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In the rhythm of Jewish life, Rosh Chodesh stands as a beacon of renewal and reflection. Celebrated at the start of each new month on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Chodesh is a day rich with spiritual significance, customs and extra prayers that invite us to embrace the cyclical nature of time and our continuous journey of personal growth.

Understanding Rosh Chodesh

Rosh Chodesh, literally “head of the month,” is observed when the first sliver of the new moon appears in the night sky. This day holds profound meaning, symbolizing the renewal and rebirth inherent in the lunar cycle. Unlike the solar calendar, which is fixed and unchanging, the lunar calendar reflects the dynamic, fluctuating nature of time and life itself.

Teachings of Chassidut on Rosh Chodesh

In Chassidic thought, Rosh Chodesh is more than just the beginning of a new month; it is a powerful opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation. The moon, which waxes and wanes, represents the soul’s journey through phases of growth and diminution. Just as the moon renews itself, we too are given the chance to renew our spiritual commitments and aspirations.

Chassidut emphasizes the unique potential of Rosh Chodesh to infuse the mundane with the sacred. We are taught that this day serves as a reminder that even the smallest actions can have profound spiritual significance. By aligning our intentions with our actions, we can bring light into the world, much like the moon reflects the light of the sun.



Customs and Observances

Rosh Chodesh is marked by several customs and observances that enhance its sanctity and help us focus on its themes of renewal and reflection.

  1. Special Prayers: On Rosh Chodesh, the Amidah (standing prayer) and the Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals) include an additional section known as Ya’aleh V’yavo, which beseeches G-d to remember us for good and to grant us renewal and blessing. Hallel, a series of Psalms praising G-d, is also recited to express joy and gratitude.
  2. Torah Reading: On Rosh Chodesh, a special Torah reading is conducted, highlighting the offerings brought to the Temple in Jerusalem in ancient times, where the Western Wall remains today.
  3. Festive Meal: Many have the custom to enjoy a festive meal on Rosh Chodesh, reflecting the day’s semi-festive nature. This meal serves as a time to gather with family and friends, share words of Torah and celebrate the gift of renewal.
  4. Women’s Observance: Rosh Chodesh holds particular significance for Jewish women, who traditionally refrain from certain types of work as a tribute to their decision to decline participating in the sin of idolatry with the Golden Calf. This was a declaration of their strong faith, which has continued to guide women throughout the generations through difficulties and challenges. This custom honors women’s unique spiritual insight and their contribution to the continuity of Jewish life.

The Power of Renewal

Rosh Chodesh is a reminder that renewal is always within our grasp. The cyclical nature of the moon teaches us that even after periods of darkness, light and growth will return. Each new month presents a fresh start, a chance to reflect on the past and set new intentions for the future.

As we celebrate Rosh Chodesh, we are invited to tap into this powerful energy of renewal. By embracing the customs and prayers associated with this day, we can elevate our daily lives and align ourselves more closely with our spiritual aspirations. Just as the moon’s light increases gradually, so too can our spiritual growth unfold, one step at a time.

Every month, Rosh Chodesh is much more than a date on the calendar; it is a profound spiritual experience. Use this special time to recognize the beauty of renewal, to honor our journey and to strive continually for growth and enlightenment. As we welcome each new month, let us embrace the opportunity for renewal and allow the light of Rosh Chodesh to illuminate our path forward.

What personal practices or traditions do you observe on Rosh Chodesh, and how do they help you connect with the themes of renewal and reflection?

Shavuot is a significant Jewish holiday that celebrates the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai over 3,000 years ago! In 2024, The two day holiday of Shavuot begins at sunset on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 and finishes at nightfall on Thursday, June 13, 2024. It is a time for joy, gratitude, and reflection. As we approach this special occasion, let’s put your knowledge of Shavuot customs to the test! Take this fun quiz to see how well you know the traditions associated with Shavuot. Get ready to learn something new and have fun along the way!

Shavuot Customs Quiz:

1. What is the literal meaning of the word “Shavuot”?
a) Giving of the Torah
b) Feast of Weeks
c) Festival of Lights
d) Day of Atonement

2. Shavuot is observed on the sixth day of which Jewish month?
a) Nisan
b) Tishrei
c) Iyar
d) Sivan

3. What agricultural aspect is closely associated with Shavuot?
a) Harvesting of wheat
b) Planting of trees
c) Grape harvesting
d) Olive oil production

4. Which of the following is a popular custom on Shavuot?
a) Eating unleavened bread
b) Building a Sukkah
c) Lighting the Hanukkah menorah
d) Eating dairy foods

5. True or False
The Torah is likened to nourishing milk. The gematria (numerical value) of the letters in the Hebrew word for milk (chalav) add up to 40, which is the same amount of days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah.
a) True
c) False

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6. Shavuot marks the birthday and yahrtzheit (day of passing) of who?
a) King David
b) Moses
c) Joshua
d) Ruth

7. Which Book of the Torah is read in the synagogue on the first day of Shavuot?
a) Psalms
b) Exodus
c) Proverbs
d) Book of Ruth

8. What is the name of the traditional decorative element associated with Shavuot?
a) Challah
b) Menorah
c) Hamsa
d) Flowers



9. Shavuot is called by other names. Which does NOT refer to Shavuot?
a) Chag HaKatzir (The Harvest Festival)
b) Chag HaUrim (Festival of Lights)
c) Yom HaBikurim (Day of the First Fruits)
d) Zman Matan Torahteinu (Time of the Giving of Our Torah)

10. What is Tikkun Leil Shavuot?
a) A Shavuot Dessert
b) A Shavuot Song
c) An all-night study session
d) Time to light holiday candles

Scoring:

  • 0-3 correct answers: Keep exploring and learning about Shavuot customs!
  • 4-7 correct answers: Good job! You have a solid understanding of Shavuot customs.
  • 8-10 correct answers: Excellent! You are a Shavuot customs expert!

Check Your Answers! 

  1. D
  2. A.
  3. D.
  4. A
  5. A
  6. B
  7. D
  8. B
  9. C

It’s All Good!

How did you do on the Shavuot Customs Quiz? I hope you enjoyed testing your knowledge of this important Jewish holiday. Whether you aced the quiz or learned something new, Shavuot is a time for celebration and reflection. May this festival bring you joy, inspiration and a deeper appreciation for the richness of Jewish traditions. Happy Shavuot!

Share your holiday plans, thoughts or questions about Shavuot with me in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

Video Below

Have you ever been so excited about an upcoming event that you count down the days, eagerly marking each passing day on the calendar?

The holiday of Shavuot is just around the corner. But did you know that its date isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Torah? Instead, we count 49 days from the second night of Passover until the fiftieth day, and that’s when we celebrate Shavuot.

Why We Count Up, Not Down During Sefirat HaOmer

On Shavuot, we commemorate receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. It’s a time of renewal, as we accept the Torah anew each year. Despite the excitement, we don’t count down to Shavuot; we count up. But what does that mean, and why do we do it?

Spiral book entitled The Counting of the Omer by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

The Counting of the Omer by Rabbi Simon Jacobson is a great read.
Check it out HERE!

The Period of Sefirat HaOmer

The counting from the second night of Passover to Shavuot is known as Sefirat HaOmer, a 7-week period dedicated to spiritual refinement. We count upwards, reflecting our journey of personal growth and self-improvement.

Sefirat HaOmer is an incredible time of introspection and self-discovery. During these weeks, we focus on refining our character through the seven sefiros (attributes):

  • Chesed (Kindness)
  • Gevura (Strictness)
  • Tiferet (Beauty)
  • Netzach (Endurance)
  • Hod (Splendor)
  • Yesod (Foundation)
  • Malchut (Nobility)

Seven Weeks, Seven Sefirot

Each of the seven weeks focuses on one of these attributes. Every day within that week, we combine the primary attribute with one of the others, resulting in 49 unique combinations.

How the Spiritual Journey Works:

Week One: Chesed (Kindness)

  • Day 1: Kindness of Kindness
  • Day 2: Severity of Kindness
  • Day 3: Beauty of Kindness
  • …and so on.

Deep Dive into the First Week of Sefirat HaOmer

Day 1: Kindness of Kindness
This is straightforward: it’s nice to be kind.

Day 2: Severity of Kindness
This means it’s essential to set personal limits while being kind. Without healthy boundaries, you might overextend yourself or be taken advantage of.

Day 3: Beauty of Kindness
Tiferet is a blend of kindness and severity. Striking this balance leads to a beautiful outcome, reducing stress and enhancing well-being.

Make Each Evening Count During Your Spiritual Journey

Use each evening to reflect and improve yourself by focusing on these divine attributes. This self-refinement prepares you to receive the Torah in the most meaningful way on Shavuot.

Conclusion

As Shavuot approaches, embrace the spiritual journey of Sefirat HaOmer. Elevate yourself, refine your character, and get ready to receive the Torah anew. Make each day count, and transform your life with these G-d-given tools.

Watch the Video to Dive a Bit Deeper: Understanding the Spiritual Journey to Shavuot

A Question for You: How do you incorporate spiritual refinement into your daily life, and what practices help you stay mindful and balanced? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

For more insights on spiritual growth and preparing for Shavuot, subscribe to my blog and stay tuned for more inspiring content.

Let’s embark on a Journey of Illumination for the Jewish New Year. As the Jewish New Year approaches, we are reminded of the beauty of new beginnings. It’s a chance to reflect on our past year and the opportunity to set intentions for the year ahead. In this time of reflection and renewal, we can draw inspiration from the teachings of a remarkable spiritual leader: Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. He was the founder of the Chassidic Movement, (1698-1760).

Each day, I read from an anthology of Chassidic pearls of wisdom and customs, called HaYom Yom. One entry says: ”The Baal Shem Tov was very fond of light, and said, ‘Or (‘light’) is the numerical equivalent of raz (‘secret’). Whoever knows the ‘secret’ contained in every thing can bring illumination.” These profound words encapsulate a timeless wisdom that holds relevance in our lives even today.

Many of you ask which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life.  If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks!

The Profound Equation of Or (Light) and Raz (Secret):

At first glance, the equation of “or” (light) and “raz” (secret) might seem like an enigmatic riddle. But, if you delve a little deeper, you’ll uncover a profound truth. Just as light has the power to reveal the hidden beauty of our surroundings, so does understanding the secrets embedded within the fabric of our lives.

The Baal Shem Tov’s insight reminds us that the world (and our lives) are brimming with hidden treasures and mysteries. Each experience, each person we encounter, and each challenge we face, contains a secret waiting to be unveiled. By embracing a mindset of curiosity and a willingness to dive into the depths of understanding, we become seekers of the “raz” that leads to profound “or.”

Choosing the Path of Illumination for a New Beginning

As we stand at the threshold of the Jewish New Year, we have the opportunity to embark on a journey of illumination. Much like the sun rising over the horizon, revealing the beauty of the world around us, we can choose to seek the light within ourselves and the world.

Imagine a life where every experience is an opportunity for growth, every interaction a chance to learn, and every challenge a gateway to deeper understanding. By recognizing the potential for illumination in every moment, we shift our perspective from passive observers to active participants in our own lives.

A new day with clouds and illumination by the sun. Text overlay with a thought for the Jewish New Year from the Rebbetzin Unplugged: "Your dreams are your reality waiting to happen."

Embracing Timeless Wisdom:
Illumination for the Jewish New Year

The Baal Shem Tov offers us timeless guidance as we step into the Jewish New Year:

  • Seek the Hidden Gems: Just as we light holiday candles during this season, let us also light the candle of curiosity within ourselves. Approach each day with the intention of uncovering the hidden gems and secrets that lie beneath the surface.
  • Illuminate Through Understanding: Understanding is the key that turns the lock of illumination. By seeking to understand the secrets within every experience, we are granted the power to bring light to even the darkest corners of our lives.
  • Share the Brilliance: The light we discover within ourselves is not meant to be kept hidden. Just as the glow of a candle can light up a room, the insights we gain from embracing and sharing our God-given talents can light up the lives of those around us.

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Embrace the Equation, Embrace Light

As we approach the Jewish New Year, let us embrace the equation of “or” and “raz,” the interplay of light and secret. May we each embark on a journey of illumination for the Jewish New Year, understanding that by seeking the secrets within, we can bring forth a radiant light that guides us through the upcoming year.

May this year be one of growth, enlightenment and a deeper connection to the mysteries that surround us. 🕊️✨

Shanah Tovah! 🍎🍯

In what ways will you incorporate the concept of ‘illumination’ into your daily life moving forward?

What secrets have you uncovered in your own journey of growth and understanding? Join the conversation and inspire others with your thoughts and revelations.

#JewishNewYear #RoshHashanah #TimeForRenewal #PathOfIllumination #BaalShemTov #Jewish #Judaism #JewishHolidays #GrowthMindset #PositiveVibes

What a special two day celebration of Rosh Hashanah it was! (The Jewish new year goes according to the lunar calendar). We had hundreds of guests from all over the world. 

Rosh Hashanah: Is it all just apples and honey

Usually, dinner hosts sit at the table with their guests. My husband and I were more like emcees, explaining all the symbolism and special traditions throughout the evening. 

In Hebrew, “rosh” means “head.” Just like the head holds everything that controls the entire body, Rosh Hashanah holds an amazing potential for everything that we do for the whole year.  With that in mind, I asked our holiday dinner guests, “Since we are at a new beginning, what is something that you would like to work on, to better yourself? What “hachlata tova” (good resolution) would you like to make?

How do you inspire others

I invited those who wanted to share aloud to do so. It’s known that if you want to challenge yourself with something new, share that endeavor with someone. Telling someone about it makes it real and holds you more accountable to get it done.

But more than that, I wanted whoever wished, to share to do it out loud, because I knew that even more than we each would be inspired by whatever we would take upon ourselves, it would encourage and inspire others as well.

Why is it important to challenge yourself

Some knew right away what they wanted to share. Others had to give it some thought. And there were those who did not initially want to share at all. But as more people spoke up, it did indeed inspire those more hesitant to speak up as well. We all want to do better and improve ourselves. That’s how we grow intellectually and emotionally.

Some of the many resolutions that were made at the Rosh Hashanah table were:

  • Take my physical therapy for my hip more seriously. 
  • Complain less.
  • Take better care of myself.
  • Learn how to speak another language.

We discussed how everyone can do anything for 5 minutes a day. So that would be our starting place. Start small and make it happen.

Did you make a resolution on Rosh Hashanah? It’s not too late. Tell me in the comments below what you choose. I’m rooting for you!

👉👉👉 Got leftover apples? Here’s the Apple Cinnamon Crumb cake they will love! : It’s after Rosh Hashanah. Now What?

Are looking for the best Hanukkah doughnuts (sufganiyot) recipe? Then look no further! Suganiyot (singular: suganiyah) are round jelly doughnuts eaten around the world during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

How Will You Fill Your Hanukkah Doughnuts?

Don’t stop at jelly! Nowadays, you can find suganiyot filled with every type of flavor you can imagine. Some favorites are chocolate cream, vanilla custard, fruit jam and nutella. But, why stop there! I’ve made cappuccino cream and sweet tehini mousse. And, sufganiyot are delicious topped off with a dusting of powdered sugar.

These little pillows of goodness are the perfect treat. They are sure to bring smiles to everyone’s faces. Imagine seeing a beautiful platter of Hanukkah doughnuts adorning the table with other holiday delicacies or receiving them in a Hanukkah gift package!

🤍 Many of you ask which products I use and recommend. This post contains some of my affiliate links for “making every day the best day” while cooking, entertaining and living life.  If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll get a small commission which helps keep the lights on. Thanks!

For more on the Mystical Insights of Hanukkah, catch my class on PulveREDU, this coming Sunday, December 13 at 1:00pm EST, 7:00pm CET, 8:00pm IST.  You can register here.

Why Do We Eat Sufganiyot for Hanukkah?

We eat sufganiyot cooked in oil to recount the miracle of the oil of the menorah in the ancient temple in Jerusalem more than 2,200 years ago. The Syrian-Greek Army (the Seleucids) caused great havoc when they took over the Temple in Jerusalem. They erected statues for idol worship and destroyed the cruses of oil needed to light the menorah each day.

Miracles Abound!

Firstly, the small band of Jews, led by the Maccabees, defeated the large and mighty Greek army. Then a great miracle occurred when one cruse of pure oil was found. But, it was just enough oil to last for one day. The greater miracle was that the oil lasted 8 days, which was the exact amount of time necessary to travel and acquire more pure oil. To read more about Hanukkah and celebrating it during this challenging year, click here.

And now, get ready for the best Hanukkah Doughnuts Sufganiyot Recipe! Pin It now, so you can make it later!

Hanukkah Doughnuts Sufganiyot Recipe Pin

Sufganiyot for Hanukkah (Jelly Doughnuts)

5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Rising Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 20 doughnuts
Calories 93

Ingredients

  • active dry yeast 2 1/4 teaspoon (1/4 ounce or 7 grams)
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk at room temperature (you can use soy milk)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups flour

Instructions 

Preparing the Dough

  • This dough can be mixed by hand or by electric mixer.
  • Put the yeast and warm water in a mixing bowl, with a sprinkling of the measured out sugar to activate the yeast. When it starts to bubble a bit, then you know the yeast is working.
  • Add the rest of the sugar and the milk, and whisk.
  • Add the egg, egg yolk, pinch of salt, lemon zest, teaspoon of vanilla and continue whisking.
  • Change the whisk attachment to the dough hook.
  • Add the butter or margarine in pieces.
  • Add the flour in three parts to ensure everything gets mixed well.
  • Mix for several minutes.
  • If needed, add a 1/2 teaspoon of milk at a time to gather up any dry flour at the bottom of the bowl.
  • Cover the dough with a clean damp dish towel and let the dough rise for at least 30 minutes in a warm place. (When I have the time, I let it rise an hour, until the dough has doubled in size).

Making the Doughnuts

  • When the dough is ready, prepare your workspace with a dusting of flour. Add a dusting of flour to the top of the dough as well. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough about a 1/2 inch thick.
  • Cut circles with a cookie cutter between 2 1/2 – 3 inches round. (My cutter is actually 2 3/4 inches).
  • Press the cookie cutter straight down into the dough and twist right before you remove it from the dough.
  • Place doughnut circles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Cover the doughnuts with plastic wrap and let them rise for at least 15 minutes in a warm place.
  • Fill a large pot, like a pasta pot, with 2 inches (approximately 4 cups) of vegetable oil. (During Hanukkah, I actually use half vegetable oil and half extra virgin olive oil, but all vegetable oil is fine).
  • Heat oil on medium high and then turn down to low.
  • Place three sufganiyot at a time in the oil and cook the first side for 2 minutes. (Tip: They seem to expand better by putting the side that was face down while they were rising, face up in the pot of oil).
  • Flip them over with a slotted spoon and cook for another minute.
  • Cooking time will vary based on the size of your pot and your stove, so do a test run with the first batch. Sometimes, the doughnuts will cook as fast as one minute per side.
  • Remove the sufganiyot with the slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
  • When cooled, filled them to your heart's desire and sprinkle with a light dusting of powdered sugar.
Calories: 93kcal
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: Chanukah, Chanukah donuts, dessert, dessert and treats, Hanukkah, Hanukkah doughnuts, kosher, sufganiyah, suganiyot

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 93kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 24mg | Potassium: 36mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 94IU | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1mg

Have you ever seen a 1000 pound menorah go up by hand?!

What’s your favorite sufganiyot filling? What other recipes would you like me to post on the blog? Scroll down and let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you!

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