Sunday, July 19, 2015

Casablanca, Morocco

I took these photographs in Casablanca, Morocco in 2007. This was an enclosed area which included a school area and a synagogue.

The first photograph has the name of the parsha being read that week and the time that candle lighting for Shabbat was.

Below is the entrance to the synagogue. Very unassuming...

...but very pretty on the inside. This is looking from the front of the synagogue toward the back.

Looking toward the front where the Ark is. Here's the back of the bima, where the baal Tefillah (the leader of the congregation) stands and Torah reading occurs.

The Aron -- the Ark where the Torah is stored.

We use the same siddur everywhere around the world. You can see the Shema on the left side of the photo, "Hear O'Israel".

Some beautiful kids playing in the yard.

And we can't live without a bakery across the street! :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Looking for Photographs of Synagogues/Temples Around the World

One of the things I find fascinating about the Jewish People is the fact that we are all doing the same or similar things in our religious lives. Our central place of worship is the synagogue, or temple. We include certain ceremonial objects in our observance of ritual - like the wine cup when we say Kiddush on Friday nights, and menorahs/chanukiahs on Chanukah. You can go anywhere in the world and find Jews doing the same Jewish things you would find back at home.

We currently find ourselves during the three weeks of mourning which lead to the 9th day of Av - Tisha b'Av - our Jewish national day of mourning for all the horrific and terrible things that have happened to the Jewish People. Tisha b'Av, in particular, is the day that both Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed.

Over this summer I would like to start to include photographs of synagogues and other places of Jewish worship on this website. I want to do this in the name of achdut - unity. We learn that one of the reasons that the Holy Temple (the Beit HaMikdash) was destroyed was because of baseless hatred toward one another. With these photographs, I'd like to focus on what we have in common - rather than on what divides us.

So keep this in mind as you travel around - or even if you stay home - and take some photos of your local temples and synagogues and please share them with us. You can email me at: shira.muller*at*

Thank you and safe travels!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Blessings: G-d's Tool to Actualize the Present

Wow, it's been a while. Things have been hectic around here, and time just flies.

I came across this thought from my 'quote of the day' calendar and it really struck a chord with me.
"Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going." -Tennessee Williams, American playwright, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore
To be honest, I haven't read this play - so I don't know the context of where it comes from. However, I do find two different amazing ideas here and the more I've thought about these ideas, the more deeply I feel about them.

First is the idea of creating good and positive memories - especially with children. It's so true that "life is all memory". Scary in a way too - to think in that way. As a mom, when I'm frustrated with my kids for whatever reason, it is easy to forget myself and let the frustration carry me. Then my biggest, R, asks me - to "smile Mommy". I have to remember that my lack of a smile is what she is going to remember. I have to find another way to get done what I need to get done.

It is obvious to say that we all have aggravating and crazy days where we yell and create a lousy atmosphere in the house - but on the whole, if we can keep in mind that with everything we do, we are creating memories - then perhaps we can approach our lives and our children's memories in a different, more positive way.

Second is the next part of the quote: "... except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going."

We have to stay in the present moment - a virtually impossible task. If I'm on the phone, I could be checking my email or scrolling through Facebook - am I really present when talking to my friend? If my kid is telling me about their day - am I actually listening to their voice, or am I thinking about what's going to happen next when we get home? Am I really present at all?

When I first read this quote and let it bounce around my brain, I started to attempt to be more present. When I fed my baby, I'd say to myself, 'I'm nursing my baby now'. If I was on the phone, I'd try to be an active listener, and so on...

Then it occurred to me that this point is what the brachot are about - the blessings that we make, or attempt to make - being present - taking the time to be aware of what we are doing, moment to moment.

We stop to have a cup of coffee - we make our coffee and drink it down before we even notice that we had made it to begin with! (A little depressing really.) If we actually think about the bracha/blessing that we make before drinking... that we are aware of our actions, it can change our entire perspective on life.

If we take a moment to focus on the present - if we understand that G-d gave us a tool... the brachot, to give us a way of staying in the moment, just for that moment - it's a whole new world.

Pretty amazing.

Stay positive and stay present!

Brachot Handbook
Blessings for Various Occasions