Archive for the Judaism Category

Friends made Chanukah 5778 a blast!

Posted in Judaism, Living as a Jew with tags , , , on December 29, 2017 by ThommyMac

Hanukkah_5778_01 (1024x768)

Well, I’d be lying if I said 2017 was my best year but it was far from my worst. In fact it seems to be ending on a high note. I’ve picked up a project that will pay the bills for the next couple months, adopted a cat, and am back in the swing of saying my daily prayers with an earnest joy.  I haven’t shared much about the inner workings of my Jewish life, saving it for some longer essays. I had found out that I was Jewish by anyone’s measurements a dozen plus years ago. After a couple of years soul searching, I started attending services. After three years of regularly hitting synagogue I attended the year long Intro to Judaism class that couples usually take before getting married, especially mixed faith families. After that I did a monthly book report for a very knowledgeable rabbi. He ended up moving on before they felt I was ready for the Beit Din. So the main rabbi for my congregation took over. For a man who heads a congregation with 2,000 families I was (and still am) impressed that he made available an hour for me week in and week out. As my skill sets improved we moved to a meeting a month for a long time. It sort of reminded me of the E-5 (sergeant) board in the Army. No matter how many promo points, and schools you have the 1st Sergeant is NOT going to send you until he (or she) feels you are ready. I don’t know about the other services but in the Army when you go to the E-5 board, you face all the regiment/battalion’s 1st sergeants with the Sergeant Major as head and tie breaker. If he or she sends a dud, the other senior NCOs will give him grief so that ain’t happening. So rabbi wasn’t going to send me until he felt I was ready. At times, mostly when I was quitting smoking, I was a little resentful. Upon reflection, I knew that was out of love and even though I was Jewish by blood, I was raised Catholic so it took a great deal of work from the both of us to have me ready. I will go over one of the top 10 days of my life later on. I just wanted to say I LOVED the surprise of me Orthodox friends coming over and sharing the light of Chanukah.


Purim 5777

Posted in Info, Judaism, Opinion, Pittsburgh with tags , , , , on December 4, 2017 by ThommyMac

It took me this long to edit it out of the other services. Yes I am in it 🙂 Our Cantor is sooo awesome I had to be in it. So are the Rabbi and assistant Rabbi but she handles and writes this clever stuff.






Woo Hoo! Bereisheet is Back!

Posted in formal learning, Judaism with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by ThommyMac

Last year’s Bereisheet ended with the summer. People had things to do and our awesome cantor had the house she was renting sold out from under her. She found and bought a new one, so that had a happy ending. I was almost bugging her as to when the new class would start but I knew it would not be until after the high holidays. Every year I am happily a greeter for every service. I don’t do it to cheese it up or be a member of the in crowd there (if there is such a thing). In fact I always man the back doors of the synagogue. I started doing it 5 (Hebrew) years ago. Back then a mini-bus would hit some of the senor homes and they needed someone who could lift 80 lbs. there. It’s not the most popular entrance and egress but I enjoy it. There is usually a cop back there with me and 90% of them were interesting and enjoyable company. At the risk of sounding sexist, one was drop dead gorgeous. All had some questions about Judaism and every year has really been more enjoyable than the previous. The new (At the time) cantor and assistant rabbi have been a great addition, nothing against their predecessors. SO, anyhow, the holidays have passed and a new year of classes begin.

I have started a video series for folks who want some information as they go through the lengthy conversion process. When my mother passed away I found out my maternal grandmother’s family were Jews. I am going to cover that and more in depth later and maybe in some videos. The thumbnail is after a decade of soul searching, I started attending services 10 years ago, started formal schooling four years ago and passed the beit din two years ago. Although the Reich would certainly consider me a Jew before it all started I have no problem being lumped with the converts. Indeed, I was raised Roman Catholic so when I returned to the fold I took and still take every class I can. It went like this. A couple months after attending my first service Rosh Hashanah rolled around. It may read corny but I loved every second of it. Kol Nidre then Yom Kippur both flew by leaving me eager to recapture those feelings. As luck would have it, there was a 3 night midrash covering the Amidah. My assigned prayer partner turned out to be one of the grand matriarchs of the community. To this day she is still helping me, encouraging, and seeing how I am doing.

OK, now I attend another two years, mainly Friday night Shuls to greet the Shabbat. Those Shuls, Shabbat, and living a little more kosher each week allowed me to reach a point where my formal classes started. Reaching the point where I had fulfilled all the requirements to join the community as an adult finally came two years ago. Now, like so many moments in life, this was just the beginning. Bereisheet helps me fill in the details and learn the practicalities between the BIG concepts. I don’t want to keep cribbing from my “Journey into Judaism” scripts so I’m going to close paraphrasing two quotes. When I first approached rabbi, he asked me “Why do you want to acknowledge you belong to a group of people who, for whatever reasons, people seem to enjoy disliking?” My response was “Because whether I like it or not, I am one.” And my best, longest, and most intelligent friend said “Only you would decide to tell the world you are a Jew at the worst time since 1933.” Somehow, it fits. So now my weeks will be started with an hour of bereisheet and I already feel better.

New Year for Trees

Posted in Current Events, Judaism with tags , , on February 10, 2017 by ThommyMac

Things have been rough but I am OK. Thank you for asking about me. I foolishly let my guard down for someone who asked me to.  That gave me the most painful lesson I have ever received. Hopefully I can use it to grow or something. Bitter and mean is EXACTLY how I do NOT want to end up. So, like many, I sought comfort in my religion. It really does help, regardless of what your faith and\or church is. Cheerio.

Today is Tu B’Shevat ("the 15th of Shevat") which marks the beginning of a "New Year for Trees." This is the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

Legally, the "New Year for Trees" relates to the various tithes that must be separated from produce grown in the Holy Land. We mark the day by eating fruit, particularly from the "Seven Kinds" that are singled out by the Torah in its praise of the bounty of the Holy Land (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates). On this day we remember that "Man is a tree of the field" (Deuteronomy 20:19) and reflect on the lessons we can derive from our botanical analogue.

For more on Tu B’Shevat go here