Tag Archive | "Shalom from the Shabbat Lady"

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 30 September 2010 by admin

Dear Families,

Everyone has a favorite holiday, and it comes as no surprise to those who know me that my favorite is Simchat Torah. What biblioholic would not love a holiday that celebrates a special book? Judaism is a wonderful religion that has so many facets and entryways. Some love the rituals, some love the spirituality, some love playing basketball at the J — however we define our Jewishness, we add that to our identity. For those of you who love the intellectual connection with Judaism and G-d, Simchat Torah is your holiday (and for those who love any or all of the other ways, Simchat Torah is still your holiday). We celebrate the cycle of reading the entire Torah coming to an end and beginning again with ritual, song and dancing together — this is the BEST holiday to go to synagogue!

Joel Lurie Grishaver, in “40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People,” lists going to Simchat Torah services as one of his “40 things.” The chapter questions, “If we could only do one holiday, which would it be?’ Grishaver uses this argument for Simchat Torah: because the refuseniks in the former Soviet Union, who had to choose one holiday to celebrate, chose this one. He goes on to say that there are three reasons: (1) Simchat Torah is pure celebration; (2) Simchat Torah says that Torah is the center of our Judaism; and (3) Simchat Torah raises those two insights together into a community arena.

So what can you do with your family? First, go to the synagogue of your choice and celebrate. Second, make sure you have at least one book of Torah at home with interesting commentary. Third, keep the learning going — you do not need to be a Torah scholar, in fact you do not need to read Hebrew, to learn from the Torah stories. Today we have Internet access to Torah, we have music, we have children’s books — start where you are comfortable. Begin the cycle of learning with Simchat Torah and never stop. As a rabbi with a very funny name (Rabbi Ben Bag Bag) said in Pirke Avot 5:26: “Turn it and turn it; for everything is contained in it.”

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 24 September 2010 by admin

Dear Families,

Being Jewish means enjoying great holidays and most of them have great “stuff.” At the J Early Childhood Center, we have been blowing the shofar with abandon but now we get the best fun — building a sukkah! Children love forts and the sukkah is such a special one to share with family and guests. The important Jewish value of hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests, is practiced at Sukkot in a very special way. The tradition of ushpizin, begun in the 16th century, involves inviting a different Biblical guest each night of Sukkot using special words of welcome to honor the ushpizin (guest).

According to the Midrash, the shelter of sukkot was available to the Israelites during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness solely as a result of Abraham’s offer of hospitality to the three strangers who appeared to tell Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child. That is a great explanation, but the real message is that we should always show kindness and proper hospitality to others.

Here are the Biblical ushpizin for each night and a topic for family discussion:

ABRAHAM was told by G-d to take his long-awaited son Isaac, and bind him to a sacrificial altar. Have you ever been asked to “sacrifice” something that was very dear to you?

ISAAC had to choose between two sons for his inheritance. Have you ever had something that couldn’t be shared and you had to choose from among your friends?

JACOB wrestled with G-d’s angel and in the morning changed his name to Yisrael. What new name would you call yourself if you could?

JOSEPH received a beautiful coat from his father that made his brothers very jealous. Have you ever been jealous of something a friend had? Has someone ever been jealous of you?

MOSES was convinced of G-d’s presence by the Burning Bush. Did something unusual ever happen to convince you of something you weren’t sure of before?

AARON was the brother of Moses, the Jewish people’s greatest leader. Do you ever feel you live in your brother’s or sister’s shadow?

DAVID was chased by King Saul, who thought that David was after his throne. Have you ever been bothered by someone who thought you wanted something they had?

Now that you know the Biblical guests to invite, think of others you would like to invite into your sukkah and the questions you might ask them.

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 16 September 2010 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,

Yom Kippur is a difficult holiday especially to explain to young children. There are many things to think and talk about. The Jew’s responsibility during this week is to go to those whom he or she has hurt and to ask for forgiveness. Saying “I’m sorry” is hard for children but often harder for adults. Judaism helps us out by telling us that we must not only ask for forgiveness but also be willing to forgive.

How do we teach our children about forgiveness? First, by recognizing that saying “I’m sorry” on command does not make it true. Our children learn many lessons from us on how to handle mistakes and there is much to learn from the Jewish way of tshuvah. The term, which is often translated as “repentance,” really means “turning back.” We must realize that we have done something wrong and feel bad about it. Children do understand right and wrong even when they cannot always control their actions. Next, when we ask for forgiveness, we must really say and intend that we will not do the hurtful act again. In Judaism, if you apologize then do the same thing the next day, you have not “turned back.” In fact, the rabbis told us that we must face the same temptation to do wrong three more times and not make the same mistake, before we have really succeeded. Tshuvah, repentance, is hard! However, it is an important lesson to teach our children. We must also remember that forgiveness is good for us — it hurts us to be angry at another.

Now, after going to the people we have sinned against, on Yom Kippur we ask G-d to forgive us. Since I was a child old enough to read the prayer book, I always wondered on Yom Kippur, “I haven’t done half those things mentioned — why do I have to stand up and list all those sins?” It took a lot of growing up to realize that I was part of a community and together we ask for forgiveness for our collective sins — together we will be forgiven and together it will be easier to strive to be better in the coming year!

P.S.: For a really great book to explain these tough issues, read “K’Ton Ton and the Kitten.”

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 19 August 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Jacob takes his journey away from his home, falls asleep with a rock for a pillow and has a dream. He wakes up and says, “G-d was in this place and I did not know it!” The Hebrew word that is used is makom (place) and it is repeated in order to emphasize that this was a sacred place where Jacob experiences G-d. How do we create a sacred space? What is your sacred space where you feel G-d’s presence?

Here are some ways to look for G-d in nature — find your makom:

•Look up and around. What do you see?

•If you were a bird, where would you build a nest?

•Take off your shoes and walk barefoot — feel the different types of ground cover.

•Close your eyes and listen for three natural sounds.

•Pretend you are a rock.

•Close your eyes and explore a tree.

•Talk about these texts:

“As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our state of mind. We will not perish for want of information, but only for want of appreciation.” —A.J.Heschel

“In order to serve G-d, one needs to access the enjoyment of the beauties of nature, such as the contemplation of flower-decorated meadows, majestic mountains and flowing rivers. All these are essential to the spiritual development of even the holiest of people.” —Maimonides

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and G-d. Only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that G-d wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow…. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” —“Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

  • Put your hands on the ground and make a wish for the earth.
  • In your own way, take a moment to thank G-d for the gift of living!

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 08 July 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Each morning, there are traditional blessings recited upon waking up. One of the prayers says: “Blessed are You, Adonai, our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who gives sight to the blind (pokei’ah iv­rim).” Thankfully, very few people are actually blind, so why do we say this prayer every morning? It may be that in some ways, we are all blind as we close our eyes, not seeing the wonderful things in our world. We take so much for granted and we have become blind to the wonders around us. When we say this prayer, we are asking to have our eyes opened.

Here is a fun activity to enjoy outdoors in nature, in your back yard or even in your home. What are the things that we have closed our eyes to and taken for granted? Why is it important to open our eyes and really see?

Activity

•Choose a partner. This activity should be done in silence.

•The “A” partner closes his/her eyes and the “B” partner walks the “A” partner to a special natural view (a flower, a rock, etc.).

•”B” partner should take the head of “A” and adjust the line of vision just as if they were a camera — it can be a close-up or a panoramic view.

•Recite the pokei’ah ivrim blessing and tug on the ear of “A” to open his/her eyes.

•“A” should take in the view as if for the first time.

“Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, pokei’ah ivrim.”

“Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who gives sight to the blind.”

Questions

•How did it feel to be led around? How did it feel to be able to see again?

•What did you see that you didn’t notice before?

•How did it feel to lead a blind person around?

•What was it like to choose a special sight to see? Why did you choose that view?

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 01 July 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families.

Being in nature is the perfect opportunity to give thanks to G-d for the world. In the Amidah prayer, the text says: “We thank You, G-d … for our lives, which depend upon your hand, and for your miracles and your goodness, which are with us at every moment: evening, morning and noon.” Giving thanks after each day is like a religious way of “debriefing” after an experience. The first step is to think quietly about all the things that you are thankful for and then begin with this prayer:

“Modim anahnu lach, sha’atah hu Adonai Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu…”

“We thank you, Adonai, our G-d, and G-d of our fathers and our mothers…”

Now add up all the things you have thought of to be thankful for. Remember, you don’t have to have really big things; there are so many little things that we forget to be thankful for. Let each family member add to the list each day.

Now we end with the traditional prayer:

“…al hayeinu ha’m’surim b’yadecha v’al nishmoteinu ha’p’kudot lach v’al nisecha sheb’chol-yom imanu v’al niflotecha v’tovotecha sheb’chol-et, erev vavoker v’tzohorayim.”

“…and for our lives, which depend upon your hand, and for your miracles and your goodness, which are with us at every moment: evening, morning and noon.”

When families get together, everyone has something important to say and all should listen. It helps to follow the ground rules of “Moses’ staff.” To convince the Israelites that Moses was the leader to follow, G-d gave Moses a magical staff. Create your own staff and follow this procedure for talking and sharing — it is a great activity for the dinner table each night:

•Only the person holding “Moses’ staff” (stick, ball, pillow, whatever) may talk.

•All others must listen.

•Everyone has the right to pass and not talk.

•All must show respect to the one speaking.

•What is said in the family (group) is confidential.

This idea was taken from the book “Spirit in Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail” by Matt Biers-Ariel, Deborah Newbrun and Michal Fox Smart. Try new experiences each week this summer.

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 25 June 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

There is a wonderful story in Genesis about Jacob leaving his family. He takes off on his journey and at night, lies down on a rock. He has a dream of angels going up and down a ladder. When he awakes, he says, “G-d was in this place and I did not know it. How awesome is this place!” (Genesis 28:11-17) We hope each person experiences the beauty of the world and says, “How awesome is this place!” Play, dream, explore, discover!

Each week this summer, all the articles come from the book “Spirit in Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail” by Matt Biers-Ariel, Deborah Newbrun and Michal Fox Smart. Richard Louv, in his book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder,” tells us that children and families need time outdoors and in the natural world. The Torah and our sages taught about the importance of nature for centuries; we are finally catching up. Begin today to get outside with your family and experience the world. We must all become “shomer/shomeret adamah — guardians of the earth.” Teach your children by your example and enjoy the outdoors together!

Begin your summer journey with Tefillat Haderech (literally, “prayer of the road”). This prayer asks G-d to protect travelers from the dangers faced on a journey. We want G-d to be with us as we grow and share with others.

“May it be your will, Adonai, our G-d and G-d or our ancestors, to lead us in peace, to keep us in peace, to direct us to our destination in health and happiness and peace, and to return us to our homes in peace. Save us from all enemies and calamities on the journey, and from all threatening disasters. Bless the work of our hands. May we find grace, love, and mercy in your sight and in the sight of all who see us. Hear our pleas, for You listen to prayer and supplication. Praised are You, Adonai, who hears prayer.”

T’filat Haderech
by Debbie Friedman

May we be blessed as we go on our way

May we be guided in peace,

May we be blessed with health and joy,

May this be our blessing. Amen.

May we be sheltered by the wings of peace,

May we be kept in safety and in love,

May grace and compassion find their way to every soul,

May this be our blessing. Amen.

Life is a journey and we challenge you to take a journey this summer. As you do, answer these questions.

•What do you want to learn on this journey?

•The blessing asks to save us from every enemy and disaster along the way. Is there something to fear on every journey? On this one?

•What can we do to “bless the work of our hands”? How can we do tikkun olam (repairing the world) on every journey we take?

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 17 June 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

This year, I asked our pre-K children, “What is a prayer?” They immediately started sharing different blessings. Even at age 4, they know the importance of blessings in Judaism — and we say a lot of them in a day at school! Blessings are a way of saying thank you to G-d for all the wonderful things we have in our lives. After we talked about all the blessings we know and use, I said to the children, “Blessings are an important way to say thank you to G-d, but what about asking G-d for something?” The children were sure that you couldn’t ask G-d for toys, but what if you wanted to go to the park with your friend and it was raining — could you pray to G-d that it would stop raining? Of course, the children agreed, because G-d makes the rain. That answer led to the question, “So what happens if it doesn’t stop raining? Does that mean that G-d isn’t listening?” The answer was amazing from such young children. “G-d was listening, but G-d probably knew that the trees and the flowers needed the rain more.”

Jewish prayer is both formalized and personal. Joel Lurie Grishaver said, “I learned to say brachot at the dinner table and I learned to pray on the ballfield.” There are times in our lives when spontaneous prayer is needed and bursts forth from us. However, Jewish prayer is formal in design, and in time and space. We pray at certain times and in Hebrew. The standard format for prayer is: Praise, ask, thank! During communal prayer, we ask as a community for very specific things. But, we should not forget to include our personal requests before ending our formal prayer.

Now there are many questions about prayer from children and adults: Does G-d hear? Does G-d answer? And, if not, why bother? Prayer is communication and communication builds a relationship. As we become comfortable with “talking to G-d,” we build our relationship with G-d. We become comfortable with the words of prayer and reaching out. Why is this important? As a musician, I have long understood the importance of practice. If we don’t practice, we will not be ready for the performance. If we don’t practice prayer, we are not ready when we need it.

Back to our children — each day at school, we say blessings, we pray and we talk about G-d.  They are so comfortable with “G-d talk” because they have a relationship with G-d. Isn’t it wonderful that they can understand that G-d might have other reasons for making the rain?  That is what faith is all about! I pray that our children will always have faith and a relationship with G-d.

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 10 June 2010 by admin

Dear Families,

As we are getting ready for camp, we are making lists and learning the names of all our campers. It is interesting to note the “popular names” and the changes over time. This summer at camp, we are seeing a lot of the following: Sam/Samuel/Samantha, Hannah, Benjamin/Ben, Jacob, and Noah. Names are important, but they must be more than simply labels. Parents spend a great deal of time choosing the names for their children and rightly so—your name stays with you forever. We honor family members by giving our child a name of a relative. In the Sephardic tradition, one names after a living relative while in the Ashkenazic tradition, one names after someone who has died. We hope that our child will exemplify the good qualities of that special person.

Today, many families are choosing Biblical names. And speaking of names in the Bible, how many do you know? It is a fun game with kids to see how many you can list. Now for the real challenge—how many women in the Bible can your family name? An important question is: “Why are so few women named?” Being named in the Bible means importance; women were not always valued. Try naming the women of the Bible, and then discover their stories and the lessons you can learn from them. Here is a short list: who do you know? Where can you find out about them? Simple; go to the Bible and discover really great women. Who knows, maybe someday there will be little girls named Shifra and Puah?

Familiar: Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Esther, Hannah! Less Familiar: Leah, Ruth, Deborah, Naomi, Abigail, Dina, Tamar. Do you know these women? Lilith, Bilhah, Zilpah, Yocheved, Tziporah, Delilah, How about Naamah and Jezebel?

Let’s learn about the wonderful women in our Jewish history. As you read and learn about them, remember the historical time period; women were not as lucky in times past. Their choices and actions were limited. All of this gives us so much to learn about and talk about. Hooray for the many “Women of Valor!!”

Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 03 June 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

A number of years ago I received an e-mail from my son who studied music at Rice University. A world-renowned teacher came to give master classes and my son was writing to tell me about it (and, of course, send pictures). His words were simple, yet so telling of the relationship of student to teacher. He wrote, “My teacher’s teacher is here.” From those words, I heard the reverence of a student for a teacher, who for centuries has been part of our Jewish tradition. We are continually reminded that “we are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us.” All of our knowledge is expanded by learning from others.

Judaism is the religion that may be credited with the early beginnings of copyright law.   When you read Talmudic text it says, “Rabbi This said to Rabbi That who said it in the name of Rabbi Who…” However, copyright law is to protect the original—Jewish tradition is to give honor to those who said it first. Telling your “sources” gives credit to them, but it also gives weight to your ideas and thoughts. When my son tells whom he has studied with, he is raised in esteem as well.

All professions honor those who came before—for us, as Jews, we trace our lineage all the way back. It is said that we all came from one man, Adam, so that none of us can say, “My dad’s better than yours!” This, too, is an important message to remembe

Finally, reverence for teachers is an important Jewish value. When my son spoke of “his teacher’s teacher,” he was honoring his teacher as well as the elder teacher. This respect and reverence for the teachers in our lives is lacking in many schools. However, today in many Jewish Day Schools, the tradition still continues for students to stand when their teacher (or any adult) enters the classroom. Our Jewish tradition values learning and those who help us learn—let us demonstrate with our words and actions the respect and reverence those important people in our lives.

Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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