Grape juice for Kiddush

There are a number of reasons why adults may choose grape juice over wine:  designated drivers, individuals in addiction recovery, those taking medications that interact negatively with alcohol, those with health concerns for which alcohol is ill advised, pregnant women, those with family histories of alcoholism, those who struggle with alcohol misuse, or simple personal preference.  Alcohol consumption is dangerous for some, and this is particularly true for individuals in addiction recovery or those in active addiction; synagogues can easily be a safe space where non-alcoholic alternatives to Kiddush wine are always offered.  As a prayer leader, referencing “fruit of the vine” rather than “wine” is a verbal cue that making Kiddush does not require the consumption of alcohol.   

It is critically important that grape juice always be offered when wine is present, and that steps are taken to reduce the risk of mistaking juice for wine.  These steps will reduce the chance that no one, children or adults, might take or be served wine unintentionally.

  • Use red grapes for wine and white grapes for juice (or vice versa) and do so consistently from week to week and from holiday to holiday.  This is particularly effective for communities whose custom is for wait staff or volunteers to circulate among congregants with serving trays.
  • Use different types of cups for wine and grape juice. 
  • Place wine and grape juice on separate tables in different locations, with clear signage for each.
  • Choose to serve grape juice only

Shofar blasts as a metaphor for recovery

The Hebrew verb for “improve,” l’shafer, has the same root as the word shofar.  The sounding of the shofar calls us to improve - improve our relationship with the Sacred, improve our relationship with one another, and improve our relationship with ourselves.  The journey from addiction to recovery is not always an easy journey.  The sounding of the shofar can serve as a metaphor for the spiritual pathways that lead to recovery. The teki’ah (a long, strong blast) represents one pathway to recovery.  For some people, one time in treatment, ongoing participation in one mutual support group, or even one radical life change is what brought them from addiction to recovery.  Shevarim (a series of three short broken blasts) represents another pathway to recovery in which some people need a few times in treatment, a few different mutual support groups to find a best fit, or even a few radical life changes to bring them from addiction to recovery. Teru’ah (nine short staccato notes) represents a pathway to recovery in which some people find that it’s not just one thing, but many things in rapid succession - treatment, mutual support groups, continuing care, different people, places, and things - that brought them from addiction to recovery. The teki’ah g’dolah (a sustained long, strong blast) represents recovery itself.  Recovery sustains us from our first breath to our last and calls us towards continual improvement of ourselves and our world.

Recovery Birthdays and the Cake Taking Ceremony

Birth and rebirth are central themes of the High Holidays and of addiction recovery.   Many people in recovery celebrate sober birthdays (the anniversary of a person’s sobriety) in recognition of the fact that recovery has given them a new lease on life, or perhaps has saved their life altogether.  Recovery birthdays are often recognized with a “Cake Taking Ceremony,” during which individuals are given a cake on their sober birthdays.

There is Jewish precedent for giving/taking a cake.  In Parshat Naso the Torah teaches that one of the pathways to be close to God involves abstinence from mood altering substances. A person whose spiritual journey included abstaining from alcohol and other drugs would go to the Temple in Jerusalem and make a commitment to follow the spiritual program. Part of that ceremony in ancient days included placing a cake in the hands of the person making the commitment. Currently, as we celebrate the sober birthdays of those who dedicate their lives, one day at a time, to following a program of sober spiritual living, we can celebrate those birthdays with a cake by saying “(Name/s of participants) I invite you to step forward and receive your cake in celebration of your addiction recovery. May you find strength in following your program, and from the people, places, and things that support recovery and may you be guided on your journey by a Power greater than yourself. Yom Echad B’chol Pa’am—One day at a time.” In keeping with the season’s traditions, you might consider giving honey cake during this ceremony.  An alternative might be to dedicate the community’s eating of honey cake during the oneg to those in addiction recovery; may their lives in recovery be sweet!

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