Hipster guide to the High Holy Days
3 ways to find High Holy Day meals
Ask your Jewish friends’ parents to adopt you for a couple of weeks.
Call your local synagogue and have them match you with a family.
Check out Sinai Temple’s “Break the Fast” on Yom Kippur, Oct. 4, 8-10:30 p.m. It’s $10 for guests, free for members. Registration at atidla.com.
3 places to get great local honey
Bill’s Bees is located in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. You can find their delicious honey made from bees fed native wildflowers at farmers markets throughout the region, including Glendale, South Pasadena, Burbank and Santa Monica.
Bennett’s Honey Farm is located in Ventura County, “home of the best sage and wildflower fields in California,” they claim. They are certified kosher and organic.
Honey Pacifica has been in the raw honey business since 1978. Pick up a jar at your local Whole Foods or at farmers markets in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica and other locations.
5 websites to help you bring in the new year
Jewels of Elul: Craig Taubman’s gathering of short stories and anecdotes to help us reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days.
Write for Your Life: A useful and accessible guide to writing about your spiritual practice.
My Jewish Learning: A clearinghouse of handy information about Jewish holidays, culture, beliefs, etc. Think of it as an interactive “Jewish Book of Why” —with more pictures.
Ask Moses: Get your pressing moral and spiritual questions from an Orthodox perspective answered from an Orthodox perspective by a rabbi with Chabad of California.
10Q: 10 days, 10 questions. Answer each one and next Rosh Hashanah you’ll have your answers sent back to you, so you can reflect on how much you have (or haven’t) changed.
5 books to read to get you in the mood
1. “This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation,” by Alan Lew. A guide to self-discovery and contemplation, drawn from lessons in Judaism and Buddhism.
2. “The Book of Life,” by Stuart Nadler. In the daring first story, an arrogant businessman begins a forbidden affair during the High Holy Days.
3. “Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar,” by Alan Morinis. A highly practical set of teachings for cultivating personal growth and spiritual fulfillment in everyday life.
4. “A Climbing Journey Towards Yom Kippur: The Thirteen Attributes of the Divine,” by R. Margaret Frisch Klein. A guided journal for climbing the spiritual mountain, with questions to help guide your thinking and writing.
5. “Days of Awe: A Treasury of Jewish Wisdom for Reflection, Repentance, and Renewal on the High Holy Days,” edited by S.Y. Agnon. Compiled by one of the greatest Hebrew writers of the 20th century, this is a one-volume compendium of meditations — from the Bible, the Talmud, midrash and the Zohar — to deepen the spiritual experience of the holiest days of the Jewish year.
5 things to know about the High Holy Days liturgy
(by Sinai Temple’s Rabbi Jason Fruithandler)
1. It’s long for a reason — the liturgy tries to give as many opportunities for connection as possible.
Over the course of the High Holy Days, there are special extra prayers, special extra Torah readings, and even a whole extra book of the Tanakh — Jonah — is read. The length and diversity of the liturgy is an expression of the tension between the need for communal strength and individual reality. Each of us stands before God (however you define God) with our own set of deeds and misdeeds. Each of us needs a different kind of encouragement or support to embrace our broken, imperfect selves and make a plan to try to be better. Our prayer services offer a community of people reflecting on the year, medieval piyutim (liturgical poems) on the core nature of death, uplifting music about the possibility of being better, stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs doing the best they can, and many other entry points into the themes of the High Holy Days. Each year, I try to find one access point, one theme, one idea, one song to connect to and carry with me into the coming year.
2. Most of the High Holy Days liturgy is written by poets trying to understand the themes of the holidays.
The early rabbis laid out an outline of what themes the prayer leader should touch on. There were no siddurs for the community. There were traveling professionals who had beautiful singing voices and were masters of the Hebrew language. They would take the themes of that outline and elaborate. The siddur represents a collection, made over the course of 2,000 years, of the best work of those prayer leaders. Do you have a favorite poem? Is there a scene from a movie or TV show that moves you? Add your own to create your personal siddur.
3. The sound of the shofar counts as its own prayer.
Maimonides writes that an entire prayer is in his mind each time he hears the shofar. The powerful sounds of the shofar are meant to stir our souls. The content of that private prayer is going to be different for each person, yet the strength of the prayer is amplified — for all are sharing that moment together. The contrast between the short and long blasts gives us a chance to be individuals together in community.
4. Kol Nidre was extraordinarily controversial.
The early rabbis tried for centuries to abolish or at least to adjust the Kol Nidre service. In many ways, it seems to undermine the halachic (Jewish legal) system. Kol Nidre as a service either annuls all of the vows (promises that invoke God’s name) from the previous year or the coming year. It is possible to annul vows in Jewish law, but you need a rabbinic court. During the Kol Nidre service, we make a pretend court out of three Torahs held by three individuals. There is no halachic standing for such a thing. In addition, it seems to completely alleviate the responsibility of making promises. However, every synagogue in the world has a Kol Nidre service. The people overruled the rabbis. People love the moment of Kol Nidre — not because of its legal standing, but because it transitions us into Yom Kippur. What better way to start a day of forgiveness than by facing the fact that we don’t live up to the promises we make to ourselves and others? More than that, we forgive ourselves for those failings. That forgiveness becomes the foundation of an entire day of admitting all of our shortcomings.
5. Rosh Hashanah is the more somber of the two holidays.
It is the day God is our jury and we are found guilty. Yom Kippur is the “happy fast” — God serves as our sentencing judge, and our sentence is commuted. We have another year to try again.
7 places to “just do your own thing in, like, nature
1. The top of Point Dume in Malibu: You won’t see whales this time of year, but you’ll see Catalina Island, the far horizon and not a lot of people.
2. Sturtevant Falls in Sierra Madre: A four-mile round-trip hike with well-maintained trails; a perfect place to escape the city.
3. The Cobb Estate in Altadena: It’s home to the Sam Merrill Trail and is referred to as the Haunted Forest, with widespread reports of spooky sightings. Also, it was owned by the Marx Brothers in the 1950s.
4. Eaton Canyon in Pasadena: Don’t go chasing waterfalls — the trail to the upper falls was closed off in August after too many hikers fell to their deaths. But you can still hike to the lower falls for a breathtaking view.
5. Griffith Park in Los Angeles: A well-trod urban oasis, but still a great place to bring visitors and get a nice view of the Hollywood sign.
6. El Matador State Beach in Malibu: Even on weekends you can find this beach, near the Ventura County line, relatively quiet. On weekdays, it’s positively peaceful. Sit down, stare at the surf, and reflect.
7. Temescal Canyon Park in Pacific Palisades: Go on a sunset hike and watch a big ball of fire drop into the ocean. Stunning views of the coastline await.
4 ways to put up a sukkah at the end of Yom Kippur
2. Sukkot.com offers wood-frame or steel-tube sukkah kits, along with wall materials, bamboo roofing, decorations, and even a lulav and etrog. SukkahDepot.com and SiegerSukkah.com also offer easy-to-assemble sukkahs, but be prepared to shell out a few hundred dollars.
3. Go to a Home Depot or Loews with a budget in mind and the dimensions of your back porch or yard, and channel your inner Tim Allen.
4. Team up with some fellow Jews and build a communal sukkah. There’s no better way to break the Yom Kippur fast than with a nosh among friends under the stars.
Putting the “high” in High Holy Days – 7 “medical” marijuana strains we’d like to see
– Dread Lox
– Pineapple and Honey Express
– Andy Coughman
– Jerusalem Stoned
7 best ideas for karaoke songs for the High Holy Days
“I Ran (Shofar Away)” — A Flock of Seagulls
Pour Some Manischewitz on Me — Def Leppard
Love Sukkah — The B-52’s
Son of a Rabbi Man — Dusty Springfield
The Horah Dance — Digital Underground
The Unforgiven — Metallica
Don’t Stop Believin — Journey
4 ways to work out with your fellow Jews
– Vintage Israeli dancing at Anisa’s School of Dance in Sherman Oaks, Sept. 27, 8:15 p.m.-12:15 a.m.
– Pre-High Holy Days Yoga Unwind & Detox at Sinai Temple, Sept. 21, 11 a.m.-noon.
– The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Tour de Summer Camps, Sept. 21
4 places to meet singles
– Rosh Hashanah Party, Sept. 27, 10 p.m., at Whiskey Blu, 1714 N Las Palmas, Los Angeles. Including DJ Shay Silver, DJ Amit, DJ Yochai, DJ Final Cut and DJ Primitive. israeliparties.com.
– Rosh Hashanah Party, Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m., at The Victorian, 2640 Main St., Santa Monica. There’ll be mingling, music, dancing, appetizers and a festive party spirit.
– Apple Meets Honey Young Professionals Lounge at Sinai Temple, a place for folks in their 20s and 30s to stop by during or after services at Sinai for light bites (Rosh Hashanah only) and mingling. The lounge will be open on Rosh Hashanah Day 1 (Sept. 25), 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., and on Yom Kippur (Oct. 4), 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
– Rosh Hashanah Apple Extravaganza Party, Sept. 18, 8 p.m., at Moishe House LA,110 N. Harper Ave., Los Angeles. There’ll be delicious apple cider, apple pie, caramel apple dipping, and a discussion on what Rosh Hashanah means to young Jews.
6 best places to get round challah
Got Kosher?: 8914 W. Pico Blvd. (get the pretzel challah!)
Diamond Bakery: 335 N. Fairfax Ave.
Bagel Factory: 3004 S. Sepulveda Blvd. and 8986 Cadillac Ave.
Eilat Bakery: 350 N. Fairfax Ave.
Schwartz Bakery: 433 N. Fairfax Ave.
Delice Bakery: 8583 W. Pico Blvd.
How to pray if you’re not sure you believe in God
“Our prayers are poems! Allow them to be experienced as poetry. It is not about believing or not believing — the question is, do they move me? Do they frustrate or challenge me? If so, that is great, and then we can wonder why.”
— Rabbi Susan Goldberg
6 places to do tashlich
– Creative Arts Temple, at Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey, Sept. 26, 10 a.m.
– Nashuva, at Venice Beach, Sept. 25, 5:15 p.m.
– “Down to the River,” East Side Jews, at Marsh Park on the Los Angeles River, Sept. 27, 6:30-9:30 p.m., $40, includes food, drink and transformation.
– Valley Outreach Synagogue, at Zuma Beach, Lifeguard Station 6, Sept. 25, 4 p.m.
– IKAR, at Santa Monica Beach, Lifeguard Station 26. Sept. 28, 4:30-7:30 p.m.
– Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Tashlich at the Beach, Will Rogers Beach, Sept. 28, 4-6 p.m.
Thoughts on tashlich and humility
“Water is a sign of humility. Our insecurities and weaknesses, which were blocking our growth, can be washed away like water and disappear. Living waters purify, and we seek purification by the mikveh of the sea.”
— Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
6 reasons to go to services
– Meet your bashert (soul mate).
– It’s a mitzvah!
– Make your bubbe and zayde proud.
– Practice your Hebrew reading skills.
– There’s usually free wine involved.
– Get in touch with yourself, get centered, start the New Year fresh and renewed
Where can I learn to blow a shofar?
Michael Chusid, a San Fernando Valley resident and synagogue Makom Ohr Shalom’s ba’al tekiah (shofar master blaster), offers workshops and classes and blogs about the art of blowing shofar at hearingshofar.blogspot.com.
Self-described “jazz comedian” David Zasloff also offers private lessons. Zasloff has staged shofar shows such as “Shofar-palooza,” and on Oct. 18 at the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, he will perform on the shofar all the Christian songs written by Jews. davidzasloff.com.
3 places to see art and get inspired
“Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s,” at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. See the work of Jewish filmmakers such as Fritz Lang, who later immigrated to the United States and gave birth to film noir.
“Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit,” at the Getty Center. This highly influential American photographer showed how the visual language can be a tool for spiritual transformation.
“Mandala of Compassion,” at the Hammer Museum. Learn the virtue of patience from four Tibetan Buddhist monks as they handcraft a colorful sand mandala before your very eyes. And then, at the end, they’ll sweep it up, for a lesson in impermanence.
5 places to break the fast
– On the floor of your pantry, because, dear God, your blood sugar is low.
– Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes, because it’s all-you-can-eat.
– Swingers Diner, in Hollywood and Santa Monica, because it’s open late, and you can wash down your lox and bagel with a milkshake.
– Art’s Deli in Studio City has a special High Holy Days menu.
– Brent’s Deli in Northridge and Westlake Village.
6 Jewish drinks to break the fast
Ashkenazi Jews: sweetened tea.
Greek Jews: pepitada, made with crushed melon seeds, water, sugar and rosewater.
Iraqi Jews: hariri, sweetened almond milk with cardamom.
Tunisian Jews: black tea with fresh lemon verbena leaves and sugar.
Moroccan Jews: mint tea.
Tripolitan Jews: tea with cinnamon and sugar or honey
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Cartoon illustration by Steve Greenberg. For more of his work visit his website.