Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Teach kids Hebrew with the hottest viral song from Israel (Don’t worry, it’s totally appropriate!)

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The biggest musical sensation here in Israel this winter / spring is a small and strange song called “Geshem, Geshem,” written by Jihan Jaber, an Israeli Arab Hebrew teacher who wanted to give her students an easy, fun way to learn Hebrew.

And if she can use it to teach kids Hebrew… why can’t you?

GZ is totally into the darbuka, a simple little drum that apparently he’s been learning in music class at school.  This is the original and easiest accompaniment for this song (see video below), but really, whatever percussion instrument you have will do.

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I’ve created a cute little mini-book that you can print, staple, and read / sing with kids.

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There’s also a completely blank version so kids can add their own illustrations before cutting out the individual pages.  I’ve moved the text a little here so there’s as much room for creativity as possible on each page:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dr. David Dao and United Airlines: what the REAL story is actually about

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Dr. David Dao and United Airlines: Why is nobody talking about what the story is REALLY about?

Yes, that David Dao.

Maybe by the time this posts, the hysteria will be over.  But I am hoping there’s still time to talk about the real issue here:  law enforcement and mental illness.

A lot of people are saying that a) there is confusion about whether the "bad doctor," de-licensed in Georgia due to a sex and drug scandal - is the same person pulled off the United plane last week, and b) even if he is, it doesn't matter because it is "totally irrelevant" to how the airline and law enforcement officials treated him.

On the first question, whether or not it was the same guy, I'm going to with the latest (as of this writing) from the LA Times and with Snopes, who say it totally was the right guy, and explain the reason for the confusion (there IS another Dr. David Dao, but he's not related to either the sex/drugs scandal or the airline scandal - who are both one and the same).

On the second, however, I believe his past is actually VERY, very relevant.  Why? 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Filling her shoes: Standing strong when we’re not free

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Today, the last day of Pesach, we read about kriyas yam suf, which mostly comes from Parshas Beshalach. In this parsha, bnei Yisrael are running away from the Mitzrim. (Hashem could have brought them the easy way, straight into eretz Yisrael, but he doesn’t, for a few reasons that are discussed in midrashim, like one which says that if they knew it was that easy to get TO eretz Yisrael, they might be tempted to go BACK to Mitzrayim.)

And when bnei Yisrael get to the other side, we’ve read many times about how the people sing Shira and dance, with tambourines, and great celebration.

It says: וַתִּקַּח֩ מִרְיָ֨ם הַנְּבִיאָ֜ה אֲח֧וֹת אַֽהֲרֹ֛ן אֶת־הַתֹּ֖ף בְּיָדָ֑הּ וַתֵּצֶ֤אןָ כָל־הַנָּשִׁים֙ אַֽחֲרֶ֔יהָ בְּתֻפִּ֖ים וּבִמְחֹלֹֽת:

"Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women came out after her with timbrels and with dances.” (Shemos 15:20)

Rashi has a problem here. What’s the question, according to Rashi? This is the first time Miriam has been called a nevi’ah, a prophetess. So the obvious question if you’re calling someone a prophet is – what have they prophesied?

So what has Miriam prophesied?

Here’s the biggest thing: the gemara says, “Miriam was a prophetess who prophesied: ‘My mother will have a son who will redeem Israel." (Talmud – Megillah 14a)

Looking back, this seems pretty straightforward. She foresaw that it would happen, and then it did happen. But if you look at the story, it was not at all a foregone conclusion while it was unfolding that that is what would happen at all. At various times during the story of Moshe’s life, it looks like things are about to go horribly wrong, in which case Miriam’s so-called prophesy would be worthless.

Yet her greatness is that she knew her vision – her nevuah – was from Hashem. She knew with absolute certainty all along that it would come to pass as she’d seen it. Where do we see this?

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Anti-vaccination forces in the Torah world – “weighing the science” or stumbling block?

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What does halacha say about vaccination?  Do people who oppose vaccination have a right (halachically) to share their views?

This thing keeps rearing its head.  The other day, a Facebook friend insisted that all their "natural" lifestyle postings had been approved by two rabbis and were thus pretty much “an act of kindness” to share these views and enlighten the rest of us.

These postings run along two main themes - curing yourself of cancer and avoiding vaccines.

The one I want to talk about here is vaccines.  Because I believe - though I'm not a rabbi – and don’t even have the shirt to prove it! - that not only does halacha strongly support vaccines, but may in fact deem them mandatory, given the state of current medical knowledge.

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And if vaccines are so strongly recommended – if not mandated – by halacha… well, then, it's probably somewhat bad to go around telling people they shouldn't do it.

(For an earlier post covering more of the basics of the anti-vax position, please see this post.)

Vaccinations a  hoax???

Alarmingly, I did find a few articles (here, here) indicating that a faction of the frum community is falling for the anti-vaccine hype, in part due to a declaration by a big rabbi a couple of years ago that “I see vaccinations as the problem... It’s a hoax. Even the Salk [polio] vaccine is a hoax. It’s just big business.”

I believe this knee-jerk reaction on the part of the frum community may be due to a) a general distrust of "the system," and b) an ignorance of science due to low standards of education in Haredi / yeshiva / bais Yaakov schools.

I also believe that when searching for psak (a halachic ruling) on a medical issue,

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Phone Call from the Matzah Man

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Another one from the archives…

It’s done! Once again, this year, I've been putting it off and putting it off, and now, at last, it's done. It's a week before Purim, and the shemurah matzos have been ordered for the year.

“Mrs. Paquette, please?”

He always pronounces the name right, an oddity I can't help respecting.

My matzah man, Rabbi Aronov — he always refers to himself tersely as “Aronov”— has been calling for over a month, and I have been putting him off, not wanting to admit that Pesach is right around the corner again.

imageI told him I needed to speak to my parents, which was true, and then I told him I hadn't had a chance yet, which was true, and then I said I would call him back, which was true, and asked for an absolute latest deadline when I could phone him and squeak my order in under the wire. Almost up until Purim, he said, and I sighed with relief.

But still the deadline loomed, and tonight, when he calls me back, I finally take the plunge. I spoke to my mother last week. We talked about the seder, and there's not much more that I need to know.

“How much did I take last year?” I ask tonight, procrastinating still.

“Last year, six pounds,” he re cites, and I remember seeing his scrawled handwriting on the little index cards on which he keeps each family's records from year to year. “Two years ago, six pounds. Three years ago, four pounds.”

This will be my fifth Pesach alone In Toronto — the fifth since Elisheva Chaya was born and Jeremy told me

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Year Yom Kippur began on Purim

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That Purim was bitterly cold. I was newly divorced with two babies, scared and lonely and tired. I probably wasn't thinking straight, but all I knew was I couldn't afford a babysitter for the night-time megillah reading. So I hauled the kids along, to a friend's shul, basically a tiny storefront deal. The women's and men's sides were separated by a wall with just a few tiny windows for sound. I also noticed that mine were the only small children there.

Once the laining began, we crowded in, straining to read along with every single word. There were graggers, but they had to stay silent for the first two chapters. My son, then two, was holding his, but out of boredom, he’d begun turning it around. Click…click… No big deal; we could still hear the megillah.

But after a couple of minutes, the woman beside me started shushing. I didn't know what to do. If I took away the gragger, he'd start screaming and really disturb things. Click…click… I felt everybody's eyes on me, and the shushing woman glared with a "do something" look.