Rosh Hashanah Prayer

We have just celebrated yet another Rosh Hashanah, and as we have just entered a new year, I thought I would take the opportunity to start blogging again! 🙂 I had some of those high and inspired moments during the prayer in the synagogue on the mornings of Rosh Hashanah, and I remember thinking afterwards that I should share this on my blog, – so here we go!

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Our Rosh Hashanah table this year

Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Jewish fall high holidays, and it comes after a month of spiritual preparation, where we as a people and as individuals draw closer to God. We hear the Shofar-blows as wake-up-calls to remember why we are here, who we belong to, where we came from and where we are headed.

Then we get to Rosh Hashanah, to the feast of Trumpets. This is a two day holiday which is largely spent in prayer at the synagogues. And there is something so special about liturgical prayers, – it links us all together in such an amazing way! The depth of these prayers, these scriptures and songs, fills my heart and gets me to feel so excited about being alive and being a part of THIS!

At our synagogue we had several services going on simultaneously. Such a large part of Am Yisrael, the people of Israel, come out for this, that we need to expand. So as we came in, some people who had started earlier, were praying downstairs, and we heard their shofar-blows and singing. Later, those of us upstairs split up into two groups, and we went downstairs to continue with the second half of the service there, but we could still hear the prayer going on upstairs.

And then to think of the fact that all over Jerusalem, all over Israel, people are praying these same prayers at this holy, set apart time! And in different time zones in different locations, Jews all over the world are praying these exact same prayers, in the same language on this special holiday! Wow! I am thankful to be alive, and to get to spend my life taking part in these types of experiences!

Just listen to some of these prayers:

Remember us for life, O King who desires life, and write us in the book of life – for your sake, o God of life! King, Helper, Savior, Shield: Blessed are You, LORD, Shield of Abraham!

And so may Your name be sanctified, LORD our God, through Israel Your nation and Jerusalem Your city, and Zion, the dwelling place of Your honor…

In the book of life, blessing, peace and prosperity, and good decrees, salvations and consolations may we and all Your people the house of Israel be remembered and written before You for a good life, and for peace. Blessed are You, LORD, who blesses His people Israel with peace.

AND YOU ARE KING -THE LIVING, EVERLASTING GOD!

Oh, how our voices went upwards together as we cried out:

This day, may You strengthen us…

This day, may You bless us…

To join ones voices together with the ones in the same room, hearing the people above, below, the people in the neighboring synagogue, hearing Shofar-blows all over Jerusalem, – it is a quite heavenly experience! When all these houses of prayer are filled to the brim, with hardly any standing room left even! What a privilege to get to take part in it! To actually have a seat in the midst of it!

And then we prayed together:

As is written: I shall bring them to My holy mountain, and I shall have them rejoice in My house of prayer; their offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted, desired on My altar, for My House will be called a house of prayer for all peoples…

How exciting it is to be alive! And the year we have just entered is 5777. So many sevens! A number symbolizing perfection. And the letter for the number 5 in Hebrew, is Hey, which is often used for HaShem, the God of Israel. He is Perfect, – over and over again! Always! May that be proclaimed wide and far this year!

I find myself having high expectations for this year. May we all faithfully take our parts in the great things that are happening in our time!

 

 

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The wisdom of asking questions

Asking questions is something that is very encouraged in Jewish tradition and culture. We see this already in Abrahams relationship with God, – he asks questions, and it is acceptable and encouraged. You want to raise your children to be critical thinkers, not to just receive and accept whatever they are told without thinking for themselves.

Kite flying during chol hamoed Pesach

Kite flying during chol hamoed Pesach

We have an eight year old and a ten year old here in our home, – and boy, do they ask questions! Of all kinds! Our daughter will very often at night, when I have prayed with her as she is going to bed, quickly turn to me saying: – Can I ask you something? And of course, I say yes, as I am trying to prepare for the coming question. Often it is just something little, like: – What are you going to do now? Where are you going to be? How long do you think you’ll stay up? But then all of a sudden she asks: – Imma, do you believe in hell?? Eh…. good night and sweet dreams to you too!

And then the other day, she was wondering: -Why is water wet?? We actually googled that one, and found that many others had asked the same question, and the answer is that “wet” is how you describe the feeling of water. So there you go! You’re welcome.

the kite high up in the air

the kite high up in the air

Now at Pesach the whole thing of asking questions is part of our rituals. There are standardized questions that we all ask and answer, and we hear about different types of children, of whom the saddest type is the one who doesn’t know to ask. This year we talked about the fact that somehow the one asking the question may in certain ways be wiser than the one providing the answer. I gave the reasoning that the one asking the question is openminded and ready to learn, while the one answering, may have more of an attitude of “having arrived” and not seeing the need to keep on moving forward and learning. Then one of the children added; – and the one giving the answer, may even have the wrong answer…

So, people, let’s keep asking questions. Let’s keep thinking and seeking and learning and growing! It is OK to come up with answer too of course, as long as we keep an open mind to learn more about the subject.

Enjoying Pesach

The weeks leading up to Pesach are always very much influenced by the fact that they are the weeks leading up to Pesach. In addition to work and all the normal parts of life, you take on this huge project of sorting through all your belongings and cleaning every little corner in your home. This culminates in the cleaning of the kitchen which comes at the end of it all, – there you scrub your pots until they look brand new, and the same goes for the oven (I am SO thankful that my husband takes care of those parts!).

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

Then I boil everything, – utensils and pots and anything metal. Glas gets to stay, but anything ceramic gets removed and replaced by our Pesach-dishes. All of this we do in order to remove the leaven from our homes. And as I work on it, I try to think of what this symbolizes, – the removal of sin and pride and everything bad from our lives, our hearts.

And then Pesach arrives, and you decide that it is all good enough. The last day before Pesach was devoted to cooking, – in my sparkling clean kitchen and my almost new pots! (And somehow after that it was not all so sparkling clean anymore, but at least there was no leaven…)

Our Pesach table

On erev Pesach we sat around our decorated long dining room table and enjoyed one of the most special evenings of the year together with dear family and friends. I sat there and just soaked it all in. The sights of the candlelight flickering on my children, the sounds of the singing of these familiar and traditional songs, the depth of the content of what we were reading together. I am glad that a Seder Meal takes a long time. Just think of all the preparations that have gone into this! You wouldn’t want it to just fly by!

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. :-)

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. 🙂

By the time the festive meal was served, we were all quite hungry, – so I got tons of complements on the cooking! This is the way to do it folks, – starve your people before feeding them, and they will love your food! 😉 We had the traditional chicken soup with matzaballs, then we had turkey breast and beef, both with their own gravies, mashed potatoes and tzimmes (*which I think was the most popular dish, so I might write a separate post with its recipe), and of course salad and all the parts of the seder-plate, of which of course the sweet charoset was the one that most was eaten from. A good friend brought yummy desserts, one forrest-berry mousse cake and one chocolate mousse cake, – yum and double yum!

Pesach

In the weeks leading up to Pesach I had late nights sorting and cleaning, and I kept waking up really early thinking of what project on my list I was going to try to get to before I was starting work that day. And really, I am the type of person that enjoys that type of thing too. I really really enjoy the results, tidy cabinets, the thought of that I know what I have and where I have it. And now after Pesach arrived, – I have slept soooo well! Long nights, relaxing mornings. No thoughts of what I have to accomplish, – just enjoying time with family and friends. It is lovely!!! There certainly is a time for everything.

Pesach at the pool

We have had good friends from out of town staying with us, and have really enjoyed hanging out with them. Be it over long breakfasts or by the pool in the afternoon or watching a movie in the evening. We also got together with a lot of our friends here in the area for a fun barbecue picnic in a large park here in Jerusalem. Lots of fun! The children get to run around playing with various balls and kites, or just roll around in the grass, while the adults get to sit on picnic blankets and enjoy good food and fellowship. (The kids of course eat too, – but quickly…)

Pesach picnic

Today we have had a wonderful time touring the land together with my in-laws. We visited Shilo and Psagot in the beautiful hills of Samaria. The views of these terraced hills are just breathtaking. And the thought of the depth of history of what has been going on out there is amazing.

Where the tabernacle stood

Where the tabernacle stood

The Tabernacle was in Shilo for 369 years after Joshua brought the Israelites into Israel. So this was the place were the people came to for worship, like they came to Jerusalem after the Temple was built.

a model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

A model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

It was in Shilo, for example, that Hannah came and prayed for a son, and later brought Shmuel there to serve God in the Tabernacle.Pesach trip

They have very well done movies in both Shilo and Psagot, and they have as a common theme that they want to connect you with the Land.

photo 1-83 Once you connect with the Land, it will connect with you. This is an amazing process, and I witnessed it happening in my children today.

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

It was a real privilege to be out there as a three generation family. We are so blessed!photo 3-67

I am glad Pesach is not over yet! I am planning on making the most of every moment of this holiday of freedom and redemption!

Pesach trip

Tu B’Shvat Sameach!

Here we are again at this tiny, little holiday, another new-year of sorts in the middle of the Jewish month, Shvat. The moon is beautiful these nights, I have been noticing. – I just LOVE how the moon and the months grow and get renewed together in the Jewish calendar.

gardening

So, – the name of this little holiday is “Tu B’Shvat”, which literally means “The fifteenth day of the month of Shvat”. It is also called “The new year for the trees”, and this really points to the meaning of the holiday. This is the day from which we start counting the fruit in relation to tithing, which of course was most relevant in the times when we still had a Temple to bring the tithes to. (But it is still the time of the year when we start counting the sabbatical year for the trees, which is coming up, actually.) We are in the middle of winter, the trees have all finished their fruit-bearing season, and it is too early for even the earliest ones to have started yet. So it is a good time to count fruit from.

gardening

This day is celebrated by eating lots of fruits of the trees, – in particular dried fruits as traditionally one did not have all that much fresh fruit during this time of the year. In particular we focus on the seven species, which my name (Te’ena=fig) is one of too. 🙂 (But still, I have to admit, my favorite is dried mangos. ;-))

dried fruit

Another very traditional way of celebrating Tu B’Shvat is to plant a tree. We have done that at times too, like the year when we planted the Almond-tree in our garden. And even though we don´t always plant an actual tree, we just about every year do some gardening in relation to Tu B’Shvat. And this year is no exception.

gardening

Since it is still so early, and we are hoping for more winter still to come, I didn´t want to make a too big investment in the garden yet, but the amount doesn´t really matter. A few new plants. A reason to start digging. Getting a little dirty. Doing something different. Enjoying working in the garden. Oh, it is all so so healthy in every way!

gardening

The children had a really good time with it. There was so much positive energy going around!

dirty knees

Another little tradition we have for this time of the year, is that we like to make a trip out in the mountains surrounding Jerusalem to experience some real nature, and see some almond blossoms. We have not made it out there yet, and the almond trees are actually far from blossoming, as far as I have heard. Hopefully we will make it out there one of those days, and when we do, I will let you know all about it! For now, – Tu B’Shvat Sameach! – Happy Tu B’Shvat!!

What is Hanukkah all about??

We have been counting down days, hours and minutes, – and here we are! It is Hanukkah! The house is all decorated. The gifts are wrapped. The cookies are baked. The fridge is filled to the rim with all kinds of goodies. Life is really, really good.

Hanukkah gifts

I thought that maybe I would take this opportunity to explain the basics of what we are celebrating in Hanukkah, for those who are not as familiar with it. It will not cover everything, of course, as that is impossible in a little blog post. 🙂

Hanukkah cookies

The name “Hanukkah” means “Dedication”, and this refers to the rededication of the Temple. The Greeks had occupied the land of Israel, and forbid anything that had to do with Jewish faith and tradition. They even took over the temple and made it unclean in all kinds of different ways.

Hanukkah cookies

One of the saddest things was that there were Jews who left their faith and people, to join the Greeks and their ways. The Jews who stayed faithful to their Jewish faith and the God of Israel, were the Maccabees. They kept on living faithful Jewish lives in spite of the danger this put them under.

Wrapping Hanukkah gifts

Wrapping Hanukkah gifts

So there was this war going on between the Greeks and the Maccabees. And at one point the Maccabees, lead by Judah the Maccabee and his brothers, were able to recapture the Temple. A newer tradition tells that in the process of cleansing and dedication of the Temple, it was very important to light the Menorah, which of course was lit by oil. They only found a small jar of oil, enough for only one day. But this is where God did yet another miracle; the oil lasted for eight whole days! Enough time to bring new oil.

Hanukkah candles

So the Maccabees were able to light the Menorah and rededicate the Temple, – and they stayed a separate Jewish people, and did not all become part of the Greek occupiers. This is certainly worth celebrating!!

Hanukkah gifts

May we always stay faithful to God and His call to us! And, thinking of the fact that God has said that He will dwell in us, we are in a sense His temple, – let us take this opportunity and rededicate ourselves to Him!

Homemade Hanukkiot

Our Hanukkah-craft-station is definitely being actively used this week as well. And now we have advanced to making Hanukkiot! This is something we do every year, and we keep them all, – so I admit it, we have quite a few.

making hanukkiot

We go out and buy what is needed for this on rosh chodesh Kislev, because the selection in the store is best at that time. But then we keep it until the week before Hanukkah, – and yes, the excitement builds up… -Imma, when are we going to make the hanukkiot??

making hanukkiot

It is really very easy to make a hanukkiah. You just need some sort of base, which you decorate however you choose, and then glue some type of candle-holders to. Our boy will normally choose whatever seems the biggest or longest or something like that. And he likes the jar-theme, reminding us of the fact that it was the jar of oil that was found in the temple, that was used for the miracle. (*He also shares his name with the Maccabee-brother who found this jar of oil…)

making hanukkiotOur girl will normally choose whatever is shiny or glittery… and if that could be combined with pink and purple, then it is just perfect! 😉

making hanukkiot

This year she made a pretty creative one though! She made an aquarium-hanukkiah! It has a square-flask-base, which we filled with water and small plastic fishes. She painted the back of it blue, and decorated other parts of it with shiny “diamonds”…

homemade hanukkiah

Here is the final result. Well, not quite final. Afterwards she found some other small white marbles that she wants to add to it. So I guess it is one of those that will keep changing as we go along…

homemade hanukkiah

And here is the jar-one. He painted the inside of all the small glass ones, so they turned out very nice and colorful, don’t you think? We were not quite sure how to fit one of the little things that actually holds the candle on top of the big jar. But then he saw one of the many CDs we have lying around from our dreidel-making project, and just cut a piece of a CD to glue on top of the big jar! Good to have creative solutions. 🙂

And now our home is enriched with two new hanukkiot…

homemade hanukkiot

And also with more fun memories making them! 🙂

homemade hanukkiot

A Pre Hanukkah Party

Hanukkah is in the air. There is no denying it. We are now only, let me check, – 6 days, 20 hours and 54 minutes away from Hanukkah! I love seeing the decorations and Hanukkiot popping up all over Jerusalem!

Hanukkah is in the airAnd here at home we actually had a little bit of a taste of Hanukkah last night with my parents, because they left early this morning. We have already been playing with the sevivonim (dreidels) for a while.

dreidel gameAnd we have tasted the sufganiot (doughnuts) already. But yesterday we went to the top of the line place, to get the very best for bestemor and bestefar before they had to leave.

getting sufganiot at roladinThey really do have a great selection. I went for an oreo-cream-filled one this time. Yum!!

sufganiot from roladinDon’t tell anyone, – but we even lit the hanukkiot…!! It was like it was the first night already, – except for the blessings. And what did we do as the candles were burning? Yes, we let our prince choose, – and the decision came easily: – We played Monopoly! And guess who won?? The prince himself. It was a good night in every way! hanukkah monopoly nightWe have so enjoyed having the Norwegian grandparents here with us. They really know how to spend good quality time with the children. I have totally lost count on how many games they played together when they were here, – and they even read several long chapter-books together. One of them twice!

reading with bestemor

Now we just spoke with them on the phone, and they have arrived safely back home in Norway. Surreal how fast one travels. It is sad to think of the long distance. I wish it would be easier to pop by each other’s homes and stuff. But really, I am so thankful that my parents come to visit as often as they do, and that we get to spend summers in Norway. We get a lot of time together, and the children and them have established a wonderful relationship, for which I am truly grateful.