Return – A Poem

Ro GrabI want to return to the past
In my mind I see a Golden Age
When I was Pure
Like Adam and Eve
Before the Fall
And in that age,
I was blissful and young
I could laugh
Really laugh! of a light-hearted but deep and Full Belly Laughter.

Continue reading


(PCJE) Ha’azinu/Ten Days of Repentence: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Ha’azinu calls to me…”

דְּבָרִים לב:א

“הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַאֲדַבֵּרָה;  וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ, אִמְרֵי-פִי.”

“Listen heaven, and I will speak! Earth, hear the words of my mouth.”

Ha’azinu is an interesting parsha, both in structure and in language. The parsha is presented in the Torah as a poem, written in two columns. Not only is it presented in a poetic structure, it is also written in a difficult, poetic language.  Therefore, in order to understand Ha’azinu, we must first look back at how the previous parshah, Vayelech, introduces this song. The last verse of Vayelech reads,

 “וַיְדַבֵּר מֹשֶׁה, בְּאָזְנֵי כָּל-קְהַל יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-דִּבְרֵי הַשִּׁירָה, הַזֹּאת–עַד, תֻּמָּם”

“And Moses spoke, in the ears of all the congregation of Israel, the words of this song, until its very end.”

Continue reading

The Small Stuff (Shabbaton Dvar)

Suz HutWhen I learned that the theme of this Shabbaton would be “Building Community,” I asked Meesh if I could speak about something that I am extremely passionate about, and thankfully she said yes. But before I get to that, I want to talk about what we are, all of us, which is basically a room full of strangers. As Natan said so eloquently the other night, it’s strange to think that although we may feel very close by now, we’ve actually only known each other for three weeks. So how do we go from being a room full of strangers to being something more, like a room full of friends?

Continue reading

(PCJE) Jerusalem Diaries #10…Weekend Retreat/Shabbaton

From my blog: 9/22/14 (Pictures below!)

Ari Sie

This past weekend was the first shabbaton, or retreat, of the year with school. It was a really nice way of getting to know people outside of the school environment (which can be intense). Looking at our very scheduled weekend, I was concerned I wouldn’t have enough time for myself, but I actually totally enjoyed spending so much time with my school mates, getting to know them and even carved out some time for myself. We kicked it off on Thursday at community lunch, eating together and getting additional information about the retreat itself. We then had a shiur, or class and headed to the buses.

Continue reading

[PCJE] The Heart of Israel

Western WallI struggle deeply with my feelings about Jerusalem. For years, I felt like I didn’t “get it.” I didn’t understand that feeling that I heard people talk about. That sense of holiness, of connection to God, which they only experience here. While others longed for Jerusalem, my mythical city was Tel Aviv. The fast-paced, modern city, full of bars and coffee shops, the ultimate symbol of the Zionist rebuilding of the land of Israel has been my promised land.

Continue reading

Ha’azinu and Music and Community (and me)

Sar MarIn the last week, hovering on the edge of Rosh Hashanah, I’ve heard and sung songs that shook me to my core. In the coming weeks, I’ll be faced with many more – liturgy for the High Holidays, its passion and fear barely contained by the melodies’ majesty, or zemirot sung around the Shabbat table. I’ll chant my personal prayers through tears, and I’ll hum those same motifs into my hairbrush in the shower. We’re about to enter one of the richest periods in a tradition already rich with music. It feels appropriate, then, that this week’s portion should be Ha’azinu: Moses’s story-song, entrusted to the people of Israel immediately before he dies.

Continue reading

[PCJE] Parshat Nitzavim-Va’Yelech: We’re in this together!

Night Seder Chevrutas Binyamin Cohen and David Wallach
join together to reflect on this week's parshah.

דְּבָרִים כט:טScreen Shot 2014-09-12 at 9.51.44 AM

“אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כֻּלְּכֶם, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם: רָאשֵׁיכֶם שִׁבְטֵיכֶם, זִקְנֵיכֶם וְשֹׁטְרֵיכֶם, כֹּל, אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל”.

“Today you are all standing before the Lord your God, your leaders, your tribal chiefs, your elders, your law enforces, every Israelite man.”

Parshat Nitzavim is always read right before Rosh Hashanah, the day when we all stand before the Lord our God. In fact, the “today” in the verse is often taken to be a reference to Rosh Hashanah. With this in mind, we can begin to understand our verse in a completely new light, especially significant for the Days of Awe.

Not only is it that we are standing today, rather, it is important that is is we who are standing. A close look at the verse will note that the use of the plural in this verse is inconsistent with the rest of the speech that follows. If this verse is supposed to be speaking about Rosh Hashana, what is the lesson to learn from the plural used here? What do “standing together” and Rosh Hashanah have to do with each other exactly? The first part of understanding this is to recall what exactly it is we are doing on Rosh Hashanah: that is, we are standing in judgment before God. The implication then, is that there something transformative about “standing together.” Therefore, we must ask, what does standing together do for judgement?

Continue reading

[PCJE] Nitzavim, or On Being #9

Geo PoorParshat Nitzavim starts with the children of Israel nitzavim – standing – before God and community, ready to enter into covenant, a covenant with rights and responsibilities, in order to become established as a people. At first glance, this seemed to me like a perfectly logical entrance to a covenant, but then it occurred to me: was the covenant not established with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and at the Exodus, and at Sinai…? Were the people of Israel not referred to as “am,” as a nation? Why this strong image of the entire people standing together before not just God, but each other? Why does the Torah point out that it is not just the elders and leaders, but everyone “from woodchopper to water bearer”? Continue reading

Everything’s Better on Shabbos….Even My Hair

From my blog:

Ariella Siegel
I have pretty normal, brown, curly-girl Jew hair. Nothing special, not terrible, regular curls. I do my best to condition, to take care of them, and style them in a manageable (and hopefully acceptable) way, and I tend to do pretty good job at that.

However, on Shabbat, something special happens. My curls become beautifully shaped spirals, cascading down my back, bouncing and shiny, frizz free and beautiful. At first, I thought this was a fluke. Ok, maybe sometimes my curls behave themselves and create geometric forms like I would think they should do. But this has gone on for almost a month and a half now. Without fail, my pre-shabbos shower always leaves me with beautiful curls. And only on shabbos does this happen.

Continue reading