Thursday, September 22, 2016

Elul Tools 2016 - 20 Elul 5776

Elul Tools

Building a 
Strong Foundation 
for the Days of Awe

 Shofar Blast 

  (press the arrow below)

Today's Elul Chai-Ku:

As full moon wanes to 
dark orb, we join our kin world
wide. Shanah Tovah!

20 Elul—Practical Tips for the Holidays

Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner. This special holiday begins at sundown, with the new moon of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, on Sunday, October 2nd. Some of you may be going to services. Some of you may observe this time at home. Others who are new to experiencing the holidays, may not have a particular plan for observing and celebrating. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, what follows are some practical tips for thinking a little bit ahead and preparing for these special days.

Special Meal:  For Erev Rosh Hashanah (remember that the Jewish day starts at sundown), many people celebrate with a festive meal including cande lighting for Yom Tov (literally translated as good day, meaning special holiday). Kiddush over wine and challah and a special blessing called the Shehechiyanu are also recited. Even if you will not be heading off to synagogue afterward, consider having a special meal and lighting candles specifically for the holiday. If you think you might host such a special evening, now is the time to think about the logistics!

Synagogue Services:  Most synagogues hold services for Erev Rosh Hashanah (the evening service) as well as the following two days in the morning. Services are also held for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur day. If you don’t belong to a synagogue, you can still attend services. Non members will need to buy tickets. Now is the time to find out where, when, and how to get tickets.

Special Foods:
 Traditional holiday foods include round challahs (symbolizing the cyclical nature of things, wholeness etc), apples and honey, and sweet foods baked with honey, such as traditional honey cake. The honey and sweetness symbolize the hope for a sweet new year. Consider having some of these foods during the holiday. It sets the mood and joins you with millions of other Jews around the world who are participating in the same customs. How unifying!  If you want to have round challahs for Rosh Hashanah, find a local bakery and see if you need to order one in advance. You can also bake your own! There is a great challah recipe at the end of today's post. Similarly, many bakeries and stores sell baked Rosh Hashanah honey treats. If you like to bake, there are hundreds of honey cake recipes (either online or from your friends and family). However, if you would like to experience a really spectacular honey cake, check out the recipe at the end of today's post. Now is the time to plan ahead for preparing or purchasing these foods! Next trip to the store, stock up on apples and honey!

Special Clothes for Rosh Hashanah: Many like to take the opportunity to treat themselves to a new outfit for Rosh Hashanah. New year, new clothes! If you want to wear something new and fantastic to synagogue, now is the time to get out to the store!

Special Clothes for Yom Kippur:  Yom Kippur falls ten days after Rosh Hashanah. It is traditional to wear all white (to symbolize purity) on Yom Kippur day. Additionally, many people do not wear leather of any kind (shoes included). If you want to observe this custom, now is the time to make sure you have white clothes and/or non leather shoes that fit and are comfortable. Don’t wait until the last minute and find you don’t have what you need.

Fasting for Yom Kippur:  There is a 25 hour fasting period during Yom Kippur (essentially sundown to slightly after sundown the following day). Many need to prepare themselves physically and emotionally for this process. If you drink caffeine, now is the time to start tapering back to avoid the headaches that occur when stopping abruptly. If you think giving up coffee will be too much of a stretch, do the rest of the fast. Don’t let this be an excuse for not fasting. Maybe you can drink it without cream and sugar though or drink the least amount you can get by with?

Taking Time Off:  Allow yourself time off from work (and your children from school) to honor these extremely important holidays. Even if you do not attend services, make a commitment to take some time off for your own personal observances, mediations, prayers, contemplative walks etc...Join with the millions of Jews around the globe who are doing the same. It’s a powerful idea to consider that the Jewish community as a whole, in cities all over the world, are honoring their heritage and their spirituality in this ancient practice.

Today’s Elul Tool:  Take some time to think about how you will observe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year. Wherever you are on the spectrum of observance, knowledge, comfort etc., pick a couple of concrete ways to honor your tradition, to take care of your soul. Can you increase your observance from whatever you did last year? Perhaps you want to host a dinner? Maybe you want to bake a honey cake or round challah? Can you commit to fasting, giving up coffee? Even if you are nervous and unsure about attending services, consider all the hard work you have done preparing for Elul. It is extremely moving, powerful, and transformative to go through this process as a community in a synagogue setting. Even if you feel unfamiliar with synagogue practice and rituals, perhaps this is the year to “check it out?” Pick something from these ideas that will stretch you, but is also realistic and doable for Your Life. The main point is to continue learning and growing each year!

Psalm 27

It is customary to read Psalm 27 twice daily during Elul.
Here is an online version of Psalm 27 for easy access. 

For Families and Kids!

Junior Tool Box:
Many synagogues offer children’s services. Contact your local synagogue for details. It’s always a special treat to hear the shofar blowing at High Holiday services. Children really enjoy this part of the service.

Discuss the different holiday customs from above. Do any interest your child more than others?

Keep in mind that while children usually do not fast on Yom Kippur, some families try to keep the meals basic and simple, forgoing treats like dessert and non-nutritious snacks. Food only for the sake of “fuel” is the way to treat the idea for children. Remind them that this helps keep us focused on ourselves and on God. When we are busy enjoying food, we are distracted for the serious reflection Yom Kippur provides.

Continue to eat apples and honey as a treat or a snack!

Bake a honey cake (see recipe below) or other apple or honey related treat.

Bake a round challah (see recipe below).

Go on a shopping trip for a New Year’s outfit.

Discuss the idea and importance of wearing white on Yom Kippur. Talk about how it is like making yourself clean and clear. Like a blank slate for the New Year. Look through your children’s clothes and pick out something white for them to wear on Yom Kippur day.

Continue practicing the Rosh Hashanah greetings from Elul Tools Day 19!


1.  Here is the link to a FABULOUS Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake, courtesy of the Smitten Kitchen blog. You won't be disappointed!

2. And now for challah...
The following is my husband's challah recipe.  Instructions for making it round are at the end.  Enjoy!

Chaim's Challah, A Pretty Good Challah 
Makes Two Loaves

2 packages or 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast 
1 cups warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees) 
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
1/3 cup sugar 
1+ tablespoons salt 
5 eggs (4 for the Challah dough, 1 for the final egg wash) 
6 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon cold water (for the egg wash)

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the oil, sugar, salt, 4 eggs and beat until smooth. Stir in flour to form a firm dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead intently (or diligently) until smooth and elastic, about 8 - 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Divide each portion into thirds. Shape each piece into a 15-in. rope, braid and pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Place on a greased baking sheet or preferably a baking sheet with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

To make a round challah, take one long rope and coil it. You can also take two ropes twisted together or three ropes braided and coil them. (For videos of several different methods, go to Youtube and type in “Round Challah”). 

Beat cold water and remaining egg; brush over braids. Bake at 350 degrees F for 17 minutes or until golden brown. 

Remove to wire racks to cool.

Today "challah" refers to the bread eaten on Shabbat. Originally "challah" referred to the small piece of dough that was set aside for the kohen (priest) when making bread. Today we bless, separate and burn a small piece of dough when making bread in remembrance of the portion given to God. This ritual reminds us that sustenance ultimately comes from God and transforms baking bread into a spiritual act.

Make dough for the challah. When it is ready to be shaped into loaves, say the following blessing: Baruch Ata A-Do-Nay Elo-haynu Melech HaOlam Asher Kidishanu B'Mitzvotav V'Tziyvanu L'Hafrish Challah. (Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate Challah). Immediately after saying the blessing, pinch off a piece of dough, approximately the size of an olive or one ounce, and say: harai zeh challah (this is challah). Then wrap the separated piece of dough in foil and burn it in the oven. The separated piece of challah should be burned so that it is no longer usable.

No comments:

Post a Comment