From Marcia Weingarten

This Sunday our family will gather at Venice Beach for our yearly ‘Lavar La Cara,’ (literally ‘wash the face) at the ocean. Our tradition combines elements of ‘Tashlich’ from the Hebrew “to cast off,” referring to the custom of tossing bits of bread in the water to symbolize the casting off of our sins. The second element is a healing ritual of the Rhodeslis — those who trace roots to the island of Rhodes, tossing ailments, fears, concerns into the ocean and receiving renewed health and blessings from HaShem along with the blessings and love from our elders.

Over the generations, our family tradition had been to go to the beach on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Now that we live in disparate parts of Los Angeles, have differing synagogue schedules and levels of observance, our extended families (about 40+ of us, spanning five generations – Mashala🧿) come from throughout the greater Los Angeles area and meet at Venice Beach on the Sunday morning between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, bringing our beach chairs and enjoying some time together after our ritual by the shore. It truly has become one of the most treasured traditions of all generations.

Once we set ourselves up, we go down to the water, usually in smaller family groups. A family matriarch, one by one, blesses us and washes our faces. Bending down to capture a handful of water from a new wave, she washes the face of each of us, saying in Ladino, “todo mal ki se vaiga” (“everything bad should go”). She elaborates: “Everything that is bothering you, worrying you, anything that is harming you, any sickness, illness, any fright or discomfort, all this, should be swept away to the very depths of the ocean.” She then bends down to scoop a fresh handful of water from a new wave. Washing our face and the back of our neck again, this time saying “todo bien ki se venga” (“everything good should come”). Again, she elaborates, “Everything now will be good, your pain will go away, any illness will leave your body, healing will come to you. Every worry is now gone. New ideas and good thoughts will fill your mind. Your heart will be content.”

To each, now, she gives a specialized blessings for the New Year. To children she might offer that they will do well in school, be happy, have good friends, make their parents proud or have a good year in sports, theater, Hebrew school; whatever is appropriate to that child. To the young adults, she might offer that they find a good jobs or career and that they find the right person to share their lives with. Newlyweds are blessed to be happy, build a Jewish home and life together, have children, build a life of meaning and keep our traditions. After the individual blessings, the matriarch gives each of us a finger full of sugar, which she puts in our mouths for a “sweet” year. (Traditionally the sugar is from the Rosh Hashanah table. After we use sugar for our Hamotzi prayer on this holiday, the remaining sugar goes into a baggie and comes with us to the beach.)

There are variations. Sometimes we invoke the names of the Patriarchs, “Con el hombre del Dio di Avram, Izhak, Yaacov, Rey David i Shelomo,” as well as the Matriarchs, “Rivka, Sarah, Rachel, i Leah.”

On occasion we add a new tradition, like dancing along the shore. New traditions are always welcome!

Blessings complete, we return to our beach chairs, sit for a nice ‘vijita’ (visit) and enjoy coffee, juice, bagels, borekas (Sephardic cheese and rice or potato pastries), biscochos (tea cookies), spinach quashado (soufflé), assorted cheeses with olive oil (usually feta and ricotta), homemade breads (rosca), fruits and dessert pastries. We stay and visit, feeling renewed, and certainly feeling a great deal of love from and for our family. It’s a New Year. The Day of Atonement is coming soon. We are ready to face it with a humble heart, renewed spirit and a refreshed outlook.

Revised and based on an article originally published here: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/jewish-and/a-family-ritual-for-blessing-the-new-year/

Hanukkah 2020

Hanukkah begins this coming Thursday evening. This is certainly a different year than what we’re used to. Here in Southern California we are going on lock-down again tonight – mandatory ‘stay at home’ orders, many more businesses closed, and we are being asked to not engage or interact with others who are not part of our own households. So much for holiday celebrations!!

As difficult as the social isolation has been and the tremendous strain on families unable to work, go to school and do so much of what we are used to doing, we are thankful for health, the incredible efforts of our medical personnel, emergency and city infrastructure employees who keep our cities functioning, the essential workers who make sure we can get what we need for ourselves and others, and friends, community leaders and clergy who have moved our communal life online and are doing what they can to keep us connected to one another.

It’s been a difficult year. Had anyone told us last year at this time that our entire way of life would be upended and the health of the entire world would be in peril…..we would have been incredulous. And now, after this tumultuous time, perhaps a vaccine is in sight. Perhaps there is a chance that we can leave our homes again soon and be together. Perhaps…..

This is, after all, the season of miracles.

Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish victory over the Greeks in 165 BCE. The true miracle is that the Jews prevailed, the few against the many – and our Torah, our values and our essence of being as a people has survived, and BeH, will continue to not only survive but thrive, forever.

A favorite story is the Miracle of the Oil. The Jews went to reclaim and restore the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been defiled and left in ruins by the Greeks. There was only enough oil left to rekindle the candelabra for one day, though it was to burn throughout the night each and every night. It would be several days before more oil could be obtained. By virtue of a Miracle, the oil burned for 8 days and nights, until more oil became available. 

To commemorate the Miracle, we prepare foods cooked in oil for the holiday of Hanukkah. Favorites are latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (filled donuts), and in our family, burmuelos (fried dough).

Growing up, I had never had latkes. Our Hannukah treat was always burmuelos – light, fried dough pillows bathed in a light, sweet syrup that is absolutely divine! (often compared to a New Orleans’ beignet, or a Greek loukoumades)

Made from a yeast dough, it takes some time for the dough to rise and be ready to fry. My mom will make the dough ahead of time and after dinner, drop the dough by spoonfuls into hot oil, watch them puff and turn a golden brown as she prepares the honey syrup. Once the burmuelos are ready, she will bathe them in syrup and we’ll eat them, warm and fresh! Divine, indeed!

Below is the recipe. Give them a try…..and enjoy!

My Mom uses the recipe from the cookbook, “Comé Con Gana,” compiled by the Sisterhood of Congregation Or Ve Shalom in Atlanta, GA.

1 tsp yeast
1/2 C and 1 1/2 C warm water
pinch of salt
3 C flour
1 egg
oil (for frying)

Soften yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. In mixing bowl add dry ingredients. Add yeast mixture, egg and remaining warm water. MIx well. Allow to rise in covered bowl in warm place for 2 hours. 

Fill a quart pot with 3 inches of cooking oil. Allow to get very hot. 

Drop a teaspoon of soft dough into the hot oil. Then another…… continue. 

Remove with slotted spoon when golden brown. Bathe in syrup.


1 C sugar
3 Tblsps honey
1/2 C water

Boil together until sticky. Pour over burmuelos.

The Pandemic will end, BeH. Gam Zeh Ya’avor……This, too, shall pass. May we all be together with our families and friends soon, celebrating the many incredible moments of life. Let’s plan on it!!

~Bendichas Manos