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Editor’s Note


I write this with a view of the Atlantic Ocean, listening to the roar of the waves breaking at the shore. It’s a soothing sound, even as it hints of danger. Water is both gentle and fierce, creative and destructive, as we’ve seen with this summer’s flooding in the Indus Valley of Pakistan, washing away precious lives and displacing millions of people.

JILL NATHANSON. In Our Image, by Our Likeness, Courtesy of Messineo Art Projects/Wyman Contemporary

Text Context: Water

Water can be blessing and curse, and while we acknowledge its dangers, we look at its life-nourishing essence. Turning to the new year that begins this week, we explore the connections between water and holiness, blessing and the idea of renewal. We look
Text/Context: Water

The Road Back Home

Modern and classic works offer roadmaps for the path of spiritual return.
Special to The Jewish Week

Finding a theme for the newest YouTube video of the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), “Soul Bigger,” should have been easy — the topic was Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur. But when the first version of the lyrics came out, we questioned whether the repeating motif of repentance sounded too much like a church revival meeting. However, we realized that teshuvah (repentance in Hebrew) is one of the most beautiful and spiritual concepts in Judaism, far more so than any fire-and-brimstone idea that the word “repent” may conjure up.

A Holocaust survivor discusses every human’s power of choice in this book about repentance.

Teshuvah, In Three Acts

A rabbi reflects on the struggle to restore wholeness in the lives of three congregants.
Special to The Jewish Week

It is ironic that so many Jews engage in active religious Jewish life primarily around the High Holy Days, a time of year with a set of rituals that call for such intense engagement. Many of us go to High Holy Days services because we are on autopilot — that is what we are expected to do as Jews at this time of the year. But the goal of these Days of Awe is to jolt us out of the automatic and to pay attention: to bring a greater mindfulness to our actions.

The Jacob Javits Center on the West Side of Manhattan.

Healing At The Seashore

For one ex-cancer patient, studies in the sun kept a promise to God.
Special to The Jewish Week

During my medical school training in Tel Aviv, I used to grab my books, head to the beach, and study in the sun. While my fellow colleagues locked themselves up in the library or their bedrooms, I chose to study outdoors.

In remission from leukemia, a medical student embraces nature, taking her books to the sunny, sandy beach of Tel Aviv.

Choosing Soul Over Mind

Praying on Rosh HaShanah poses a challenge to a devoted Jew for whom god is not on a throne.
Special to The Jewish Week

I am not a learned Jew. I am neither “religious” nor secular. I grew up in a religious household, and studied for a short time in a Jerusalem seminary. And though I eventually decided Orthodox Judaism was not a good fit for me, I did not entirely abandon Judaism either.

The author will be in synagogue on Rosh HaShanah, “using the prayers others are saying as the backdrop to my own meditation.”

Grappling With Prayer

A new crop of books offers insights into making a spiritual connection.
Staff Writer

Although Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are familiar times for most Jews, the machzor, or High Holy Days prayer book, is terra incognita. The Hebrew words, even when rendered into English or any other language, present a barrier: the pray-ers don’t know the prayers.

For a Jewish community that largely has embraced the precept of tzedakah, or giving charity, and respects the concept of teshuvah, or making spiritual amends this time of year, tefillah is largely unknown territory.

Rabbi Mike Comins’ “Making Prayer Real” contains contributions from nearly 50 rabbis and thinkers across the religious spectrum.

Reflections on the Days of Awe 2010

Essays and books on the themes of the High Holy Days: Tefillah, Teshuvah and Tzedakah
Illustration by Mark Podwal

Conservative Movement’s ‘Complete Heart’

New prayer book leads the field of new High Holy Day-themed books.
Special To The Jewish Week

 “I want to be written again/in the Book of Life, to be written every single day/till the writing hand hurts.”

Like the call of the shofar, those last lines of Yehuda Amichai’s poem, “I Walked Past a House Where I Lived Once,” herald the coming Days of Awe.

Several new books, including collections of essays and a new mahzor, or holiday prayer book, from the Conservative movement emphasize the themes of the holidays: new possibilities, new meanings and the resiliency of human beings and, at the same time, the very fragility of life.

“Complete Heart”: This new mahzor features many classical poems that are new to Conservative liturgy.

A Less-Sweet New Year, For Desserts, That Is

A pastry chef offers some non-traditional options.
Special To The Jewish Week

 Every kid in Hebrew school can tell you what food Rosh HaShanah is about: apples and honey. But with the widespread criticism of America’s hyper-sugared diet (see New York City’s tax on sugary sodas), the sophisticated Jewish baker can whip up something a little less traditional, and a little less sweet this year.

From chocolate babke to bread pudding and even crème brulee.
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