Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Wedding in the Family: Dvar Torah for Shabbos Sheva Brachos / Vayechi 5778

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I want to tell you about a little girl I knew once. A baby, really, and whenever she would sit and eat in her high chair, whatever it was – rice cakes, Cheerios, cookies, whatever – she would insist on having two of them. One for each hand. A very smart girl: she wouldn’t start eating until she knew where her next meal was coming from. Even then, she was planning for the future: one rice cake in each fist.

There is no crazy twist ending – that girl was, of course, this sweet, amazing Elisheva Chaya, who has somehow gone and grown up. I don’t know how this happens. Perhaps those of you who have known Shraggie all along are similarly surprised at how this could have happened, right under our noses. No, I’m not going to start singing “Sunrise, Sunset,” but you all know I could at any moment.

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Over the last few weeks in the parsha, we have been reading the story of Yosef, a story which is all about grasping the present while planning for the future: planning for famine, planning for geulah – Hashem planting the seeds of redemption even before the exile begins.

You, Elisheva Chaya, come from a long line of people who cared very, very deeply about the Jewish future. A line of strong and occasionally stubborn people. People who crossed oceans and worked for the community to build a future in every way they could. Your grandfather, Bubby’s father, Sam Posluns, was among the first Canadians to visit Europe after the war and witness the devastation, not just to gasp in horror, as most of us probably would have done, but to report back and figure out what the Jewish community could do to make these people whole again. He was also a founder and early president of

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why it’s never a good idea to write a children’s book out of spite

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I found out 2 days ago that an author out there is making a name for herself by writing and self-publishing a book called “P is for Palestine.”  Cute book, right? So sweet and happy and intifada-friendly.

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Oh, I’m not making that up.  This book is all over the intifada: “I is for Intifada.  Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grownup!”

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If you’re guessing that that book includes absolutely ZERO about the other people who share this land – “Hello, yeah, us, the Jews who have been here ALL ALONG???” - you’re right.  The book is an unsurprisingly one-sided narrative

According to the author, who crowdfunded over $15,000 for this project (preselling the book for $16 per copy with free shipping in the U.S.), “There are currently countless alphabet books about most countries, cities, and themes in the world…But none about or for Palestine in the English language.  Until now…”

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She’s right.  There were none.  And there still ARE none.

Now that this writer has succeeded and is going into a second printing, with all kinds of rave reviews and great publicity around the world, there’s STILL no book about or for Palestine in the English language that discusses anyone other than its Arab inhabitants.

Pride and national identity are great, but not at the expense of others.  This book denies the existence of Israel.  This book advocates violence.  (See above if you don’t believe me – “I” would have been a great place to mention Israel… or anything, really, other than Intifada.)

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This book makes a lot of people I know sick.  And they’re not the only ones.

In case you're wondering who's raving about the book, one of the most adoring reviews on the writer's Etsy shop is from a female Jewish

Sunday, December 03, 2017

When am I no longer faking it?

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I just caught a glimpse of myself in a reflection, in a car window, on my way to the train station.

“Wow,” I thought.  “That sure does look like the real deal.”

What do I mean by the real deal?

Well, you know

Okay, I’ll come out and say it.  A 40-something frum woman, hair covered, a little dumpy, a little boring, pretty content with her quiet life off somewhere in Nowhereville, Israel, following the ways of Hashem.  You’d never know I was only faking it.

Becoming a baalas teshuvah in my early 20s, fitting in was super-important, because if you think about it, I was kind of in freefall.  I’d given up a whole lot – friends, beliefs, even, to some extent, family.  So being accepted was kind of a matter of survival – if I wasn’t accepted, I’d be all alone.

So when did I stop caring?

I don’t know if I ever did, but

Monday, October 09, 2017

Ten new airplane travel gadgets for 2017, because you deserve to fly in comfort!

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Are you a frequent flier?  If you’re like me, you probably said you aren’t.

But don’t you deserve to be comfy anyway???

I’ve never thought of myself as a frequent flier.  Given that I’ve travelled exactly TWICE this year, probably nobody would.  But since moving to Israel, travel has definitely entered the picture in a bigger way than before. 

And really, does it matter how often you’re travelling?  Even travelling once, if it’s a 12-16 hour stretch like our trips back to Canada, is about 12-16 hours too much if you’re uncomfortable… am I right?

Here’s the secret airlines won’t tell you:  you DESERVE to be comfy.

I’m always fascinated by gadgets that have been created to try to make the journey more comfortable.  Here are ten travel accessory gadgets that may inspire you as you go wherever it is you find yourself on the face of this big, amazing globe:

1. The SOARIGAMI – armrest sharing device

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It looks like origami, or like some kind of airmail paper airplane.  But the SOARIGAMI is actually

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Sharing timeless Jewish messages through… silly animal stories???

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Are your kids bored with typical Jewish children’s books??

I know mine were!

That’s actually one of the main reasons I started writing books for Jewish kids.  I was sick of stories that simply repeat the basics:  “It’s Rosh Hashanah, we dip an apple.”  “It’s Sukkos, we sit in the sukkah.”  “It’s Chanukah, we light the menorah.” 

I was bored to death of these, and so were my kids, by the time they were two years old or so.  Plus – kids love to read about animals.  I really believe that animals can give us a lot of insight into ourselves and the things we do.

That’s how I got the idea for my first animal book – Penguin Rosh Hashanah.  I was sitting on a train wondering what to write for Rosh Hashanah, and I suddenly had the random thought, “Penguins.” 

Why penguins? 

Penguins, or any animal, really, are the exact opposite of Rosh Hashanah.  And I love it.  Loved the idea of finding connections and creating a very loose, light story which davka (specifically) didn’t tell kids what Rosh Hashanah was about… at least not directly.

What do penguins have in common with Rosh Hashanah? 

Well, quite a lot, actually.  They dress up, for one thing. They all look alike and travel in large groups, just like we do, dressed in white and hanging out in crowded shuls on Rosh Hashanah.  They literally step on each other’s toes, which I loved.

The whole project made me smile.

Since I wrote Penguin Rosh Hashanah, a few more animal Yom Tov stories have made me smile…

  • Panda Purim – What’s the connection?  Pandas are just silly, and like to hang out,

Sunday, October 01, 2017

What’s up with all the BOOTHS?

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(from the archives, a very basic introductory article about Sukkos that I hope you’ll enjoy and/or pass on to anyone else who might…)

If you live near a Jewish neighbourhood, drive through it one of these days, and you'll see us out in our yards and even parking lots, building what look like wooden storage sheds, decorated on top with tons of leafy branches, or with bamboo mats. What's up? Well, we're getting ready to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (literally, "booths").

Every fall, Jews all over the world gather to observe this feast, which originally lasted seven days, in accordance with to the Biblical verse "You shall dwell in booths seven days" (Leviticus 23:42). In most parts of the world, it's now celebrated for eight days, which is a good thing, because it's a fun holiday, following close on the heels of the more solemn High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).

This year [2017 – I updated this], it's celebrated from sundown on Wednesday, October 4th until sunset on Thursday, October 12th (Friday, October 13th outside of Israel – meaning it runs straight into Shabbat).

During Sukkot,