Jewish Post & Opinion



From the Chassidic Rabbi




In this issue, there are several articles relating to the atrocity that took place in Mumbai, India. In light of that darkness and because in my part of the world it is very cold and dark, I decided to create the following eight meditations for Hanukkah. This can be done after the blessings and songs are sung when the candles are burning or even after they go out.

First night: Imagine bringing the light from the one candle to any place in your body where there may be a health concern or simply little aches and pains. Let the warm sensation from the light relax the tight muscles around the pain. Feel the area improving from the healing glow of the light and all stiffness and soreness is releasing.

Second night: Feel free to repeat the first night meditation knowing that the light is double in strength. Now think of any emotional pain you are feeling. Are you missing a close friend or relative who had been celebrating Hanukkah with you every year? Were you expecting a raise or simply a holiday bonus but did not get it? Let the light from the candles whirl in your mind, dissolving all of the sadness and bitterness replacing it with the thought that something good is just around the corner.

Third night: One can repeat night one or any of the previous night’s meditations on any of the upcoming nights as needed, knowing that the light will be even brighter than it was the first time around. Now that you are feeling stronger, think about any concerns with your family or close friends. Is one of them in harm’s way? Grieving a loss? Not getting along with a spouse? Shine the light all around them bringing with it a sense of love and peace.

Fourth night: Are there challenges in your neighborhood, your synagogue or the city where you live? Some congregants want to allow women on the bimah and others do not. Some Jews want a menorah in a public place and others oppose it. Let the light swirl around the dark places where differences of opinion are. Imagine it shining brightly over the situation bringing new ideas to encourage a solution or compromise.

Fifth night: As the lights continue getting brighter, think about the state where you live. Are there challenges in your state? Some citizens want prayers before the legislative sessions and other want separation of church and state. Let the bright light swirl around those citizens with opposing points of view and help them to see both sides of the situation and resolve to make an effort to understand each other. Maybe a solution will eventually come from that.

Sixth night: The bright lights from the candles are filling up the room. Are there challenges in your country? Let’s see. No shortage here: the economy, the stock market, the bailouts, adjusting to the new administration, gays and lesbians struggling for equal rights, racial prejudices, to name a few. Let the bright lights shine over these very difficult topics and bring with it the needed patience and compassion to work through them.

Seventh night: Even brighter lights are just in time for the planet’s woes. What about the challenges facing the world that we all share together? Again no shortages: the environment including safe drinking water and global warming, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Let’s all shed some light on these ordeals and see what becomes visible when the darkness is dispersed. Maybe some fresh insights will come.

Eighth night: Tonight the lights are very bright! We have experienced how the warmth and glow of the lights have been a source of comfort and joy during this dark time. This is how it was when God was creating the world and it was very dark. Then God said, “Let there be light!” That same powerful light is available to us now in this dark, cold season and in this difficult time to help us heal ourselves and heal our world.

Happy Hanukkah!

Jennie Cohen

Updated 12/15/08


This Wednesday at sunset starts Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. Don't miss it. Even if you can't completely fast, fast as best as you can. Ask your local rabbi to find out how much you can eat and drink and still be considered fasting. Spend as much time as you can in shul and soak up a lot of holiness. May Hashem wipe all of our slates clean, and give us all a good year.

Baruch Hashem, we had a beautiful Rosh Hashanah. The first day I walked to and from our local hospital, since we don't drive on Rosh Hashanah. I walked an hour to get there, spent an hour blowing the shofar about 500 times, and walked another hour back. By then I was rather exhausted, but very happy. In comparison, the second day was a breeze.

The second day of Rosh Hashanah I walked to the hospital, but I was in much better shape after the first day's workout. At the hospital I met a neighbor from K’far Chabad. We split between us the job of blowing the shofar. I blew in one ward, and he blew in the next. So I only had to blow the shofar 250 times. Then we waited in the hospital until it got dark and the holiday ended, and got a lift home.

What was the high point? I blew the shofar for a man suffering from meningitis. Four months ago he got the disease. During the acute stage he became blind and deaf. I met him a few weeks ago and tried to help him put on tefillin but didn't succeed. His sad response was that he can't see or hear. A week later I blew the shofar, which he heard somewhat. He was very happy. Then I let him hold the tefillin. Even though he couldn't see them, he recognized their shape, and was very happy to put them on. He said the prayers by heart. On Rosh Hashanah I blew the shofar right into his ear, and he was very grateful.
I'm also very grateful for the opportunity that I had to help the staff, patients and visitors hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Millions heard the shofar. With this mitzvah may we merit our final and complete redemption, and gather together to celebrate Succos in the third Temple in Jerusalem. This year it is a special mitzvah, called Hakhel, for all men, women and children to gather in Jerusalem in the Holy Temple to celebrate Succos and to listen to the king reading from the Torah. We hope that this year it will actually happen.

Rabbi Cohen lives in K’far Chabad, Israel. He can be reached by email at

Updated 10/14/08


Shabbat Shalom

September 28, 2007, Chol Hamoed Sukkot, 16 Tishri 5768

By Rabbi Jon Adland

Sukkot is the forgotten festival on the Jewish calendar, only one step ahead of Shavuot. Though these two festivals are two of the three pilgrimage festivals (shalosh regalim) on the Jewish calendar, they have nearly disappeared in much of American Jewish life. Shavuot continues to hold a special place because many Reform Jewish congregations continue to link Confirmation to this holy day as has been done for many, many years. Many people don’t realize it is Shavuot, but we do our best to educate.

Sukkot would be lost if it weren’t for the finale of the festival, which is Simchat Torah. Sukkot isn’t part of the Torah celebration but was added as an additional day to signal the end and beginning of the Torah reading cycle. At Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, our custom is to finish the reading in one Torah and start the reading in another, but what is more impressive is that we take out the Torah scrolls and unroll them so that one can see the entire text of the Torah at one time. It is “way cool!” Sukkot is a seven-day festival that is mostly home based, as we are commanded to put up a sukkah and to eat and even sleep in it for the week.

Sukkot is known as the harvest festival and many Jewish congregations link Sukkot to food drives. As we celebrate the bounty of our harvest, we remember those whose fast wasn’t voluntary on Yom Kippur and who don’t share in the bounty of the fall harvest. If you have a food bank in your community and you haven’t yet made a fall donation, do it now. We need to remember that not every bowl is filled everyday.

Beginning in the early 1980s, Sandy and I have had a sukkah. We’ve gone through various frames, but the one we use now is from of the Sukkah Project. There is some expense involved in getting the initial hardware and lumber, but it is easy to put up, take down and store. IHC uses a larger version of the same one we have in our backyard. Our children help us put it up and when the children aren’t here anymore, we will ask friends to help us. We do it as soon after Yom Kippur as we can, as Sukkot begins on the 15th day of Tishri and Yom Kippur is the 10th day of Tishri. Once the sukkah is up, weather permitting, we eat meals under it and fulfill the mitzvah of lulav and etrog.

Though it is a very festive holiday and the sukkah is one of the most visual of our symbols, it also reminds me, as it is supposed to, of our people’s wandering in the desert after receiving the Torah at Sinai. Our journey from Egypt to Sinai to Canaan, from slavery to freedom to independence, took many years and we are reminded that all of our journeys take time for us to grow, discern, understand, and feel at peace. As much as we think we know everything at ages 13, 16, 18, 21, or 30, until one is 40, 50, and I presume 60 and above, one realizes how little one knew and understood when one was younger.

Our people came out of slavery with little knowledge in how to lead an independent life, but they did gain freedom. Over the next 40 years, the Israelites grew up. When they crossed into Canaan with Joshua, they were much more prepared than if they had done so right after crossing the Red Sea and watching the Egyptians drown.

Life is a process of small steps taken on a long journey. Each year Sandy and I put up our sukkah. Each year I think about my own personal journey. Each year the sukkah is a little different, but each year it feels good. I know it seems laborious or unnecessary to fulfill this mitzvah, but having a sukkah is a great reminder of many things from hunger to harvest, from slavery to freedom, from birth to old age.

As you light your Shabbat candles this evening, light one for your own personal Jewish journey. Light the other candle for all those whose journeys to freedom aren’t yet complete.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.

Rabbi Adland is senior rabbi of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation.

Updated 10/14/08