Wednesday, April 08, 2020

How is this Pesach different?

All throughout the haggadah, we find lots and lots of numbers.

The number 4 gets a lot of the attention: 4 sons, 4 questions, lots of 4's, but there are plenty of other numbers.

And I think for so many people this year, the number they're focusing on is 1.

Because 1 doesn't feel like enough.

1 is getting us down, making us sad that we can't be together with the people we'd rather be making a seder with.

Every year at the seder, we say Dayeinu, even if Hashem hadn't done all that he did for us, it still would have been enough.


If he'd brought us to the edge of the yam suf, it would have been enough?

It's hard to believe.

And then at the end of dayeinu, we say it all almost in one breath, he did all this stuff for us, and we're so grateful.

But even if he'd only done one thing, we'd have been grateful -- at least that's what we say.

But every year, under our breath, we think, no, no, no, I wouldn't have been grateful to be stranded out in the desert without food and water

I wouldn't have been grateful for one miracle without all the others.

This is the year, 2020, tav shin pay, is the year our Dayeinu is put to the test.

Hashem gave us a chag, but didn't give us all the people we love to celebrate it with.

When I look at all those numbers in the haggadah again, the one that really stands out for me this year is – ONE. One is Hashem -- in the heavens and the earth.

And that goat. We end the seder not with the big numbers, the fancy arithmetic, but with one.

One is Hashem, but this year, for many of us, one is also us, by ourselves.

What it ultimately comes down to is the goat -- one only kid, all by itself.

That's not nothing.

That's quite a lot.

And from one, you can build. Just like the verses of Dayeinu build.

So that next year we can build on this one to create seders of two, three, four, dozens, or more. With all of am yisrael together, safe and healthy once again.

Chag sameach.

Did you forget to tell your kids THIS about coronavirus?

Is there something you’ve forgotten to tell your kids about coronavirus?

I realized last night that in all the talk about talking to our kids around coronavirus, there’s one key message I’ve been leaving out: that what’s happening right now is absolutely unprecedented in our lifetimes.

The thing is, kids are (almost by definition) very, very young. They don’t have a lot of experience in life, and whenever something happens, it’s new to them. But after a while, they

Monday, March 23, 2020

Stop telling me you’re sick of homeschooling!

I get it.  We're all isolated, or at least, most of us are.  We're home with kids.  It's exasperating.

How are you holding up?

If you’re like lots of people I'm hearing from -- and the eerily similar memes they’re sharing – you’re thinking one of a few things:
a) this is why I'm not cut out for homeschooling
b) this is why I didn't homeschool my kids
c) homeschooling is killing me!!!

Sometimes, this disgust / exasperation is cleverly disguised as admiration for people who DO homeschool, but it basically comes down to the same thing -- homeschoolers must be nuts.

And I totally feel for you.  I’m absolutely certain you’re going out of your tree with rangy kids running around begging you for their next snack or meal or whatever it is.

(I created this helpful guide to aid GZ in understanding what he was allowed to snack on right before supper…)

No photo description available.

Look, I don't speak for anybody.  Heck, I'm not even a homeschooler anymore.  So maybe somebody else can say this better, but I still feel it needs to be said:


What you're doing at home while you're isolated is about as far as it is from homeschooling as it is from school-schooling.  Meaning, it simply isn't.

Depending on where you are, and how old your kids are, you may be doing one of a few things:

  • - Trying to supplement

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Niftar: How to attend a funeral when there’s an ocean between you

      Even in Canada, I knew there were two ways of saying a person died: מת/meit and נפטר/niftar. In general, religious people use niftar, even when speaking English – it’s the more polite way of saying it, like “passed away.”

      But when my father died, eleven years ago tomorrow, and a taxi came to take me to the airport, I told the driver we were hurrying because I had to get back to Toronto because “abba sheli meit.”

      There are lots of words you use in religious life that aren’t used so much in contemporary Israeli Hebrew, and so I was just taking a stab at the best possible way of saying it.

      But Israel being Israel, the cab driver decided it was time for a grammar lesson. “Niftar. We say he was niftar.”

      Boy, did I know. (And also – is it my imagination, or only in Israel would a cab driver have the chutzpah correct someone who has just told you their father has died minutes before… ?!)

      These days, I have a habit that makes my 14-year-old daughter (“I’m basically 15”) cringe: telling people my life story. I’ll be standing at the meat counter and the person asks where my accent is from, and I say Canada, and she asks me where it’s better to live, and I say here, and we’re off to the races.

      Out comes the life story, to the best of my Hebrew ability, which isn’t much: living as a religious Jew in Canada, constantly swimming upstream, feeling like I had to

      Monday, December 23, 2019

      I'm Coming Home (before my father's eleventh yahrzeit)

      How often do you lie down with your kids?  When they're little, obviously, it happens all the time, when you're nursing them, or trying to coax them to sleep.  These days, with my youngest kids 12 and 14 years old, I don't really have an excuse anymore.

      But really, why don't we?

      Why not lie down with your kids, cuddle them, cherish them?  Hold onto them not in a way that's clingy and all about our needs, as parents and imperfect human beings, but about them and how special and unique they are?

      Sometimes, when I start out writing about something, whether it's a blog or story or article, I don't know exactly what it's about until I get to the end.  Maybe, if you write, this happens to you, too?

      And then at the end, there’s this "aha" moment, and I realize what was really on my mind the whole time. 

      After I wrote almost this entire post, I looked back and was startled to realize that it probably emerged here and now because of the spectre of my father's yahrzeit hanging over the month of Teves, which starts this coming Shabbos.

      (If you read an earlier version of this post, or look at the URL up top, you’ll see that I originally thought this was the TENTH yahrzeit… but it’s not.)

      So you can keep that in mind as you read.  This is about the present, about me and my kids, but also about ghosts of the past, about me being a kid.

      One of the things that embarrassed me most, growing up, was that my father used to lie down on the floor seemingly at random.  He'd just spread out his arms and sometimes we'd join him, lying down there, even my mother. He didn't have carpet growing up, so he said

      Sunday, October 20, 2019

      Why I don't live in Canada but I still voted there

      In the leadup to Canada's federal elections tomorrow*, there's been lots of talk about whether expatriate Canadians should have the right to vote. 

      * (yeah, I know, super-awesome that they did it again on a Jewish holiday!)

      Last time around, we didn't.  They changed the law to say you could only vote if you'd been gone less than 5 years and intended to return.  We were under 5 years, but couldn't honestly say we planned to return to live in Canada.  So our rights were taken away.

      But this year, in response to a legal challenge from a pair of Canadians abroad, the Supreme Court reinstated our rights.  The 5-year condition, they said, made no sense and hadn't been instituted in response to any particular problem, real or perceived. 

      Still -- lots of Canadians, including some of my beloved family members, don't think we should be voting.  They're not alone.  I don't have statistics, so I can't say most, but I know many people back there feel that we shouldn't get to vote unless we sleep on Canadian soil a certain number of days each year.  And a few days ago, CBC ran an op-ed by Mark Reynolds, an expat who claims, "I don't live in Canada anymore. I shouldn't have the right to vote in its elections."

      As I'll explain below, the Supreme Court disagreed, and I disagreed.  Here are a few reasons why.

      1) Being Canadian didn't stop the minute we moved to Israel. 

      If anything, we became more Canadian once we were here.  All of a sudden, instead of being "the Jews" in our neighbourhood in Toronto, we were "the Americans" in our neighbourhood in Israel -- and, after we explained to everybody, sometimes more than once, that it's not the same thing, "the Canadians."

      It sometimes takes weirdly a long time