Saturday, September 08, 2018

Why I keep 2 days of Rosh Hashanah, even in Israel (a dvar Torah)

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One of the main differences between Rosh Hashanah and other Yamim Tovim is that we keep 2 days, even in eretz Yisrael. And I think many of us realize this is connected to another difference between Rosh Hashanah and other Yamim Tovim, which is the problem with the bracha shehechiyanu on the second day.

On the second day of most chagim, when we lived outside of Israel, we made the bracha shehechiyanu at night on the second day without a problem, because each day is considered a separate Yom Tov.

But on Rosh Hashanah, we’re told to wear a new piece of clothing or have in mind a new kind of fruit when we make the bracha (though you should still do it even if you don’t have something new). The reason for this is that Rosh Hashanah is considered

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A little one, a wallet

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Spotted this lying on the table last night. Recognize it?

Right—it’s a wallet. Specifically, it’s a kid’s wallet, my kid’s. My baby’s wallet, property of my 10-year-old baby boy. Which is hilarious, if you think about it.

When YM was just a newborn, he had some little prescription we needed to fill, and my husband couldn’t stop staring at the piece of paper with his name on it.

“He has his own prescription,” my husband said, in awe and wonder.

Two weeks before, he hadn’t existed, hadn’t even been a “he,” as far as we were concerned. And now he had his own documents, a health card, a doctor, an identity. He was a person.

But of course, for the first little while, it’s just a joke. You joke about his brand-new ID, or the well-meaning friend who made out a baby-gift cheque in the baby’s name, or some letter he gets in the mail from the government.

Later, you laugh about his library card, his swimming lesson registration, , his college savings account, his nursery “school.” Because none of it’s real. Everybody goes along with your little joke: pretending this tiny, squirmy, drooling blob-thing is a person.

People even bought him pants, and I was like, “He’s going to wear pants?”

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We all do this, don’t we?

Your baby gets a gift of money for Baby’s First Chanukah and you’re like

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Picture Book Unboxing! Fast Asleep in a Little Village in Israel

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It’s finally here!!!  These are my advance author copies.  The actual book is being released exactly two years from when I submitted it to Apples & Honey Press, which is almost lightning speed in the children’s-book industry.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then surely a video is worth a couple million pictures.  Here you go!


But just in case you’re the type who prefers pictures…

Here are NR & GZ, hamming it up and pulling out the first copies…

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This is where I told GZ, “Feign an expression of delight!”

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I think he literally has no idea what human emotions are or how they work.

Now… displaying

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The annual summer-schooling post: 5778 edition!

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Well, we're back in the homeschooling saddle, if only for a few days before I'm heading off on a crazy-stupid two-day gallivant across Europe.

The entire month before summer vacation, every Israeli parents' WhatsApp group is on fire with camp registrations and plans to ensure that our beloved sweeties don't have to go more than ten minutes without a “misgeret,” or framework. 

It's mostly for the parents' benefit, so they don’t have to miss work, which I get, but I also believe kids need a break.  I mean, school let out last Friday, and on Sunday morning, most of my kids' friends were off to the various "day camps" run by the schools.

That one Shabbos can't have felt like much of a vacation.

I was wondering how it would go with summerschooling this year, because NR is getting older and GZ is the same amount of stubborn as always, or perhaps more so with age. 

But if these last 3 days are any indication, it's actually going better than in previous years.  This is our fifth summer in Israel, meaning they're well-versed in the routine and I guess things feel comfortable and summertime-normal with our learning schedule.

But it's more than that.  When we were finished school stuff for the day, NR was dancing around the kitchen waving her arms around like a victory dance, feeling absolutely great.  I think at that age, there are probably so many conflicting impulses running around in her mind that to fall into these familiar childhood patterns for a couple of hours, sitting with me to do math, or working in a workbook with GZ, must be very grounding.  Or something.  Whatever the case, I'm 100% sure she was happier than if she'd sat around moping in bed reading all day.

(I know because

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Who's YOUR tribe? Finding yourself in a crowd

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Have you ever had the feeling that you completely belong someplace?

Before we left Toronto, I got to go to the Torah homeschooling conference twice.  And the biggest thing I felt, both times I walked through the door of the Jewish Community Center in Baltimore for the conference, was "Here I am."  Not JUST me, but people like me.  My tribe.

"Finding your tribe" is a popular expression that goes back maybe about a decade.  I have no clue where it comes from, or who coined it, and if you know more than I do, I'd be happy to find out.  Google isn't showing me any references before 2012, but that's because Google, like most of us, is entirely now-oriented.

Finding your tribe is a primal thing, locating the people you click with and clicking.  It's about what Kurt Vonnegut called

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Is Kiruv a lie? Does it drive people away from Judaism…? (Hint: No, it doesn’t.)

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In an article at Pop Chassid, Elad Nehorai wrote – with a big headline – “Kiruv is a lie.”

Why?  Because it creates the illusion that Judaism is “fun” or “easy.” 

Because it lures people in with songs or cheap spirituality or tasty food and then – bait and switch!!! – it turns out Judaism is a hard life and so the Judaism you thought was all about fun fizzles and you drift away from Judaism.

And those who do stay religious, who move into religious communities like, I’m assuming Monsey or Lakewood or Boro Park or Jerusalem, suddenly discover that religious Jews are like anybody else, not all “souls on fire” but just regular people trying to make a living, playing loud music, behaving obnoxiously, speaking loshon hora, even stealing from each other in various horrible and petty ways.

Nehorai’s solution is a little fuzzy – he recommends “improving the qualitative state of our communities.”  By this I’m assuming he means make every Jewish person behave nicely instead of just a few kiruv rabbis.  As we say here in Israel, halevai – if only.  If only it were that easy.

I could be wrong about his message, and I hope somebody corrects me if I’ve misunderstood.  Whatever his goal is, it seems both vague and also almost certainly impossible.

There is no “Bad Kiruv”

Here’s my two cents:  There’s nothing wrong with kiruv, and I think kiruv professionals mostly have the right idea, even if they do sometimes paint an unrealistic picture of what Judaism looks like, and what the person being drawn in will look like in five, ten, or twenty years down the line.

I think that first of all, some of these tensions are created by