Will and Glyn invite you to our annual Sukkah Raising! We’ll have a festive “Sukkah Raising” for anyone who wishes to take part in the fun on Sunday, September 23rd, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM, rain or shine! Refreshments will be served.
Our first Sukkah at RavenOak was on the side deck, which later became a roofed over screen porch. That year several seminarians from the School of Theology came over to help with the raising. Last year we were delighted to have two youngsters – Elise and Lucas Carlson help out. But they and their parents went back home to Prague. So who will help with the Sukkah raising this year? Will it be you? Or will we do it by ourselves this year? ~ Will & Glyn
Sukah 2016 & 2017, On the Good earth
What Is A Sukkah?
The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after Yom Kippur. It is quite a drastic transition, from one of the most solemn holidays in our year to one of the most joyous. Sukkot is so unreservedly joyful that it is commonly referred to in Jewish tradition as Z’man Simchateinu Z’mn Simchateinu (in Hebrew), the Season of our Rejoicing.
Sukkot is the last of the Shalosh R’galim (three pilgrimage festivals). Like Passover and Shavu’ot, Sukkot has a dual significance: religious and agricultural. In religious teaching, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif Chag Ha-Asif (in Hebrew), the Festival of Ingathering. In Humanistic Judaism, we emphasize the traditional, agricultural origin.
The word “Sukkot” means “booths,” and refers to the temporary dwellings that we are commanded to live in during this holiday in memory of the period of wandering. The Hebrew pronunciation of Sukkot is “Sue COAT,” but is often pronounced as in Yiddish, to rhyme with “BOOK us.” The name of the holiday is frequently translated “Feast of Tabernacles,” which, like many translations of Jewish terms, isn’t very useful. This translation is particularly misleading, because the word “tabernacle” in the Bible refers to the portable Sanctuary in the desert, a precursor to the Temple, called in Hebrew “mishkan.” The Hebrew word “sukkah” (plural: “sukkot”) refers to the temporary booths that people lived in, not to the Tabernacle.
Building a Sukkah
You will dwell in booths for seven days; all natives of Israel shall dwell in booths. -Leviticus 23:42
In honor of the holiday’s religious origins, we are commanded to dwell in temporary shelters, as our ancestors did in the wilderness. The temporary shelter is referred to as a sukkah (which is the singular form of the plural word “sukkot”). Like the word sukkot, it can be pronounced like Sue-KAH, or to rhyme with Book-a.
The sukkah is great fun for the children. Building the sukkah each year satisfies the common childhood fantasy of building a fort, and dwelling in the sukkah satisfies a child’s desire to camp out in the backyard. The commandment to “dwell” in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one’s meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one’s health permit, one should spend as much time in the sukkah as possible, including sleeping in it.
Building a Sukkah
A sukkah must have three or four, but at least at least two and a half walls covered with a material that will not blow away in the wind. Why two and a half walls? Look at the letters in the word “sukkah” (see the Hebrew letters above): one letter has four sides, one has three sides and one has two and a half sides. The “walls” of the sukkah do not have to be solid; canvas covering tied or nailed down is acceptable and quite common in the United States. A sukkah may be any size, so long as it is large enough for you to fulfill the commandment of dwelling in it. The roof of the sukkah must be made of material referred to as sekhakh (literally, covering). To fulfill the commandment, sekhakh must be something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, or two-by-fours. Sekhakh must be placed sparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough that the stars can be seen, but not so sparsely that more than ten inches is open at any point or that there is more light than shade. The sekhakh must be put on last. Note: You may put a water-proof cover over the top of the sukkah when it is raining to protect the contents of the sukkah, but you cannot use it as a sukkah while it is covered and you must remove the cover to fulfill the purpose of dwelling in a sukkah!
You can buy do-it-yourself sukkah from various sources online, or you can build your own.
It is common practice, and highly commendable, to decorate the sukkah. In the northeastern United States, Jews commonly hang dried squash and corn in the sukkah to decorate it, because these vegetables are readily available at that time for the American holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Many families hang artwork drawn by the children on the walls. Building and decorating a sukkah is a fun family project, much like decorating the Christmas tree is for Christians.
So, if you’re not busy building your own Sukkah on October 1st, come on over and help us build ours!
Why Do We Blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana?
For every five Jews there are ten reasons for blowing the Shofar on Erev Rosh Hashana. The Orthodox have their reasons, the Conservatives have their reasons, the Reformed have their reasons, the Reconstructionists have their reasons. Everyone has their reasons! For Humanistic Judaism, Rosh Hashana is a time of looking backwards and looking forwards. Backwards at the year we have just finished, forward at the new year to come. A good time for reflection. A good time for commitment. And so there are a few reasons why we Humanistic Jews blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana.
1. Because our Ancestors blew the Shofar on Rosh Hashana!
The attitude of “We’ve always done it that way!” is not always helpful, we know. Clinging to the past can be a problem, if it gets us stuck there and prevents us from enjoying the present or moving into the future. But “Tradition” is not all bad! It helps us remember who we are, where we came from, and the generations who lived and died in this world so that we might also live and die, and pass on a heritage to generations yet to come.
In the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra – and He spoke), our Ancestors proclaimed:
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, saying:
In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest unto you, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns, a holy convocation. Ye shall do no manner of servile work; and ye shall bring an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
and in the Book of Numbers (Bamidbar – in the Wilderness):
And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have a holy convocation: ye shall do no manner of servile work; it is a day of blowing the horn unto you
You want the chapter and verse for these proclamations? Better you should look it up yourself!
As our ancestors did before us, so we do, and so shall our children shall do after us. It is a way of remembering that we are Jews, and proclaiming that memory to the ages.
2. It is our Annual Alarm Clock!
From the end of the High Holidays to their beginning, we go through all the rest of the year about our business of living. And we do not always remember the important things. Especially, we may grow lax in the three principles of Rosh Hashana: Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah.
Teshuvah (Returning): A return to our true selves, an honest self-evaluation of the life we have lived during the past year.
Tefillah (Repentance): Being honest about our ethical failures, what can we do in the year ahead to improve?
Tzedakah (Charitable Giving): Giving of ourselves to others in need is a moral obligation, and by offering hope and healing to others, we ourselves become better persons.
Of course we intend to practice Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah every day of the year! But, sometimes we forget, sometimes we fall asleep. The Shofar is our alarm clock.
3. It Makes a lot of Noise!
The ending of the old year is a time of celebration! And what is a celebration without a lot of Noise? On The fourth of July we shoot off fireworks. On Decmeber 31, the civil New Year, we blow horns and employ noisemakers of all kinds. On Erev Rosh Hashana, we blow the Ram’s Horn! For our ancient Ancestors, back before our Jewish ones, all this noise on New Year’s Eve had another important purpose: to scare away any evil spirits that might slip into the world through the crack between the old year and the new. Could this be helpful today? Who knows? It couldn’t hurt!
4. It Honors the King!
Okay, today most of us do not have a king. But our Ancestors did. And whenever the King showed up, trumpets were blown. Today we blow the Shofar to honor what is regal in every human being!
5. The Primal Scream!
Some people say the Shofar sounds like a primal scream out of the depths of time. And they are right. It is the scream of humanity born of fear, hope, rage, joy – the eternal cry for meaning in this universe where we find ourselves.
You know, we could go on and on. Doubtless you know many other good reasons for blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana, from announcing dinner is served, to reminding our neighbors there are Jews in the neighborhood, to simply “that’s what my family (or my congregation) always did.”
But most of all, it is to proclaim L’Shana Tovah: For A Good Year, a Sweet Year, a Year of Joy and Hope!
~ Walter William Melnyk
Rosh Hashana 5778
Learn a Little Yiddish
Selected Yiddish Words and Phrases – impress your friends and family
A BI GEZUNT: So long as you’re healthy. Expression means, “Don’t worry so much about a problem, whatever it is. You’ve still got your health.”
ALTER COCKER: An old and complaining person, an old fart.
AY-YAY-YAY: A Joyous, or at times sarcastic, exclamation.
BALABUSTA: The wife of an important person or a bossy woman.
BEI MIR BIST DU SHAYN: To me you’re beautiful.
BERRYER: Denotes a woman who has excellent homemaking skills. Considered a compliment in the pre-feminist era.
BISSEL, BISSELA: A little.
BOBBEMYSEH: Old wive’s tales, nonsense.
BOYCHICK: An affectionate term for a young boy.
BROCHE: A prayer.
BUBBA: A grandmother.
BUBBALA: A term of endearment, darling.
BUPKES: Something worthless or absurd.
CHAYA: An animal. “Vilda Chaya,” a wild animal, is a term used to describe unruly children.
CHAZEREI: Food that is awful, junk or garbage.
CHUTZPAH: Nerve; gall, as in a person who kills her parents and asks for mercy because she is an orphan.
DRECK: Shit. Can refer to the ugliness of objects or people.
FAYGALA: A male homosexual. (literally, little bird.)
FERBLUNJIT: Lost, mixed up.
FERCOCKT: All fucked up.
FERDRAYT: Dizzy, confused.
FARPITZS: All dressed up.
FERMISHT: All shook up, as in an acute disturbance.
FERSHLUGINA: Beaten up, messed up, no good.
FERSHTAY?: Do you understand.
FERSHTINKINER: A stinker, a louse.
FERTUMMELT: Befuddled, confused.
FRESS: To eat like an animal, i.e., quickly, noisily, and in great quantity. (Compare with ess, to eat like a human being.)
GAVALT: A cry of fear or a cry for help. Oy Gevalt is often used as expression meaning “oh how terrible.”
GAY AVEK: Go away, get out of here.
GAY GA ZINTA HATE: Go in good health. Often said in parting but can be spoken with irony to mean, “go do your own thing.”
GAY SHLAFEN: Go to sleep.
GONIF: A thief, a tricky clever person, a shady character.
GOY: A derogatory term meaning gentile, goyim is the plural, and goyisher is the adjective.
GREPSE: To belch.
GORNISHT: Nothing. Often used in a sarcastic manner, as in what did you get from her? Gunisht.
HAYMISH: Informal, friendly. A haimisher mensch is someone you feel comfortable with.
HOK A CHAINIK: To talk too much, to talk nonsense.
KIBITZ: To offer comments which are often unwanted during a game, to tease or joke around. A kibitzer gives unasked for advice.
KINE-AHORA: A magical phrase to ward off the evil eye or to show one’s praises are genuine and not tainted by envy.
KISHKA: Intestines, belly. To hit someone in the “kishka” means to hit him in the stomach or guts.
KLUTZ: An awkward, uncoordinated person.
KOSHER: Refers to food that it prepared according to Jewish law. More generally kosher means legitimate.
KVELL: To beam with pride and pleasure, Jewish parents are prone to kvell over their children’s achievements.
KVETCH: To annoy or to be an annoying person, to complain.
LOCH IN KOP: Literally a hole in the head, refers to things one definitely does not need.
LUFTMENSH: A dreamer, someone whose head is in the clouds.
LUZZEM: Leave him be, let her or him alone.
MACH SHNEL: Hurry up.
MACHER: An ambitious person; a schemer with many plans.
MAVEN: An expert, a connoisseur.
MAZEL TOV: Good luck, usually said as a statement of support or congratulations.
MEESA MASHEENA: A horrible death. The phrase “a messa mashee af deer” means a horrible death to you and is used as a curse. Some have suggested that Masheena is the origin for the insulting name for Jews of sheeny.
MEESKAIT: A little ugly one; a person or thing.
MEGILLAH: Long, complicated and boring.
MENSCH: A person of character. An individual of recognized worth because of noble values or actions.
MESHUGGE or MESHUGGINA: Crazy, refers to a more chronic disturbance.
MISHEGOSS: Inappropriate, crazy, or bizarre actions or beliefs.
MISHPOCHA: Family, usually extended family.
MOMZER: A bastard, an untrustworthy person.
MOYL: The man who circumcises baby boys at a briss.
NACH A MOOL: And so on.
NACHES: Joy. To “shep naches” means to derive pleasure. Jewish children are expected to provide their parent with naches in the form of achievement.
NAFKA: A whore.
NARRISHKEIT: Foolishness, trivia.
NEBBISH: An inadequate person, a loser.
NOODGE: To bother, to push, a person who bothers you.
NOSH: To snack. NOSHERYE refers to food.
NU: Has many meanings including, “so?; How are things?; how about it?; What can one do?; I dare you!”
NUDNIK: A pest, a persistent and annoying person.
ONGEPOTCHKET: Messed up, slapped together without form, excessively and unesthetically decorated.
OY-YOY-YOY: An exclamation of sorrow and lamentation.
OY VEY: “Oh, how terrible things are”. OH VEZ MEAR means “Oh, woe is me”.
PISHER: A bed-wetter, a young inexperienced person, a person of no consequence.
PLOTZ: To burst, to explode, “I can’t laugh anymore or I’ll “plotz.” To be aggravated beyond bearing.
POTCHKA: To fool around; to be busy without a clear goal.
PUPIK: Belly button.
PUTZ: A vulgarism for penis but most usually used as term of contempt for a fool, or an easy mark.
SAYKHEL: Common sense.
SCHLOCK: A shoddy, cheaply made article, something thats been knocked around.
SCHMALTZ: Literally chicken fat. Usually refers to overly emotional and sentimental behavior.
SCHMUCK: A vulgarism for penis, strong putdown for a jerk, a detestable person.
SHADKHEN: a professional matchmaker.
SHANDA: A shame, a scandal. The expression “a shanda fur die goy” means to do something embarrassing to Jews where non-Jews can observe it.
SHAYGETS: A gentile boy and man, also means a clever lad or rascal.
SHAYNER: Pretty, wholesomely attractive, as in shayner maidel (woman.)
SHIKSA: A gentile girl or woman.
SHLEMIEL: A dummy; someone who is taken advantage of, a born loser.
SHLEP: To carry or to move about. Can refer to a person, a “shlepper,” who is unkempt and has no ambition.
SHLIMAZL: A chronically unlucky person, a born loser, when a shlimazl sells umbrella the sun comes out.
SHMENDRICK: A weak and thin pipsqueak. The opposite of mensch, a a physically small shlemiel.
SHMEGEGGE: A petty person, an untalented person.
SHMATTA: A rag, often used as a putdown for clothes of the unfashionably dressed.
SHMEER: To spread as in to “shmeer” butter on bread. Can also mean to bribe and can refer to the “whole package”, as in I’ll accept the whole shmeer.
SHMOOZ: To hang out with, a friendly gossipy talk.
SHNORRER: A begger, a moocher, a cheapskate, a chiseler.
SHNOZ: A Nose. Jimmy Durante was known as a the great shnoz.
SHTETL: A Jewish ghetto village.
SHTIK: A stick or thing. Often refers to an individual’s unique way of presenting themselves, as in “She is doing her shtik.”
SHTUNK: A stinker, a nasty person or a scandalous mess.
SHTUP: An expression for sexual intercourse, to “screw.”
SHVITZ: To sweat, also refers to a Turkish bath house. A shvitzer means a braggart, a showoff.
SHVANTZ: A word for penis.
SPIEL: To play, as in to play a game.
TCHOTCHKA: An inexpensive trinket, a toy. Can also mean a sexy but brainless girl. The affectionate diminutive is tchotchkala.
TSETUMMELT: Confused, bewildered.
TSIMMES: A side dish, a prolonged procedure, an involved and troubling business, as in the phrase, “don’t make a tsimmes out of it.”
TSORISS: Suffering, woes.
TSUTCHEPPENISH: Something irratating that attaches itself like an obsession. She has a tsutcheppenish that is driving everyone crazy.
TUCHES: Backside, ass, “tuches lecker” means ass kisser, one who shamelessly curries favor with superiors.
TUMMEL: Noise, commotion, disorder.
UNGABLUZUM: To look as if one is going to cry.
VER CLEMPT: All choked up.
VUS MACHS DA: What’s happening? What’s up?
YENTA: A busybody, usually refers to an older woman.
YENTZ: Course word for sexual intercourse. Also means to cheat or screw someone. Yentzer is the noun.
ZAFTIG: Juicy, plump. Can refer to food, ideas or people. A buxom woman.
ZIE GA ZINK: Wishing someone good health.
ZETZ: A strong blow or punch.
ZEYDE: Grandfather, or old man.
ZHLUB: An insensitive, ill-mannered person, a clumsy individual.
Marty Fiebert Department of Psychology CSULB
Gai feifen afenyam/Gai kakhen afenyam
go whistle in the ocean/go shit in the ocean
(Go jump in a lake. I think the second version is more common, but try telling that to a skittish editor.)
Zolst ligen in drerd! :You should lie in the earth! (Drop dead.)
Ver derharget: Get killed (Drop dead)
Gey gezunterheyt: Go in good health
(Yeah, go do whatever you like. Fine, don’t listen to me. See if I care anymore.)
Gornisht helfn: Beyond help
Lokh in kop: Hole in the head
Tokhis oyfn tish: Put up or shut up
A brokh tsu dayn lebn.: Your life should be a disaster
A khalerye: A plague on you
A shaynem dank dir im pupik.: Many thanks in your belly button.
(Thanks for nothing. Say it fast and it sounds delightfully insulting.)
Ikh hob dir in drerd: Go to hell
A shvarts yor: A miserable year
(you should have…)
Alter kaker: Old shit
Tokhis leker: Ass-kisser
Shtup: Have sex. Screw. Boink.
Alivay: It should only happen
I was looking for a way to portray visually my philosophy of life . . .
Another beautiful piece of paper-cut Judaica from my good friend Kim Phillips at Hebrica Judaica & Miscillanica here in Monteagle. She did it on commission froma design I came up with – The Tree of Life, rooted in Chesed (steadfast love), grown in the spirit of Dayenu (it is enough for us), is crowned in Shalom (wholeness and peace.)
See more of Kim’s work at hebrica.com
Preparing for the High Holidays: How Do You Elul?
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two of the most well-known days of the Jewish year. Much less famous is the month that precedes them, Elul, which is also considered a time of asking for forgiveness — though unlike the traditional High Holiday liturgy of repentance to God, Elul is when we ask forgiveness directly from the people in our lives who we’ve wronged.
For this reason, David Steiner suggested that Elul, which beings on August 21 this year, is “The Month of Jewish Secular Humanism.” He wrote:
While I appreciate that the Jewish calendar has a ten-day period set aside for personal accounting, I prefer the 29 days set aside for peace between hu/man and her fellow hu/man. This is the month…when we assign ourselves the task of making peace with the people in our lives. One might even say that since Elul precedes Tishrei [the month beginning with Rosh Hashanah], and 29 days are greater than 10, that Judaism puts greater significance on peace among people…. In other words, these are the days that Judaism has set aside for secular humanism, and our efforts — whether we believe in an immanent god or not — should be focused on humanity.
An activist and filmmaker, David Steiner was also studying to become a rabbi at the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism when his life was tragically cut short this past December. The coming holiday season without him will no doubt be extremely difficult for his family and to those of us in the movement who knew and loved him.
We take some solace knowing that David’s ideas live on through his films and writing. And we hope that all of us remembering lost loved ones during the High Holidays can draw strength from being part of something larger than ourselves: a community of people that care for one another.
If you do not yet have a place to experience Humanistic High Holiday services, please click here to see times and locations where they are being offered in the U.S. and Canada.
Or join People of the Mountain for our Rosh Hashana celebration. See details elsewhere on this site.
This year, Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 20th.
Rooted in Chesed, With a Trunk of Dayenu, Produces a Canopy of Shalom
The Tree of Chaim
A newly revised book of “Alternatives for Cultural Jews,” by Secular Humanistic Rabbi Judith Seid.
“God-Optional Judaism” is a wonderful, chock-full respource for families and individuals who want to find their place in the Jewish world without necessarily believing in God. Funny, accessible, and open-minded, the book touches on key elements of Jewish history and philosophy, all of the major holidays (food recipes included!), and contemporary issue of intermarriage, education, conversion, feelings towards Israel, and spirituality.
Available through Jewish Currents:
The Holocaust is rooted in the destruction of the Temple — which caused a loss of moral clarity in humanity.
Source: The Final Solution on Tisha B’av
Shavuot literally means “weeks,” so named because the festival is exactly seven weeks (plus one day) from the second night of Passover. It is also called Festival of First Fruits, Hag HaBikkurim, Pentecost, and the Feast of Weeks. This feast, one of three pilgrimage festivals – the other two are Sukkot and Passover – marked the end of the barley and beginning of the wheat harvest. In ancient times, it was probably a midsummer festival taken over from the Canaanite
We rejoice in this blessed time of Shavuot.
May everyone have a bountiful harvest.
(The Candles are lit.)
Barukh ha-or ba-olam
Barukh ha-or ba-adam
Barukh ha-or ba-shavuot
Radiant is the light in the world
Radiant is the light within people
Radiant is the light of Shavuot
B’rukhim hamotziim lehem min haaretz.
Blessed are those who bring forth bread from the earth.
Shavuot is a minor, ancient pilgrimage festival that marked the harvest of barley. Shavuot literally means “weeks,” so named because the festival is exactly seven weeks (plus one day) from the second night of Passover. It is also called Festival of First Fruits, Hag HaBikkurim, Pentecost, and the Feast of Weeks. This feast, one of three pilgrimage festivals – the other two are Sukkot and Passover – marked the end of the barley and beginning of the wheat harvest. In ancient times, it was probably a midsummer festival taken over from the Canaanites.
On this festival in Temple times, according to the book of Leviticus, two loaves (shetei halehem) were “waved before the Lord.” These had to be offered only from the best new wheat, from produce grown that year in Israel. Shavuot was associated with the bringing of the bikkurim, “the first ripe fruits,” to the Temple of Jerusalem.
In rabbinic times, a radical transformation of the festival took place. Based on the verse from the book of Exodus: “In the third month after the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai,” the festival became the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. In the traditional liturgy, Shavuot is zeman mattan torateinu (“the time of the giving of our Torah”). The ancient agricultural feasts were recreated into festivals marking the anniversary of significant legendary events in the life of the people. Both Passover and Sukkot are connected with the Exodus as well.
Unlike Passover and Sukkot, Shavuot has just a few special rituals. In modern Israel, some kibbutzim have tried to revive some of the harvest ceremonies. In the synagogue, it is customary to read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot. It is customary in some congregations to decorate the synagogue with plants and flowers. It is also customary to eat dairy products in the home on Shavuot. In some communities triangular pancakes stuffed with meat or cheese are eaten because the Hebrew Bible has three parts (Torah, Prophets, and Writings).