people are going to behave and react. Again a reminder of what LIFE is really all about, – a complex mixture of everything, and our goal is to be able to navigate our own ship with wisdom and love along with the ones who we are to travel together with.

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As I look back on this two-day holiday, I have a lot to be thankful for. So many good memories added to the already abundant collection! Good times and conversations with dear friends, along with yummy cups of coffee or glasses of wine. Time to sit back and play with my children. Good food, and plenty of food. As the host I always seem to have a little worry that there is not going to be enough food, especially when there are two-day holidays like this one. My husband reminds me that we always have way too much, but each time anew I have this little thought that maybe this time will be the first time when we will actually run out of food… But again, – we had so much that we had to start giving away leftovers!

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One of the highlights was being at the synagogue and hearing the Shofar-blasts. On the first day we went somewhere where they invite the children to come to the front and blow their shofars. Ours had been practicing a bit during the month of Elul, and it was a joy to see and hear them taking an active part in the holiday in this way. The biblical name of this holiday is really “The Feast of the Trumpets” (shofars), so no wonder they are central! The shofar blast is meant to be a wake-up-call to repentance and a reminder to make things right with God and fellow man at this time, leading up to Yom Kippur.

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Another special moment was doing Tashlich, which we did on the first afternoon of the holiday. We are blessed to live in Jerusalem, and therefore have the opportunity to go the the Shiloah pool, the ancient water source in the City of David. There we pray the traditional prayers and let go of little rocks into the water, symbolizing a new and fresh beginning. Taking part in these kinds of traditions in such special places at such special times are quite unique experiences, which I feel privileged to be able to have together with my family.

So, with this, I wish all of us a really good new year, full of peace and joy, meaningful learning, health and blessing!