The beard as billboard

Out of the 613 mitzvot and innumerable customs and traditions that shape the daily life of the traditional or more observant Jew, a number of them have to do with how we must look (i.e. dress, head wear, hair, etc.).  Wearing a kippa, for example, is supposed to mean that you stand for something greater than yourself, and a recognition that God is above.
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All who are hungry…

“Ha Lachma Anya, this is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt.  Let all who are hungry come and eat.  Let all who so require come and join in the Pesach meal.  Now, we are here.  Next year, may we be in the Land of Israel.  Now, we are servants.  Next year, may we be free people.” (Hagadah
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“Kids” menus and the whole megillah

The Purim of my youth was always a non-stop, pedal-to-the-metal kind of day.  Dressing up in a costume, megillah reading at night, a Purim party, giving matanot la’evyonim (gifts to the poor), megillah reading in the morning, delivering mishloach manot (the exchanging reciprocal gifts of food and drink) all over town to friends and family, and wrapping it all up with the festive meal known as a
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Live long and prosper…

Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock of Star Trek) passed away this morning at the age of 83.  In a New York Times article today on Nimoy/Spock’s cultural impact, Nimoy’s Jewish upbringing was addressed: “His religious upbringing also influenced the characterization of Spock. The character’s split-fingered salute, he often explained, had been his idea: He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew
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Cheering on your kids

The story goes that Michael Jordan, as a tenth grader, was cut from his high school varsity basketball team. As Jewish kids growing up in the late eighties, the story would inspire us to no end, as Jordan himself would say that “I think that not making the varsity team drove me to really work at my game, and also taught me that if
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Darkness

The weekly Torah portion of this week, Parshat Bo, and its teachings, has always stuck with me, way back since I learned it in depth in grade 8.  If I have to think about why this parsha in particular, I think partly because the name itself, Bo, offers some very simple ways for remembering what the parsha is about.  Bo is spelled Bet (ב)
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As long as the candle is burning…

I know you’re not supposed to leave your cell phone by your bed. It pings, chirps, vibrates and pulls you out of your sleep, and forces the world into your room, often at the most inopportune of times. My alarm went off early this morning, and while my cobwebbed brain was trying to wake up in the dark, I reached for my phone and
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Redeeming Emily Carr

When we moved to Vancouver from Montreal nearly 10 years ago, the family and I set about acquainting ourselves with all things Vancouver and West Coast-ish, the better to shed our Montreal personas and adopt the ways and trappings of local Vancouverites. With newly acquired Nalgene water bottles in our hands, MEC backpacks on our backs, and Lululemon yoga pants on our tushes (well,
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After Har Nof: A private audience with God

The Amidah, “The Standing Prayer”, also called the Shemoneh Esrei, “The Eighteen (Blessings)”, is often the hardest part of tefillah (prayer) to properly teach and to to actually do in ones own tefillah practice. Composed by the Men of the Great Assembly (the greatest Torah scholars and prophets of the generation) about 2,500 years ago in response to the impact of the First Temple destruction and
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Real moments

Organizing an effective school assembly can sometimes feel very much like producing a movie that has to appeal to a broad an audience as possible.  Organize an assembly that is too serious and content-heavy, and parents, grandparents and students in attendance will fidget, look at their watches, and have that glazed eyeball look before it’s even half over.  Go too light and fun, and
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