Something I have always loved about the Jewish calendar is that our new year begins in autumn. We reflect on the past year when we still feel energized by summer sunshine. We work on thinking about how we can change to be better, kinder and more connected while we watch the trees start to change colors. We launch into the school year filled with the joy of the High Holidays.

Although we have already dipped our apples in honey, there is still more chag (holiday) happiness to come! After Yom Kippur, we get to celebrate Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. I think of Shemini Atzeret as a kind of “bonus day” of Sukkot. Although we celebrate some Sukkot traditions on Shemini Atzeret, it has its own character! Some people eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret, but we don’t shake our lulav and etrog. Some people go to synagogue, but we don’t mention Sukkot in our prayers. It’s also an opportunity to get in a little extra celebrating before the busy holiday season ends.

Shemini Atzeret is a special day in that it marks the beginning of our “official” request for rain. In the Amidah (our daily silent prayer), we shift from requesting dew to requesting rain and wind. We embrace and ask for rainy days, knowing that the sun of summer and the rain of winter are both necessary for healthy crops and a healthy world.

As you wrap up these final days of the holiday, here’s an activity to get the whole family involved in reflecting on the chagim (holidays).

Gratitude Cloud Craft

Gratitude Cloud Craft_inside
(Photo: Heather Renetzky)

Materials:

  • Paper plate
  • Paper (can be construction paper, printer paper or just scraps you have at home)
  • Scissors
  • Yarn, string or thin ribbon
  • Tape
  • Markers, crayons, paint or whatever you like to decorate with
  • Pens for writing
  • Liquid glue, such as Elmer’s (optional)
  • Cotton balls (optional)
  • Hole punch (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cut paper plate in half. Create a cloud shape out of the plate or leave as is.
  2. For some additional crafty fun, glue some cotton balls to your plate to make it an extra fluffy cloud (optional).
  3. Cut out at least three raindrop shapes. For ease, you can use an online template, or just freehand it.
  4. Decorate your raindrops (optional).
  5. Talk with your family and friends about these questions: What is your favorite memory from this High Holiday season (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot)? What brought you joy? Which is your favorite fall holiday and why? What is your favorite High Holiday food or activity? What is a wish you have for yourself for the coming year? On Shemini Atzeret, we start to ask God for rain to help the earth—what do you think the earth needs right now? How can we help? Pick your favorite answers and write or draw pictures of them on your raindrops.
  6. Tape four strings of various lengths to the back of the paper plate. These will hold your raindrops.
  7. Connect the raindrops to the other end of the strings. Either tape the string to the back or hole-punch the top of the raindrop and gently tie them on.
  8. Hang your cloud somewhere to remind you of High Holiday joy all year long!

Craft adapted from The Kindergarten Connection.

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