Friday, October 14, 2016

My reluctant conversion to cheap fake Lego


Before, I begin, I want to say that there are few people who adore Lego as much as I do.  OK, if you're one of those fans who can tell the difference between a BURP a LUMP and a POOP [glossary here], then good for you.  You win.

But short of that, well, I adore Lego.

REAL Lego.

For years, in Toronto, I made a habit of picking up used Lego for the kids at Value Village.  Painstakingly, I'd pick through the sets chucking out any FAKE Lego - all the Megabloks and other imposters, weeding them out like toxins.


But here in Israel, Lego is expensive.  Ridiculously expensive.  Like over 100nis for a tiny set that would cost under $10 in the States, and maybe $12-15 in Canada.

So, I admit - painfully, reluctantly - I've started buying the fake stuff.

It started last summer when I happened to show Gavriel Zev some of the super hero menschies (I know, they're called minifigures – I call them minifigs for short) that were available on AliExpress for 99 cents instead of the 20-30nis he'd pay for them here.  Cautiously, I let him choose 5, figuring 5 bucks wasn't much to waste on an experiment (shipping was free!).

It took forever for them to come, but when they arrived...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Easy, Quick, Fun Sukkah Decoration Craft for Older Kids


Looking for a sukkah craft for slightly older kids that hasn't been done to death?

I totally was, because we're making GZ's birthday party in the sukkah and I wanted to do some kind of simple craft that would appeal to the boys without being too fiddly.

I eventually found this post about a Xmas craft, and decided that, writ slightly larger, these would make terrific sukkah decorations.  They have all the elements I love - namely, tinfoil, glue and Sharpies (!!!) PLUS they don't take much time for 8-year-old boys' attention span.
And I think they look terrific - shiny and bright to light up any family's sukkah.

Here’s what you'll need:

- Cardboard circles - I used a bowl with a diameter of about 5.5" to cut these babies out.  The originals are much too tiny to see at night in a sukkah!  I used fairly thick cardboard from a box that held a six-pack of soda bottles.
- Yarn - original post says fine yarn, but I blew this up accordingly to a medium-weight yarn; colour doesn't matter.  Pre-cut these lengths so kids don't have to guess.
- Glue sticks - enough to go around the craft table
- Sharpies - enough to go around the craft table
- Needle - to pierce a hole in the final craft
- Pipe cleaner - to make a loop at the top, because I found that a yarn loop was too twisty and it didn't hang straight.
- Extra yarn - to make a loop through the pipe cleaner so it hangs perfectly. :-)

All the supplies (glue not pictured):


Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Hidden Sweetness: Dvar Torah for Rosh Hashanah


The words Rosh Hashanah never appear in the Tanach. Nor is the chag referred to except as the shofar-blowing on the first day of the seventh month. The first time we see the term Rosh Hashanah being used is in a mishnah:

“There are 4 Rosh Hashanahs…”

ארבעה ראשי שנים הם.

(Maseches RH 1:1)

So the very first time we see the words “Rosh Hashanah,” they’re actually in plural form. This mishna teaches us that there are actually not one but 4 rosh hashanas. 1 Tishri (new year for years), 15 Shevat (trees and fruit), 1 Nisan (kings and festivals), and 1 Elul (animals and cattle).[1]

It’s a strange phrase, if you think about it: “The new year for years” (ראש השנה לשנים). It doesn’t seem to make much sense, especially given that in the Torah this is the 7th month, not the 1st.

So why is this Rosh Hashanah the big one, the one we all celebrate every single year?

We get a hint in the very next mishna, which says, “there are four times when the world is judged: at Pesach for crops, at Sukkot for tree fruits, and on Rosh Hashanah all the world’s occupants pass before Him like sheep.”

And all of a sudden, something strange has happened. Even though in the first Passuk there were 4 Rosh Hashanahs, now there is only one. Because we all know which one the mishna is talking about. THE Rosh Hashanah. The big one.

Now, this development probably took some time and to some extent has been lost in the mists of history. Somewhere between matan Torah and the recording of the mishna it had become understood that the shofar day, the first day of the 7th month, had become THE rosh Hashanah.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Book Reviews of Kids’ Books by (my) Kids


We’re back to summer schooling, which includes weekly book reports / reviews (I know there’s a difference, but whatever…).  I thought it would be fun to share a list of book reviews my kids have written over the last however-many years, mainly during the summer.

Hopefully, I’ll update this list as the kids create new reviews.  I’ve vowed that I’m going to make them write one new review each week for the remaining 7 weeks of summer…

(NOTE:  Some of the links are messed up.  I have vowed to fix them but it seems like it’s not going to happen until summer is over.  Forgive me if you hit a broken one!)

Almost a Winner (Teddy Mars)

Almost a Winner (Teddy Mars) - Funny and interesting, a review by GZ, age 8




The BFG The BFG – A Great Classic, Review by YM, age 12 and GZ, age 8




The Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth Goldfish -  A fun and suspenseful story, a review by NRM, age 11




Schooled Schooled by Gordon Korman, Review by NR, age 11




On Stage, Please - On Stage Please, a review by NRM, age 11




Holes Holes - a review by GZ, age 8



(Click through to see older reviews from previous years, going way, WAY back...!)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Schizophrenia and the Narrow Bridge, thoughts for Parshas Shlach Lecha

Maybe you think this is the age of “let it all hang out,” when Google rules, your friends post their snacks on Facebook, and there are no secrets left in the world.

But believe me, there are still plenty of secrets. And this bold new world may have more in common with the world of the Torah than we’d like to believe, as this week’s parsha shows us.

That’s because what we share on Facebook and other social media is actually a redacted version of our true selves. We tend to forget this, and then we envy other people’s lives. If you’ve ever looked at a friend’s Facebook status and wished that was your life, you know what I’m talking about.

  • · They’re having babies (and at my age, their kids are having babies, too!)… and I’m not.
  • · Their kids – my kids’ age! – are getting married… and mine aren’t.
  • · They’re getting promoted at work… and I’m still sitting here doing the same old thing.
  • · Their children are smart, talented, celebrated… when mine kind of aren’t.
  • · They’re celebrating anniversaries… when my husband and I barely talk to each other.
  • · They’re sharing brilliant ideas about the world… when most days, I have all the insight of a potato.
  • · They’re reaching their fitness goals… while I sometimes can’t even get out of bed.
  • · They post inspiring quotes full of faith… when I sometimes doubt way too much.

I once heard a rav say that that whole thing about “lo sachmod” (not coveting) isn’t just about houses or wives or donkeys.  It’s about the package.

He said that if we could see someone’s whole package – the deal they’ve been handed in life; their upbringing, their family, their career; their health – we would probably not be so eager to trade, no matter what they post about themselves on Facebook.

By the way, I don’t mean we should post more negativity on Facebook! Please don’t!!!

You can see the real effect of negativity from this week’s parsha.  The negative reviews of ten meraglim outweighed the good intentions and happy stick-to-it-iveness of two of the holiest people who have ever lived, Yehoshua bin Nun and Kaleiv ben Yefuneh.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

New Shavuos/Shavuot Story – FREE Download – The Humble Princess Ruth


I’ve been fiddling around for years with the idea of a “princess story” around the story of Megillas Rus.  I actually wrote one and made it available here about six years ago, but I wasn’t happy with it.

This version, The Humble Princess Ruth, is a little closer to what I want to tell.  It’s shorter and I think a little more interesting.  It’s a tough story to retell.  I’ve taken some authorial license here: added some details, left out some others. 

And I still don’t love the title!  If you have a better one, LET me know!!!  Why, oh, why, am I so bad at titles???

Download the story here:

The 4shared site is a little spammy – don’t click on the BIG word “download,” but rather, on the small download button:


I’d love your feedback on this story, either in the comments or directly to me at

And don’t forget – I have a ton of other great Shavuos resources here at this site:  click here to find them.

Chag sameach!!!