November 13, 2022

Carrying the Spirit Forward

As the last of the fall holidays winds down, we have to wait two months until Hanukkah.

If you attended services or had festive meals with family over Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, did you feel renewed, inspired, recommitted to Jewish practice? I think this happens for lots us.

[Conversely, some people feel more alienated. We’ll talk about that next week, because it can be a powerful letdown.]

Establishing new traditions

If you do want to rededicate yourself to a new tradition, how could you go about it?

You could choose just one addition to your weekly routine that would fill your spirit. Of course, attending services more regularly might be the best choice for you.

But there are lots of others paths. Here are some that might work for you:

Donate to a charity of your choice once a week.  Here’s one to consider. You could even make a super simple tzedakah box for this purpose.

Buy a beautiful new mezuzah and say the blessings as you put it up.

Find a piece of Jewish music that you like and learn to play it on your instrument; guitar chords and piano music are easy to find for many popular songs. Or just buy a CD of Jewish or Israeli music that you pop in every Friday night to create atmosphere. Here are just a few of my favorites.

  • Debbie Friedman, with her soul-filling songs “And You Shall Be a Blessing” and “Mi Shebeirach.”
  • Authentic Israeli Folk Songs and Dances with a wonderful rendition of Hora Medura that pretty much makes you get up and dance.
  • And Neil Sedaka’s Brighton Beach Memories, with his stirring Shein Vi Di L’Vone.

Establish a new tradition of hiking on Shabbat with family or friends, away from computers and washing machines, enjoying nature.

Sign up for a blog that inspires you.  Here are three of the many choices:

  • Rabbi Yael Levy’s A Way In Blog  
  • Ann White’s Creating Calm Within Chaos   
  • Rabbi Jonathan Freirich‘s blog


My Commitment

What am I going to do? Work harder at unplugging over Shabbat. I give myself an F for the past 10 months. But the two Shabbatot (yes, only two, really) where I followed the spirit of the day, for the whole day, were so energizing and relaxing and spiritual.  And I have 52 opportunities a year to try to improve.

I’m also going to commit myself to baking at least one challah.  I hear it’s not so hard. We’ll see . . .

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Ways to Capture Your Family’s Unique Story

That grainy picture is of my Bubbeh, z”l, playing the piano.   She also sang beautifully.

I’m hoping to find a song she wrote and let the world – and especially our family – know about it.

Memoir is Not the Only Option

Every few days, it seems, I am reminded of the urgency to collect, document, and share the stories of our families.

These three bits from this past week seemed to converge and shout at me: “Get started!”


#1 – Yiddish Gathering

I invited some friends over to celebrate Yiddish.

We read a funny lesson from the magazine Pak ‘n Treger about what to do if you run into a bear in Yosemite Park – and how to find out if it’s a Jewish bear!

We sang Bei Mir Bistu Shein, Shein Vi Di L’Vone, and Tumbalalaika with a Neil Sedaka CD

And I found wonderful versions on YouTube of  Rozhinkes mit Mandlen (with Esther Ofarim), and Oyfn Pripetshik (with Jan Peerce) for us to sing along to

We also shared stories, like this one:

“When I was little, my grandfather lived with us.  Every day when I’d get up from my nap, I saw him reading the Forvert (daily Yiddish newspaper).  He was always sitting on a beautifully carved wooden stool.  And he’d call to me “Kum [come].  Sitz [sit].  And he taught me to read.”

- [Thanks to BD for this charming story!]


#2 – Finding the Family History

After months of searching, I found the 3-ring binder in which our daughter had, during middle school, captured much of the family history for a school project.

I am so grateful to that school, for that project!  She has documented tidbits that no one is left to confirm.

What a mechayeh [joy, relief]!


#3 – Preserving My Mother’s Story

A few weeks ago, we had a mini flood in the house (broken pipe), which, during the clean-up, led me to find a short story that my mother wrote a long time ago.  (Isn’t it amazing how one not-so-good thing can help you find your way to a great something?)

Although I’d long heard about it, I’d never read it.  Turns out, it is an absolutely enchanting story about clothespins and clothe lines, about moving into the light, about enjoying the sunshine – and about a way of life that, for most of us, is gone.

So my goal (my hope) is to work with an illustrator friend and have this story  reproduced for my mother to inscribe and give to all her great-grandchildren in time for Hanukkah this year.


What’s the Takeaway?

I’m realizing that there are countless ways to preserve our stories, far beyond just the perhaps-intimidating-to-start memoir.

  • Write up one anecdote. 
  • Preserve a great quote from a grandchild or a parent.  [Link is to a great idea on Pinterest to save quotes.]
  • Put a favorite family recipe on cards and hand them out to kids, grands, nieces/nephews.   See what this son and daughter did to preserve their mother’s recipes:

Have you discovered new ways to preserve your family’s history?  Please let us know.

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