Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lighting Candles

So our experiment has come to an end and I was surprised to see not many people wrote about there last experience... Soooo, I guess I'll say something. I have really enjoyed it and I think it was nice that the last week was something so simplistic and one of the first things I think about when I think of Shabbat. Lighting Candles... My group assignment was to light candles with friends or with students, it was such a great assignment because I have really been taking this entire experiment as an opportunity to share shabbat with my students. Every Monday I get together with some of my students for bagels on the lawn and we talk about our weekend and I always talk about the shabbat experiment assignment of the week. So this past weekend when we were assigned to include them, it seemed almost too easy, we had a program filled weekend and I was excited to share Shabbat with my students all weekend long.

Our Hillel has shabbat in house every other week and on the off weeks students host potluck shabbatot in their homes, and this week was the off week that my student interns decided to host. All week long we talked about what they were going to cook and all of the details for their shabbat meal without staff. On Friday morning one of my interns came by the building to cook chicken from scratch with a special Moroccan recipe his mother gave him, and I sent him on his way in the afternoon with a paper bag filled with shabbat candles, matches, grape juice and challah.

Saturday night we hosted an area wide Havdalah Beach bonfire for all 8 San Diego campuses to attend which was a huge success! We had a fabulous turn out from all the campuses and students from all types of observance backgrounds from the students who walked the hour walk from UCSD to the students from North County who drove an hour to attend. Being able to offer such a great weekend to the students was something my coworkers and I were really proud of.

Sunday was our Annual Mitzvah Day and again had a fabulous turnout. At each event we had, I was more and more impressed and touched by this Shabbat Experiment. I thought about it all week long and this weekend when I didn't have a Shabbat Experiment assignment, I assigned myself something. This Shabbat was a great time and I know that after the 10 weeks of committing to keep a piece of Shabbat I can easily keep celebrating Shabbat on my own and with the people in my life.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Light Candles!!

When I saw that I was assigned this week’s task of the Shabbat Experiment, I couldn’t have been more excited. Growing up, lighting Shabbat candles was a family tradition that even the dog participates in! No matter how busy we were growing up, Friday night dinner was preceded by lighting Shabbat candles out of my great-grandmother’s candlesticks, singing the blessings (with the dog chiming in) and being blessed by my parents. Every week it is the same ritual, even now as my sister and I are grown up and not always around on Friday nights, my parents still light candles and now bless our new puppy, Pitzel! Some weeks my parents also call me before Shabbat dinner and do the blessing over the phone.

So why am I sharing this childhood memory with you? I think lighting candles on Shabbat is one of the most calming, peaceful activities one can do. Now, because I am at work most Friday nights, I don’t use the candlesticks that my Grandma gave me last Chanukkah, that would be completely dangerous to leave them burning in my apartment! Instead, I light candles with my students. We do a communal candle lighting before services and I invite students to help light the “big” candles and the tea-lights we use.

So my request for this Shabbat is to light candles with your students or friends tonight OR tomorrow evening to celebrate Havdallah and bless them. Not in the traditional way of how a parent blesses a child, but share something with your friends or students that you wish for them, such as good health and happiness, the goal is to give a meaningful blessing! After Shabbat, take a moment to share with me your blessing either by email or by posting to the blog.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Shabbat Shalom,


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Light Candles

The thing about lighting a fire is that you can expand the fire to light other fires without diminishing from the original flame. You can share something with others without taking away something from yourself. For example, a smile from a friend (or a stranger) on a bad day can really lighten your mood, and you may smile at 3 other people that day – lighting a chain reaction of smiles (and better moods!).

Group Gimmel's task for this week is to do just that: smile at people who you think might need a little help this Shabbat.

Lisa Friedman

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Getting rid of excess

When I read Andrea's task for this week's Avoid Commerce, "Count your receipts", my first thought was 'this will be easy' as I was moving on Monday and was therefore going to be home packing all weekend and not spending any money.

As I started to pack, however, I realized that I owned a whole lot of stuff that I didn't need, and therefore thought it would be more appropriate to count my possessions instead of my receipts. How, in the span of one year, I was able to accumulate so much junk, I am not sure, but I am sure that not only am I going to do a serious purge and donate a lot of old clothes but that I am also going to be more mindful when making purchases in the future and whether they are things I really need or the best way to spend my money. I figured there was no better time to make this resolution than while thinking about the relationship between shabbat and commerce, and all of those things in my life.

Hope everyone is having a good week.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eating for two

This past week I was gave our group the task to find a person who is living on the street and give them bread. Well, I ended up having a pretty intense interaction, definitely way deeper than expected.

This is Sheryl, she's pregnant,she lives on the street, and her unborn baby is going to need surgery. Sheryl wasn't asking for much when people walked by her, just prayers. She said people wouldn't even give her that, "It's Sunday, some of these people had to have come from church, they could at least say a prayer for me" Sheryl said to me as tears rolled down her cheeks. I stood there wondering what I could do for her, thinking about how many people in the world are experiencing this right now. Vermont is supposed to be a beautiful friendly place, but nobody stopped to even offer up a prayer for Sheryl. I didn't have much to offer her but a loaf of bread and prayers, sometimes all we need to give is our prayers.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Eat Bread!

So, firstly, I apologize that this is coming after Shabbat, but I had to work this Shabbat for a freshman retreat, so I may or may not have had the time to take a moment for myself until now...

Eating Bread. Food. It is what makes our Jewish world go 'round, no?

The first thing I thought of when I received this principle was my grandmother who lives in Israel. She is one of the rocks of my family and has suffered more than any person should throughout her 80 something years of life.

I want to share a short story about my grandmother...

I remember when I was younger feeling it was strange that my grandmother made a bracha over bread but not on any other food - Baruch Atah Adonai, Elohainu Melech Haolam Hamotzi Lechem Meen Ha'aretz - the words we hear and say ourselves what seems on a regular basis. I asked my father why this was the case with his mother. You see, my grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. She survived Auschwitz and the struggles of not having food for weeks, specifically, bread. I learned that from the day she was liberated, she always, but always would say the Hamotzi because bread was the one thing in life she would never take for granted again.

Everytime I say the Hamotzi I think of my grandmother and what strong woman she is and how that is an inspiration for me to fight for what I want and to cherish those people and things around me that mean the most to me, afterall, we never know what can happen tomorrow.

This week, I want you all to grab a piece of bread, let it be your favorite even, either by yourself or with a friend or family member and say the Hamotzi. The difference this time around, I want you to think what is it in life that you cherish and tend to take for granted and vow for this week to make more of an effort to achnowledge it, whatever or whoever it may be. If it is a friend or loved one, tell them they are valued. If it be an activity you enjoy taking part in, then do it! Love it and remember that it may be gone tomorrow. Remind yourself what inspires you most!

I want to end with one of my favorite quotes that I love..."You can't change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying too much about the future."

Think in the now and live in the moment...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Connecting with my old Indian friends

This is a tad late.

Neel, Murti, and me in college
So for last week's Shabbat Experiment, I was actually in India on vacation. Our assignment was to email or call and old friend we haven't heard from in a while. In high school and in college, I was very close with a number of Indians whom I haven't seen now for some time. And given my trip, I had been thinking of them a lot. So I emailed three of them who I was very close with to ask how they've been doing, tell them about my trip, see where in India their families are from, and when was the last time they were there. It made me so happy to hear back from them. They were thrilled that I went to India, that I thought of them, and that I bothered to get in touch. These friends used to be very close to me, and it felt SO good to hear from them again. That's the way it is with old friends--when you see each other or get in touch, it feels like no time has passed at all!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Connect with Loved Ones

This is a tad late. Here was group Gimmel's assignment from last week.

This week's Shabbat Experiment is to connect with loved ones. Who were you thinking about this Yom Kippur? Who's someone you have a special relationship with that needs a little fostering? Maybe it's a friend from college you haven't called all year. Or that cousin who you've been meaning to email, but just keep forgetting.

Take 15 minutes this weekend to get in touch with that person. Even if they don't answer the call, or don't immediately respond to the email, leave them a nice message. Something heartfelt. Let them know you've been thinking about them. ***Bonus points if you take 3 minutes before the phone call to mentally remind yourself what important things have been happening in this person's life, and ask him/her about them***

Shabbat shalom.
So, I was somewhat amused by the fact that I was assigned this particular week, given the fact that I'm not a big bread person (Heather spent 10 days with me in Israel on Birthright this summer, so she can attest to this). Strangely enough, I've actually been doing some thinking lately about how central bread is to the concept of a "meal" in Judaism, and what that means for people who for medical reasons or personal preference don't include bread in their meals. Are they excluded from table rituals such as washing the hands, saying the motzi blessing, and participating in Birkat HaMazon? The solution of gluten-free challah aside, perhaps we can reinterpret the "eat bread" charge for this week.

The traditional blessing upon eating bread blesses God for "bringing forth bread from the Earth". However, we all know that we don't pull plastic packages of Zomicks out of our backyards (I mean, maybe they do in Brooklyn, but not out here in California). Bread is representative of the partnership between God and human beings in creating food and sustenance for the world. In Birkat HaMazon, the Grace after Meals, the first paragraph tells us that God provides food and nourishment for all creatures. But what about world hunger?! I can walk 200 meters outside my apartment in downtown Sacramento right now and find at least five people who have probably gone more than 24 hours without a solid meal. Hypocrisy! How can we thank God for something that doesn't appear to be true?!

Going back to the idea of bread being symbolic of the partnership between God and humans in sustaining the world, perhaps we aren't holding up our end of the bargain. The Earth provides resources for food, but it is up to humans to determine how we make and distribute the food so that we can fulfill the vision put forth in Birkat HaMazon, of a world where all living creatures are nourished.

Back to this "eat bread" thing. Challah, in particular, is filled with intentionality. We separate a piece of dough (called "taking challah" during the preparation process and make a special bracha over the separation. The loaves of challah take center stage on our Shabbat table; they are what elevate just an ordinary meal with friends into a seudat Shabbat. For those who can't/don't eat challah, the same sort of intentionality can be taken and applied to some other part of the meal to separate it from the rest of the week.

So, for this week, choose one or more of the following:
  • Fulfill your end of the bargain by doing something to aid the problem of hunger in our world. Find a homeless person and offer him/her a meal, volunteer in a food bank or soup kitchen, make a donation to a hunger relief agency such as MAZON, or support your Hillel's Challah for Hunger chapter this week, if you have one.
  • Celebrate farmers as God's partners in providing food for the world. Visit a local farmer's market and buy some fresh produce or other delicious goods for your Shabbat table.
  • Before you dig in to your Friday night dinner, take a few moments to think about the journey your food took to get to your table. How far did it travel? (hopefully not too far, unless a bag of Bamba is serving as your appetizer). How many people worked to get you your meal? What kinds of resources were used? What is the cultural/ethnic origin of the food you're eating? Is it a family recipe? Is there some special significance to what you're eating? Anyways, there could be a million questions, but just take an extra second (think of it as an extended bracha moment), to appreciate your food.
Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

MIssion: Mitzvah

Greetings loved ones,

I hope everyone is loving the Fall foliage going on right now, and if you don't really have any then head on over to Burlington (Vermont), it is pretty much amazing.

I wanted to take this week's assignment to another level and help enhance your Shabbat experience. During the Passover seder we are supposed to open our doors and say "Let all those who are hungry come eat" but I believe that this should be applied to Shabbat as well (well really everyday but let's just stick with Shabbat for now).

Therefore, this weeks assignment is to buy (or bake) a loaf of bread and give it to a homeless person. While I really do enjoy eating bread I think we should also take this opportunity to spread the joy of Shabbat to all those around us.

This week's assignment comes with two extra credit options, you will not lose points for getting the extra credit wrong-- you just get extra points for doing it.

Extra Credit 1) Sit down and have a conversation with the person you are giving bread to. Find out a little about them (you can even share their story when you blog about it).

Extra Credit 2) Document your experience by getting either a picture with your new friend or of your new friend with the bread you gave them.

Peaceful Sabbath!