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A Rentrée, Hindu and Hebrew New Year Message: Crack Open Your Egos and Overcome the Hurdles

2-9-13ganesh-2Ganeshing through the streets2-9-13ganesh-4Gathering of the coconuts2-9-13ganesh-3Smashing egos2-9-13ganesh-6

La Rentrée has definitely begun. Last night, a seat on the bus couldn’t be had and everyone was tripping over all the suitcases. The cities have come alive, the kids are preparing for school and life has begun again as we all know it, although perhaps more relaxed and a little tanner.

Every year a friend who has a 5th-floor apartment on rue Perdonnet in the 10th arrondissement invites a few friends to come, enjoy her fabulous spread of home-made healthy dishes and to have a bird’s eye view of the annual Ganesh Festival yesterday sponsored by the Temple de Sri Manicka Vinayakar Alayam from which it starts. The festival corresponds to the September full moon to celebrate the birthday of Ganesha Chaturthi, the most popular and beloved Hindu god, and with a parade marching down the streets surrounding the temple in the 10th and 18th districts.

In Mumbai, the celebration lasts 10 days where huge Ganesh images are driven through the streets and millions of people attend. In Paris, chariots are hand-pulled by devotees — one by men, another by women. Revelers fill the streets and those in the parade put on quite a colorful and animated show of happiness and glee.

When ascending from the Métro at Gare du Nord (inaccessible by bus as the streets are closed off), once you start the ascent on rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis toward the parade route, you might feel as if you’ve landed suddenly in Mumbai, but with ‘strange’ buildings in the background that resemble Paris! The crowds headed toward the celebration are dressed in traditional Hindu garb — Saris, Dhotis and a variety of other costumes. The street-level shops and markets are decorated with flowers, lights, statuary of Ganesh and glittery stuff. The colors are electric and it’s a feast for the eyes.

The restaurants are all open and serving up traditional Indian and Pakistani fare. The shops are selling traditional clothing and food products. Coconuts are piled up in preparation for the ceremony where they are thrown to the ground to be broken to bits, symbolic of the difficult hurdles Lord Ganesh removes. “By breaking the coconut’s hard outer nut, you visualize the difficult hurdles in your ways that must be broken. At the esoteric level, it must be understood that all our difficulties come out of our ego. Ego is a hard nut to crack. It is more due to our clinging to our ego that all the hurdles present themselves before us and that proves to be our undoing. Hence, the message is that the ego if broken, all the hurdles in attaining our worldly and spiritual goals will be met.” (

This week, the Jewish community will be ‘meeting their own spiritual goals’ with the celebration of the new year, “Rosh Hashanah” (from sundown September 4th to sundown September 6th), and subsequently, eight days later, the holiest day of the year, the day of atonement, “Yom Kippur” (from sundown September 13th to sundown September 14th).

Yom Kippur is the day to fast for 25 hours, pray, atone and repent for your sins. The year is 5,774 in the Hebrew calendar — a  lunisolar calendar representing the number of years since ‘creation’ “calculated by adding up the ages of people in the Bible back to the time of creation.” According to, this doesn’t mean that the universe only existed 5,774 years, because it is considered that the ‘first six days’ of creation were not necessarily 24 hour periods.

I grew up belonging to an orthodox synagogue where the girls weren’t taught Hebrew or encouraged to become a “Bat Mitzvah” — a ritual celebrating the ‘coming of age’ from child to young adult when one becomes accountable for one’s owns actions. It was one primary reason I spent time in Israel learning Hebrew, but at the same time, I learned how to understand the religion rather than practice it.

Last week walking down one of the narrow streets of Le Marais near rue des Rosiers, there were a small group of orthodox Jews gathered around one who was practicing blowing the “shofar” in advance of Yom Kippur. This is a ram’s horn that is blown making a kind of wailing sound that is part of the ceremony. It is referred to frequently in the bible and the Talmud, used to announce holidays. It brings back memories from when I was a child as perched high above in the women’s mezzanine, the men sitting below.

Often I receive queries about the Jewish community in France and how well or unwell they are being treated by the French or by the other antisemitic factions. Most of the media reporting on the subject comes from the community itself and therefore carries a certain bias. But according to a recent poll conducted by The Israel Project, which previously measured American attitudes about Jews and Israel in order to produce pro-Israel ads, claims that “Most French Jews blame Islamic fundamentalism for the rise in anti-Semitism” (78%) and 76% blame Israeli policy toward the Palestinians for hardening French government policy and contributing to anti-Semitism. (

Personally, I don’t feel it, but know it exists. Living in Le Marais, where the Jews, Gays, Muslims, Chinese, Hindus, etc., live side-by-side in a way that seems peaceful enough, where an orthodox man in Chasidic clothing can openly blow the shofar without fear of attack, seems reasonable enough. The Muslim community is complaining, too, citing a rise in anti-muslim attacks and insults “as some politicians and media increasingly present Islam as a problem for French society.” (

The Hindus have it figured out. I’m all for cracking open those coconuts! If we can just get our ‘egos’ out of the equation, “all the hurdles in attaining our worldly and spiritual goals will be met.”

Happy Lord Ganesh, Happy U.S. Labor Day and Happy Hebrew New Year…

A la prochaine…

adrianbytheorobinsonAdrian Leeds

Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC


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P.S. Did anyone happen to record the last House Hunters International “Planning a Future in Paris, France” – Episode HHINT-5612H? Believe it or not, I haven’t seen it yet! If you have and have a way to send it, would you mind terribly?? (Please do not upload it to YouTube or other public site!) Please email me at [email protected]. Many thanks!


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