The High Holidays are over and Thanksgiving is around the corner. That can only mean one thing here at MyJewishLearning: We’re thinking about the very fun (and very American) tradition of Hanukkah gift-giving!
Here’s a handy tour through our staff’s top picks from our new Hanukkah Store, handily divided into categories.
First things first: Menorahs! Whether you prefer ultramodern or ultra-traditional, the MJL Hanukkah Store has a menorah for you. Here are four of our top picks, in materials ranging from wood to copper to cement, from the beautiful blue one below to the handy travel menorah you can fold up and throw in your tote bag on your way out of town:
But menorahs are only the first step. What candles will you light? What dreidels will you spin? And why can you never find a kippah when you need one? We’ve got you covered. Here our four of our favorite Hanukkah accessories. We particularly love the gorgeous Safed candles, the Bezalel Art School dreidel, and how reasonably priced the kippot are. You can stock up for your whole family!
Perhaps you, like many of us, do most of your Hanukkah shopping for kids. Check out our fully stocked children’s page, and consider our top picks, from the gorgeous wooden camel puzzles, which function as decor as much as toys, to the wildly popular personalizable name necklaces, an interactive songbook, and more:
For the Home:
Hanukkah can also be a great time to doll up your home, and from Israeli art and handicrafts to challah covers, from hamsas to mezuzahs, it was hard to choose just four. But our favorite may just be the Sterling Silver Crepe Shabbat Candlesticks–we love their textured, organic feel:
And if you’re looking to buy something for a special lady (yourself?), we have hundreds of possibilities, from brooches to tallitot to handbags. Here are our editors’ favorite four. (Two of us are already sporting the peacock earrings!):
Is it just us, or can men can be really hard to shop for? We’ve tried to help you narrow it down. In addition to accessories like tie clips and cufflinks, we’re also offering a full line of teffilin and Star of David necklaces, and more. (And check out that sterling silver USB drive!):
For the Host:
Last but not least, the question that can have you second-guessing yourself for days: What on earth do you give to your host? Olive oil from Israel would make a memorable, not to mention useful, gift, and the decorative items are unique enough to use as artwork, but neutral enough to work in anyone’s home. Here are four great options:
We hope you enjoy the selection as much as we do! The MJL store has literally thousands of items for holidays and any time of year, and MyJewishLearning, Inc., a non-profit organization, receives a percentage of the proceeds of any gift you buy.
Happy shopping, and happy Hanukkah to you and yours!
This Holiday season MyJewishLearning is offering two live, interactive, online classes designed to help you prepare for Thanksgiving.
Global Day of Jewish Learning
Is There A Recipe for Prayer: A Lesson in Picking the Perfect Words
Taught by Devorah Levine Katz
In our class, we will explore both standard and spontaneous prayers and take part in an ancient discussion on the values of both. Using sources from the traditional Siddur (prayer book), Mishna and Talmud we will journey into the world of prayer searching for the perfect recipe for the perfect prayer.
Sunday November 18th 8:30-9:30PM Eastern Time, Free! (Registration Required)
Preparing for Thanksgiving
What’s the Jewish Way to Celebrate Thanksgiving?
The roots of the American Thanksgiving holiday go back to 1623, but the values of gratitude and offering thanks have been a part of Jewish life for thousands of years. Judaism’s classical texts, from the words of the Psalmist to stories of modern masters of Musar (Jewish ethical piety), offer insights into Jewish approaches to what Jews call hakarat ha-tov, “recognition of the good”?good deeds done for us and good things given to us.
Together we will study some of these texts, and discuss the overlapping American and Jewish values of gratitude, joy, and relief that we experience during this Thanksgiving season.
Monday November 19th 8:30-9:30PM Eastern Time, Free! (Registration Required)
After registering, you will receive an email with a link to the class page.
We look forward to learning with you!
Looking to go to services in the convenience of your own home? Check out OurJewishCommunity.org, which brings a contemporary Jewish service (mostly in English) to your computer screen with live-streaming (and archived viewing on-demand). Join tens of thousands of Jews from around the world to celebrate the High Holidays online.
On your computer, simply go to www.highholidayslive.com; on your iPhone or Droid device, you can access services through their free app called OurJewishCommunity.org.
- Streaming Rosh Hashanah live September 16 8:15 PM ET and September 17 10:30 AM
- Streaming Yom Kippur live September 25 8:15 PM ET and September 26 10:30 AM
- Yom Kippur Memorial live September 26 4:00 PM ET
- Streaming Services for Kids September 17 1:30 PM ET and September 26 1:30 PM ET
You can also watch Shabbat services live every Friday at 6:00 PM (Eastern Time) throughout the year.
This year, the folks at Craig N Co again put together an exciting list of writers and thinkers for their Jewels of Elul series. Each day during the month of Elul will feature a different take on the “Art of Aging.”
Here’s yesterday’s piece from Rabba Sara Hurwitz, the Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, the first Orthodox institution to ordain women as spiritual leaders:
As we age, our brains are hardwired to reject change. We are conditioned to resist new challenges and remain within our comfort zones. However, growing older should not mean that we must exist within self-imposed boundaries.
In the 1960s, President Eisenhower received the gift of a rare, white tiger named Mohini. For years, Mohini lived in the Washington Zoo and spent her days pacing back and forth in a 12-by-12 foot cage. Finally the zoo decided to build her a larger cage so Mohini could run, climb and explore. But when Mohini arrived at her new home, she didn’t rush out, eagerly adapting to her new habitat. Rather, she marked off a 12-by-12 foot square for herself, and paced there until her death, never enjoying the new opportunities in front of her. Mohini exemplifies the classic conditioning most of us live within. Although she was a magnificent, powerful creature, Mohini was convinced her “place” was just a 12-by-12 foot square. We all have the propensity to behave exactly like Mohini. Based on our conditioning, we create invisible cages for ourselves, limiting our lives within their boundaries.
But we don’t have to succumb to our internal imprisonment. Throughout the High Holidays, we will hear the shofar blast. Historically, the shofar signaled the release of all slaves at the end of the Jubilee year. That sound should make us ask, “What enslaves us? What weighs us down? What baggage do we hold onto?” And then, let it go. The High Holidays present us with a tunnel, an opportunity to break free from our self-imposed cages, to find our route to freedom and live life with renewed passion. The shofar inspires us to free the Mohini inside and move beyond our boundaries.
We’re excited to announce that this year, to help you get ready for the High Holiday season, here at MJL we’re offering three live, interactive, online courses.
50 Ways to Use a Shofar: The Symbolism and Stories Behind the Ram’s Horn
Taught by Rabbi Avi Weinstein
In this class we’ll explore the multiple symbolic meanings of the shofar, from Maimonides’ understanding of the shofar as a “wake up call,” to the Hasidic masters who saw it as a pure sound that connects with Divine consciousness, to the midrashic stories that see the sound as replicating Sarah’s pain upon finding out that Isaac was to be sacrificed. Join us to study these interpretations and to share your own.
Sunday August 26th 8:30-9:30PM Eastern Time, $5
Preparing for the High Holidays
Forgiving and Being Forgiven
Taught by Rabbi Shai Held
As we attempt to wipe the slate clean for the coming new year, Jewish tradition asks us to apologize to those whom we have hurt; to forgive those who have hurt us; and, more surprisingly, to tell those whom have hurt us that they have hurt us, thereby enabling them to apologize. In this class we’ll examine how we can use the time leading up to the High Holidays to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, and to let go of the hurt we’ve been hanging onto.
Sunday September 9th 8:30-9:30PM Eastern Time, $5
“Everything Depends on Me”: A Tragic Tale of Repentance and Change (SOLD OUT)
Taught by Rabbi Shai Held
In this session, we’ll explore one of the most moving (and disturbing) narratives in Rabbinic literature, the story of Elazar Ben Durdea, a man imprisoned by sin and compulsion. Elazar knows he has to change but he just can’t find the courage to do it. The tragic tale of Elazar will teach us about sin, compulsion, personal responsibility, and the limits of repentance and personal change.
Sunday September 23rd 8:30-9:30PM Eastern Time, Free!
After registering, you will receive an email with a link to the class page.
We look forward to learning with you!
It seems like the whole world is afire with Jonathan Safran Foer’s new haggadah, which he’s been planning since at least 2007. Although it’s just one of several new haggadahs out this year (which Foer himself seems to footnote), it’s gotten massive play — including, among others, a blurb (and a snarky joke!) by President Obama.
Foer himself appeared last week at the UJA to talk about his newest project. Here’s a little snippet:
Paley: What is your favorite part of the Haggadah?
Foer: I guess my favorite parts tend to be the ones that are most problematic, you know, most fraught. The ten plagues are a good example. How do we with kids make sense of it, the notion that a kind of communal judgment is passed on an entire population? Obviously there were Egyptians who were not guilty and yet their kids were killed too after God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It’s very problematic.
So we could turn away from it, pretend it isn’t there, or we could say, “Here’s what we have, this is this document that is more than 3,000 years old, what meaning can we find in it and how can we apply that meaning to our lives?” One of the things that’s so exciting about the Haggadah is that it’s not just a mental exercise, it is intended to guide our lives, to bring us closer to that metaphorical Jerusalem of next year.
The Haggadah is nothing if not an aspirational book, and an optimistic book, a book that envisions something better, and questions what’s wrong with the present and how we can urge this moment toward a better moment. And that is the most dignified adventure that a human can go on, you know, wanting to participate in the repair of the world.
As I write this, I am simultaneously:
1. Compulsively checking my email, Twitter, and Facebook.
2. Waiting for an “important” text message to determine my weekend plans
3. IMing with several co-workers
4. Flipping through Internet radio to find the perfect balance of “listenable, without requiring too much thought” music
I have, it seems, a fantasy of reaching some sort of technological nirvana – by hitting “refresh”one more time I’ll suddenly become “one with the universe” (or at least the Twitterverse.) I may consciously know that Facebook would be fine and hum along without me, but – what if I miss a funny picture of a cat?? I’m a classic case of being desperately in need of an opportunity to disconnect.
Shabbat is a great opportunity to hit the technology “off” switch (in my case, more of a dimmer switch). NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation has partnered with Reboot for NEXT Shabbat 360, as part of Reboot’s National Day of Unplugging to help slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world. They must have had me in mind.
For 24 hours beginning the evening of Friday, March 23rd , thousands of people around the country will “unplug.” NEXT Shabbat will help cover the cost of 360 Shabbat meals that weekend. For those of you who have been on a Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, Shabbat 360 is a great way to unplug – electronically, mentally, physically, whatever! – by bringing together friends for a Shabbat meal, your way. From chicken in Chatanooga to jachnun in Jackson Hole, there’s no wrong way to celebrate Shabbat – especially when you’re celebrating alongside 359 other NEXT Shabbat meals that same weekend.
So? Sign up here! Celebrate! Unplug! A one-day detox from my TV, phone, iPad and “teh interwebz” is exactly what I need.
Now, if you’ll excuse me – I have to post this on Twitter.
Tuesday night is Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees. To celebrate it, our great friend and supporter Edgar Bronfman wrote about road-tripping with his brother Charles. Just the idea of the two of them on a let’s-discover-America campaign is brilliant and otherworldly, like an Easy Rider of Robin Hood-type do-gooders instead of druggies, but his essay makes some great points for American conservation — and for insisting that conservation is both (a) spiritual and (b) have some pretty strong roots in the Jewish religious tradition.
In all seriousness, it’s a great story with a great message. Check it out in the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” blog — and, while you’re there, check out my post for their blog as well, if you want to) :
When I was about to turn 21, and my brother Charles was 19, we took a road trip across the United States. As young Canadians, we were eager for an adventure through the American West. We experienced the stunning vistas of Utah, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and the great redwoods of Yosemite National Park in California. It was a formative experience for me, and solidified my love of this country which I have called home for nearly my entire adult life.
It’s no coincidence that my love of America blossomed as I witnessed its natural wonders and vast open spaces. There is a deep beauty to be enjoyed in the magnificence of nature which leaves us humbled, and aware of how all life is interconnected. There is nothing more authentically spiritual for me than witnessing nature in its glory and power—when it is beautiful, and even when we are imperiled by it.
Hanukkah started last night, and one candlelighting, one family Hanukkah party, and one early-morning Hallel later, I’m channeling the spirit strong. And actually enjoying the Hanukkah music, which is weird. Didn’t Jewish music used to be incredibly cheesy?
Instead of looking at Jewish music videos as a competition — which one will score more hits, the new Jon Stewart video or our own beloved Mayim’s beloved Maccabeats — I’ve just decided to look at the whole YouTube results page for “Hanukkah” as a playlist made for me by the entire universe. (And, of course, the plethora of free Hanukkah music would be like a stocking stuffer from the universe.) But here are some of our favorite late-arriving videos:
“8 Nights,” by Naomi Less and Glenn Grossman (and visual artist Andrea Ausztrics)
Danny Raphael’s clever, tricky comic-book (excuse us, “graphic novel”)-styled rendition of the Hanukkah story:
And, just to kick the old-school jam, here’s Bible Raps & MyJewishLearning’s collaboration, “Light Is In the Air”:
This Hanukkah enjoy the holiday with more than just latkes and dreidels. MyJewishLearning is hooking you up with a Hanukkah mad libs that you can play with your family. As with all mad libs, these work best when you go with the craziest words you can think of. Enjoy!
Same Name _________
Same building __________
Same liquid __________
A long time ago in ________ place, the Syrian emperor ________ Name came to power. ________ Same Name decreed that Jews could not celebrate _______holiday, learn ________noun, or _________verb their children. He also stormed into the _______building in Jerusalem, and placed ________noun inside. Jews were encouraged to worship _______ noun, and punished when they did not.
A man named ______name and his ________number sons started a revolt against ________ Name1. Though they were a small group of warriors, they were very strong, and many other Jews joined their fight. Armed only with ______ noun, and ________noun, and ______noun from the terrain, the Maccabees, as _______name2 sons, particularly Judah, came to be known, fought a guerilla war against the Syrian army.
In three years, the Maccabees cleared the way back to the ________same building, which they reclaimed. They cleaned the _______building and made a new altar to replace the old one. Most of the _______liquid they found had been tainted and was no longer pure enough to be used for the golden menorah that stood in the Temple. One small container of ________same liquid was found, with just enough to last for a single day of flames. Miraculously the oil burned for ________number days, during which the Maccabees _______verb and praised God for their victory.
Today we light a _________number-branched hanukkiyah to celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah. Some families give each other _______noun. We also eat foods fried in _______liquid, sing Hanukkah songs, and spin the dreidel, a game of luck that involves _____verb a top.