Sunday, December 10, 2017

Hanukkah 2017 - part 1

The first Hanukkah party of the year (although the holiday doesn't begin until this Tuesday evening). It's time for the kids to make a menorah at Home Depot. A big thanks to the Home Depot in Union, New Jersey for hosting the event.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

David Grisman & Tommy Emmanuel

I had the good fortune to visit with my old friend David Grisman last evening before he performed at a local venue with Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel. The concert was wonderful, but the best part for me was hanging out at the jam session before the performance and taking informal shots of the guys just having fun.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Random shots

I haven't been out for a while to shoot, so I went through my recent catalog.

Much talk lately about DxO Labs buying up the license for NIK software plugins from Google. Hopefully DxO won't change too much in their next update in 2018. It works fine now, but to justify charging for the package, they'll have to make some kind of changes.

Toasted marshmallows. Yummm....

Watching the eclipse.

Bar Mitzvah boy.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sukat with the kids

Sukat is the festival of joy. These faces say it all. The big mitzvah is shaking the Lulav and Esrog, and kids love to do it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Sukat and Simchat Torah

After all the soul searching and repentance, and the pleas for forgiveness of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, unbounded joy highlights the celebration of Sukat and Simchat Torah. The rituals of Sukat are centered around the structure of the Sukat and the symbolism of the 'four species' - the esrog and three types of foliage that comprise the lulav. Jews strive for all the components of the four species to be the most perfect in form and texture. The Sukat market in Borough Park, Brooklyn is the largest in the New York area, and it caters to a broad spectrum of religious Jews who meticulously inspect each component for the most minute flaws.

Even cowboys celebrate Sukat:

And some are just out to have a good time:

Not everyone was happy that afternoon:

Friday, September 29, 2017

Kaparot 5778 Part 2

After I posted the previous set of photos about the ritual of Kaparot, and in spite of the link which I provided that explained the practice and its roots, I received several indignant comments. The ritual is not biblically mandated. It developed during the early Talmudic period as a practice which found its roots in the oral law.

During the late period of the Second Temple a group called the Sadducees became ascendant. Its practices were based on denial of relevance of the oral Judaic law which evolved into the Talmudic Mishna and later the Gemara. The group faded into oblivion as did several other bizarre sects, never to be heard from again. Until recently, that is - with all the self-indulgent chest-beating expressed by animal rights activists.

Here's another chance for them bow off some moral indignation. Kaporos in Crown Heights, the morning of Erev Yom Kippur.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Kaparot 5778

The ritual of Kaparot precedes the observance of Yom Kippur. Any questions about the ritual can be answered here more authoritatively than I could ever hope to do. So, here's the photos.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Shofar

This Wednesday evening marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday season and the beginning of the NewYear in the Jewish lunar calendar, the year will be 5778. Probably the most recognizable symbol of the season is the Shofar. It's made from the horn of a kosher animal (usually but not exclusively a ram) which is hollowed out and prepared with a small hole to act as a mouthpiece.

The blowing of the shofar is a divine biblical decree without any stated reasons. But it's purpose has been qualified rabbinically. The first day of Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of creation (actually the sixth day of creation, which was the day that Adam came to be), it's the beginning of the ten days of repentance, it's a reminder of the revelation at Mount Sinai which was also accompanied by shofar blasts, it reminds us of the remonstrations of the prophets, the destruction of the beit-hamikdash (holy temple), the binding of Isaac, it encourages us to humble ourselves before G-d, reminds us of the Great Day of Judgement, the ingathering of exiles to Israel, and the resurrection of the dead.

A custom has developed that the shofar is blown every day except the Sabbath during the Jewish month of Elul before Rosh Hashanah. The Israelites sinned with the Golden Calf while Moses was receiving the first set of tablets at Mt. Sinai, he pleaded for forty days for forgiveness and when G-d commanded Moses to re-ascend the mountain he remained there for forty days and then came down with the second set of tablets. The second ascent began on the first day of the month of Elul, accompanied by blasts of the shofar,  and Moses returned forty days later on what is now the holy day of Yom Kippur. The sound of the shofar encourages us to search our souls and come closer to G-d during the month in anticipation of the holidays. And sounding the shofar for the entire month is meant to confuse the prosecuting angel (Satan) as to when the holiday actually begins. By the end of the month we have worked so hard to repent and Satan is so confused that we refrain from blowing one day before Rosh Hashanah.

The most significant sounding of the shofar in modern history happened during the Six Day War between Israel and the combined forces of her arab neighbors who had set out to obliterate the State of Israel and push all the Jews into the sea. When the Israeli army entered the Old City of Jerusalem, which had been occupied by Jordanian troops since 1948 as a result of the armistice line drawn to end the Israeli war of independence, the troops captured the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. The Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces came with paratroopers to the Wall and blew the shofar. See this video for the whole story. More details about the ritual can be found here.

It's a ritual much loved by children of all ages. As a way to teach the meaning of the holidays and the shofar in particular, giving kids the opportunity to make their own shofar from a ram's horn drives the stories home.