Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sukkoth - Part 2

There are three common symbols of the Sukkoth holiday: the Sukkoth, the Lulav, and Esrog. What they mean and how they are used can be explored here. Very observant Jews try to find the most perfect components with which to make up the Lulav. The Esrog is a citrus fruit, much like a lemon, the most beautiful examples of which are grown in Calabria, Italy.

Before the holiday, the main thoroughfare of Borough Park, Brooklyn is lined with tables selling all the components, and people examine in the minutest detail to her sure of no imperfections.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sukkoth - part 1

It's no accident that he festival of Sukkoth follows on the heels of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It's a joyous celebration with lots of great food (no surprise there). There's so much to say about the rituals and customs that it would be impossible for me to do it here. Anything one needs to know about anything to do with the festival can be found here.

I spent some time on Saturday evening in Borough Park, Brooklyn. It's a neighborhood with a mixture of several hassidic cultures and varying dress. Thirteenth Avenue is lined with popup stores and tables of vendors selling 'the four kinds' as well as decorations for the home sukkah. The holiday has been celebrated this way for a thousand years before Christmas ever had a reason to be.

This first post is about the people enjoying the festive air on the street.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Kaporos - part 2

I had an opportunity to experience the Kaporos ritual in one of the three main chassidic neighborhoods of Brooklyn, NY. Crown Heights is the home of the Lubavitch Chabad chassidim. A centuries old tradition now in it's seventieth year of growth and development sparked by it's most recent leader, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, it's followers have established branches in Africa, South America, and Asia, as well as the more cosmopolitan centers in the USA and Europe. The inclusiveness of it's core philosophy has drawn Jews from all colors of the spectrum into its fold, while  adhering to the intense and deeply spiritual core of chassidic practice.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


In any set of religious observances there are practices that are scriptural - as found in the bible, there are practices mandated by revered sages - the first few generations of rabbis who wrote commentaries on the Torah and oral tradition as elucidated in the Mishna, and there are practices based on tradition that grew out of the dim fog of historical past - such is the ritual of kaporos. A complete detailed discussion of the practice can be found here.

The prayer recited during the ritual is a combination of verses from the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh);
(After the ritual is completed the chickens are then taken to a kosher butcher for preparation and then donated to charity as food for the needy):

Children of man who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, bound in mystery and chains of iron --- He will bring them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and will sunder their bonds. Foolish sinners, afflicted because of their sinful ways and their wrongdoings; their soul loathes all food and they reach the gates of death --- they cry out to the Lord in their distress; He saves them from their afflictions. He sends forth His word and heals them; He delivers them from their graves. Let them thank the Lord for His kindness, and [proclaim] His wonders to the children of man. If there be for a man [even] one interceding angel out of a thousand [accusers], to spend of his uprightness in his behalf, then He will be gracious to him and say: Redeem him from going down to the grave; I have found expiation [for him].

This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my expiation. This chicken shall go to death and I shall proceed to a good, long life and peace.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

34th Street Poster Boys

Working on one of my main projects takes a lot of time and attention, but sometimes I like to just get out and shoot on the street for the fun of it.I attended a photo event this afternoon at B&H photo given by my friend and sometimes teacher, Harvey Stein, who has quite a few excellent photo books published. He mentioned a technique he uses which I hadn't given much thought to. So after the class I hit the street and tried out some new angles of shooting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rosh Hashanah Treat

Challah, sometimes laced with raisins, is a  sweet compliment to the feast that precedes the holiday observances. Six strands braided into a fluffy loaf. Yummy!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Shofar

Blowing the Shofar is an integral part of the Jewish high holiday rituals, Rather than repeat what's already been written about it, and much more authoritatively than I could ever hope to do, you can read all about it here. It's a ritual that captivated me as a kid.

Basically, it's a ram's horn (or a goat's, or any other kosher animal - except a deer, their horns are  bone) that has all the internal cartilage removed and a hole drilled in the narrow end. That's the easy part. The hard part is making a sound come out. Kind of like blowing into a trumpet, but more difficult because there's no mouthpiece for a shofar.

There's three specific sounds or signals that are used, each of different length. More about it all on that website.

Drilling the end-hole after the cartilage is removed:

Trying to make a sound by blowing into the hole: