Catalog of Books

Judaism In A Nutshell Series
  Passover
A complete guide to the themes, practices, and traditions of Passover.
  God
The reality of God as examined through philosophy, history, and the  Kabbalah.
  Israel
Learn how the State of Israel arose, its history and why it is so central to Judaism.
  Holidays
A broad exploration of the major holidays deeper spiritual meaning.
 
The Survival Kit Series
  Passover
Rediscover the seder's lively inner life as a source for personal growth.
  Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur
An easy-to-use guide for the High Holiday Services
  Family Haggadah
Clear explanations woven into the standard text along with Q & A style commentary.
 
Survival Kit Companions
  Chanukah - 8 Nights of Light, 8 Gifts for the Soul
Examine the history, themes, traditions, and prayers of Chanukah.
  One Hour Purim Primer
A step-by-step guide to celebrating Purim with insights that reveal how the holiday speaks to the heart
 
Clueless but Curious Series
  The Bible For The Clueless But Curious
The Bible's wisdom presented  in a fun and unique format.
  Kosher For The Clueless But Curious
A fun, fact-filled and spiritual guide to all things kosher.
 
Cheat Sheets
  High Holiday Cheat Sheets
A pamphlet that's jam-packed with fun and practical information to help you have the most meaninful High Holidays ever!  
  My Hanukkah Cheat Sheets
This Hanukkah, give the gift of Jewish knowledge and humor.
  My Purim Cheat Sheets
This pamphlet is jam-packed (and not just because it includes a recipe for jam-filled hamentashen!) with useful, fun, and practical information about the holiday of Purim.
 
Other Available Books
  Remember My Soul
Provides a comforting voice for those who have suffered a loss.
  Death Of Cupid
Speaks equally to singles searching for love and couples searching to deepen theirs.
  Missiles, Masks And Miracles
Chilling accounts of the attacks on Israel during the Gulf War and the miracles that ensued.  
  The Jewish Hero Corps
This comic book tells the story of the world's only Jewish Super-Hero team as they go on a worldwide race against ti$  
   

Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur SURVIVAL KIT
by Shimon Apisdor

 


List price: $14.95
Our price: $13.45

   


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  Excerpts From ROSH HASHANAH YOM KIPPUR SURVIVAL KIT

So Much to Do, So Little Time

A few years ago a Canadian radio station aired a documentary series that looked at early twentieth century inventions touted as products that would "change your life." There is no doubt that the last one hundred years have been replete with products and inventions that have indeed altered the way we live. It's hard to imagine what life would be like without disposable plastic wraps, containers and bottles-can you believe
that milk once came in a glass bottle? From telephones to fax machines and then to e-mail-who knows what's next? Maybe "Beam me up, Scotty" is just around the comer.

There is one part of that documentary that still stays with me: It's the piece about early advertisements for the first sewing machines. It seems that the assumption underlying the content and tone of those ads was, what will women do with all the free time they will now have on their hands? It was clear that the sewing machine would usher in an era of leisure totally unprecedented in the history of mankind.

The irony, of course, is that with the plethora of devices and services designed to save us time and increase our efficiency, we seem to have less time and be more harried than ever before. It's a catch-22, of sorts. The more time we have, the more we can do, and the more we can do, the more time we need. Hence, we try to fill every hour saved by our PC with two hours of other work or fun (mostly work), thus pushing us to discover ways to create another additional hour of time to accommodate the increased load. This deadly cycle soon spawns a new generation of time-saving inventions, which are again followed by more activities to
fill the new empty spaces. The result is that what once took a week now takes a day and what once took a month or more, is now only a week's work.

Are you still puzzled at the fact that we are a society running on empty? We are forever burning ourselves out trying to manage our time and compress many years worth of activities into just one twelve-month slot. Eventually, something has to give.

Judaism: Caught in the Squeeze

There exists today an intense competition over who and what will fill the ever-shrinking discretionary time in our schedules. Where once Judaism was printed in strong, bold letters across our calendars, today it is lucky to get "penciled in" for even a few days in the entire year.

If Judaism were a corporation, I would assert that it has done a miserable job of marketing itself to the sophisticated, discerning consumer of the last half of the twentieth century. It is my contention, however, that the issue is one of marketing and packaging, not one of product quality. This doesn't mean that Judaism should suddenly take to the airwaves with a slick Madison Avenue ad campaign (although it's a thought), but rather that we should look at the medium through which the message of Judaism has been communicated these last several
decades and see if we can't understand the problems and offer a
solution.
 

Just Do It and Don't Ask Questions

The dominant medium for communicating Judaism to this generation has been the synagogue or community Hebrew schools. Whatever Jewish education most Jews possess today came from those after-school or Sunday morning classes that we all swore we would never subject our children to. Another medium was our parents or grandparents. While no one can dispute that their hearts were deeply rooted in the right place, the fact remains that even the deepest of sentiments in no way readied them for the task of articulating Jewish values in a relevant and cogent manner. More often than not, their fallback position was, "We do it because we're Jewish and that's just the way it is." And for better or worse, such an argument no longer
carries the weight it once did.


"We find ourselves in a bewildering world. We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask: What is the nature of the universe? Where is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is? Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe what the universe is to ask the question why."
---- Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History Of Time


The same, I believe, can be said about Judaism today. As educated adults who happen to be Jewish, we tend to look at our religious heritage and find it to be rather bewildering. We would like to make sense of it, to find for ourselves a place within it, but we just aren't sure what to make of the whole thing.

To a degree, the quandary of Jewish identity also stems from a prominent focus on the what and how of Jewish life at the expense of the why. A great problem is that Jewish education has stressed the mechanics of Judaism (the what and the how) and has neglected the reasons, meaning and spiritual ideas behind Jewish practice (the why). In a world where people carefully consider which activities will fill their time, you had better give them a darn good reason for choosing High Holiday services over the World Series, or quite frankly, you don't stand a chance! Of course, there is always good old-fashioned Jewish guilt. But it would be tragic if the Jewish people; the people who gave the world monotheism and the universal dream of, Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, were left with nothing to appeal to other than the specter of callously bruising the tender feelings of an aging parent or grandparent. Surely there is something that can sustain us other than guilt.

The Why of Being Jewish

The Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit is just the tip of an iceberg. Its purpose is to demonstrate that Judaism has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the superior quality of its intellectual and spiritual content. The Survival Kit assumes that if people were to possess a mature understanding of what Judaism has to say to our lives today, then it would easily hold its own in the fiercely competitive environment in which we live.

As I alluded to earlier, every aspect of Jewish life consists of three primary components. These are what, how and why. Let's take Passover as an example. What do you do on Passover? You make a seder. How do you make a seder? You get a box or two of matzo, some wine, a few Maxwell House haggadahs; you shlepp your family to the table; and presto, a seder! Then comes the issue of why. Why do we do all these things at seder? Why four cups of wine and not five? Why do we recline and so on?

Isn't it obvious that if we never meaningfully address the question of why, then eventually our Judaism will become a hollow sentimental ritual at best, a dreary burden at worst? In Jewish law it is considered torture to have someone perform a purposeless task. To carry out a mindless function with no comprehension of the purpose it fulfills is fine if you are dealing with automatons. For Jews, as for all people, it is ultimately
debasing and inspires either total lethargy or violent revolution. The Jewish community today is confronted with both of these responses on a massive scale.

The Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit is a partial attempt to address the issue of why, within the context of the High Holiday services. According to the most recent statistics, the majority of Jews today no longer have any synagogue affiliation whatsoever. In fact, so many young Jewish parents are disillusioned with Judaism that over half-a-million Jewish children are being raised with either no religion or with a religion other than Judaism. I would be surprised if more than 40 percent of Jews in America attend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services anymore. I would be even more surprised if more than 20 percent of those who do attend don't start looking for the exit shortly after their arrival. How can a day in synagogue possibly be meaningful
or inspiring if you don't understand the meaning behind the prayers you are reciting or the concepts upon which the holiday is based?

This book has been written for three types of people. Firstly, it is for people who have given-up on formalized Judaism and who are not planning to attend synagogue this year. If this is you, then I want to make the following promise: This book will give you a radically different understanding of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and perhaps your entire Jewish identity. Read this book-I dare you-and you will find that there just might be a side to Judaism, and even to synagogue, that you can learn to enjoy and look forward to.

Secondly, if you are planning to attend services but are dreading the experience, then again, this book has been written for you. What's more, I would suggest you read it twice. Once during the weeks before Rosh Hashanah and again during the services themselves.

Lastly, if you are among those who already have some sense of the meaning of these holidays, then I think that you perhaps more than anyone else will find the Survival Kit to be a worthwhile intellectual and spiritual supplement to your experience in synagogue this year.


Wishing you a Shana Tova, a sweet new year.
Shimon Apisdorf
 

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