Hand Crafted Judaism

Posted on August 29, 2019

As of late, I’ve been noticing a lot of hand crafted items.  I’ve seen hand crafted cocktails with homemade flavored syrups and unique herbs such as lavender.  Burgers are made with fresh beef and savory and even funky toppings such as fried eggs and whiskey sauce.  I even saw a restaurant with hand craft Pho where you could choose rice noodles or the low carb Shirataki and also each vegetable and protein.  When using the words, “hand crafted,” businesses are trying to convey that their product isn’t mass produced.  Some time and effort has gone into it, so it will be more tasty, appealing, and even unique.  If we could choose a hand crafted item over a mass produced one, I’m sure most of us would want it.  And so, I’ve been thinking about Judaism and the High Holy Days and I have to say in many ways they are ‘hand crafted’ as well.

Judaism just isn’t a cookie cutter type of religion.  Yes, we have beliefs and teachings to be sure but we are also a rich culture emanating out of the chilly lands of Eastern Europe, the lush areas around the Mediterranean, the Far East, Africa, and of course, the Americas.  What has come with this is a fusion of different cuisines such as matza ball soup, challah, eggplant capanata, schnitzel, and a huge variety of herbs and vegetables.  Our language has been permeated by German creating Yiddish, Spanish creating Latino, and more.  We have various ethnicities enriching our Jewish heritage.  And even here in America, we have our deli, bagels, and even gift exchange during Hanukkah.  Judaism has been hand crafted not only for hundreds of years but for millennia. 

And now we are upon the High Holy Days.  Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, our day of atonement, have evolved from making various animal offerings on the altar to powerful worship experiences that remind us of the importance of our actions and impact on others.  The haunting sound of Kol Nidrei stirs us from deep within.  And dipping our apples into honey and enjoying the company of family and friends makes the holidays especially poignant.  But wait, wait, the holidays continue!  Just five days after Yom Kippur, we go outside and seek shelter in our hand crafted succahs.  These primitive huts are decorated with gourds, pumpkins, Indian corn, and decorations.  We rejoice for seven days, as we remember the Israelite wandering in the wilderness.  And then to finish off our fall holidays, we get to dance, in our own way, with our Torahs, as we celebrate the completion of the cycle of readings and get to experience the birth of the world once again in Genesis.

In many ways, we hand craft our own approach and like everything else, get out what we put in.  By participating and making Jewish rituals our own, we can craft new meanings out of older traditions, we can find glimmers of insight that we didn’t know were there, and we can anchor ourselves in ways unimaginable.  

Ah! Handcrafted Judaism!  So deliciously meaningful!