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It's 4 PM. Do you know where your reflection is?

Posted on 09/21/2012 @ 01:54 PM

We, as an organization, have core values and structure (even an educational framework!), which we are constantly revisiting to find room for improvement and ways to grow. We also always strive to push ourselves professionally and personally. Yet how often do we take time just to reflect?

That is the goal for this Shabbat -- but for ourselves.

This coming Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Shuvah is a reference to t’shuvah (returning, retracing our steps, coming home), the act we are challenged to engage in during the 10 days of repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

These 10 days can be awesome and special. We are given 10 solid days of personal therapy to reflect upon ourselves and the past year – at no charge. This is the time to pause and think about YOU and your life’s framework. Where do you have room for improvement in your life? Where are places you have excelled this year and would like to continue to grow? What are your hopes and dreams for the year to come, and how can you make them happen?

How will you take your own personal framework, reflect, and rebuild it to be bigger and brighter in the year to come?

(this Shabbat message was led by Mikah Goldman, Jewish Enrichment Team)

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Preparing for the High Holy Days

Posted on 09/14/2012 @ 08:11 PM

How are you preparing for the holidays?

We’re in the final days before the High Holy Days. Some have been gathering each morning to hear the shofar while others have picked their apples and are ready to dip them in honey. And some communities have already begun saying selichot, prayers of repentance. All through Elul, the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, people prepare. We prepare to celebrate and consecrate, to examine ourselves and to atone for our transgressions. These are not easy tasks! As we get closer to Rosh Hashanah on Sunday night, our minds and bodies need to match our words as we reflect, seek forgiveness, and request to be rewritten in the book of life for another year.

Thankfully, we are blessed to have Shabbat immediately precede Rosh Hashanah – giving us a perfect opportunity to rejuvenate before we launch fully into the holidays. There are many ways you can prepare your body and mind, including:

Go for a run or a swim.
Take a yoga class or meditate.
Pray.
Take an extra long nap.
Eat plenty of healthy foods and drink lots of water.

Rosh Hashanah is one of the most significant days of the year. Just as you would prepare for any other significant moment, do what you can to free yourself from the stresses of the week past so that you can move into the holiday with intentionality. That preparation will go a long way as you contemplate the significance of the year ahead, learn from the year behind, and immerse yourself in the celebration of the new year.

This Shabbat message was led by Aleeza Lubin, Midwest DJE

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Life Unplugged

Posted on 09/07/2012 @ 08:11 PM

Tags: Shabbat

Do you think you could unplug for a whole day? With multiple screens always an arm's length away, and with lives like ours where there is always something else which could use our attention (another email to check or another status to post), the idea of unplugging for a full 24 hours is near impossible to fathom, now more than ever. Because of this, different people from all walks of life, religions, and cultural heritages are joining national movements like Sabbath Manifesto and Unplug & Reconnect which urge people to put down their devices and fully enjoy certain aspects of our lives which may get pushed aside in our busy, technology-saturated culture. The folks at Sabbath Manifesto even came up with 10 Principles to help people start building their own days of rest, some of which might sound familiar...

1) Avoid technology
2) Connect with loved ones
3) Nurture your health
4) Get outside
5) Avoid commerce
6) Light candles
7) Drink wine
8) Eat bread
9) Find silence
10) Give back

Whether it's doing just one or all ten of these principles, do you think you could challenge yourself to turn off the computer, put down the phone, and make your own Shabbat, whether it's Friday night to Saturday night, or Tuesday? Let me know what you think!

This Shabbat message was led by Rabbi Zac Johnson, Western States DJE

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Jewish Life in 6 Words

Posted on 08/31/2012 @ 01:23 PM

How would you sum up your Jewish identity or contemporary Jewish life in six words? Smith Magazine and Reboot (www.rebooters.net) collaborated to produce a new book called Six Word Memoirs on the Jewish Life – a compilation of six-word entries, each called a Six Word Memoir, and here are some examples: • Everything with us a question, why?
• Chosen for something. Not sure what…
• Bagels, bagels, bagels, bagels, bagels, lox!
• An atheist, yet still a Jew.
• Moved to Israel. Rest is history.
• Crosses don’t work on Jewish vampires.
• Birth bris bed bath and beyond.
• My mother worries, therefore she is.
• A half Jew gets wholly ostracized.
• Tried to explain gefilte fish. Failed.

If you are looking for a novel icebreaker or program, consider having teens create their own Six Word Memoir on their Jewish life and then having them share it with each other. We invite you to share with us your own Six Word Memoir on Jewish life!

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira Dounn, Northeast Director of Jewish Enrichment

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Jewish Values

Posted on 08/24/2012 @ 01:41 PM

When you hear the phrase “Jewish practice,” what do you think of? Prayer, tallit, kipah, kosher, Shabbat, etc.? Many associate Jewish practice with Jewish religious ritual observance. Yet there is so much more to Jewish practice! An influential Hasidic Jew once said that everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he/she can reach into one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and discouraged, one should reach into the right pocket, and find the words: "For my sake was the world created." And when feeling high and mighty, one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: "I am but dust and ashes."

Jewish practice can also mean living a life informed by Jewish values. In this case, the Hasidic story illustrates the balance needed between the extremes of discouragement and excessive pride.

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira Dounn, Northeast Director of Jewish Enrichment

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Rosh Hodesh Elul

Posted on 08/17/2012 @ 01:37 PM

Who is ready for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? This weekend is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the month of Elul. In many ways, Elul serves as a month dedicated to preparing ourselves for the Jewish holidays and the year ahead.

During Elul, the shofar is sounded during weekday services in some communities. The shofar blast can be seen as a wakeup call. In this case, the call is “Rosh Hashanah and the holidays are coming! Get ready!”

So much of what we do in BBYO is preparing and planning. You create programming calendars and prepare for programs and conventions, you work with teen leaders on your regional visions and goals, and you spent significant time on regional plans. BBYO’s international and regional teen leaders will spend this Shabbat at August Execs (#azabbgexecs) preparing for the coming year.

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira Dounn, Northeast Director of Jewish Enrichment

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Birkat Hamazon

Posted on 08/10/2012 @ 01:18 PM

It has become a tradition that after meals at BBYO, the teens sing Birkat Hamazon, Grace after Meals, with hand motions and enthusiasm. Ever wonder why we say Birkat Hamazon in the first place? It says in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Eikev (Deuteronomy 8:10): And you will eat, and you will become satiated, and you will bless Hashem your G-d for the good land that G-d has given you. So, we could understand Birkat Hamazon in a few different ways:
• It is a mitzvah from the Torah to bless G-d after eating meals – so an answer can be, quite simply, that we say Birkat Hamazon because it says to in the Torah.
• Gratitude or Hakarat HaTov – הטוֹבָ תרַכָּהַ – is a central Jewish value, and Birkat Hamazon is a Jewish way of expressing our gratitude for having eaten and being satiated.
• Birkat Hamazon is a call to action to end hunger in the world. We say Birkat Hamazon knowing that others are still hungry, and that we should all work towards a world in which no person suffers from hunger.

Thinking and learning about why we do the things that we do is an excellent way to engage with our Jewish practice and identity. MyJewishLearning.com is a great resource to learn more about Birkat Hamazon, blessings, and other Jewish topics.

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira J. Dounn, Director of Jewish Enrichment of the Northeast Hub

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Dealing with Disappointment

Posted on 08/03/2012 @ 01:35 PM

Last Sunday we commemorated Tisha B'Av (the 9th of the Hebrew calendar month Av), the infamous day of mourning during which tradition attributes the destruction of the 1st Temple in Jerusalem (586 BCE by the Babylonians), and the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE by the Romans). The Shabbat after Tisha B'Av, by contrast, is called Shabbat Nachamu - The Shabbat of Comfort. We tradtionally read the passage from Isaiah 40:1-26 for the haftarah that begins "Comfort, comfort My people." Like it says in the Shir Hamaalot, Psalm 126, that we sing before Birkat Hamazon on Shabbat, "Those who sow in tears will reap in joy." Even after our greatest calamities and disasters, we strive to have hope for happiness.

After Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) - a day commemorating fallen soldiers and victims of Israel, there is Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) - a day of celebration for the creation of the State of Israel. After disappointment, comes happiness and joy.

It is a Jewish value to be resilient and to bounce back from disappointment and strive for happiness and hope.

This Shabbat Message was written by Ira Dounn, Northeast Director of Jewish Enrichment

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