Purim 2013 is on its way! Starting the evening of Saturday, February 23rd, the holiday that celebrates the clever salvation of Persia’s Jews is nearly upon us. Are you ready to make some noise, get dressed up, give gifts, and donate to charity? Don’t worry; we can help.
Make Some Noise / Groggers
The classic Purim accessory is a noisemaker, used to block out Haman’s name during the megillah reading on Purim eve and Purim day. We love this whimsical grogger in the shape of a Hasid, this silly clown grogger that comes with a display stand, this hand-painted grogger that depicts Jerusalem and has two separate noisemakers, and this simple and affordable tricolor wooden grogger.
|Hasid Grogger with stand, $280||Clown Grogger with stand, $280||Jerusalem Grogger with stand, $28||Simple wooden grogger, $3|
Get Dressed Up / Costumes
It’s long been customary to dress up in costumes on Purim. You can go the traditional route, and get yourself this awesome nun costume, the perfect ironic getup for any megillah reading. It goes perfectly with this monk costume. Or you can go quick and easy with this beautiful (and realistic) unicorn mask, or this comprehensive set of mustaches, lips and glasses on a stick, which allow you to mix and match your costume as the holiday progresses.
|Deluxe Nun Costume, $63.75||Medieval Monk Costume, $28.99||Magical Unicorn Mask, $23.77||30-piece Mustache-on-a-stick set, $59.99|
Give Gifts / Mishloach Manot
You might not associate gift-giving with Purim, but in fact it’s right there in the megillah, where we read that on the day that the Jews were saved from Haman’s clutches Mordechai decreed that Shushan’s Jews should “send portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” Check out these great, kosher pre-assembled “portions,” like this one with peanut butter cups, English toffee, chocolate covered pretzels, and more. We also love this blue and white basket, with chocolates, hamantaschen, and blue Terra chips. If you’re going to make your own mishloach manot, try including some lovely Wissotzky Tea and a little honey stick.
|Kosher Gift Arrangement, $26.95||Purim Basket: True Blue Temptation, $54.99||Wissotzky Tea, from $3.99||100 Honey Sticks, $23.80|
Give Gifts / Books
A good book is always an appropriate Jewish gift. On Purim, you can go back to the source text, and get your friend a copy of the JPS Commentary on Esther, which is comprehensive and fascinating. For the kids, there’s the new and wonderful The Purim Superhero. And for the fiction lover in your life, we highly recommend The Gilded Chamber, a novelization of the story of Esther, and Good for the Jews, a modern retelling set is Madison, Wisconsin.
|JPS Commentary on the Book of Esther, $26.40||The Purim Superhero, $7.55||The Gilded Chamber, $13.60||Good for the Jews, $12.48|
Donate to Charity / Tzedakah
A central component of celebrating Purim is giving tzedakah, money to the poor. Why not make a donation in honor of your friends to a local food pantry, Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, American Jewish World Service, the Joint Distribution Committee, Yad Eliezer: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Israel, or JBFCS which supports Jews struggling with alcohol and drug dependency? And you can also always support our work here at MyJewishLearning.com, a not-for-profit organization.
Happy Purim to you and yours!
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!
Three years ago, Mary Ruth, who attended church her entire life, began to think about Judaism. It was something she couldn’t quite explain – a tug towards a religion she didn’t fully understand, but a strong tug, nonetheless. She wanted to look into conversion, but didn’t really know where to begin – Mary Ruth lives in rural Michigan, an hour from the nearest synagogue and two hours from the nearest rabbi.
Then, she discovered MyJewishLearning.com. Mary Ruth started visiting the website daily, first to learn the basics – holidays and rituals, the central narratives of Judaism, the weekly Torah portions. As her conversion process got underway, she delved deeper, signing up for MyJewishLearning’s e-newsletters, making traditional Jewish recipes she found on the site, and taking quizzes to test her knowledge.
Today, Mary Ruth is Jewish. She is committed to her faith and passionate about the Jewish people.
In her own words: “I love being Jewish more than life itself, and I couldn’t have completed my conversion without the help of MyJewishLearning.com.”
MyJewishLearning is a non-profit organization that depends on donations from people like you to cover 85% of its operating budget. For the last 10 years, MyJewishLearning has helped people like Mary Ruth learn about and connect with Judaism. Help make sure we’re here for the next 10 years by making a tax-deductible donation today.
Guillermo works in the oil and gas industry, a career path that placed him smack dab in the middle of rural Canada. If the location wasn’t a big enough challenge, Guillermo’s busy schedule made it impossible for him to attend synagogue or be a part of a Jewish community.
Or so he thought. When his girlfriend sent him to MyJewishLearning.com, he found just what he was looking for.
“I work in a remote area,” Guillermo told us, “so by frequently visiting MyJewishLearning.com, I can still feel connected to the Jewish tradition, and keep up with the Jewish calendar.”
Guillermo started by by reading the weekly Torah portion commentaries on MyJewishLearning and studying the Jewish holidays. Soon he discovered the depths of what MyJewishLearning had to offer, exploring the Jewish history section and beefing up his knowledge of Jewish culture and rituals.
“MyJewishLearning.com helps me grow in understanding the tradition, religion, and spirituality,” Guillermo said.
Now, Guillermo’s career has moved him once again, this time to a more urban area with an actual Jewish community. Yet Guillermo still finds himself frequenting the virtual learning space of MyJewishLearning, knowing that the path to deepening his understanding of the Jewish faith has always been right at his fingertips.
MyJewishLearning is a non-profit organization that depends on donations from people like you to cover 85% of its operating budget. For the last 10 years, MyJewishLearning has helped people like Guillermo learn about and connect with Jewish life. Help make sure we’re here for the next 10 years by making a tax-deductible donation today.
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!
Who else felt like shedding a tear last night when Aly Raisman took home gold in the individual floor exercises? There has been no shortage of Jewish champions at the Olympics in the past (Sasha Cohen or Sarah Hughes, for instance), but something about this Jewish American champion just strikes me as so spectacularly Jewish, I can’t help feeling an extra sense of pride.
For starters, you can’t ignore Aly’s floor exercise music-it’s an upbeat, Hava Negila–and she has been quoted as saying she wanted to use the song because “there aren’t too many Jewish elites out there.” Aly’s pride in her Jewish roots blasts out into the stadium, for the whole arena (and the millions of the viewers watching around the globe) to behold.
Then, of course, Aly’s parents became famous, for their kvelling Jewish spirit that took over while watching their daughter perform. If you haven’t seen the viral video of the Raismans that some NBC genius decided to film, it’s worth going over to the NBC website to watch. The Raisman’s hilariously pained expressions, the stress they feel vicariously for their daughter’s success–well if that didn’t remind you of some Jewish parents, I don’t know what will.
The fact that Aly won gold for a performance to a song so associated with Jewish life and tradition just hits me somewhere deep.
Yes, the International Olympic Committee refused to publicly take a moment to honor the Israeli athletes who were killed in Munich 40 years ago. But Aly’s beautiful tribute to her Jewish roots is reminding viewers that being Jewish at the Olympics can trigger a different sort of tears–tears of joy.
Two weeks ago, I told my boss I was leaving. This is at my day job, understand–not my job job (writing poems and books and movies), or my real job (taking care of some kids, and doing my best to keep them from killing themselves and each other, and possibly teaching them some stuff), but rather the place where I’ve spent 8 hours of most days of the past four years. Ten hours, if you add in the commute.
It’s kind of an incredible math: There are 24 hours to a day, one-third of which is spent at work, another one-twelfth getting there, one-third to one-quarter (6-8 hours, on average–admittedly, an optimistic average) sleeping, in preparation for the onslaught of your day. What’s left should be a lot of time (another 8-10 hours, right?, if you’ve been keeping up with the math), but where does it all go? Praying. Cleaning. Eating. Posting dumb stuff on Facebook. Trying to write.
Far and away the biggest thing I’ve done with the past few years is Jewniverse–which, if you haven’t been getting it, is a daily email I’ve been writing and designing that’s better, I hope, than the title suggests: something cool and interesting and novel that you’ve never heard of, that’s in some way Jewish. You can subscribe here–too late to catch most of mine, but good people will still be writing (I’ll still be one of them, occasionally), and I’ve still got a month of stuff ready to go out. The website is not quite live yet, but in a week or two, if you go to thejewniverse.com, there’ll be a ton of these things to check out.
(And then I’ve done a bunch of other stuff, like these videos and these articles and this blog, and omg I threw years of my life into this blog, and one day I’ll separate the cool articles from the stupid video posts, but I don’t know when…but it’s weird, saying goodbye.)
So that’s been the past two years. It’s weird to say goodbye to your babies, especially since, unlike actual babies,it’s not even like my old posts are going to come back from college or invite me to their weddings or put me into a nursing home or something.
But it’s been good. Daniel, my editor, made a point of telling me that, over the past 2 years, I’ve written and sent out 4.7 million emails. Most of them have been short, under 200 words, but it’s still pretty powerful and an amazing gift that I’ve been able to. And it’s totally dumb of me to say thank you to you for reading and listening, but I’m going to say it anyway.
I’m still around. I’ll still blog (hopefully more, now that I’ve got time!) at matthue.com, and I have a new book coming out next year! I’m moving on–starting Monday, I’ll be writing video games for Wireless Generation, and I’m hugely excited, although right now I’m more nervous and anxious about it. But I’ll see you around. It’s a small Internet, after all, and it’s only getting smaller.
(Yeah. That’s all I meant to say.)