Teachings: Mitzvah Guidance

Being Queen Esther

Guided Purim Visualization

In less than a minute enter Purim consciousness. Enter the dilemma of Queen Esther and identify the relevance of your conflict within your own life during this audio experience led by Rabbi Joyce Reinitz, ACSW.

Jewish Death and Dying: Prayer for Hearing of a Death

When we hear someone has died, we need a way to express ourselves. Jewish tradition provides a very powerful and brief sacred phrase: baruch dayan ha'emet (pronounced bah-rukh, dah-yahn, hah'eh-meht). This phrase seems to be the bare minimum of a blessing, truncated from our usual blessing form, as many as twelve terms short*; cut down, as has been a life.

What does this phrase mean?

The Jewish Vision Quest

When life feels like an uphill climb,
accept it and head right to the Top;

Can Jews Enter Churches, Mosques, etc? Considerations of When, Why & How

When Jewish Values On-line asked me to write on this question for their website, as an advocate for respectful co-existence of the world's peoples and traditions, my first inclination would have been to give a short "yes" answer.  As I really began to think carefully about it, the question requires a far more nuanced approach.

How We Averted a Wedding Disaster

“Shalom, this is Rabbi Milgram, how can I help you? Has there been a tragedy?”

“A disaster, Rabbi! My sister who is a baalat teshuvah, (newly Orthodox) says she will not attend my wedding for three reasons. One, because her husband can’t hear your voice, or any woman’s voice, leading a Jewish rite; two, because our hall’s kosher caterer is not approved by her local rabbi; and three, because there will be mixed seating and mixed dancing.

Appreciating Mitzvah as the Core of Jewish Practice and Mitzvah List for Volume

sample chapter excerpt from Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning

Note: The list of mitzvot that can be taught in regard to each story is an attached file on this page.

Major Contrasts in Jewish Practice

Because change is one of the constants of Jewish life, the variations in customs, laws, and practices at any point in our history are quite fascinating. It’s important from the outset for you to be fully aware that individual homes, congregations, and even certain neighborhoods and individual communities within those neighborhoods, have their own uniquely nuanced Jewish culture, norms, and guidelines. For example, there are Jewish communities where the norm is:

Visualization: Torah and Her Garments

B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

Imagine it is time for you to go up to the Torah, perhaps your bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. You are about to become a witness and participant in the reading and interpretation of Torah. Go ahead, approach the aron, the ark; it represents the Ark of the Covenant, in which the Israelites carried the carved tablets with the Ten Commandments in the wilderness. The doors of the ark are opened. You will cross a threshold in your life as an elder or leader of the community places the Torah in your arms. The sacred mantle of leadership is upon you.

Guidelines for Setting a Date and Time for a Jewish Rite of Passage

Guidelines for Setting a Date and Time for a Jewish Rite of Passage

Understanding & Appreciating the Jewish Calendar

What are the blackout dates for Jewish rites of passage?

For those scheduling Jewish life cycle ceremonies there are hundreds of available dates as well as a number of black-out dates when rites cannot be held.

Bris, Brit, What Is the Jewish Covenant

What Is the Jewish Covenant? Entering the Covenant of Jewish Peoplehood

Do Children Belong Under the Huppah?

Are there good alternatives?

Those who have children of their own, or in the family, and who are planning a Jewish wedding often wonder as to the wisdom of involving the children in the ritual. There are a number of considerations involved and every family is different. 

Bris, Brit, What Is the Jewish Covenant

What Is the Jewish Covenant? Entering the Covenant of Jewish Peoplehood

Healthy Integration of the Sad with the Glad

How to include the memory of loved ones during happy rites of passage

A challenging point in weddings, b'nei mitzvah and baby namings can be the absence of loved ones recently deceased, who are too far off to be able to attend, who are doing military service, or who can’t be present for other reasons. What to do?

• You can have the person leading the rite invoke the absent one’s memory/honor early on, if you wish; immediately after the opening verses of song, psalm or prayer is generally a good spot for this.

Is Organic Kosher?

Dear Rabbi:
I'm making the transition into observant Judaism. I've already incorporated many different aspects of Jewish life and practice in my own. The one thing that is most difficult for me is finding kosher meats in my area, specially lamb and red meat, which are meats I love to eat from time to time. Can I purchase organic meats instead, which are more accessible in my area and in this way observe Kashrut? Thanks!


Do Jewish Burials Require a Coffin?

Dear Rabbi:

My cousin who is dying of pancreatic cancer keeps talking about wanting to be buried without a coffin. Don't Jewish funerals require a plain wooden box?

Thanks for the favor of your reply, Orna

Dear Orna:

Why Jews Leave a Small Stone When Visiting a Grave

Why Jews Leave a Small Stone When Visiting a Grave
This article is dedicated in memory of Rabbi Michael Tayvah—friend and colleague

Adoption, Ethnicity and Jewish Baby Naming

Adoption adds special considerations to rituals for welcoming a new baby or child. Here is one recent example:

What to Put on Parents' Gravestone?

I have to decide by tomorrow what to put on my parent's gravestone. They are doing one together. Any ideas?

In many ways the process of deciding what to engrave on the headstone - matzeiva-  is part of the spiritual process.

Hand Washing, How to Do The Jewish Spiritual Practice of Netilat Yadayim

"Wash your hands!" This is a basic message which our inner child recognizes instantly. Increasing the moments of significance in life is a major function of spiritual practice. At times this leads life to resound with the beauty of pure awareness of the simple importance of a single movement.