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Who is a Jew? by Rebecca Weiner http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/whojew1.html

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Siddur Audio – Free audio clips to learn Beth Shalom Services at http://www.sidduraudio.com/

Hebrew Prayer, Shabbat services, Jewish weekday, and Passover Seder – Download Sound Clips Online

Beth Shalom’s president, Mark Berkowitz, reports, “This is an unbelievable free resource. Learn any and all synagogue services online free. From the same Siddur Sim Shalom  we use at Beth Shalom. They have a sister site where you can learn any haftorah the same way. The cantor has a sweet voice  that’s reminiscent of our very own Rabbi Alan Green; delightful to listen to.     “Even if your Hebrew reading skills are low, you can still learn by singing along with the familiar melodies. It’s actually a great way to improve your Hebrew reading skills. No more excuses for phumfering along during services.”
Link at: http://www.sidduraudio.com/

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Do you light Shabbat candles?

Shabbos is the Soul of the world.

Shabbos gives us the power to elevate time to holiness.

Six days of the week we work to separate the holiness out of the weedays,
doing good, stauing away from evil, sifting the Holy Sparks
that were hidden in the week,
then everything is elevated on Shabbos.

Shabbos is unchanging, eternal.
The weekdays are constantly changing, up and down, up and down,
But on Shabbos, everything is complete.

Go to  FRIDAY LIGHT at http://fridaylight.org/page/new-index.php for a beautiful website presentation on lighting Shabbos candles.

Fire touches wick.
Flame reaches upward.
Another home is bathed in peace
and holiness, in warmth and unity.

Shabbat candles illuminate the world with spirituality.
Would you like to light Shabbos candles?
Do you know a Jewish woman or girl who might?
Get your free Shabbos kit! A Jewish woman has invited the Sabbath Queen into her home. The darkness of the day’s problems recedes, exiled by the peaceful glow of the Shabbos candles. It is truly a gift from heaven.

All that is good,
all that is holy is symbolized – indeed realized
in the flickering light of the Sabbath candles.

Two millennia ago, the Holy Zohar declared that a woman kindling her Sabbath candles with joy in her heart brings peace on earth, long life to her loved ones, and is blessed with children who illuminate our world with Torah.

Lighting Shabbos candles 18 minutes before sunset on Friday night
strengthens one’s faith and inspires a heightened awareness of the
G-dliness that permeates our world and makes all good things possible.

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Do you know of the online Tablet Magazine? It’s a free, online digest
of articles (and podcasts http://www.tabletmag.com/podcasts/ ) on Jewish culture, arts and literature.

Check out: Tu B’Shevat FAQ. Everything you ever wanted to know about the arboreal holiday.

http://www.tabletmag.com/life-and-religion/24629/tu-b%E2%80%99shevat%E2%80%94a-guide-for-the-perplexed/?utm_source=Tablet+Magazine+List&utm_campaign=4391f147ef-1_29_2010&utm_medium=email

Tu B’Shevat

Significance: The “new year” for calculating the age of trees
Length: 1 day
Customs: eating fruit; planting trees (or paying for planting them)

Jewish Year 5770: sunset January 29, 2010 – nightfall January 30, 2010

http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday8.htm

When you come to the land and you plant any tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it will be forbidden and not eaten. In the fourth year, all of its fruit shall be sanctified to praise the L-RD. In the fifth year, you may eat its fruit. -Leviticus 19:23-25

There are four new years… the first of Shevat is the new year for trees according to the ruling of Beit Shammai; Beit Hillel, however, places it on the fifteenth of that month. –Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1

Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, is a holiday also known as the New Year for Trees. The word “Tu” is not really a word; it is the number 15 in Hebrew, as if you were to call the Fourth of July “Iv July” (IV being 4 in Roman numerals). See Hebrew Alphabet for more information about using letters as numbers and why the number 15 is written this way.

As I mentioned in Rosh Hashanah, Judaism has several different “new years.” This is not as strange a concept as it sounds at first blush; in America, we have the calendar year (January-December), the school year (September-June), and many businesses have fiscal years. It’s basically the same idea with the various Jewish new years.

Tu B’Shevat is the new year for the purpose of calculating the age of trees for tithing. See Lev. 19:23-25, which states that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years; the fourth year’s fruit is for G-d, and after that, you can eat the fruit. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of Tu B’Shevat, so if you planted a tree on Shevat 14, it begins its second year the next day, but if you plant a tree two days later, on Shevat 16, it does not reach its second year until the next Tu B’Shevat.

Tu B’Shevat is not mentioned in the Torah. I have found only one reference to it in the Mishnah, and the only thing said there is that it is the new year for trees, and there is a dispute as to the proper date for the holiday (Beit Shammai said the proper day was the first of Shevat; Beit Hillel said the proper day was the 15th of Shevat. As usual, we follow Beit Hillel. For more on Hillel and Shammai, see Sages and Scholars).

There are few customs or observances related to this holiday. One custom is to eat a new fruit on this day. Some people plant trees on this day. A lot of Jewish children go around collecting money for trees for Israel at this time of year. That’s about all there is to it on a very basic level.

Is Reconstructionist Judaism For You?

Published on Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (http://jrf.org)

“Torah” means “teaching.” In Jewish tradition, talmud Torah, the study of Torah, is a life-long obligation and opportunity. Reconstructionists are committed to a serious engagement with the texts and teachings, as well as the art, literature and music of tradition. But we are not passive recipients; we are instead challenged to enter the conversation of the generations and to hear voices other than our own, but to add our own voices as well. Reconstructionist Judaism is respectful of traditional Jewish observances but also open to new interpretations and forms of religious expression. As Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983), the founder of Reconstructionism, taught, tradition has “a vote, but not a veto.” Reconstructionists share a commitment to making Judaism their own by finding in it joy, meaning, and ideas they can believe. Unlike Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, Reconstructionism does not view inherited Jewish law (halakhah) as binding. We continue to turn to Jewish law for guidance, if not always for governance. We recognize that in the contemporary world, individuals and communities make their own choices with regard to religious practice and ritual observance.

But where Reform Judaism emphasizes individual autonomy, Reconstructionism emphasizes the importance of religious community in shaping individual patterns of observance. Belonging to a community leads us to take the patterns of observance within that community seriously; our choices do not exist independently, but are made in response to our community as part of our participating in it. Reconstructionism thus retains a warmly traditional (and fully egalitarian) approach to Jewish religious practice.

Spiritual Seeking

Reconstructionists hold diverse ideas about God, but we share an emphasis on Godliness –those hopes, beliefs, and values within us that impel us to work for a better world, that give us strength and solace in times of need, that challenge us to grow, and that deepen our joy in moments of celebration.

Reconstructionist prayerbooks speak of God beyond the gender concepts of male/female, and beyond the traditional metaphor of “king of the universe.” For example, in our prayerbooks God is addressed as, among other things, “The Healer,” “The Teacher,” “The Comforter,” and “The Presence.” We are engaged in the spiritual adventure of discovering the many attributes of the one God.

Ethics and Values

Reconstructionist communities emphasize acts of social justice alongside prayer and study as an essential part of their spiritual practice. Reconstructionist Judaism affirms that religion can and must be a powerful force for promoting communal discussion about ethics and values. The Torah tradition itself is a deep and wide resource for this project. Yet we know that generations of Jews have sharpened and distilled the ethical insights of Judaism as a result of their encounter with other cultures and traditions, and so it is in our time.

The Reconstructionist Movement

The Reconstructionist movement has three components:

  • a synagogue arm — the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (JRF)
  • a rabbinical college — the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC)
  • an association of rabbis — the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA)

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“The soul of man is the light of God.”

Yahrzeit Candle / Yizkor Service

There are 4 times a year when Jews light a special candle, called a Yahrzeit Candle, in memory of loved ones who have died.

Yizkor is a memorial service which is recited on Yom Kippur as well as the last days of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Yizkor, which is the Hebrew word for “remember”, asks G-d to remember those we mourn and to grant them proper rest.

A Yahrzeit Candle is lit at sundown on…

  1. The first night of Yom Kippur
  2. The night of Shemini Atzeret (the 8th night of Sukkot)
  3. The second night of Shavuot
  4. The last night of Passover

The Yizkor service takes place the following day.

Jews commemorate the anniversary of the death of loved ones by lighting a small candles, called a yahrzeit candle, which burns throughout the 24-hour day of the anniversary of death. The flame of the candle is a potent symbol of the flame of life that once burned brightly and illumined the lives of loved ones who mourn the loss. The date of the anniversary of the death of a loved one is determined by the Hebrew calendar.

Lighting a yahrzeit candle in memory of a loved one is a lovely minhag (custom). While it is not required by halakhah (Jewish law), it is so deeply ingrained in Jewish life, it is difficult to imagine not doing so, and doing so honors the memory of those no longer with us in life. Traditionally, the relationships for whom we light a candle are the same as those for whom we say Kaddish: parents, spouse, siblings, and children. Some authorities say one should only light a candle on yahrzeit — the anniversary of the death — but most agree that we light yahrzeit candles for Yizkor (the memorial service), as well. Virtually all agree that lighting one candle for all relatives is sufficient. Hence, there are four times a year one lights a yahrzeit candle, in addition to the yahrzeit date itself: Yom Kippur and the three pilgrimage festivals (Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot). In the case of the festivals, Yizkor is recited on the last day of the festival, which means the eighth day of Pesach, the second day of Shavuot, and Shemini Atzeret.

Since it is forbidden kindle a flame on a chag (holy festival day) as on Shabbat, the Yizkor candle should be lit from an existing flame, such as the pilot light of a gas stove, or an already lit candle (many people light another yahrzeit candle prior to sundown on chag to use for this purpose). When the yahrzeit falls on Shabbat, the yahrzeit candle should be lit prior to lighting Shabbat candles, since the lighting of Shabbat candles initiates Shabbat and no flame may be lit after that until Shabbat ends. If the yahrzeit falls on Sunday, the candle should be lit Saturday night after Havdalah. (We follow the same procedure for lighting Chanukah candles as well: On Friday evening, we light the Chanukah candles before the Shabbat candles, and on Saturday evening we make Havdalah first and light the Chanukah candles afterward.)

There are no prescribed prayers to recite when one lights a yahrzeit candle.

Recite whatever prayer is in your heart; the prayers of the heart are especially precious to God.