House Of Prayer For All Peoples

Jewish Bridge Builders
Interconnected Spirituality

Fasting ` A Synopsis

Fasting and Jewish Belief ~ by Rebbetzin Andalin Shekhinah

I was asked by a Muslim member of House of Prayer for All Peoples, Zeynep Kariparduc, to sit on a panel at a special Interfaith Ramadan Iftar dinner this coming March 16, 2024.  I agreed, and went to work on an outline of Jewish customs regarding fasting. So many faith systems include the practice of fasting ~ another common thread as we get to know each other.

Yes, Jewish religion includes the observance of several fast days as a form of practice and reflection. Some notable fast days include Yom Kippur, Tisha B’Av, and the Fast of Esther. These fasts have different significance and reasons for observance within the Jewish calendar. Additional Jewish fast days include the Fast of the Firstborn, observed before Passover, and the Fast of Gedaliah, observed on the third day of Tishrei (which usually occurs in September – October.) These fasts are observed for various reasons, ranging from commemorating historical events to expressing repentance and seeking spiritual reflection.

Following is a brief discussion/outline of three of these observances:

  1. Yom Kippur (Takes place on the 10th of Tishrei, the 7th month on the Jewish Calendar.)

Yom Kippur, also known as “the Day of Atonement,” marks what many believe is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and fasting is a central element of this observance. The Yom Kippur fast lasts for approximately 25 hours, beginning at sundown the evening before the holiday and concluding at nightfall the following day.

During this period, Jewish individuals abstain from food and drink, refraining from physical pleasures and focusing on spiritual reflection, repentance, and prayer. The fast symbolizes a deep commitment to seeking forgiveness for sins and striving for spiritual purity. Many devotees also refrain from other activities, such as bathing and wearing leather shoes, to emphasize the solemn and introspective nature of the day.

Breaking the fast is traditionally done with a festive meal, often featuring [1]symbolic foods. The Yom Kippur fast serves as a collective and individual journey toward spiritual renewal and reconciliation with both oneself and the divine.

Health Considerations

It is important to note that within Judaism, the value of preserving one’s health takes precedence over fasting on Yom Kippur. Rabbis and Jewish authorities recognize that individuals with health problems, the elderly, pregnant women, and those who may become faint or unwell are exempt from the obligation to fast on Yom Kippur.

This principle is grounded in the broader Jewish concept of pikuach nefesh, פיקוח נפש, which means “saving a soul” or “saving a life.” It prioritizes the preservation of life and well-being. Jewish law permits individuals facing health concerns to break the fast, ensuring they prioritize their health and avoid potential harm.

Rabbis and community leaders often emphasize the importance of consulting with healthcare professionals to make informed decisions about fasting, encouraging a balance between religious observance and individual well-being. This approach aligns with the understanding that religious practices should adapt to accommodate health considerations and promote the overall welfare of individuals.

  1. Tisha B’Av, (A solemn Jewish day of mourning that commemorates a series of tragic events in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. It usually falls in July or August of the Gregorian calendar.)

**Key Aspects:**

  1. **Temple Destruction:**

– Tisha B’Av primarily mourns the destruction of both the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE.

  1. **Other Historical Tragedies:**

– In addition to the Temple destructions, Tisha B’Av is associated with various other historical calamities, including the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.

  1. **Fasting and Mourning:**

– Observers of Tisha B’Av typically fast for 25 hours, refraining from eating, drinking, bathing, and other comforts. It is a day of deep reflection and mourning.

  1. **Reading the Book of Lamentations:**

– The Book of Lamentations, known as “Eicha” in Hebrew, is traditionally read on Tisha B’Av. It is a collection of poetic laments mourning the destruction of Jerusalem.

  1. **Restrictions:**

– Traditional mourning practices, such as sitting on the floor or low stools, avoiding greetings, and refraining from various pleasurable activities, are observed.

  1. **Synagogue Services:**

– Special prayers and liturgical readings are conducted in synagogues. The atmosphere is somber, reflecting the gravity of the historical events being commemorated.

  1. **Hope for Redemption:**

– While Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning, it also carries a message of hope. Many prayers and reflections express the longing for the rebuilding of the Temple and the coming of the Messianic era.

The observance of Tisha B’Av is a powerful reminder of the historical challenges faced by the Jewish people and serves as a day for introspection, repentance, and a collective hope for a future marked by peace and redemption.

  1. The Fast of Esther (observed on the day before Purim, commemorating the events leading up to the salvation of the Jewish people as recounted in the Book of Esther. This fast typically falls on the 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar.

During the Fast of Esther, individuals fast from dawn until nightfall. The fast is a remembrance of Queen Esther’s fasting before approaching King Xerxes to intercede on behalf of her people and thwart the wicked plans of Haman.

Apart from the fast, the day is also marked by reading the Book of Esther, known as the Megillah, during the evening and morning services. The story of Esther, Purim’s central narrative, highlights themes of courage, faith, and divine intervention.

The culmination of the Fast of Esther leads into the joyous celebration of Purim, where the Jewish community gathers to listen to the Megillah, exchange gifts, and partake in festive meals, emphasizing the triumph of good over evil.

Significance of Other Minor Fasts

The Fast of the Firstborn is a Jewish tradition observed on the day before Passover. It commemorates the salvation of the firstborn Israelites during the tenth plague in Egypt, when the Angel of Death passed over their homes. The fast is typically observed by firstborn males refraining from food until the Passover Seder, emphasizing gratitude for their deliverance.

The Fast of Gedaliah is a minor Jewish fast observed on the third of Tishrei, the day after Rosh Hashanah. It commemorates the assassination of Gedaliah ben Ahikam, a Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah, during the time of the Babylonian exile. The fast serves as a reminder of the tragic consequences of internal strife among the Jewish people and encourages reflection on unity and avoiding destructive conflicts.

In General

In Jewish tradition, fasting is often associated with specific days designated for observance, such as Yom Kippur, Tisha B’Av, or the Fast of Esther. While these are the primary days of fasting, some individuals may choose to fast on other occasions for personal reasons, such as seeking spiritual reflection or penance. However, it’s essential to note that individual practices can vary, and not all Jews may choose to fast outside of the established observances.

[1] The meal that breaks the fast at the end of Yom Kippur, called the “break-the-fast” meal or “seudah,” typically includes light and easily digestible foods. Traditional symbolic foods may vary among Jewish communities, but common choices include:

  1. **Challah**: Braided egg bread, often served as a sweet version.
  2. **Fish**: Often symbolizing fertility and abundance.
  3. **Eggs**: A symbol of renewal and life.
  4. **Dairy**: Various dairy dishes like cheese and blintzes, signifying the sweetness of Torah.
  5. **Honey Cake or Sweet Desserts**: Representing wishes for a sweet new year.
  6. **Fruits and Vegetables**: Fresh and easy-to-digest options.

These foods are chosen for their symbolism, and the emphasis is on starting the meal gently after a day of fasting and reflection. Different families and communities may have their own specific traditions for the break-the-fast meal.

Welcome Rosh Chodesh Adar I I

Welcome New Moon / New Month / Rosh Chodesh Adar II🎉🎈with New Moon Blessing.
 
Rosh Chodesh Adar II for Hebrew Year 5784 begins at sundown on Saturday, March 9th 2024 and ends at nightfall on Monday, March 11th 2024.
Rosh Chodesh Adar II in a leap year occurs every 2 to 3 years in the Jewish calendar, is associated with additional joy and anticipation due to the upcoming celebration of Purim.
Rosh Chodesh Adar is traditionally a time of increased joy, and in a leap year with an additional Adar, this joy is heightened. The Talmud states, “When Adar enters, we increase in joy.”
During this time, there is an opportunity to reflect on the miracles of the Purim story and how they relate to personal miracles and joy in our lives.
Rosh Chodesh Adar II in a leap year brings an extra layer of excitement and positive anticipation,
So, with these beautiful words from The Book of Blessings, by poet, painter, and Judaica scholar Marcia Falk, let’s bless this special new moon.
 
May the month of Adar II be a month of blessings:
blessings of goodness,
blessings of joy,
peace and kindness,
friendship and love,
creativity, strength,
serenity,
fulfilling work
and dignity,
satisfaction, success,
and sustenance,
physical health
and radiance.
May truth and justice
guide our acts
and compassion
temper our lives
that we may blossom
as we age
and become
our sweetest selves

Welcome Rosh Chodesh Adar I

This Thursday evening we move into the new month of Adar I. New Moon ~Rosh Chodesh Adar I 2024 / רֹאשׁ חוֹדֶשׁ אַדָר א׳ ~ 5784

Rosh Chodesh Adar I is the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar I, which is an additional month that occurs in leap years in the Jewish calendar. Yes! We are in a leap year on the Hebrew calendar. It marks the start of a joyful period leading up to the holiday of Purim.

During this time, we increase our expressions of joy! As the Talmud says, “When Adar enters, joy increases.” Our new month of Adar I for Hebrew Year 5784 begins at sundown this Thursday – February 8th and ends at nightfall on Saturday, February 10th.

Under the celestial veil of the upcoming new moon, Rosh Chodesh whispers of mystic energies weaving through the fabric of Adar I. As the moon waxes, it invites seekers to delve into the realms of introspection and renewal. A cosmic dance unfolds, blending the ethereal and the earthly, heralding a time where the unseen forces of possibility converge with the tangible rhythms of existence. Embrace the sacred unfolding, where the new moon illuminates pathways to self-discovery and spiritual growth.

Our friend Melinda Ribner writes: “Whenever we experience the beauty of our own holy soul, we are joyful, because we experience ourselves as part of G!d. We experience the vastness of who we really are, not limited to the physical world nor to our physical bodies, nor our personalities nor ego identities.”

Regardless of any challenges we face, may the month of Adar I be a month of blessings in the words of Marcia Falk: blessings of goodness, blessings of joy, peace and kindness, friendship and love, creativity, strength, serenity, fulfilling work and dignity, satisfaction, success, and sustenance, physical health and radiance. May truth and justice guide our acts and compassion temper our lives that we may blossom as we age and become our sweetest selves. May it be so.

Love and blessings,
Rebbetzin Andalin

Celebrating the New Year for Trees ~ Tu BiShivat

 

Tu B’Shevat for Hebrew Year 5784 begins at sundown on this coming Wednesday, 24 January 2024 and ends at nightfall on Thursday, 25  January 2024.

In a nutshell: Tu BiShvat, also known as the New Year for Trees, is a Jewish holiday celebrating the renewal of nature. Traditionally observed in late winter, it symbolizes the awakening of the earth as trees begin to bloom. During Tu BiShvat, people often plant trees, enjoy fruits, and reflect on environmental conservation. It’s a beautiful occasion that highlights the interconnectedness of humanity and nature.

       As we begin  to emerge from the dark days of winter, we begin to experience a sort of rebirth. In the Middle East, this is the time of year when the sap begins to rise in the trees, and blossoms start to appear on the almond trees. Yes! Things are waking up now! Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, z”l said that at this time of year, “every part of the vegetable world is singing a song and bringing forth a secret of the divine mystery of creation.” He also said that, “The old shall be renewed, and the new shall be made holy.” This month we are encouraged to plant seeds which will bloom in the month of Nissan.

        I especially like a midrash found in the Babylonian Talmud from thousands of years ago, Tractate Ta’anit 23a. The story is told of a gardener who was planting a carob tree. When Honi the Circle Maker asked her how long it would take for the tree to bear fruit, she said, “It will take 70 years!” Taken aback, Honi expressed the fact that she would not live to see the fruit. Her response: “When I was born into this world, I found many beautiful carob trees planted by those who came before me. Just as my ancestors planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will have carob to eat.”  And the story concludes that Honi learned from this experience that it is better to think of others than to be selfish. It is said that he helped to plant carob trees from that point forward so that all of the children and grandchildren would have plenty to eat in the future. These carob trees and their delicious fruit are found in the northern part of Israel today!

        We are in the month of Shevat, which Melinda (Mindy) Ribner teaches “is an optimal time to conceive of new projects and to open to newness in you life in general. Say ‘yes’ to life. Breathe out the old and breathe in the new.” This of course reminds me of Reb Alan’s song, Say Yes to Life, Alan Scott Bachman ©1989, which we often sing at the conclusion of our Rosh Hashanah services:

Say Yes to Life – Celebrate the Earth
Say Yes to Life – Celebrate Your Birth
Say Yes to Life – Let the Love Flow
Say Yes to Life – Let the World Know

My Love – All that is Given
Life is worth Livin’ – It is all within
My heart – Feels the Joy in
The World we are Sharin’ – The one we are Mirrorin’

Say Yes to Life – Join with One and All
Say Yes to Life – Listen to the Universal Call
Say Yes to Life – What you Say Comes True
Say Yes to Life – Say it in Everything You Do

My Love – All that is Given
Life is worth Livin’ – It is all within
My heart – Feels the Joy in
The World we are Sharin’ – The one we are Mirrorin’

Watch the Earth Transform – Cleansed like a Newborn
Light up the World with Dance and Song
Envision a Peace that will last long!

Say Yes to Life – Celebrate the Earth
Say Yes to Life – Celebrate Your Birth
Say Yes to Life – Let the Love Flow
Say Yes to Life – Let the World Know
Say Yes to Life – Join with One and All
Say Yes to Life – Listen to the Universal Call

       And here we are, approaching the full moon of Shevat when the New Year of Trees is celebrated.  Tu (meaning 15 as in the 15th day) b’ Shevat!   It is so fitting that we do Reb Alan’s Song, “Say Yes to Life” at Rosh Hashanah as well as during Tu BiShivat. Mindy explains that the kabbalists of Safed in the 1500s believed that Tu B’ Shevat “is a spiritual and mystical Rosh Hashanah for us, a time of new beginnings, even a time of ushering in redemption for the world.”

She is a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to her 
this tree is the Lady, the Shekhinah.  Zohar 1:27B

Love and blessings,
Rebbetzin Andalin

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 2023 / רֹאשׁ חוֹדֶשׁ תָּמוּז

Rosh Chodesh Tamumz for Hebrew Year 5783 begins at sundown on Sunday, 18 June 2023 and ends at nightfall on Tuesday, 20 June 2023.

~RebbetzinAndalin sharing thoughts on Tammuz

In her book, Kabbalah Month by Month, Melinda Ribner explains that the month of  Tammuz is a time to “reach deep inside to muster our own resources and see if we have the inner strength and discernment to stay focused and on the spiritual path.” Tammuz is about maintaining the endurance to make it through the heat of the summer, and managing the heat of our passions.

In addition to its Babylonian roots, the word “Tammuz” has Hebrew resonances: it means “the completeness (or innocence) of strength.” The essential challenge of Tammuz is to meet the external imbalance (longer days, shorter nights), with internal balance – to be what author Miriam Maron calls a “Visionary Warrior,” by maintaining our boundaries and caring for our inner powerhouses.

I invite you to join us in a mediation journey, listening to the specially chosen words of Rabbi Callie Schulman, Associate Rabbi at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, WA who aims to help us identify those inner resources and meet our Visionary Warrior, so that we may acknowledge the fullness of our own strength:

Guided Meditation

Relaxed, unfettered, and unburdened, a path appears at your feet. You begin to walk it. You’re in a safe place, filled with familiar and comforting sights, sounds, and smells. As you walk, begin to notice your surroundings. Where are you? What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? You maintain a calm pace as you wander through this landscape of familiarity, letting the gentle rise and fall of your breath propel you forward. These familiar views begin to fade away as the path opens up ahead and you begin to walk in a new territory. What does the terrain look like? The sky? What do you see in the distance? You arrive at a fork in the road, and see a new track.

Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet place. Once you’re physically situated, take three deep, cleansing breaths. Let each exhalation remove another layer of tension, stress, and distraction from the day. Focus on the natural rise and fall of each subsequent breath as you gently acknowledge and let go of whatever stray thoughts cross your mind. Imagine the room you’re in filled with a cleansing, bright light. Breathe it in. Let it course through you, from the top of your head to bottom of your feet. Call attention to each part of your body as the light passes through it. Surrender any remaining tension.

Lead up a gentle slope to a hilltop. Leave the beaten path and climb the hill. When you arrive at the top, take a 360 degree turn to survey the scene. What challenges have you already encountered along your path to arrive at this place? What roads were left untaken? What do you see on the road ahead?

There’s a tree on the hill before you. Sitting in its shade is your inner Visionary Warrior, waiting to greet you. As you approach, notice her demeanor and body language. How does she present herself to you? How does she greet you? What is her dress and what is she carrying? How did she come to possess this object? Which of her gifts did she gain in battle and which did she receive at birth? She offers you her hand. You grasp it, feeling the completeness of your strength, which comes from the totality of all your lived experiences. You feel the innocence of your strength, because there is something innocent in recognizing the wholeness of those experiences, and owning the sum of your parts. Your inner Visionary Warrior’s balance and power course through you as you receive gifts hard-won and naturally given.

As you step away from your encounter in the shade, descend the hill and return to the path, carrying with you all of the gifts of your inner Visionary Warrior. They’re weightless, but their presence is profound. You feel a sturdiness in your bones as you prepare to continue along your path. Focus on the rise and fall of your breath, and bring your attention back to your physical self as you slowly bring movement back to your limbs. With your eyes still closed, take three deep breaths. When you’re ready, open your eyes. Take a moment to think about what you saw, about your encounter with the inner Visionary Warrior, and what gifts you now carry forward with you.

As you step away from your encounter in the shade, descend the hill and return to the path, carrying with you all of the gifts of your inner Visionary Warrior. They’re weightless, but their presence is profound. You feel a sturdiness in your bones as you prepare to continue along your path. Focus on the rise and fall of your breath, and bring your attention back to your physical self as you slowly bring movement back to your limbs. With your eyes still closed, take three deep breaths. When you’re ready, open your eyes. Take a moment to think about what you saw, about your encounter with the inner Visionary Warrior, and what gifts you now carry forward with you.

Blessing for the New Month of Tammuz ~ from Marcia Falk’s The Book of Blessings:

May the month of Tammuz be a month of blessings: blessings of goodness, blessings of joy, peace and kindness, friendship and love, creativity, strength, serenity, fulfilling work and dignity, satisfaction, success, and sustenance, physical health and radiance. May truth and justice guide our acts and compassion temper our lives that we may blossom as we age and become our sweetest selves. May it be so.