01 October 2012

The Festival of Sukkot

Sukkah Wall - Fabric paints on cottons; click for contact
In the Hebrew Calendar begin at sundown, 
1-7 October 2012 --15-21 Tishrei 5773.

...On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Sukkot, seven days for the L-RD. -Leviticus 23:34

The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishrei 14th at sundown, 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 prayer and literature as Z'man Simchateinu, 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: historical and agricultural. Historically, 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 , the Festival of Ingathering.

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.

Sukkot lasts for seven days. The two days following the festival, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, are separate holidays but are related to Sukkot and are commonly thought of as part of Sukkot.

The festival of Sukkot is instituted in Leviticus 23:33 et seq. No work is permitted on the first and second days of the holiday. (See Extra Day of Holidays for an explanation of why the Bible says one day but we observe two). Work is permitted on the remaining days. These intermediate days on which work is permitted are referred to as Chol Ha-Mo'ed, as are the intermediate days of Passover.

Arba Minim: The Four Species
On the first day, you will take for yourselves a fruit of a beautiful tree, palm branches, twigs of a braided tree and brook willows, and you will rejoice before the LORD your G-d for seven days. -Leviticus 23:40
Another observance during Sukkot involves what are known as the Four Species (arba minim in Hebrew) or the lulav and etrog. We are commanded to take these four plants and use them to "rejoice before the L-rd." The four species in question are an etrog (a citrus fruit similar to a lemon native to Israel; in English it is called a citron), a palm branch (in Hebrew, lulav), two willow branches (aravot) and three myrtle branches (hadassim). The six branches are bound together and referred to collectively as the lulav, because the palm branch is by far the largest part. The etrog is held separately. With these four species in hand, one recites a blessing and waves the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down), symbolizing the fact that G-d is everywhere. Detailed instructions for this ritual can be found under Sukkot Blessings.

The four species are also held and waved during the Hallel prayer in religious services, and are held during processions around the bimah (the pedestal where the Torah is read) called hakafot each day during the holiday. These processions commemorate similar processions around the altar of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. This part of the service is known as Hoshanot, because while the procession is made, we recite a prayer with the refrain, "Hosha na!" (please save us!). On the seventh day of Sukkot, seven circuits are made. For this reason, the seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshanah Rabbah (the great Hoshanah).

Significance: Remembers the wandering in the dessert; also a harvest festival
Observances: Building and "dwelling" in a booth; waving branches and a fruit during services
Length: 7 days

13 September 2012

Rosh HaShanah 5773 - The Jewish New Year (2012)

Painting by artist Rochelle Blumenfeldl
L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem - "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."

The Jewish New Year is a time for reflection, in which God begins the trial of every human being. The day celebrates the anniversary of the creation of man, the sixth day of Creation of the World.

A Jewish day begins and ends at sunset, rather than at midnight. Therefore, Jewish holidays begin the evening before the date specified below.

Rosh HaShanah 
(September 16-18, 2012 / 1-2 Tishrei 5773) 

"In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts" (Leviticus 23:24).

Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish New Year that falls on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It is observed by attending synagogue services where the shofar is heard and eating a festive meal with traditional foods such as fish, a round challah and apples and honey. Throughout theTorah, the shofar is mentioned as a special element in many ritual observances, not only at Rosh HaShanah.

For example, each new moon was announced with the blowing of the shofar. Rosh HaShanah begins the “Ten Days of Awe”. During this time it is customary to examine our relationships with ourselves, with others and with God.

Rosh HaShanah is celebrated for two days in Israel and in Orthodox, Conservative, and some Reform congregation. Other Reform congregations celebrate for one day.

The opportunity of Rosh Hashanah is too important to leave things to chance. Here's a short list of what you need to know.

Pre Rosh Hashanah

A key component of preparation for Rosh Hashanah is apologize to everyone you have wronged during the past year. The greatest extent possible, we want to start the year zero and no one to keep some pending against us. Each must also be quick to forgive those who wronged them.

Many people have the habit of going to the mikveh before Rosh Hashanah, after noon. The mikveh (bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism), which has the power to purify certain spiritual impurities, may be an important step in the process of teshuvah (repentance). Some have the custom of visiting the cemetery on the morning of Rosh Hashanah, and pray at the grave of the righteous. Of course not pray "to" the righteous, but for God that hear our prayers on their behalf.

The morning before Rosh Hashanah, we do Hatarat Nedarim, cancellation of all the promises (vows). In terms of the Torah, say something simple like "Do not eat more candy" can be considered a vote 'legal'. So, before Rosh Hashanah, halted all votes, they were made intentionally or not. This is done by prostrating before three men (or ten if possible) and asking to be freed of the votes that were made. The annulment of the text can be found in a Siddur or Machzor of Rosh Hashanah.

Happy Rosh Hashanah

07 September 2012

Uniting Palestinians and Israelis with Yoga

Ruthie unites Israelis and Palestinians with yoga

by RALLY - AUGUST 28, 2012

In the summer of 2011, Olive Tree Yoga Foundation (OTYF) taught classes to Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. They developed relationships with established teachers in Israel, planned the opening of an OTYF studio in Bethlehem, and brought the unifying energy of yoga to residents of the tent city protests in Tel Aviv.

OTYF’s mission is to create a powerful community of transformative leaders through the practice of yoga. Led by Ruthie Goldman, OTYF promotes and supports the teaching of yoga in communities affected by conflict, specifically, the underserved regions of the Middle East. Through yoga they aim to bring unity, strength, and possibility to Israelis and Palestinians.

In this light, OTYF consciously avoids schedule conflicts with religious holidays and does not propose any specific resolution to the conflict; their work is geared toward offering the possibility of equality for Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. For Ruthie and friends, yoga is a part of the trajectory of the solidarity movement in Palestine and Israel. They believe that yoga can bring an inner peace to those who practice and that this, in turn, will contribute toward a path to peace.

Donate Now

24 August 2012

Friends of United Hatzalah

United Hatzalah's response time is now under 3 minutes. By doubling the current volunteer corps and increasing the ambucycle fleet and defibrillators, United Hatzalah will achieve its goal of a 90 second response time - anywhere in the country.

The mission is to support the lifesaving efforts of United Hatzalah of Israel. United Hatzalah of Israel is the largest independent, non-profit, fully volunteer Emergency Medical Services organization that provides the fastest and free emergency medical first response throughout Israel. United Hatzalah's service is available to all people without regard to race, religion or national origin.

United Hatzalah has more than 1700 volunteers who come from a complete spectrum of Israeli society, religious and secular, male and female, Jewish and non-Jewish. Not only have the volunteers been able to redefine the government’s status quo of emergency first response, Arab and Jews are also working together, side-by-side, and have been able to break down religious barriers through United Hatzalah's sole mission and unifying motivation: to save as many lives as possible.

United Hatzalah volunteers, all of whom are trained and certified as EMTs, paramedics or doctors, respond to any medical emergency in their vicinities, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. United Hatzalah volunteers establish a life-saving bridge of medical care to nearly 200,000 people each year within 2 to 3 minutes from a distress call. Volunteers treat an average of 500 people each day and individually respond to an average of 360 calls per year in Israel.

United Hatzalah trains and equips emergency first response volunteers who live and work in communities, cities and kibbutzim throughout the entire State of Israel in order to provide a more rapid, effective medical intervention. A proprietary GPS based deployment technology identifies the most qualified and closest volunteer to an emergency, maximizing efficient allocation of resources and minimizing response times. Fully equipped ambucycles travel nimbly through traffic, narrow alleys and obstructed roadways to bring all the necessary medical equipment an ambulance carries to the scene of an emergency.

Given the success that United Hatzalah has experienced in Israel and the thousands of lives it has saved since its inception, United Hatzalah believes that its distributed emergency response model can be easily replicated to save lives throughout the world. United Hatzalah has already been recognized as an international leader and is currently collaborating with global organizations.

United Hatzalah considers lifesaving to be of utmost value. While maintaining transparency, honesty and loyalty, United Hatzalah will continue to save lives in Israel, on a completely voluntary basis, in order to provide critical medical treatment to every citizen in need. United Hatzalah partners with other emergency agencies including ambulance companies, firefighting and rescue services, the army, and the police. United Hatzalah integrates into the existing emergency service framework by filling the gap between the time an emergency call is received and the arrival of institutional emergency services.

Please, make a donation; https://www.israelrescue.org/donate.php

04 July 2012


Michelangelo painting Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Genesis 2:9 And out of the ground made the L-rd G'd to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evilGenesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

"And know that there is more encompassed in the words “to do,” for the six days of creation are akin to the days of the existence of the world." [AJWS translation]

According to Ramban, the creation of the world is not completed, but in the continual process of creation.

What is it about Good and about Evil? It is said in the name of the house of Rabbi Yanai, one who give a poor person a small amount of money in public, for it happened once that Rabbi Yanai saw a certain man give some money to a poor person in public, it is better that he not give him than that he gives him now and disgraces him. The house of Rabbi Shiloh says, one who gives charity to a woman privately brings her into suspicion. [AJWS translation]

PSALMS 34:12-20
Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you what it is to fear G'd. Who is the man who is eager for life, who desires years of good fortune? Guard your tongue from evil, your lips from deceitful speech. Shun evil and do good, seek amity and pursue it. The eyes of G'd are on the righteous, G-d's ears attentive to their cry. The face of G'd is set against evildoers, to erase their names from the earth. They cry out, and G'd hears, and saves them from all their troubles. G'd is close to the brokenhearted; G'd delivers those crushed in spirit. Though the misfortunes of the righteous be many, G'd will save him from them all. [JPS translation]

If one observes that another committed a sin or walks in a way that is not good, it is the person’s duty to bring the erring one back to the right path and point out that he/she is wronging him/herself by this evil course, as it is said, “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:17). One who rebukes another, whether for offenses against the one who rebukes him/herself or for sins against G'd, should administer the rebuke in private, speak to the offender gently and tenderly, and point out that the rebuke is offered for the wrongdoer’s own good, to secure for the other life in the World to Come. If the person accepts the rebuke, well and good. If not, the person should be rebuked a second, and a third time. And so one is bound to continue the admonitions, until the sinner assaults the admonisher and says, “I refuse to listen.” Whoever is in a position to prevent wrongdoing and does not do so is responsible for the iniquity of all the wrongdoers whom that person might have restrained.

MISHNA AVOT 5:13 - There are four types of charity givers:
- One who wishes to give, but that others should not give: their eye is evil towards that which belongs to others.
- One who wishes that others should give, but that they themselves should not give: their eye is evil towards that which is their own.
- One who desires that they themselves should give, and that others should give: they are pious.
- One who desires that they themselves should not give and that others too should not give: they are wicked. [translation by USCJ, edited for gender neutrality]

12 June 2012

Give away more money

Give away more money - You will become richer! Charity To Assist Growth. By Ronn Torossian

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or donations can often be seen as window-dressing, but if done right, corporate (and personal) responsibility encompasses giving and the highest form of fulfillment. Earning my living helping corporations (and individuals) utilize the media and public forums to build their brand, we are often asked if certain charitable initiatives will help companies make more, or be portrayed better and my professional answer is always – Only if you are dedicated to it and really believe in it.

Other than the divine blessing and requirements of donations (tithing), we also merit many business realizations from giving to charity. In his book “Giving”, former President Bill Clinton tells of an African tribe he encountered as a result of his “Clinton Foundation”, that has a unique way of greeting each other. When someone says ‘hello’ the other greets him with “I see you.” It’s a powerful message in a world where differences are usually quite visible. Clinton testifies on his amazement with the amount of individuals and business alike that share so many causes and are actively contributing to organizations, NGOs, and charities.

To “win” at corporate responsibility and giving requires dedication. Celebrities, who walk around hospitals one-time, attend fundraising events for NGOs or make a public donation without sincerity can often be seen, with good reason as insincere. I don’t rule out the possibility that some play the game in a very strategic and bleak approach to the issue of giving. But it shouldn’t undermine those individuals, businesses and “even” corporations who are devoted to a larger goal than their own sales and profits.

I was raised in a home where giving wasn’t an option – it was a requirement, whether your money, time, attention or thoughts. For me they are part of a holy, higher value and I believe all people should give, regardless of how much or how little they have. The almighty rests his blessing on those who give, and certain “karma” if you will, shines your life and interactions with people.

Charitable donations raise a company (and individuals’) self image and self awareness. Helping and giving makes you feel good, and more focused on your purpose in the sector or your role. It allows organizations (and people) to be balanced and focused, and lessons jealously, allowing you to feel accomplished and focused on earning even more.

Yet another business benefit is the amazing people you meet at non-profit organizations you care about – you meet people who care about issues similar to you, and as you develop a bond over time, naturally you can make life-long friends, and also naturally beneficial business relationships. (And some of the people you meet through charities can be completely inaccessible in the “real world” but can be reached via the charity you devote your time and effort to).

These people can even evolve into your biggest clients as they did for me. Am certainly not saying to join, or get involved in CSR for business relationships – Join if you believe in and want to help the cause… but of course always expand your network.

Here are some initiatives to consider:

Social Responsibility acts: Whether an individual or major corporation, engage in corporate good. Your employees might very much identify with a list of causes that they and you can embark around the neighborhood you work from, or individual causes. Match donations, or offer time to causes. Can even allow corporations to be rallied as a team around a cause, which becomes useful for corporate morale.

NGOs and Dinners: Beside the obvious goals met when you attend a dinner and the objectives it fulfills with your contribution, you get to meet very interesting people who share the notion that our common humanity is vital. That is your evening and opportunity to mingle, bond, and make new connections. The cause can set the basis for self-reflection and encouragement to support the benefit you attended.

Programs: This is where unique resources come to place. Participate in programs where you can make a difference. PR firms of course can assist in media work, restaurants with food, and the like. Promote the cause like you’d help a loved one.

There are many ways and means to give. The initial act is the most important and ultimate fulfillment that you will gain, and remember that it is never too late to start – Just do it. Give the money away, the blessings of every kind will be returned to you in many multiples. That’s a personal and Public Relations guarantee.

Ronn Torossian is president and CEO of 5WPR, one of the 20 largest independent PR agencies in the U.S. Named to the “40 under 40” list of PR Week & Advertising Age, Ronn Torossian was a semi-finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and may be reached at Rtorossian@5wpr.com and followed on twitter @rtorossian5wpr

13 May 2012

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV)

"The village will be a place of hope, where traumatized youth can "dry their tears" (Agahozo) and "live in peace" (Shalom)."
Tikkun olam (literally, "repairing the world," and practically, "engaging in social action") is one of the core tenets of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. At the Village, to undertake tikkun olam as a central project because of the strong contribution it offers to the youth of Agahozo-Shalom themselves, as well as to the surrounding communities.

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) is a residential community in rural Rwanda. Its 144 acres are home to youth who were orphaned during and after the genocide in 1994. The Village is designed to care for, protect and nurture these young people. It is a place of hope, where "tears are dried" (signified by the Kinyarwanda word agahozo) and where the aim is to live in peace (from Hebrew, shalom). The marrying of these two languages and concepts in the name of the Village is intended as a reminder of the success of similar efforts in Israel, where genocide also changed the face of a nation.

Within Agahozo-Shalom’s supportive and structured community, the rhythm of life is being restored, with the ultimate goal of equiping young people who have lived through great trauma to become healthy, self-sufficient, and engaged in the rebuilding of their nation. The environment of love and safety created at Agahozo-Shalom serves as the backdrop for programs designed to help our teenagers grow both emotionally and intellectually. The experiences they accumulate at their village home are intended to help them at every level of their future development.

In addition to healing oneself, Agahozo-Shalom teaches the principle of serving the community, both locally and globally. The young people at Agahozo-Shalom are learning through principle and practice the value of mending the world around them (as are the many volunteers who join us from around the world). Our graduates will emerge from Agahozo-Shalom as balanced adults who are not only able to care for themselves and their families, but who are committed to making their community, their country, and their world, a better place.

The Spark of an Idea
In November of 2005, Agahozo-Shalom Founder Anne Heyman and her husband, Seth Merrin, heard a talk about the Rwandan genocide. At a dinner after the talk, Seth asked the speaker to identify the biggest problem Rwanda faced. The answer was the vast number of orphans with no systemic solution to support their well-being and development.

Immediately Anne, a South African-born lawyer and mother of three living in New York City, connected the challenge of the Rwandan orphan population to the similar challenge that Israel faced after the Second World War. When there was a large influx of orphans from the Holocaust,, Israel built residential living communities called youth villages. Anne was inspired to bring this model to Rwanda.

Misson - To enable orphaned and vulnerable youth to realize their maximum potential by providing them with a safe and secure living environment, health care, education and necessary life skills. Education and service are used to model and create socially responsible citizens in Rwanda and around the world.

The goal of the Village is to restore hope and opportunity to traumatized young lives. A place of learning and renewal, the Village offers a safe, nurturing environment where Rwandan youth can gain the skills and self-confidence they will need to fulfill their individual potential and make an active contribution to a stronger, more peaceful Rwanda.

Repairing the Individual
The philosophy behind ASYV is based heavily on the Yemin Orde Youth Village. We believe that there is a timeline in every life, and that it is important to recognize that each traumatized youth has a past, present and future. Trauma causes a break between the past and the present, traumatic events that they need be to repaired in order for the young people to live in the present and be able to dream of having a future.

At the Village, each teenager will deal with their traumatic break on two levels. One is called tikkun halev, meaning “repairing the heart” in Hebrew. This includes individual therapies that range from music and art to seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. The second level of the therapeutic process in tikkun olam, meaning “repairing the world.” The notion is that an individual’s healing can be furthered by doing acts of kindness for others and the feeling that they have a part in creating a more just world.

Focus on Learning
ASYV focuses on developing students both cognitively and socially. Schooling is geared towards the ideal of university but also provides students with choices for vocational tracks. Broadly, the Village education focuses on communal participation, and encourages the spirit of volunteerism as a means for sustainable development and community enrichment. It also seeks to expand each student’s talents, skills, and capacity to become not only functioning members of society, but leaders of their communities.

Where does the money come from? / Where does the money go?

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