Living a Sweet New Year Every Day

by | Sep 27, 2019 | Hillel Ontario, Jewish Holiday | 0 comments

“L’Shana Tova!” These are words that we utter every autumn during the high holidays as we wish one another a sweet new year.

To me, this cozy, warm, inviting phrase is at the epicenter of the meaning of Rosh Hashanah. To wish one another a sweet new year is one of my favourite aspects of the holiday. But what does this actually look like in reality? There are so many ways in which we can embody “L’Shana Tova” today, and every day of the upcoming year:

  • Seeking out the activities, traditions, and food to which we  feel connected is one way to practice living the sweet life. For me, nothing screams “L’Shana Tova” more than when I am feeding my friends and family home-cooked meals. There is a lot of love to be found in sharing a meal together. This Rosh Hashanah, I am making my grandma’s recipe for Zwetschgnkuchen (a German plum cake that certain Ashkenazi Jewish families eat during Rosh Hashanah) which my family always has around the holidays. It is delicious, sweet, contains the practice of eating a new fruit of the season (a custom for some people during Rosh Hashanah), and says to those at the dinner table…. “Come, let’s eat, and experience the good things in life together!” As for how I am bringing this particular form of sweetness to my role at Hillel this year? If you ever see me at an event where food is served and I’m not trying to hand you a plate of food, you ought to be concerned! At Queen’s Hillel, I want us to bond over our shared interests and connections as we celebrate throughout the year.

 

  • Another way to create a sweet year is to recognize when our actions come from a place of kindness. Creating a sweeter year also means acknowledging when we have said something hurtful and “making right our wrongs”. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we all have said or done something harmful at one point or another. It is a part of being human. Yet, by focusing on creating more sweetness in the world rather than on negative behaviours, we are embodying Jewish values.

 

  • For many of us, a sweet new year is embodied in the images of apples and honey. Seeing them on our tables can remind us that having a good core and inner voice is essential to how we share ourselves with the outside world. If we are not sweet on the inside, then even if we cover it up, it still won’t be appealing on the outside. I mean, we’ve all had that one apple that was way too tart or mushy, and no amount of honey could make it better! So taking stock and looking inwards allows for an outward projection of goodness. The beauty of Rosh Hashanah is that we are able to return again and again to our favourite foods, to symbolic motifs, and to the process of taking stock of ourselves and our lives… and how lucky are we?! It is a sweet blessing indeed.

At the close of 5779, and the start of 5780, let me be the first to wish you a happy, healthy, and sweet new year! I’d love to hear from you and how you aim to embody the ideas of L’Shana Tova in 5780!

Weekly D’var: Netzavim

Weekly D’var: Netzavim

This week’s parsha, Nitzavim, begins with an expression of the universality of God’s covenant with the Israelites. It wasn’t enough to say ‘all of you’ who are standing before God, rather, we are given a list of all those assembled before Moses as he instructed them before they entered the land of Israel. In this list, we see a hierarchy of social and religious significance; we are told that among those present are tribal leaders, elders, officials, men who have households, children, wives, and ‘strangers’, the servants.

Moses continues to remind the Israelites of God’s actions during their journey out of Egypt, the commandments they have been given, and the consequences of both living by and living against the conditions of the covenant. There are warnings of curses and anger and wrath and promises of blessing and sustenance and reward. This is, at its simplest, Moses’ final attempt to give the Israelites a moral compass, a sense of right and wrong in God’s eyes, as they finally cross into the land promised to their ancestors, but without Moses’ leadership.

There is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful pieces of language in the Torah towards the end of Moses’ instructions to the Israelites (Deut. 30 12-16):

[This instruction] is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. I set before you this day life and prosperity, death and adversity. For I command you this day, to love your God, to walk in God’s ways, and to keep God’s commandments, God’s laws, and God’s rules, that you may thrive and increase, and that your God may bless you in the land that you are about to enter and possess.

As Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur near again, this week’s parsha is a reminder that when we are celebrating, showing humility and remorse, asking one another and God for forgiveness, we are equal. The opportunity to act righteously, care for ourselves and others around us, and enjoy prosperity is accessible and within the reach of every one of us, regardless of privilege and position, as is the opportunity near to us to turn from our misdeeds and transgressions towards goodness in the new year.

Shanah Tovah U’metuka
A Happy and Sweet 5783!

A New Hillel Home in Kingston!

A New Hillel Home in Kingston!

Kingston, ON – September 21, 2022

For 50 years, the Otterburn House in Kingston, Ontario was the home of Queen’s Hillel. Since 2018, however, Queen’s Hillel has been without a permanent location, necessitating the use of temporary rental space on-campus.

Over the past year, Beth Israel Synagogue invested in an intensive rejuvenation project to give the Otterburn House its first major update since 1992. Today, with the invaluable support of two community visionaries, we are excited to share that our Queen’s Hillel staff, Yos and Leora Tarshish, will be making the Otterburn House both their own home, and a renewed base for Queen’s Hillel. By creating a welcoming community grounded in their own lives, Yos and Leora will serve as a model for what Jewish living in all of its dimensions can be, and leverage the successful models of Base and Moishe House.

On behalf of Hillel Ontario, Chief Executive Officer, Rabbi Seth Goren said the following:

“Hillel Ontario has been striving to ensure that Queen’s Hillel once again had a space to meaningfully engage Jewish students in Kingston. Yos and Leora Tarshish have been working tirelessly to nurture strong and resilient Jewish students, build innovative micro-communities, and empower the next generation of community advocates. With the invaluable support of community philanthropists who are committed to the Kingston community, and to the future of Jewish students at Queen’s, Hillel Ontario could not be more pleased to see Hillel once again have a permanent home in Kingston.”

On behalf of Queen’s Hillel, Director, Yos Tarshish said the following:

“Leora and I are incredibly excited to be moving into the Otterburn House, and welcoming a new generation of Jewish students into a space that holds such a special place in the history of Queen’s Hillel. The space has been lovingly restored by the hard work of the Beth Israel Otterburn Committee, led by Arnie Palmer, Michael Springer, Richard Kizell and Mark Malinoff, and it is a true testament to the vigour and tenacity of the Kingston Jewish community. Jewish student life has been steadily growing in Kingston for more than a decade, and Hillel is at the forefront of ensuring that the Jewish community on campus is both vibrant and inclusive. We are honoured to engage Jewish students on campus in Kingston, and are immensely grateful for the opportunity to bring Hillel activities back to Otterburn.”

-30-

Hillel Ontario is the largest regional Hillel in the world, serving nine universities, with a combined Jewish student population of 14,000.

For additional information, please contact:

Jay Solomon
Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer
jay.solomon@hillelontario.org

X