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High Holyday period

Rosh Hashanah – of Fish Heads and Frankl

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Many of the rituals and activities around Rosh Hashanah are brimming with symbolism. From the round challot symbolizing completeness, to the special foods eaten such as honey cake and apple dipped in honey for a sweet year, and Tashlich, where we walk to the beach and symbolically throw our sins to the sea. Our table on the first night is always adorned with a big fish head, which stares out at me a little disturbingly. It is a…

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Maintaining the Rosh Hashana Intensity

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Despite the daily reminders during the month of Elul, Rosh Hashana has a way of creeping up on us, and before we know it, the festival is upon us. The shul service is a lot longer than usual, with lots of extra liturgy, so maintaining intensity throughout is a huge challenge for some. I don’t know how people cope with this. I often find myself going through the motions, and only being particularly inspired by…

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Wallet, cup, temper – drinking on Simchat Torah

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We seem to associate Simchat Torah with getting drunk. However, unlike other Jewish holidays (Purim is the most obvious example), there is no imperative whatsoever to imbibe and drink on Simchat Torah. The only mention of the association that comes to mind is that we change around the order of the morning prayer service and move birchat kohanim (priestly blessing) from musaf to shacharit. The reason for this is that on Simchat Torah it is customary to make kiddush after the shacharit service instead…

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Yom Kippur Day Spa

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They call it a day spa for a reason. You are encouraged to take a day off, and immerse yourself in the luxurious environment of the spa. Switch off your mobile phone; leave your Blackberry at the door – communication with the outside world is discouraged. There are no TVs displaying 24-hour news channels, or internet display panels on the walls – the things that constantly bombard us with what is happening in the world…

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Going, Going, Gone!

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Five hundred dollars, tzum ersheten mohl! Five hundred dollars, tzum tzveiten mohl! Five hundred dollars, tzum dritten mohl! And with an emphatic klap on the bimah for effect, the auction is over. This was not Phillip Kingston standing in front of another Caulfield property; this was me auctioning the kibbudim for Rosh Hashana. For as long as I can remember, our Shul has auctioned the privilege to perform certain parts of the service during the High Holyday period. For many years, it would happen in the…

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