Author: The Observant Life (Book)

  • The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews distills a century of thoughtful inquiry into the most profound of all Jewish questions: how to suffuse life with timeless values, how to remain loyal to the covenant that binds the Jewish people and the God of Israel, and how to embrace the law while retaining an abiding sense of fidelity to one’s own moral path in life. Written in a multiplicity of voices inspired by a common vision, the authors of The Observant Life explain what it means in the ultimate sense to live a Jewish life, and to live it honestly, morally, and purposefully. The work is a comprehensive guide to life in the 21st Century. Chapters on Jewish rituals including prayer, holiday, life cycle events and Jewish ethics such as citizenship, slander, taxes, wills, the courts, the work place and so much more.

Read posts by The Observant Life (Book)

Tefillin: What, How, Who?

Tefillin: What, How, Who?

Tefillin, ritual black boxes used for prayer, are a powerful and physical way of connecting to God. Here’s how to do it.

Blurry orchard with the words What is tu bishvat?

What is Tu Bishvat?

Tu Bishvat, the new year for Trees, can remind us that the world is God’s sacred gift to humanity, a precious legacy entrusted to our care.

Liturgy on Ḥanukkah

Liturgical Changes on Hanukkah

Liturgy on Hanukkah includes Hallel and additions to the Amidah. There are also special Torah readings, maftirs, and haftarot.

The Menorah

The Menorah

The central mitzvah of Ḥanukkah is the lighting of the menorah at home and in the synagogue. This brings light to the darker winter months.

Customs for Hanukkah

Customs for Hanukkah

Beyond lighting the menorah, Hanukkah customs include special foods, the dreidel and gift-giving, especially when spending time with family.

Hanukkah Candle Lighting

Hanukkah Candle Lighting

Read here for the procedure for lighting candles for Hanukkah. This includes the blessings, song ideas, and order for lighting candles.

Hanukkah: History and Context

Hanukkah: History and Context

What is Hanukkah’s historical context? What does it actually commemorate? Who was Judah and the Maccabees?

The Arba•ah Minim

The Arba·ah Minim

Besides dwelling in a sukkah, the other significant mitzvah of Sukkot is the taking up of the arba·ah minim, literally “the four species.”

Sukkot at Home

Sukkot at Home

While celebrating Sukkot at home, rituals include lighting candles, sitting in the sukkah, and customs related to the sukkah.

Sukkot in the Synagogue

Sukkot in the Synagogue

On the mornings of Sukkot, Shacharit and Musaf follow the standard festival format. The lulav and etrog should be shaken.

Intermediate Days of Sukkot

Intermediate Days of Sukkot

The intermediate days of Sukkot, the weekdays, combine some features of festival days and normal weekdays to create wholly unique day.

Hoshana Rabbah

Hoshana Rabbah

Although the fifth intermediate day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabbah, it is technically just the last day of ḥol ha-mo·eid.

Sh'mini Atzeret

Sh’mini Atzeret

The final two days of Sukkot are a totally separate holiday called Sh’mini Atzeret. Liturgy includes Yizkor and the prayer for rain.

Simḥat Torah

Simḥat Torah

Simḥat Torah means “the joy of Torah” and is the name for the day on which the annual cycle of Torah readings begins and ends.

Sh'mini Atzeret Candle Lighting

Sh’mini Atzeret Candle Lighting

The laws for lighting candles on Sh’mini Atzeret are similar to those for Shabbat. These laws also apply to Simḥat Torah.

Rituals of Sukkot

Rituals of Sukkot

Sukkot, one of the shalosh r’galim, the three pilgrimage festivals is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur.

The Sukkah

The Sukkah

The sukkah for Sukkot has some very basic requirements, but beyond these rules its construction is left to one’s imagination and creativity.

Sukkot Candle Lighting

Sukkot Candle Lighting

The laws for lighting candles on Sukkot are almost identical to the laws for Shabbat candle lighting, with the exception of covering eyes.

Ne'ilah

Ne’ilah

Ne’ilah is an additional service, recited only at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. It signifies the sealing of the Book of Life.

Minḥah on Yom Kippur

Minḥah on Yom Kippur

Minhah, the Afternoon Service, begins with the Torah service, including selections from Leviticus and the haftarah on the Book of Jonah.

Yom Kippur Musaf Service

Yom Kippur Musaf Service

The Yom Kippur Musaf Service includes two services: the Avodah service and the Martyrology service. Musaf follows Yizkor and Torah reading.

Yom Kippur Candle Lighting

Yom Kippur Candle Lighting

Following the Yom Kippur meal, candles are lit in a similar fashion to those lit on Rosh Hashanah. A Yizkor candle is also lit.

Yom Kippur Evening Service

Yom Kippur Evening Service

Maariv, the evening service, following Kol Nidrei on Erev Yom Kippur, is similar in many ways to daily Maariv but has notable differences.

Yom Kippur Morning Services

Yom Kippur Morning Services

The Yom Kippur morning service is similar to Rosh Hashanah, with the exception of the Amidah and the selections for the Torah service.

Erev Yom Kippur and the Customs Preceding It

Erev Yom Kippur and the Customs Preceding It

Preparations on Erev Yom Kippur are intrinsic to the awe-inspiring observance of the day: a special meal, candle lighting, and charity.

Kol Nidrei and Being Imperfect Together

Kol Nidrei and Being Imperfect Together

Yom Kippur begins with the dramatic Kol Nidrei service, intended to annul vows made between yourself and God.

Yom Kippur Yizkor Service

Yom Kippur Yizkor Service

The Memorial Service, Yizkor, is recited on Yom Kippur, one of four times throughout the year, to remember loved ones and Jewish martyrs.

Tashlikh: A Quick Overview

Tashlikh: A Quick Overview

One of the beautiful customs associated with Rosh Hashanah is Tashlikh, a brief service that takes place by a body of water.

Rosh Hashanah Musaf Service

Rosh Hashanah Musaf Service

The Musaf Service for Rosh Hashanah contains familiar opening and closing blessings of the Amidah with the usual High Holiday interpolations.

The Shofar on Rosh Hashanah

The Shofar on Rosh Hashanah

Sounding of the shofar is a characteristic mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah. The holiday is alternatively called the Day of Sounding the Shofar. 

Rosh Hashanah Torah Reading

Rosh Hashanah Torah Reading

Rosh Hashanah Torah reading includes Abraham, Sarah, and the Binding of Isaac. Haftarot tell the story of Samuel and other relevant themes.

Rosh Hashanah Synagogue Services

Rosh Hashanah Synagogue Services

For most people, Rosh Hashanah means a lot of time spent praying in the synagogue. These are the complex explanations behind those prayers.

Rosh Hashanah At Home

Rosh Hashanah At Home

Personal and at-home Rosh Hashanah rituals include candle lighting, eating apples with honey, and sharing meals.

Candle Lighting for Rosh Hashanah

Candle Lighting for Rosh Hashanah

When and how to do Rosh Hashanah Candle Lighting. We usher in Rosh Hashanah by lighting candles, just as we do on Shabbat.

The Days Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

The Days Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the Ten Days of Repentance and include the Fast of Gedaliah.

Customs before Rosh Hashanah

Customs before Rosh Hashanah

There are customs in order to prepare for Rosh Hashanah, including Selichot, physical changes in the synagogue, and immersing in the mikveh.

(Not) Announcing Rosh Hashanah

(Not) Announcing Rosh Hashanah

On Rosh Hashanah, we do not recite the traditional blessings announcing a new month for a variety of different reasons.

What are selichot?

What are Selichot?

Selichot are special prayers recited in anticipation of the High Holidays introducing us to the themes of the upcoming holidays.

When is the Jewish New Year?

When is the Jewish New Year?

There are four New Years, each with its own purpose. That said, the counting of the new year begins with Rosh Hashanah, in the seventh month.

Non-Ritual Ways of Preparing in Elul

Non-Ritual Ways of Preparing in Elul

There are many ways to spiritually prepare in Elul for the Yamim Nora’im, the Days of Awe, also known as the High Holidays.

Rituals and Prayers Recited in the Month of Elul

Rituals and Prayers Recited in Elul

The ritual preparations for the High Holidays begin a full month in advance with the onset of the month of Elul.

What is Rosh Hodesh and How is it Observed?

What is Rosh Hodesh and How is it Observed?

Rosh Hodesh, the first day of every lunar month, is primarily observed through additional prayers and a special Torah reading,

The Biblical Sources and Context for Tzedakah

The Biblical Sources and Context for Tzedakah

The Torah provides many examples and legal provisions which are the foundation of our understanding of tzedakah.

Prayer Expresses Petition, Praise, Anger, and History

Prayer Expresses Petition, Praise, Anger, and History

Prayer is not just a recitation of words. But rather, prayer is an expression of a great many modes and experiences in Judaism.

aT'fillah/Prayer: A Mitzvah to Take a "Time Out"

T’fillah/Prayer: A Mitzvah to Take a “Time Out”

T’fillah, Jewish prayer, is rooted in self-judgment, reflection, and connecting to something greater than ourselves.

What is Tahanun?

What is Tahanun?

Tahanun is the name for a series of penitential prayers that follow the Amidah during the Morning and Afternoon Services.

What is Tzedakah?

What is Tzedakah?

Jewish tradition does not see contributions to the community’s welfare as mere charity, but rather as tzedakah, literally “acts of justice.”

How do Jews Celebrate the Birth of a Daughter?

How do Jews Celebrate the Birth of a Daughter?

There are several ceremonies that families use to welcome and name a newborn girl in the synagogue or in the home.

What are the Jewish Fast Days? What do we do?

What are the Jewish Fast Days? What do we do?

There are three kinds of fasts in Judaism rooted in history and spiritual practice with changes to prayer services.

What is a Brit Milah, Jewish Ritual Circumcision?

What is a Brit Milah, Jewish Ritual Circumcision?

Brit Milah refers to the covenant of circumcision, both the ritual act and the festive occasion surrounding a baby boy’s circumcision.

What is Tishah Be’av and how is it observed?

What is Tishah Be’av and how is it observed?

Tishah Be’av is the saddest day of the Jewish year. We fast, read the Book of Lamentations, and reflect on history.

Image of a do-not-enter sign with the words The Shabbat Prohibitions

The Shabbat Prohibitions

Shabbat comes with specific limitations. These Shabbat prohibitions help us create a separation from the rest of the week.

darkened image of a sunset with the words The Shabbat Afternoon Service

The Shabbat Afternoon Service

The Minhah Service on Saturday Shabbat afternoon contains a number of significant additions to the weekday Afternoon Service.

Image of a Torah scroll with the words The Saturday Morning Shabbat Service

The Saturday Morning Shabbat Service

How is the Saturday morning Shabbat service constructed? What prayers are included? Check out our overview on Shabbat morning services.

Blurry image of candlesticks, challah, and a kiddush cup with the words: Friday Night Shabbat at Home

Friday Night Shabbat at Home

Friday night Shabbat at home includes blessings over children, the song Shalom Aleichem, kiddush, and the blessing over bread, the motzi.

Blurry image of a bonfire and the words: Lag Ba-omer and Pesah Sheini

Lag Ba-omer and Pesah Sheini

Lag Ba-Omer, the 33rd day of the omer, and Pesah Sheini, are two commemorative moments during the Counting of the Omer.

Blurry image of havdalah set with the words: Havdalah: An Overview

Havdalah: An Overview

Havdalah, the concluding ceremony for Shabbat, serves as a dramatic reminder of the beauty and emotional power of Judaism.

Home and Synagogue Shavuot Observances

Home and Synagogue Shavuot Observances

Candle-lighting, Torah readings, the Book of Ruth, and Yizkor are all a part of celebrating Shavuot at home and at synagogue.

Image of mountains with the words What is Shavuot about?

What is Shavuot about?

Like Sukkot and Passover, Shavuot is a multi-dimensional holiday, embracing profound historical, spiritual, and agricultural aspects.

Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikkaron, Yom Haatzma'ut, and Yom Yerushalayim

Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikkaron, Yom Haatzma’ut, and Yom Yerushalayim

What are the commemorative holidays of Yom HaShoah, Yom haZikkaron, Yom Haatzma’ut, and Yom Yerushalayim and what do we do on them?

sunset image with the words: Friday Night Services at Synagogue: An Explainer

Friday Night Services at Synagogue: An Explainer

Friday night services on Shabbat include both Kabbalat Shabbat, a joyous recitation of psalms, and a Shabbat Maariv, the evening service.

blurry image of shabbat candle sticks and the words: Shabbat Candles and the Beginning of Shabbat

Shabbat Candles and the Beginning of Shabbat

Shabbat begins with the lighting of candles, in part, because they are symbolic of the spiritual light that Shabbat can bring into our lives.

blurry image of a shabbat table with the words: The 3 Categories of Shabbat Preparation

The 3 Categories of Shabbat Preparation

There are three major categories of Shabbat preparation that must be attended to: physical setting, food preparation, and personal grooming.

Blurry image of a calendar on the right with the words to the left that read: What is Counting the Omer

What is Counting the Omer

Counting the omer reflects the agricultural dimension of Passover and Shavuot and this is how we observe sefirat haomer today.

Blurry image of an open ark with four Torahs and the words: The Concluding Days of Passover

The Concluding Days of Passover

What do we do in synagogue on Passover? What Torah readings and haftarot do we read? We outline that for you here.

Blurry image of an open ark with four Torahs and the words: Passover in the Synagogue

Passover in the Synagogue

What do we do in synagogue on Passover? What Torah readings and haftarot do we read? We outline that for you here.

blurry image of lots of bread with the words What is hameitz and what do we do with it?

What is Hameitz and what do we do with it?

Hametz, is defined as any food made of wheat, barley, oats, spelt, and rye—that has been made wet and left unbaked for more than 18 minutes.

Image of matzah, matzah cover with the word pesah on it in hebrew, and a kiddush cup with the words: Passover, Nisan, and the Fast of the Firstborn: Before Passover Begins

Passover, Nisan, and the Fast of the Firstborn: Before Passover Begins

Passover, commemorates the exodus from Egypt. On a spiritual level, the festival confronts us with the notion of redemption.

Image of a seder plate with the words The Seder an overview

The Seder: An Overview

The Passover seder is the cumulative result of untold generations of Jews telling the same story, the Exodus from Egypt.

image of bread roll for eiruv tavshilin

What is an Eiruv Tavshilin?

One is only permitted to cook on festivals to make food for the holiday itself, not for other days. There is an exception: eiruv tavshilin.