Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Torah's wanderings

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For the Simchat Torah holiday today, when we dance and sing with the Torah scrolls and rewind them back to Genesis 1, here is a very old scroll with a dramatic history.
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The deerskin on which it is written is unusually dark. Normally a Torah is a light tan color.

The Jewish museum at Hechal Shlomo in Jerusalem, where it is now housed, tells this story:

This Torah scroll was written in Spanish script, probably before 1492, by an excellent scribe on deerskin.
It wandered to Germany. There the Jewish congregation of Krautheim repaired it and added a piece of parchment with the missing chapter, written in Ashkenazic script.
The scroll survived a flood, the Gestapo, and bombings of the house in whose attic is was hidden during World War II.
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The middle photo on the right shows the old Jewish hospital in Karlsruhe where it was hidden.

If you enlarge this photo you can see where the two pieces were stitched together.
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This post is especially for my good friend Angelika, a teacher in Karlsruhe.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One more day

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Today is the Hoshanah Raba holiday.
These men are praying at the Western Wall with lulav and etrog.
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The one in the foreground is wearing a fur streimel, the traditional hat worn by certain branches of haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) on festive occasions.
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In a few hours the joyous holiday of Simchat Torah begins; and tomorrow night the week of Sukkot will come to an end.
I have not gone into Jerusalem and the Old City all week, wanting to avoid the press of the multitudes and the intense heat of this never-ending summer. I have not even been inside a sukkah.
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But I can offer you holiday posts from last year and the year before, in case you missed some.

Beating the willow on Hoshanah Rabah at the Kotel
About Simchat Torah and the Chagall windows synagogue
My first time inside the men's world of the four species market
The yearly shuk of the four species
Myrtle, willow, and palm branches at the shuk arba'at haminim

Selecting the perfect lulav
Dwelling in a temporary hut
Super-sukkah at the Western Wall Plaza
Chabad sukkah-mobiles in Rome and New York, and selecting the right lulav
About Simchat Torah, grandson Dean with a baby Torah scroll, and Seth Brown's new Torah translation in verse
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Shalom and chag sa-me-ach, happy holiday!
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Knee-mail

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The Church of Our Lady of the Spasm marks the 4th station of the cross on the Via Dolorosa.

Along the left-hand wall you see something beginning with K, needed for today's ABC Wednesday.

Kneelers!

Well, actually only the lower part, where you kneel, is called the kneeler.
The whole prayer desk is more properly called a prie-dieu.
The French names means literally "pray [to] God."
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These prie-dieux look hard, but I think the Armenian Catholics (to whom the church belongs) are modest and tough enough to use them well.
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More about this nice church and the Armenians in a previous post.
Just for contrast, I show you a more cushy prie-dieu.
It is in St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia.
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Either way, remember the saying that they taught me in Arkansas:
"God answers knee-mail."
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Monday, September 27, 2010

More on Mount Herzl

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Come in.
Let's walk around and sit and absorb the peace and silence and sense of reverence that enfold the cemetery on a normal day.

(A strange choice for That's My World, you think?)
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The metal gates of Mt. Herzl military cemetery are like the gates at the Knesset and Yad Vashem.
The stones of the entrance were brought from all parts of Israel to express the idea that all remember and appreciate the soldiers buried here in Jerusalem.
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These are just some of the moving places on Mt. Herzl.
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Let's sit low on the stone bench and unite with those whose memory lives on here.
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The soldiers' graves are in small groupings to express the idea that in one way their sacrifice was individual.
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The cemetery has an east-west orientation to follow the practice of burying Jewish dead with their feet pointing in the direction of Jerusalem's ancient Temple.
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Jerusalem's military cemetery together with Yad Vashem and Mt. Herzl the national burial place for Israel's leaders make up Har HaZikaron, the Mount of Remembrance.
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The site encapsulates the last century of Jewish national history.
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The large number of casualties in the War of Independence, 6,000 (1% of the Jewish population at the time), made the need for a new cemetery obvious.
The first remains were transferred here in 1949 from temporary burial grounds.
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Just beyond, you can see the hills where battles were fought in the various wars.
So close . . .
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These clusters of shaded benches are near the exit.
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I imagine people who have just attended a funeral or a memorial service might like to linger and talk together before going out to the bustling world.
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Right next to the exit gate is this corner for the seudat avelim, the meal for the bereaved, that follows a funeral.
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If you'd like to see more, please click on the label "Mt. Herzl."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bridging the Suez Canal

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The annual memorial ceremony for the soldiers we lost during the Yom Kippur War was held at Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem one week ago, the day after Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

I did not have the heart to come and sit among the families of the fallen.
I came after they had gone home, as the flags, the podium, and the posters of old war photographs were being taken down.

Egypt attacked Israeli positions in the Sinai in full force on October 6, 1973 and took us by surprise.
The Egyptian Army put down several Soviet-made floating bridges and crossed the Suez Canal.
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It took several days for Israel to call up the reserves and get organized and to bring up material to enable a crossing.
Many army engineers were killed by enemy fire while constructing the pontoon bridges and roller bridges that would span the canal.
After more than 140 of our tanks had driven across into Egypt, Egyptian shells hit one of the floating bridges as more tanks were crossing on it, and dozens of our tanks and their crews fell into the water of the Suez.
It was a horrible war with too many mistakes and way too many casualties.
In the 19 days before the ceasefire, 2,521 Israeli soldiers were killed, 293 were captured, and over 7,000 were wounded.
The losses among Egyptian and Syrian troops were several times these numbers.
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The photo above shows not only the seats where the bereaved families had sat for the memorial service but also a group of IDF recruits who were not even born yet during the Yom Kippur War.
The 18-year-olds were being taken on a guided tour of the national military cemetery, being taught the history by their commander.
I always wonder how it makes them feel to see the still empty spaces.
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Mt. Herzl, the cemetery, is like an open book of Israel's history, very moving.
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The photo of a photo of the bridge is for Sunday Bridges over in peaceful San Francisco.
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fresh chameleon for lunch

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If you're not squeamish please enlarge some of these photos of the hunt.

The chameleon would have remained well-hidden if he had stayed still.
His fatal error was to run when Lara and I started down the old stone stairs.
Lara saw him move.
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You could almost hear his silent scream as Lara's claws pierced him.

Belly up.

The tail hung from the cat's mouth as she did what born-in-the-wild hunter carnivores do.
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As I heard the crunching sounds, a little wave of doubt or even shame passed over me.
Maybe I should have helped the chameleon escape before Lara's first pounce . . . .
instead of my first reaction being "Run for the camera, Dina! For the blog, for Camera-Critters!"
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Duvet days

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Finally! After sleeping with just a thin single sheet for a long, long, hot summer, the nights are becoming cool enough to graduate to a duvet cover instead.

A re-launder of it and a hanging out to dry in the noonday sun gave it a fresh smell, as well as yielding a picture for Shadow Shot Sunday.

Who knows when it will ever get cold enough to have to stuff the feather blanket itself inside the duvet cover. We still have almost every day in the low 30s C/ low 90s F.
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Looking from this low angle gave me a flash-back to growing up in the big city of Chicago. As kids we would drape a sheet over a table and play under it, pretending it was a tent or wigwam or teepee.

Good adventures, even if they were really only on the living room floor and not the forest floor.
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P.S.
I just learned this from Wikipedia:

The term "Duvet day" is used in some countries to describe an allowance of one or more days a year when employees can simply phone in and say that they are not coming in to work, even though they have no leave booked and are not ill.
The provision of this benefit became fashionable in the late 1990s with many larger companies in the UK.
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Double joy

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In Jewish liturgy and literature the week-long holiday of Sukkot, which we are now in, is called Zman Simchateinu, meaning "the season of our joy" or "our time of celebration."

So let's have some joy (especially since yesterday's post was unhappy news).
Even just looking at pictures of my newest grandchild gives me great joy!
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Libby loves to amuse herself by looking in the mirror.
This reflection is for James' Weekend Reflections.
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The photo was taken by Naomi, my daughter, another great source of joy.
Hard to believe it was only two weeks ago that the two of them were here, visiting from far-off Australia. It seems more like two years ago.
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Moadim lesimcha, happy Sukkot!
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trouble in Jerusalem

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Violence erupted yesterday on the eastern side of Jerusalem.

Riots took place in the Palestinian village of Silwan and on and around the Temple Mount.
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The picture above (taken on a quieter day) is from inside Silwan, looking toward the Temple Mount which is just behind the Old City wall.
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Some 40,000 Palestinians live in Silwan, on both sides of the valley.
This photo is taken from the City of David excavations.

Since the 1990s several hundred Jewish settlers have moved in, renovating or building new houses like the ones seen in the pictures above and below.

Over the last four years I have tried to educate myself by taking three tours in Silwan, guided by guides from opposing ends of the political spectrum, from Elad/Ir David to Emek Shaveh to Ir Amim.

The only tour where you actually talk to and listen to the Arab residents of Silwan, in this protest tent, is the one led by the Alternative-Archaeology archaelogists of Emek Shaveh.
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Unfortunately for this blog, but luckily for me, I was not in the fires and the blood of the riots yesterday.
I can only direct you to media reports with slideshows that you can click through:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Red magen David

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I knew the pomegranate has special symbolic value for the Jewish new year Rosh Hashana.
I knew the fruit tastes good and is good for you.

But I never realized until looking at this photo that the pomegranate wears a star of David!
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Sukkot starts tonight. Chag sameach, happy holiday!
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jackal jaws

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Jackal jaws!
Perfect for J-Day at ABC Wednesday.
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My American friends Mark and Kristine Schnarr were staying in a house near mine for a month this summer.
From the second floor terrace Kristine sighted this jackal early one morning and with her good zoom she got these two great photos.
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Good job, Kristine!!

You can see other posts about jackals here (although my shots are not as close-up as Kristine's).
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If you have never heard the resounding chorus of groups of jovial jackals, listen to the audio here and enjoy!
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Speak softly

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I took a tour myself yesterday and for That's My World I'll pass it on to you.
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The subject of the 3-hour tour was "The People of Jerusalem's Old City."
It was sponsored by the Interfaith Encounter Association.
Our guide, shown in the photo above, was educator Jared Goldfarb.
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A large group showed up for the English-speaking tour.
From Jaffa Gate we walked to the Armenian Quarter, then to the Jewish Quarter (pictured above).
The wooden hut you see is a sukkah for the coming holiday of Sukkot.

After hearing Jared's explanation of the situation of Muslims in the Muslim Quarter, we entered the Christian Quarter.
We ended up on the roof of the Holy Sepulchre for the final presentation, about the Christian minority.
Jared (here with hand in the air) lowered his teaching voice out of respect for the Ethiopian monks who live in tiny cells on the roof.
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See the dark figure above looking down on us?
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The monk seemed amused and curious.
I suspect he sees many many tour groups there every day but not many that sit on the ground and speak softly.
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Happy International Day of Peace!
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hand in hand

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There's a new dog in the neighborhood.
He is just a puppy but look at the size of his paw!
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I think he's supposed to be a guard dog but he often comes out and follows me into the woods and then follows me back to my home again, even when I tell him firmly "Lech habayita! Go home!"
He just wants to play and loves to shake hands.
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This puppy is for today's Camera-Critters Sunday.
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Up, up, and away

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Somehow the length and incline of this bridge remind me of an ancient Roman aqueduct.
In reality, it transports not water but carloads of passengers going to and from the airport terminals.
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It's the best I can do today for Louis la Vache's Sunday Bridges.
Bon dimanche.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

The sun has set on another Yom Kippur

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Funny how the part of the shadow on the boulder makes my top half look like it's covered with fuzzy fur.

We just came out of a long day of Yom Kippur liturgy and 25 hours of no-food no-water fasting.
I expected to feel like a shadow of my former self or even, as Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once put it, a shadow of my former shadow.
But no!
This year the Day of Atonement brought no hunger and no headache.
It DID bring a good feeling of a new beginning.
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This shadow is offered to Hey Harriet's Shadow Shot Sunday.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Shepherd and sheep on Yom Kippur

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Two of the stained glass windows of Renanim synagogue in Hechal Shlomo, Jerusalem.
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In a few hours Israel enters into both the Sabbath and Yom Kippur.
Everything shuts down and it gets very quiet all over the country.
This Day of Atonement is a time of intense prayer, total fasting for 25 hours, soul-searching, and repentence for many Jews.
(For many secular Jews, it is a time to stroll down the empty highways and for the children to bike ride or skate in the car-free streets.)
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As the beautiful Yom Kippur window shows, the Gates of Repentence are open.
Above Jerusalem is the traditional image of God's Book of Life, open, with quill ready.
The long liturgy of the evening and of the following day centers on our plea that he will inscribe us in the Book of Life and seal it for another year.
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The Rosh Hashana window (please do enlarge it) quotes from the moving and powerful piyyut (liturgical poem) Unetaneh Tokef which is sung in every synagogue both on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

כָל בָּאֵי עולָם יַעַבְרוּן לְפָנֶיךָ כִּבְנֵי מָרון. כְּבַקָּרַת רועֶה עֶדְרו. מַעֲבִיר צאנו תַּחַת שִׁבְטו .כֵּן תַּעֲבִיר וְתִסְפּר וְתִמְנֶה וְתִפְקד נֶפֶשׁ כָּל חָי. וְתַחְתּךְ קִצְבָה לְכָל בְּרִיּותֶיךָ. וְתִכְתּב אֶת גְּזַר דִּינָם:
בְּראשׁ הַשָּׁנָה יִכָּתֵבוּן וּבְיום צום כִּפּוּר יֵחָתֵמוּן כַּמָּה יַעַבְרוּן וְכַמָּה יִבָּרֵאוּן מִי יִחְיֶה וּמִי יָמוּת. מִי בְקִצּו וּמִי לא בְקִצּו מִי בַמַּיִם. וּמִי בָאֵשׁ מִי בַחֶרֶב. וּמִי בַחַיָּה מִי בָרָעָב. וּמִי בַצָּמָא מִי בָרַעַשׁ. וּמִי בַמַּגֵּפָה מִי בַחֲנִיקָה וּמִי בַסְּקִילָה מִי יָנוּחַ וּמִי יָנוּעַ מִי יִשָּׁקֵט וּמִי יִטָּרֵף מִי יִשָּׁלֵו. וּמִי יִתְיַסָּר מִי יֵעָנִי. וּמִי יֵעָשֵׁר מִי יִשָּׁפֵל. וּמִי יָרוּם וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רעַ הַגְּזֵרָה
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"All mankind will pass before You like members of the flock.
Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living;
and You shall apportion the fixed needs of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict. "

The piyyut is traditionally attributed to a medieval Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, who spoke the words while he was being martyred. More here.
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You can read its translation in the ArtScroll Machzor.
Here is part of it:
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"On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed
how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created;
who will live and who will die;
who will die at his predestined time and who before his time;
who by water and who by fire,
who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst,
who by storm, who by plague,
who by strangulation, and who by stoning.
Who will rest and who will wander,
who will live in harmony and who will be harried,
who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer,
who will be impoverished and who will be enriched,
who will be degraded and who will be exalted.
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But REPENTANCE, PRAYER and CHARITY

[tshuvah, tfilah, tzedaka]
Remove the evil of the Decree!

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Don't you love that idea that by our re-turning, praying, and doing acts of kindness we can change everything?!
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Before shutting down the computer for its yearly day of rest, I leave you with the traditional blessings--Shabbat shalom (Sabbath peace), tsom kal (easy over the fast), and Gmar chatima tova (May you be have a good inscription)!
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P.S. My little grandson made his own ram's horn for these Days of Awe!
Here is a short and sweet video of Dean blowing the shofar.
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The new year dove

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The dove of peace climbs upward into the sky.

The banner on this building at Ben-Gurion Airport proclaims that --
El Al announces "This is going to be a good year."
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Shana tova, may it be so!

We are now near the conclusion of the Days of Awe, those awesome ten days between Rosh Hashana (New Year's day) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) when fateful decisions are made above and below.
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The blue skies, both real and painted, are offered for SkyWatch Friday.
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Elijah's chair

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Please enlarge the photo to enjoy the rich detail of this special chair in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem.
Written on the chair are the Hebrew words meaning
"THIS IS THE THRONE OF ELIJAH THE PROPHET, WHO IS REMEMBERED FOR GOOD."
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These are the words the mohel proclaims to the guests as the 8-day-old boy is placed on the chair.
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Usually the baby is then moved to the lap of the sandek (the man honored with the privilege of holding the baby during the act of circumcision); and Elijah's beautiful chair is left free for Elijah who, according to Jewish tradition, comes to witness every brit milah (circumcision).
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Before beginning his quick work, the mohel recites several blessings, including this one:
"O Elijah, messenger of the covenant מַלְאַךְ הַבְּרִית , behold, yours is now before you; stand at my side and assist me."
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I read that some communities use a regular chair over which is placed a nice cloth embroidered with "This is the throne [chair] of Elijah the prophet, who is remembered for good."
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I noticed this one displayed in the window of a baby goods store on Jaffa Street.
It was on sale, reduced from 150 to 120 shekels.
Need one?
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To see more of the Great Synagogue where the chair resides, see my post Bench on the Bima.
To understand who gets which honors in a traditional Orthodox Jewish brit, see AskMoses.com.
Non-Jewish readers might enjoy the explanation of the brit and naming ceremony at Hebrew4Christians.com.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

If I forget you, O Jerusalem . . .

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If I have to choose I-words for ABC Wednesday, they can only be these:
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"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill . . .
אִם-אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָם-- תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי.
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Even today, after the ingathering of the exiles, after our immigration to Israel, after the rebuilding of Jerusalem, after partial redemption, we still remind ourselves of this verse and the next verse of the Psalm:
"Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy."
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You find Psalm 137:5 quoted everywhere, even on T shirts!
See the one on the left, next to the red Coca Cola shirt? (Give a click to the photo.)
These are gifts for Christian tourists at Yardenit Baptism Site gift shop.
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When you take an intercity bus and arrive at Jerusalem's Central Bus Station, this is the first thing you see when you get off the bus:
"IF I FORGET YOU, O JERUSALEM, LET MY RIGHT HAND FORGET HER CUNNING . . . "
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That is a door on the right of the photo, so you can understand how big the words are.
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One family has the reminder to remember hanging on their door, next to the garlic, in the old Jerusalem neighborhood of Mishkenot Shaananim.

In an earlier post we talked about this tile reminder of the destruction of the Temple and of the necessity to remember Jerusalem even, or especially, by the rivers of Babylon.
It's in the stairwell of an old house in Romema ( remember?).
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For centuries the longing for Jerusalem was in the forefront of the Jewish consciousness.
Let's hope that Jerusalem will always be thought of with love by people everywhere for countless generations to come.
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Surprises in the gardens

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Let's stroll around the outdoor part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem for our weekly tour meme, That's My World.

Half-hidden in the bushes is this 3rd century Samaritan sarcophagus.
Bulls' heads, a conch shell, garlands--beautiful what they carved in stone, eh?
It was discovered in Kfar Siris, near Jenin.
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This marble lid of a Roman period sarcophagus was found in Caesaria.
According to the myth depicted, Zeus changed himself into a swan to ravish Leda, wife of the king of Sparta.
From their union, Helen of Troy was born, whose beauty was the cause of the Trojan War.
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Too bad it is missing the upper part of the figures.
But, I guess you can't have everything . . . .
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Ossuaries and sarcophagi are scattered all around the grounds.
I have a feeling they are the ones not perfect enough to be placed INSIDE the museum, but they make for delightful surprises when you find them.
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It seems like even the form of these benches was inspired by the surrounding sarcophagi.
Enlarge the photo and take a close look. You think so?
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Interment in these large stone coffins was widespread in the Mediterranean basin in the 2nd to 5th centuries CE.
This funerary custom was first practiced among pagans and was later also adopted by Jews, Christians, and Samaritans.
The Greek word sarcophagus means “flesh-eating.”
The sarcophagi were placed inside mausoleums or in rock-hewn burial caves.
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And on that lively note we end the tour. ;-)
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