Tag Archives: New Year

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A Happy New Year

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a good and sweet year

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Tonight we begin the Jewish new year. It will be the year 5775 according to our calendar. The rabbi of Lubowitzch was once asked by a students, why he blesses each and every one of his followers before the Jewish new year, with the wish for a good and a sweet new year. His reply was that every year is good. That we just have to learn how to appreciate all that we receive. That it is good even if we don’t know how to recognize the good. But that sweetness is a sensory pleasure. And so, his wish is that his friends and students will feel the good and recognize it, as we do when tasting something sweet.

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Nechama accompanies me to the park

It is not our custom to shoot fireworks into the sky at the start of a new year. We reflect on what has happened in the past year, and examine our actions and behavior. We repent our mistakes, and celebrate our accomplishments. We do our spiritual book keeping in honor of the year that has come to a conclusion, and remind ourselves that a new year is beginning… a new start in life.

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a love letter to god

This has been one of the most difficult years for me. It has been a year of tests and challenges. A year of pain and confusion and losses. But it has also been a year of learning and miracles… and yes, of joy too. Personally, I reached a point where I could only whisper… and then a place where I had nothing more to say… But as we approach the new year, I want to wish myself and every one of my friends and readers a good and sweet year. A year of health and happiness, a good livelihood, the pleasures of learning, and the support of dear friends.

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crows waiting on the railing… I hope to tell you the story soon.

I still have a few stories to tell… and some conclusions I came to, at the end of this last painful war. I hope that I will find the strength to continue sharing with you some of my personal experiences and lessons in this world that is filled with surprises.
with love, Shimon

Happy New Year

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Best wishes to all for a healthy and happy new year. May the coming year be even better than the one we’ve just experienced, filled with wonder and learning, and great adventures… with understanding, and patience for that which we don’t understand… and with love.
ShimonZ

greeting the new year

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There are no firecrackers on the Jewish new year, nor do we drink to abandon. The New Year is a two day holiday. There are banquets, and formal get togethers with friends and family. People wear their best clothes, and eat their favorite foods. The observant visit the synagogue, for the prayers, for the familiar songs, and for the social interaction. The traditional calls of the ram’s horn inspire thoughts of life and death, and are meant to awaken us from the routine… and taking things for granted. Some folks come just to hear these calls which have been part of the new year’s celebration for over 3000 years.

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Those who would like to read more about the holiday, might find it interesting to read what I posted last year: https://thehumanpicture.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/happy-new-year/

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We start the meal by dipping pieces of bread into honey. May it be a sweet year. For an appetizer, we may eat a slice of cold fish with a sauce based on horse radish and beets. And there are usually more items offered than I have the strength to try. By the time we finish with one of these banquets, it is sometimes difficult to get on our feet again. So it is also quite customary to take a walk after the feast. After the evening meal, it often happens that everyone finishes at about the same time, and you see the whole neighborhood out on the street in their finest clothes, walking up and down the streets just to limber up. And after the walk, we’re back at home… and wouldn’t you know it… there’s a fruit salad. Because we didn’t have room for it earlier.

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a giant puppet that amused the children

But this holiday is not just about celebration. A lot of attention is devoted to soul searching, and repentance for the things we’ve done wrong. The ten days from New Year’s to the day of Atonement, are called ‘the terrible days’ because they are dedicated to self examination (but they’re not really so terrible). We ask our friends to forgive us before we ask that of God. And it is a time of renewal in the country. After the hot summer, we have some cool breezes blowing through, and in the evening it is just perfect for walking. Soon, the rains will come (we hope).

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As I wrote earlier, we started this week with a beautiful celebration in one of the fine neighborhoods of our city. The summer is almost over. The main street was cordoned off, and there was an arts and crafts fair, all kinds of delicacies were sold to passers by, and there were four musical stages where one performance followed another as afternoon grew into evening. Israeli music, folk, and Jazz. And there were delicious smells in the air, as the local restaurants were joined by some enterprising stalls, set up just for this event, and the offerings were varied. You could eat traditional food, and barbeque… all the way to Thai and Asian foods. There was an array of Israeli beers. And of course there was cotton candy, and popcorn. The children were all enjoying themselves, and many people were buying new and beautiful objects… some of which we’d never seen till that very day.

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two dear friends who brightened my evening

I had the pleasure of getting together with dear friends that I just do not see enough. Including a couple who had a stall at the fair. Though I got a little tired before I left, there was a constant stream of new entertainment that I enjoyed so much, it was hard for me to leave. I had a miniature hamburger, just to keep on going… and then finally said my goodbyes, walked back to my car, and went home.

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the food never stopped coming

I would like to wish all my friends and readers, a beautiful sweet new year. May it be a year of learning and growth, health and financial security, and friendship and love. And peace…

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time and direction

I had quite a few pictures that I was intending to share with you from the last week of holiday celebrations. But when I looked at them this morning, I thought, ‘the holiday is behind us’. Maybe you will see them next year, if we’re all still going then. But it seems that now would be the right time to relate to the new year coming up. And so, I’ve decided to write a bit about time.

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I suppose it’s only natural for us to think of the year that has passed, as we approach the new year, if only to weigh the experiences, good and bad in the perspective of having concluded a full year. We do much the same at the end of a decade, and we still remember all the wonderful commentaries at the end of the millennium, and how it was to look back at history for a few days. But the new year is also a good occasion to think about time, and how we relate to it.

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There are some people who spend quite a bit of their lives enjoying nostalgia… remembering precious moments, and wonderful experiences from the past, and since our memories allow us to glide over the pain, the embarrassment, the tension and the fear, the memory of things past often seem more delightful than they were when we were in the process of going through them. And it is not only that we are able to filter out the unbearable parts of the past. Our memories are pliable, and we are able to tell ourselves (or others) a story as we would like to remember it. In a way, our memories are often the story as we would like to see it or hear it. It is subjective. Other people like to work towards certain goals, or live in expectation. They know that at some time in the future, they will go off on vacation, or buy a new house, or a new car; they live in the hope of finding Mr. Right, or Ms Right; they wait for school to get out, or for the moment they will start the new job, or setting up their own business, or for the old folks to die so that they will get their inheritance. Such patterns of thinking start pretty young, and once we’ve gotten into the habit of rewarding ourselves by remembering the good ol’ days, or pushing ourselves forward with the incentive of imagining that things are going to be a lot better at the next stage of life, it becomes quite hard to abandon this emotional candy, and just live the moment. It was John Lennon that wrote in one of his songs, ‘life happens while we’re busy making plans’. And sometimes, life goes right by us, without our noticing.

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In this modern life style that we are living, we are constantly being entertained and stimulated, whether by stories or movies or songs or advertisements. Sometimes we forget ourselves in the adrenalin rush of this white water rafting that has come to take the place of life. There is action all around us. Sights and sounds, and every subtlety of emotion. But I would suggest that in order to truly appreciate this life, we have to have some quiet… and the ability to find our own completeness in the present; this very hour, this very moment.

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And to conclude this train of thought, I would like to mention once again the transgression of Moses our teacher, who was punished for his mistake by not being allowed to enter the promised land. He was our greatest teacher, and considered the most modest among all men. And so, it is all the more interesting to study his mistake, and learn from it. If you remember, the children of Israel were thirsty, and God asked him to speak to a rock, and water would spring from it. But Moses, our teacher, was sick and tired of hearing complaints from the Israelites day after day, without let up… and he lost his temper. Instead of talking to the rock, he hit it with his stick. Sure enough, the rock gave water. But it wasn’t the rock, he wanted to hit. And it was because of that, that he was punished.

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As we approach the new year, I would like to wish you, my friends, and myself as well, a year in which we will be completely aware of every hour that we live, and in which we will be careful to direct our love, and our thoughts, and even our anger, and our complaints in the right direction. May our words be like poetry, precise and meaningful, and our actions like the arrow, aimed and shot properly from the bow, and finding it’s way to the exact target. Happy New Year

happy new year

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We are all aware of the passing of a day. We start our day with a bit of ceremony, and we end it too, with a certain behavior pattern. We wash the sleep from our faces in the morning; some of us, our hands. Some of us brush our teeth. We put on our clothing. Some of us eat, or drink a cup of coffee. And at the end of the day, we prepare our bed, undress, set our clock, or do other things that mark the end of the day. Not everyone is as sensitive to the time span of a week. But for many of us, the weekend puts a framework around that span of time. A year too, is an important chapter in our lives. One can keep on going, intent only on what we are doing or what is going on around us at the time. But it is a very good feeling, for me at least, to mark the passing of the old year, and the beginning of the new year.

In the Jewish tradition, there are two aspects to the new year. The ten days between the new year itself, and the day of atonement, are called ‘days of awe’. These days are dedicated to soul searching, and contemplation on the worth of the year that has just passed, on our mistakes and failures, and how we could repair them; and on the fact that life is temporary, and time goes by. And that our habits and routines make us less sensitive, less aware. That is why we blow the ram’s horn. It is like a trumpet, and it is supposed to wake us up. Wake us up from our day dreaming to the realities of this world.

But at the same time, one of the most consistent messages in our tradition, is to relate to life with joy. It is common for those who study holy books to celebrate the conclusion of the study of every book. If a group of us have been studying a book, we have a regular little party around a table, enjoying drinks and snacks, and discussing what we have learned together from the experience. So, on a new year, we also try to mark this passage with joy. Often, the year that has passed has more bad memories than good. And so, we ‘bury’ what is past, and put an accent on the future, resolving that the new year will be a good sweet one. We put things on the table that will remind us of sweetness and productivity, and of choice and initiative. Some put the head of a fish on the table, to remind us that it is better to be a head, that makes the choices, and takes the initiative, and sees where it is going, rather than to be a tail, which just follows the leader in the flow of things. And another way of understanding this symbol, is that the fish doesn’t close his eyes. They are always open. And that is the awareness we would like to have… not to sleep through this life, but to be aware, and to keep our eyes open. We start our feast by dipping bread into honey, and blessing our friends, may this coming year be a year as sweet as honey.

We believe that this was the day on which Adam was created. And so this is a day that celebrates all of mankind. And so, though I know that for most of my readers, this is not their new year’s day, I would like to wish for all of us, as part of the family of man, a year of sweetness and peace, and the joy of learning, and love.

a summer night

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We’re fast approaching the end of summer. Here and there, we’ve got cooler days, and on a rare occasion, even a few drops of rain. And with the end of summer, comes the Jewish new year, which means the high holy days. The two day holiday marking the new year features great rejoicing and wonderful feasts. We bless one another and get together with friends and families across the country. And after the new year, we have ten days of soul searching which leads to the ‘Day of Atonement’, which is a 25 hour fast day dedicated to prayer and soul searching, and is the holiest day in the year for us.

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on the tram going downtown

With all of that ahead, I’ve decided that this would be a good time for a vacation… all the more so, because the weather has been exceptionally nice, and I have the urge to get out and see the ocean… and do some photography.

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warm and pleasant on Ben Yehuda str

But how could I do that, without taking a long last look at the summer nights in downtown Jerusalem. I’ve already mentioned that I finally had the experience of riding on our new city tram. It was a little slow, and a little crowded, but I hear that they are still improving the system, and that I can look forward to better service in the future.

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a street painter

And now that the tracks have been laid, and the building of this new system is completed, Jerusalem is slowly getting back to the same home town that I have loved all my life. It is wonderful to stroll around the downtown area, and revisit many of the places that are engraved in my mind and memories. Pini used to have one of the most beautiful restaurants in town, with a large outdoor eating area, where I would visit often. During the entifada, people stayed in more, and he closed down, not having enough business to make it worth while. But now, I visited his new eatery, which isn’t as splendid as the old one was, but it is still a good place to eat, and he has a couple of tables in front of his new restaurant, where you can sit right next to the sidewalk on Jaffa street.

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at Pini’s new eatery

Ben Yehuda street is full of people, open stores and eateries, musicians, and artists of all types, and both local citizens and tourists who all seem to be having a good time. I even had the pleasure of listening to some fine Jazz played on the street. And no sooner had I gotten out of hearing range of one set of musicians than I ran into a new group. All of the music was quite pleasant. As I was standing in the pedestrian street, listening to one band, a number of tourists came by, and they were so excited by the street show, that they wanted to be photographed with the artists. And the musicians were very friendly. So there was no problem.

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It was really a splendid evening, with plenty of drinks… a warm night… the warmth of friendship too… a variety of different good foods, and even a little window shopping for me, which is very unusual. But I couldn’t help but peek into the windows of the local camera shops, to see what they were selling these days.

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street musicians

And now, having enjoyed the city, I am off to the north… to the beautiful Galilee, and to enjoy the coastline as I travel up the country. There are friends I wish to visit… but most of all, I’m in the mood to do a little photography. Often, when I’m traveling, I run into fog or haze that make photography more difficult. But this time, it looks like I might be able to concentrate on the landscape. I have my little laptop with me, so I will still have the pleasure of hooking up to the internet.