Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lag B'Omer


Lag Means 33 and B'Omer is of the Omer

this lens' photo
In Hebrew, each of the 22 letters represents a number -- the first ten letters are 1-10 -- then comes 20-100 by 10s and then 200, 300, 400. In order to write numbers, letters are used. The Holidays Tu Bishvat (the fifteenth of Shvat) and Lag B'Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer) use this method of numeration.

The Omer was mentioned in the Tora (Jewish Bible; Pentateuch) and was a barley sacrifice that was brought on the second day of Pesah (Passover) but it also refers to the period between Pesah and Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks which commemorates the giving of the Tora). The Omer period is 49 days long -- Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day.

All About the Omer.....

Barley Offering and Counting the Days

The Omer was a barley offering that was brought on the second day ofPesah (Passover). During Pesah, which was one of the Pilgrimage holidays where Jews would congregate in Jerusalem near the Holy Temple to bring private offerings and participate in offerings brought by the nation of Israel as a people.

The Omer offering marked the first day of the Counting of the Omer -- the 49 days between Pesah and Shavuot (The Feast of Weeks). This period is also called Sephira -- literally the counting.

During the 1st and 2nd Centuries of the Common Era, a Talmudic Rabbi named Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 students who began dying, While there are varying stories of how they died (one theory was they died from a plague when they failed to respect each other), the more likely explanation is that they were killed as part of the Bar Kokhba Rebellion (against the Romans). The students began dying during the Omerbut, according to legend, the dying ceased on Lag B'Omer.

Another explanation for the revelry of the day is that it is the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai(Rabbi Simon the son of Yochai) -- the reason being that the esteemed Rabbi had told his students to celebrate on that day.

Today, many Jews celebrate this day with picnics and bonfires.

More About Lag B'Omer on the Chabad Site

The Chabad link has a lot of links about Lag B'Omer -- click on the picture to get to the Chabad site.

The Princess Who Wanted to be Beautiful

One of my first short stories, "The Princess Who Wanted to be Beautiful" started out as a bedtime story for the children of a close friend. I had been worrying about the "Disney Syndrome" whereby all the heroes are beautiful and all the ugly people are villains. This is a story about a princess who has heard that all princesses are beautiful and doesn't think she is beautiful. She decides to go to a wizard and ask him to make her beautiful but along the way she makes some friends and learns a lesson about herself.

The Gold Star

One of my short stories, "The Gold Star" is now available in illustrated form. The story is about a young boy named Shmuel who helps a poor man without the man knowing.

Reading this book gives a child a view into the mind of a child whose only thought is how can he help. Reading about Tzedaka (Charity) and Gemilot Hesed (acts of kindness) helps teach a young child that helping others is a good trait and something (s)he should strive for.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Jewish Month Kislev and Tevet -- Hanukka and Beyond


Kislev -- the Month for Hanukka

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In the Jewish year, Hanukka is unique in that it is the only holiday that runs from one month to the next.  
All other Jewish holidays occur in only one Jewish month but Hanukka runs from the end of the month of Kislev to the beginning of the month of Tevet.

They Rested on the 25th

The 25th day of the Month of Kislev marks the beginning of Hanuka. Read more about Hanuka here. The word Hanuka is Hebrew for Dedication (or rededication).

Back in the years when the Children of Israel wandered in the Sinai Dessert for 40 years, G-d told them how to build a Mishkan, a Tabernacle, for G-d'sShekhina (spirit -- they female essence of G-d -- Shekhina and Mishkancome from the same root in Hebrew) to "dwell" in. It was a place of worship and a place for the people to congregate around. The Mishkan was portable and it was the job of the Levites (the descendants of Jacob's son Levi) to build it up and take it down for travel (sort of like the MASH 4077th on M*A*S*H).

The Mishkan was originally ready to be dedicated on the 25th of Kislev , but G-d told Moses that there would be an appropriate rededication on that day, so the dedication, with all the gifts from the leaders of the 12 tribes, was postponed until Nissan.

The word Hanukka in Hebrew also has a wordplay meaning -- Hanu Kof-HayHanu means "they rested (or camped)" and Kof-Hay is the Hebrew representation of the number 25. After the fighting to regain the Temple from the Greek-Assyrians, the Jews Rested on the 25th of Kislev and celebrated Hanuka, the rededication of the Holy Temple.

Kislev and Tevet are both months that can have either 29 or 30 days, depending on the year. Rosh Hodesh (the "head of the month" or the day of the New Moon) Tevet comes during Hanuka, on the 6th (and possibly the 7th, when there is a two day Rosh Hodesh, as happens when the previous month has 30 days) day of Hanuka.

A few days after the end of Hanuka comes a sad day on the Jewish calendar. One of 4 days that commemorate something that led up to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Asara B'Tevet (the 10th Day of Tevet) represents the day when a siege was placed around the city of Jerusalem during the time of the Babylonian attack. Two years later, the city was breached and, on the 9th day of Av, the Temple was destroyed.

The Rabbis decreed that this day, the 10th of Tevet, would be a fast day until the Temple is built again.

Compugraph Designs Printfection Store (Judaica themed merchandise)

Hanukkia Water BottleIn addition to our Cafe Press and Zazzle sites (see modules above), we also have a store on "Printfection" which includes cutting boards (good wedding or housewarming gifts), mugs and cups, tees, etc.

This water bottle is only one of several Jewish holiday themed items at our store:

Compugraphd Printfection site

(Click on the picture to go directly to this product's page)

Compugraph Designs' PrintPop Site

Old Technology
Old Technology Computer Graphics - The juxtaposition of the early 20th century phone with vinyl records from the 1950s and beyond reminds us of how far we've come in a few generations.
Neon New York
Neon New York Computer Graphics - New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world. But, it does have a lot of Neon.
Jerusalem Skyline
Jerusalem Skyline Computer Graphics - Jerusalem is the confluence of three major world religions, all are represented in this piece.
4 Patterns Mosaic
4 Patterns Mosaic Computer Graphics - Four different patterns with rainbow pastel colors on a light purple background.
Film Noir
Film Noir Computer Graphics - Inspired by Film Noir, this piece, with strong colors on a black background, brings the art up to date
Love Vinyl
Love Vinyl Computer Graphics - This graffiti inspired Love design with a vinyl effect is perfect for Valentine's Day
Blue Background Flower Star
Blue Background Flower Star Computer Graphics (Corel) - Flower Star on a blue background.
G-d Bless the USA
G-d Bless the USA Computer Graphics (Corel) - In the Bible, in Genesis, G-d tells Abraham that He will bless Abraham's children and those who bless Abraham's Children with be blessed.
Morning Breakfast
Morning Breakfast Computer Graphics (Corel) - You'll stay healthier if you eat a good breakfast
Western Wall 2
Western Wall 2 Computer Graphics (Corel) - The Western Wall is the only surviving part of the Second Temple. Jews pray there every day.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Jewish Wedding

The Jewish Wedding Demystified


I have seen a lot of TV weddings in my life. But very few of them are Jewish weddings.

It occurred to me that perhaps non-Jews are just as mystified by the customs of a Jewish wedding as I am by the customs of a non-Jewish wedding.

Disclaimer! The customs written about here are Ashkenazic (customs common to the Jewish communities originating from Northern and Eastern Europe). Sephardic (customs common to the Jewish communities originating in Spain and other Mediterranean countries) and Mizrahi (customs common to the Jewish communities originating in Asian and African countries) weddings would have some differences.

Leading up to the Wedding

Before the wedding, the couple separate for a time. The customs of the length of time vary from community to community. In some communities, the bride and groom don't see each other for a week before the wedding. In other communities, they don't see each other from the time the bride goes to the Mikva. Whatever the custom, there is a period of separation.

On the day of the wedding, Ashkenazic (pertaining to Jews from Germany and other Northern European countries) custom is that the bride and groom are experiencing a personal Yom Kippur (day of Atonement) so their sins are forgiven. This also means that they fast until the wedding. (Sephardic (pertaining to Jews from Spain and other Mediterranean areas) Jews do not have this custom).

Before the Ceremony

While there are several things that build up to the wedding day, the wedding day itself starts with the Kabbalat Panim (literally "receiving faces"). The bride and groom aren't permitted to see each other before the wedding (customs differ on the length of time, varying mostly from a day or two to a week). So the bride (Kalla) and groom (Hattan or Chosson) are in separate rooms at this point.

In the groom's room (called a tish -- table -- in Yiddish), the men sit around and speak words of Tora (The law as brought down from Moshe -- Moses -- to the people on Mount Sinai). They also finalize the Ketuba (the marriage contract) by having the last letter filled in and having witnesses sign it.

At modern weddings, the Tana'im (engagement or betrothal) is often done at the tish -- the Tana'im used to be done up to a year before the wedding, but because it's hard to break off an engagement when the Tana'im was done first, that step was added to the wedding.

The Bedecking

After the Tana'im, the men (and some musicians) dance with the groom into the bride's room where he pulls her veil over her face. The father of the bride gives her a blessing from Psalms (this is the blessing that father's give to their children every Friday night at the Shabbat (Sabbath) table). The groom puts the veil on to avoid what happened to Yaakov (Jacob the Patriarch) when his father-in-law substituted Lea for her younger sister, Rahael.

The Huppa (Wedding Canopy)

The Huppa (Wedding Canopy) represents the home the couple will build together. Under the Huppa the bride and groom finalize their nuptials. The Ketuba(wedding contract) is read and signed, the groom gives the bride a ring (the groom says "behold, you are sanctified to me with this ring according to the law of Moses" in Hebrew). The couple drink some wine (after a series ofbrakhot -- blessings) and then the groom breaks a glass to remind us that even in our greatest joy we are sad about the destruction of Jerusalem (2000 years ago).

The couple then go to the Yihud room (the room where they get to be alone). They then come into the reception area where they are swept away by family and friends and the first round of dancing takes over.

There is a lot of dancing and some weddings have "schtick" (for example, jugglers, fire eaters, baton twirlers, etc.).

Sheva Brakhot

At the end of the wedding (as under the HuppaSheva Brakhot (7 blessings) are said. These blessings are part of the Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) said after the meal over a glass of wine. The glass of wine is passed around through the guests to 7 people the couple want to honor and each on says one of the Brakhot (blessings).

For the next 7 days (including the wedding night), Sheva Brakhot continue, usually at the homes of friends, who throw these parties for the new couple. In order to spread the joy of the wedding around, someone who wasn't at the weddings should be included in the guest list each night.

The Sheva Brakhot help ease the couple into their new life together. They are considered newlyweds for the next year.

Jewish Themed Products from Compugraph Designs on Zazzle

Compugraph Designs store on Facebook

This tile necklace would make a nice gift for bridesmaids. You can see all Compugraph Designs Jewelry Designs here.

Begin Learning Hebrew Here


"Hebrew must be a hard language to learn"

this lens' photo
Oftentimes, when I tell people I speak pretty fluent Hebrew, they say to me, "Hebrew must be a hard language to learn". I tell them that Hebrew is a lot easier to learn than English.

Hebrew has 22 letters and a large percentage of the words are made up of root words (usually 3 letters long) that can be used in verb, noun or adjective constructs.


The first letter of the Hebrew Alphabet (called the "Aleph-Bet") is Aleph.


The second letter of the Hebrew alphabet is Bet. It sounds like the letter "B". It has a dot in the middle called a dagesh which can appear in most letters, but only changes the sound of only 3 (in Sephardi -- Spanish Jewish -- pronunciation and 4 in Ashkenazi -- Northern/Eastern European Jews) letters -- Bet, Koph, Peh (and Tav)


Just Bet without a dagesh -- sounds like the letter V.

Brief Interlude... Hebrew Vowels

Vowels in Hebrew aren't always written out. But these are a few of the vowels that are written under letters.

The names of the vowels (from left to right, top to bottom) are segol, patah, kamatz, tzereh, kubutz and hirik.

And now, for a real, honest to goodness Hebrew word......

This is a real live, honest to goodness Hebrew word that you will hear all over Israel (and often in Jewish communities in other areas of the world) -- Abba -- which means Daddy.

Take an Aleph (no sound) and put an "ah" under it and then take a Bet ("b" sound) and put an "ah" under it for a Ba and end if off with another Aleph (again, no sound) and you have Abba.

Back to the Letters.....


Gimel has a sound like a hard "G" as in Good or Go.


Daled has a sound like the letter "D".


Hay sounds like an aspirated H -- as in hello, howdy, etc. It also is a common letter to end words with, particularly feminine nouns and names.


Vav sounds like the letter "V" (or, in some cases, people transliterate it as a "W") when used as a consonant.

Brief Interlude... Vav as a Vowel

These two vowels (Holum and Shuruk) are created using a Vav.


Zayin sounds like the letter "Z".


Het sounds like the ch in Achtung and is the first letter in the word Hanukka.


Tet sounds like the letter "T".


Yod (which is a small letter that is only about 1/2 the size of most other letters -- the top half) when used as a consonant, (it sometimes talks the place of a vowel) sounds like a "Y".


Koph sounds like the letter K (it is often transliterated as a Q)
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Khoph (Koph without a dagesh) has a sound similar to the Het (see above).
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Lamed sounds like the letter "L".
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And, now, for something totally different....

Ok, not so different -- Another Real Live, oft used, Hebrew Word

This word is "Gadol" -- it means "Big" (for males).


Mem sounds like the letter "M".


Nun sounds like an "N".


Samekh sounds like the letter "S" (never like the letter "Z" as in rise).


Ayin originally (and for most Hebrew speakers from the middle east) had a guttural sound similar to a "G" -- this is why words like Amora (the "sister" city of Sodom) and Azah (as in the strip) -- became "Gomorrah" and "Gaza". From the perspective of most American speakers, Ayin has no sound.


Peh sounds like a "P".


Phe has a sound like an "F".

Tzake sounds like the "ZZ" in Pizza.


Kuf sounds like a "K".


Resh sounds like an "R" but it's more rolling -- from the throat.


Shin sounds like "Sh"


Sin sounds like "S" (but never "Z", just like Samekh) -- the Sin (with the "dot" on the left, as opposed to the Shin with the "dot" on the right) is much less common, so if you see the letter without dots, the Shin is the default pronunciation.


Tav Sounds like a "T"*

* To Ashkenazim, this would be a Sav -- with a dagesh Ashkenazim would call it "Tav". The "Sav" would sound like an "S".

Schva (the No Sound Vowel)

A Schva is put under a when only the letter sound should be pronounced.

Final Letters (Koph-Khoph)

There are 5 letters that look different at the end of words -- I separated Koph-Khoph because it's the only letter than doesn't just have the one sort. The Khoph Sofit (that means the "end" letter) can have a dagesh with a Kamatz, without a dagesh with a Kamatz, or without a dagesh without a Kamatz.

Mem, Nun, Phe and Tzade Sofits

These letters sound just like the regular letters they replace at the end of the word -- Mem like an M, Nun like an N, Phe like an F and Tzade like the ZZ in Pizza.

Compugraph Designs' Printfection Store (Jewish Holidays)

Passover Scene Cutting BoardIn addition to our Cafe Press and Zazzle sites (see modules above), we also have a store on "Printfection" which includes cutting boards (good wedding or housewarming gifts), mugs and cups, tees, etc.

This cutting board is only one of several Jewish holiday themed items at our store:

Compugraphd Printfection site

(Click on the picture to go directly to this product's page)

Compugraph Designs Page on Printpop

I just discovered Printpop -- check out my entire portfolio or click on the graphic to see just this product (called "Dodi Li"). Check back periodically as new designs are uploaded.

Compugraph Designs Art Now Site

"Art Now" is another "Print on Demand" site. They have a nice collection of clocks and watches, including the one pictured here. Click on the picture to see the entire site.