Shana Tova u’Metuka!

With the Jewish New Year just around the corner (it starts Sunday night!), I try to be a little reflective and think about how next year could be better.

Israel doesn’t seem to have a government. The US has its stuff going on. I even turned to the news in the UK and while it wasn’t any better than anywhere else, I find the British accent, dry humor, and lack of emotion kind of calming.

Then I dove into a YouTube vortex of stand-up comedy and reminded myself that headlines are only headlines and in day-to-day life, we can always choose to see the good.

And with that …

Wishing you all a Shana Tova u’Metuka!

May the next year be full of good health, many joyful events,

and more fish heads than fish tails!
(I’m paraphrasing)

May the good in your life be as abundant as the seeds of a pomegranate!
(that someone else lovingly peeled and broke up for you)


A Cultural Interlude – Happy New Year!

It’s the New Year and I need a new day planner!

Sounds weird in September, but the Jewish New Year comes in autumn. It’s early this year, which is why it snuck up on me and I suddenly had to get a new day planner.


The shelves were pretty empty so I feel quite lucky that I managed to find this snazzy one.

Notice anything odd?


How about now?


No filters. No flipping. Everything indeed goes from right to left.

Hebrew is written from right to left, so office supplies cater to the right to left flow of language.

NOTE TO LEFT-HANDED PEOPLE: Come to Israel for your office supply needs! I have known left-handed Americans who stock up on notebooks when visiting Israel because it’s just so comfortable for them.

One feature of an Israeli calendar is that candle-lighting times are noted every week (20 minutes before sunset usually) and the Torah portion of the week is noted.


The first line in bold is the Torah portion: Nitzavim. (The Torah – or the Five Books – is divided into weekly portions that are named after the first word of the reading.)

You can see on the second line Friday night candle lighting times for Jerusalem (18:21, yes that’s a 24-hour clock), then Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheva.

The second line is when Shabbat ends. That’s about a half an hour after sunset. Then you can get back to your regularly scheduled activities.

A LITTLE HEBREW LESSON: The days of the week are not named, they’re numbered.

Sunday = Yom Rishon (First Day) | Monday = Yom Sheni (Second Day) | etc.

But Saturday is Shabbat or the Sabbath.

A LITTLE CULTURAL LESSON: A “day” starts in the evening because when God created the world, it was evening and then it was morning, the first day …

You might also note that holidays are colored blue in this calendar. Notice anything in this picture?


January 1. Not a holiday. That’s what it means to have Jewish rhythms of life.

This week we are starting a month of holidays to start the new Jewish year 5779. More on this in future posts.

Let me take this opportunity to say Thank You to everyone who reads this blog!

Wishing you all a Shana Tova u’Metuka!

A year of much happiness, good health,

and great success!

(Did you think we’d get away from the Chinese theme? Not likely! A short video for the New Year about not giving up. May you all be inspired this year!)





9/11 and Rosh HaShana

Today is 9/11.  Of course I remember September 11, 2001, and we should take a moment to commemorate those whose were robbed of the rest of their lives by a major terror attack.  Let this sad day remind us all that none of us knows what the future will bring.  Let’s be kind to one another today.

For me 9/11 is directly linked to the High Holidays.  Next week it’s the Jewish New Year.  Rosh HaShana (literally, the head of the year) is a two-day holiday that is usually in September or October.  I won’t get into the religious details and questions; you can look those up yourself.

Rosh HaShana is the beginning of a 10-day period that will end with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  In English, these days are called The Days of Awe.  In Hebrew they are called the much scarier yamim nora’im (The Terrible Days).  It’s traditional to take a spiritual accounting (heshbon nefesh) of the past year – determine if you did well, where you can improve, make some adjustments for the upcoming year.  It’s more than the January New Year’s resolutions that go out the window on January 2nd.  Not so the spiritual accounting of Rosh HaShana.  It’s not about losing weight and taking care of your health.  This spiritual accounting is internal and focusing on becoming a better person.

“Aharei ha-chagim!”

The bureaucratic joke in Israel is that if you have a project starting at any time in September it will likely be pushed off to “aharei ha-chagim” (after the holidays).  However, this is not after the two-day holiday of Rosh HaShana.  Not even after Yom Kippur ten days later.  No, “aharei ha-chagim” means after Sukkot is over.  In Israel if you start anything in September, you can count on at least a 3-week delay.  Because there are so many holidays and kids are out of school (even though they only started last week), the entire country grinds to a halt and everyone is on vacation (again!).

On one hand, there is something really powerful about taking the time to reflect on the year that passed and look to the future; or, more likely, taking the time to be with your family during the holidays.  The rhythm of life in Israel allows for both (without mandating either one).

On the other hand, this is 3 weeks of sanctioned procrastination.  “Acharei ha-chagim” can be used for just about anything.  All your big plans and aspirations?  Meh.  Leave them until later.  Perhaps some real soul-searching is going on in these 3 weeks and it might be a legitimate way to pause and take a breath.  But who can honestly say that they are taking the full 3 weeks to do an internal spiritual cleanse?

And so we come back to 9/11.  What is the spiritual message that I heard in this tragedy?  You never know when the end will come.  Around this time I ask myself:  Is my spiritual accounting up to date?  Was I kind enough?  Did I let the important people in my life know that I care about them and they matter to me?  Was I true to myself?  If today was my last day, would I have regrets? Am I procrastinating or am I regrouping? What can I do to make tomorrow/next year better?

Well, I don’t want to end on such a blue and morbid note.  Rosh HaShana is a happy holiday!  We are given the opportunity to clean our slates and start fresh.  So let me wish you all a Happy New Year!  A Shana Tova u’Metuka (a good and sweet year)!