Most holidays on the Jewish calendar commemorate something involving the Jewish people, whether that be ritualistic, agricultural, or historical. On the surface, the holiday of Rosh Hashanah is no different. When we think of Rosh Hashanah, we typically summarize it as the “Jewish New Year,” the anniversary of the day that the world was created, the day we began counting Jewish time. Our liturgy echoes this notion, as we sing in services HaYom Harat Olam, “Today is the birthday of the world!” However, if we closely examine what our sages say about creation, we arrive at a radically different meaning of Rosh Hashanah.
100 years ago today, the 19th Amendment was ratified, guaranteeing and protecting a woman’s constitutional right to vote. The 19th Amendment was the result of a decades-long movement of women and men who believed that women deserved a voice in the United States government.
A lesser known fact about women’s suffrage is that the ratification of the 19th Amendment came down to one vote, in the Tennessee House. A state representative by the name of Harry Burns had initially planned to vote against the amendment. But when he received a letter from his college-educated, women’s rights activist mother, Febb Burns, he flipped his vote. That November, 10 million American women--roughly one third of all eligible female voters—headed to the polls for the first time.
The holiday of Tisha B’Av, which begins tomorrow evening at sundown, is known as the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar. Tradition teaches that many tragedies throughout Jewish history, including the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, occurred on this day. Tisha B’Av actually marks the culmination of a three-week mourning period on the Jewish calendar, during which we remember the events leading up to this fateful day.
These past few weeks, our pandemically traumatized nation was further shaken to its core by the death of George Floyd and the resurfacing of the centuries-old plague of systemic racism. "I can't breathe" wrenched our hearts as protesters took to the streets to demand justice and affirm that black lives matter. Jelani Cobb writes:
"The shock of revelation that attended the video of Floyd's death is itself a kind of inequality, a barometer of the extent to which one group of Americans have moved through life largely free from the burden of such terrible knowledge."
When I was in elementary school, I was given an assignment to interview one of my grandparents about World War II. I chose to interview my Poppy Joe, who I knew had served in the army during that time, though I knew little else. We sat down in my grandparents’ kitchen and he told me all about how he flew planes over Burma. He had immigrated to the United States from Poland at 7 years old, and he was so proud to have served his country. And I was so proud to hear his story! I knew him as a small business owner who loved swing music and a good joke, and I had no idea about his military history. The interview revealed a completely new side of my grandfather to me, and I still treasure the recording of it to this day.
Over these past few months, it has quickly become a daily ritual in cities around the world to step outside and applaud the essential workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a small but meaningful way to honor those who are risking their lives for the health, safety and well-being of others. Countless YouTube videos show people cheering, singing, clapping, honking and singing in appreciation, and it is truly beautiful to watch.
We are living in one of the most interesting eras for Israeli politics.
Like a bad TV reunion (I'm looking at you, Fuller House), Israel is yet again moving fast towards an election—the third in one year—and it is very confusing, even for Israelis.
One of the greatest joys of the High Holiday season is getting to spend time with family and friends. On the holiday of Sukkot, we have the added bonus of spending that time outdoors, in the temporary dwelling of a sukkah.
Every Yom Kippur, as the sun is setting and the holy day is nearing its end, we sing this prayer:
Petach lanu sha’ar,
Beit neilah sha’ar,
ki fanah yom.
Open the gates for us,
At this time when they are closing,
For the day is coming to an end.