Friday, April 29, 2011

Shabbos Food!


  • Challah
  • Soup w/kneidlach
  • Baked g-fish from freezer
  • Corn
  • Shake n’ Bake
  • Cranberry kugel (Ted’s apple kugel recipe but with crans)
  • Green beans
  • Desserts


  • Challah
  • Baked g-fish
  • Blintzes
  • Salmon pasta salad
  • Pareve cholent


All done for the week – good Shabbos when you get there!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Parsha Poem: קְדֹשִׁים / Kedoshim

יִּקְרָא / VAYIKRA / LEVITICUS 19:1-20:27:  READ ITHEAR IT.

Printable PDF version here.

image There are always others weaker than you

We all have weaknesses – even you do.

Widows and orphans, the deaf and the blind;

Don’t take advantage, even just in your mind.


If you are  a judge, don’t take people’s money,

Don’t trip a blind man, though it might seem funny;

imageAnd when you reap all your grains and their chaff –

Remember to let the poor have the last laugh.


We all are kedoshim, we’re just like Hashem

The One from whom all goodness must stem;

In public and private, his laws we uphold,

We grow through them, do them, the way we are told.


image Rise before grey hair; your seat they have earned,

And listen to all the wisdom they’ve learned.

For even so deeply inside of your heart –

Hashem’s holy people remain set apart.


Honour your parents that you live long days;

Respect them in so many different ways.

But there are greater mitzvos, too –

Like Shabbos:  the heart of being a Jew.


Don’t take revenge or hold a grudge;

But carefully weigh when you’re selling your fudge

Be honest in all the things that you touch,

For Hashem knows our secrets and loves us so much.


This parsha’s chock-full of Hashem’s own instructions,

And some we can learn through our own deductions.

From what we can wear to the food we can swallow –

Hashem chose the Jews, for He knimageows we will follow!

שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yom HaShoah – kids’ party?


So the littles were invited to a baby’s first birthday party, which is being held on Sunday – which happens to be Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).

I don’t really do a big thing about it, but I do REMEMBER on that day, and I think I do feel it, even though I don’t have anybody in my immediate family who was in the Shoah.

And frankly, the fact is that I don’t think Sefirah (the mourning period following Pesach) is a particularly good time for a kids’ party anyway…

So should I bring the kids?  There is a good chance they won’t even know it is Yom HaShoah, but it is STILL sefirah, and it just feels weird to ME.  Shouldn’t that count for something?  I got another email nudging me to RSVP and I really, REALLY don’t know what to do.

p.s.  Did I mention the party is being held in our shul?  Does that make a difference?

What does YOUR Rasha / Wicked Son look like?

EFink has an interesting guest post up at DovBear’s blog right now showing a few contemporary renditions of the Rasha, or wicked son from the Haggadah, and how it highlights our unfortunate tendency to make snap judgements about people based on how they dress and their outward mannerisms. 

(unfortunate though it is, I would argue that this reflex is to some extent necessary or we’d go nuts trying to sort out the good people from the bad people – there is probably a name for people who lack this ability to intuit based on outward signs)

I have always personally admired the version in The Animated Haggadah, which is actually four aspects of the same person (he’s wearing the same outfit in all the pictures, with a slightly different hairdo):


Another kinda-modern take is Otto Geismar’s from 1927 Germany, which are reprinted in my Different Night Haggadah:


I love the stick-figure simplicty of it.

Here’s another one, admittedly not from a Haggadah, but from a children’s book series called Round and Round the Jewish Year:


This Rasha is kind of unique in that he is actually dressed MORE formally than the other sons, and he’s also wearing a kippah.  Most show a ballcap or no headcovering at all on the Rasha. 

But this one is quite a bit older than the others, as if they, too, will turn cynical when they’re all grown up.  Or maybe he’s just their teenage big brother, going through a difficult phase. 

And if we keep inviting him to our seders, eventually he’ll be the Chacham (wise son) once again.  Now that I think of it that way, I kind of like this illustration – a bit.  The one on the bottom is the She’ayno Yodeiah Lish’ol (the one who doesn’t know how to ask), in case you couldn’t figure it out.

What does YOUR rasha look like???

If Mrs. S. can do it… (search engine roundup!)

Inspired by Mrs. S. over at Our Shiputzim – check out what people are finding at her blog!

(previous fun and navel-gazing search-engine roundups: Roundup #1, (mini) Roundup #2, Roundup #3, Roundup #4 and Roundup #5 – or just click on the “roundup” tag below to see them all!)

Most of the searches have been Pesach-related, naturally, but there were a few stray “others” that have made their way here.

A few searches for the unscientific last little while:

  1. chalakah – a lot of you want to know about chalakah, perhaps in early preparation for Lag b’Omer.  If that’s the case, mazel tov!  I use the Yiddish word “upsherin” and you can  find some information, but not much, here.
  2. shekel poems – not exactly, but I did do a cool half-shekel math worksheet if you want to get all Biblical during math time!
  3. dinosaur math – Embarrassingly, I think this is my #1 non-Pesach related search at the moment.  I do have one worksheet pack.  I wish there were more… it seems there are LOTS of homeschoolers out there searching for the perfect dino math.
  4. חיים יקרים – a Hebrew search!  We saw the movie and I told you what I thought.  Apparently, I’m the only one out there, because I’ve gotten lots of these.  I’d love to hear what Israelis think of this movie.
  5. coleus sprout – don’t make me SAD.  I have only a few pathetic suffering coleus on the go at the moment.  I have no idea  how I’m going to stock my garden beds this spring.  Here’s what I did last year.
  6. jump math – yay, a good one!  Lots of people, it seems, are looking for information about JUMP math and I am happy to tell you whatever I think as we make our through our first year with this great local, non-profit curriculum (in case you’re sick of throwing all your schooling dollars at big textbook publishers).  Here’s one post, or just click the “JUMP Math” tag below.  If you register at the JUMP Math site (which is a bit hard to navigate), you can download all of the resources except the actual workbooks for free, so you can get to know the program!  I like the plaintive, sad tone of this search:  jump math what does jump stand for.  It stands for Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies.  Dumb name, I know!
  7. making farfel – I’ve done it once and it was SOOoooo easy!  Check out my step-by-step how-to over here.
  8. But my favourite, favourite searches are the ones that are looking for…. ME.  Or people LIKE me.  Like what?
    1. toronto homeschool mama
    2. rony pony
    3. mamaland blogspot

And a few out-there kind of searches:

  1. mother day poems prayers – well, I don’t really celebrate Mother’s Day… but this person did find Nanny’s mother’s prayer.  Enjoy it!
  2. "arty popup book" – in quotes, no less.  I guess Gavriel Zev received one for his birthday at one point.
  3. controversy!  What is it with controversy, that people are so insistent on searching for it?  Here are a few of the controversies people have sought at my blog:  controversy with Jump math, cuisenaire rods controversy, ashkenazi quinoa controversy… well, not that many, I guess, when you line them up like that.

Finally – where are you-all coming from???  Over the last month…

  • Many, many visitors stopping by from Menu Plan Mondays over at OrgJunkie!
  • Or you’re reading me in your Google Reader!  (take a second to Follow this blog in the top-left corner if you haven’t already)
  • Referrals from Lionden Landing – thanks, Michelle!  Nice to have online friends who are more popular than me…
  • Lots of folks stopping by from The Well-Trained Mind, a Classical homeschooling forum where I stirred things up a bit recently with a Pesach resources thread.
  • And finally, I had a mention in the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival, which got a lot of visits.  Welcome!  Hope you find lots here to mull over…

Election time! Vote for me?

I don't ask for much, so if you get a chance, click on the logo below to help me out in this cheesy online popularity contest (aka homeschool blogs ranking)...
You won’t have to join anything - I promise - and you can click every day if you want!!!  Lots of other great blogs linked up there, so vote for others if you want, too.

As of now, I think I’m the only specifically Jewish presence on the list – doesn’t that count for something?  (Elizabeth from Creative Learning Fun is there, but she doesn’t mention Judaism in her listing…)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

For your (Sefirah / Three Weeks) Listening Pleasure!


Washing dishes, scrubbing, putting p0ts and pans and haggadahs away… without a soundtrack.  How very, very dreary, compared to the lively sound of inspirational music filling our house in the weeks before Pesach!

We’re only one week into the 33-day Sefirah mourning period (some people observe different mourning periods – consult your local Halachic authority!), and this is a tough time for music lovers.

Here are a few alternatives:

First of all, if you really, REALLY can’t survive without music of some kind, there’s always acapella.  That’s right – there is a leniency that “music” without instruments isn’t really music.  You can find lots of “vocal selections” to listen to free at the Israel National Radio jukebox site here.  Caution:  non-Jewish acapella might have have instrumentals in the background, so stick to kosher tunes for the next few weeks.

Then, there’s my solution:  audiobooks!

If you’re in Toronto, there’s the library’s Overdrive site here, which gives you access to thousands of current audiobooks for free, 24/7.  Some of the more popular books have a wait list, but I usually manage to find something good.  You can sort by popularity and then just scroll down until you find one that is available immediately. 

(Tonight, I took out Barbara Walters’ memoir, Julia Child’s My Life in France, and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace… I probably won’t listen to all of them, but I like to have choices!  update:  I also just found Nora Ephron’s self-narrated I Nemember Nothing, and this will probably supercede all the other choices, since she is smart, funny and supremely easy on the ears…)

If you’re not in Toronto, your local public library may offer something similar.  (if they don’t, email them to get with the times… and then march yourself in to check out a couple of audiobooks on CD)

If you love classics, a couple of sites offer free downloads of classic books.  By “classic”, they mean public domain, expired-copyright works.  Readers volunteer their time to record the books and stories and everything is available free.  Two that I know of are Librivox and Free Classic Audiobooks.

One book that I blogged about recently, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, by Chris Anderson is available to download as an unabridged audiobook (or you can read it for FREE online).  Click here to visit his site and grab the entire book.

If you don’t want to invest the time it takes to “read” an entire audiobook, but still want something old-timey, you can also always try the shorter selections at Homeschool Radio Shows or Old Time Radio.

Happy listening!!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pesach Food – last days!

As usual, I will cross stuff out as it’s made – so yes, it’s true, as of now NOTHING has been made.

Oh, yay!  By tomorrow night, we will be happily dipping matzah in our soup!!!


Sunday 24

Monday 25

Tuesday 26



Dairy – Sara?

  • Soup – squash
  • French toast*
  • Slicey Potto Waits
  • Crunchy cheese
  • Tomato/cuke salad
  • Sponge cake loaves for French toast

Day 2 – Yizkor, out at Mommy’s house!

  • Cheese Blintzes w/ Strawberry sauce??  Make if there’s time!


Night 1 – Judy? Easy meal!

  • Baked g fish
  • Chicken Soup  w/kneidl from mix
  • Mommy Lokshin
  • Whole roast chik w/
  • Cauliflower & peppers
  • Zuke, onion, potato, sweepo Kugel
  • Desserts

Night 2 – Michael/Marilyn/Silvia

  • Baked g fish
  • Chicken Soup
  • Mommy Lokshin
  • Cabbage rolls stuffed w/zuke, onion, potato, sweepo kugel components
  • Leftover cauliflower
  • Peppers stir-fry
  • Desserts


  • new Hazelnut crazy Potchke cake recipe?
  • Mocha praline ice cream
  • Easy almond macaroons
  • Hmm… everything has NUTS in it.  And I don’t love nuts.   Maybe I will leave out the pralines from the ice cream…

Mocha Praline Pareve Ice Cream:

  • About 1 cup whipped topping
  • 2 egg whites
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Vanilla sugar, to taste
  • 1 tbsp KLP instant coffee
  • ½ cup Mommy’s Pralines – pecan (used broken almond bits)
  1. 1. Whip egg whites with ½ cup or less of sugar & vanilla sugar. Set aside
  2. 2. Whip topping with coffee until thick
  3. 3. Stir together gently
  4. 4. Add pralines, stir gently
  5. Freeze in container until 10 minutes before serving

Good Yom Tov!!!

The Quinoa (for Pesach) Controversy – does Hashem care?


Oy, vey!  The controversy!

Yesterday, I read an article – I think in Perspectives, Toronto’s frum paper – about how quinoa, for years acceptable for Pesach (like beets, it’s botanically a member of the chenopodia or goosefoot family), has now unequivocally been declared kitniyos by the COR, the local kashrus organization. 

They did this not because quinoa is often grown near kitniyos or chometz grains – which is true, but can be checked and labelled appropriately – nor on the basis that it can be ground into flour (because clearly potatoes are permitted even though they can be made into “flour”) but because it grows at the top of a stem – a style of grain called a “wand” or, in Hebrew, sharvit, similar to corn or… well, corn.  There are other considerations as well, but honestly, to me, it doesn’t look so much like a wand:


This decision annoys me to no end, and it seems like I’m not the only one.  I’m sure there will be a HUGE reaction to this, perhaps most especially in Ashkenazi vegetarian circles where quinoa has been the saving grace at Pesach time.  I don’t eat quinoa – don’t trust it, don’t like it… but I’m aghast that so many decent people are going to have to either comply with or knowingly defy this new ruling.

There’s a decent article over here at Tablet magazine which you can read if you want, tracing the history of the various bans and decisions of the agencies (and Reb Moshe’s famous psak that peanuts and peanut oil should be permitted to Ashkenazim – there’s one I just learned about this year!), but as I was reading through the comments section, I came across one that totally rubbed me the wrong way:

Solomon says:

Apr 18, 2011 at 8:38 AM

The Orthodox really get carried away with all these rules. Do they think God really cares if we accidentally ingest a molecule of treyf, or chometz in the case of Pesach? Can’t we just leave it at not eating leavened bread during Pesach and not eating foods specifically prohibited in Torah the rest of the year? The real test of holiness is in how we treat our fellow humans, Jewish or not- with charity, lovingkindness, fairness, etc. and not in obsessing over minutiae of dietary laws.

Here’s my reply, in case you’re interested:

Hey, @Solomon:  "The Orthodox really get carried away with all these rules. Do they think God really cares..."

Reminds me of a certain question we read in the Haggadah last week: "What is this service to YOU?"  (to you, and not to HIMSELF).  You've already built solid barriers between what YOU deem sane, reasonable Judaism and the entire rest of the Jewish world.

Imagine if somebody questioned every Jewish action you took - "do you really think God cares if you're in synagogue on Yom Kippur?"  "do you really think God cares if you give the full 10% to tzedakah?"

It's a slippery slope, to suggest that God is paying attention to YOU, but probably doesn't notice much what other Jews are doing.

p.s.  Look up the word "omniscient" sometime - God certainly knows and definitely cares.

Add your thoughts below or on the original site.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Shabbos Food

On a completely different note, here’s what we’re eating this Shabbos!  Unlike last year, I think we’ll do an all-meat Shabbos, just to keep things simple.  I can double up on the desserts that way.  The dinner food is all on the “sweet” side at the moment, so I’ll have to work a bit to “savoury it up” before the time comes to start cooking.

As usual, items are crossed off as they’re DONE!

Shabbos Chol HaMoed


Friday April 22nd

Shabbos April 23



Meat – G family

  • Jar g fish
  • Meaty oven cholent
  • Cucumber pareve salad
  • Pesach Pepper “Lokshin” kugels 
  • Mush crepes – by Meeeee FILLING BY ELISHEVA due to thumb injury!!!
  • Desserts


Aunt D, BC

  • Chicken Soup w/Mommy lokshin
  • Ted’s KBD* cranberry chicken
  • Leftover beets from seder
  • Pesach Pepper “Lokshin” kugels
  • Carrots from KBD*
  • Desserts


  • Choco chip banna cake  from
  • Leftover seders choco mousse
  • Nut butter cookies?
  • and/or Almond cookies?  NOPE

* KBD = Kosher by Design Passover – I bought it for Ted with our new Costco membership!

Bamidbar 9:14 – Who is a “Geir”? And do we care?

image Previous posts you may or may not be offended by:

If online activity is any indication, huge numbers of non-Jews are observing Pesach – perhaps more this year than at any time since the Exodus. 

Lots of these people consider themselves “Hebrew Christians” (often called Messianic Jews, but I don’t use that term, since most are admittedly not Jews), and when they’re talking about Pesach, one verse comes up time and time again – Bamidbar (Numbers) 9:14:

וְכִי יָגוּר אִתְּכֶם גֵּר וְעָשָׂה פֶסַח לַי־הֹוָ־ה כְּחֻקַּת הַפֶּסַח וּכְמִשְׁפָּטוֹ כֵּן יַעֲשֶׂה חֻקָּה אַחַת יִהְיֶה לָכֶם וְלַגֵּר וּלְאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ

If a GEIR dwells with you, and he makes a Passover sacrifice to the Lord, according to the statutes of the Passover sacrifice and its ordinances he shall make it. One statute shall apply to you, to the GEIR and to the native-born citizen.

These folks claim the word “geir” means they ought to be included in observing Pesach.  In fact, they feel downright offended if we suggest that we don’t WANT to include them, or that they ought not be included.

The word geir can be a confusing one, and I have deliberately not translated it.  It comes from a root meaning to “dwell” – and we’re told in the Haggadah that Yaakov went down to Mitzrayim “lagur sham” – to dwell there.  In Mitzrayim, then, he was a geir.

In my reading, I’ve come across two types of “geir” – a geir toshav, a non-Jew who happens to be living among Jews, and a geir tzedek, a righteous convert – in English, a proselyte.  For the most part, a geir toshav is not obligated in things, while a geir tzedek is obligated in almost everything.

Rashi and other primary Jewish commentators interpret the word “geir” in the verse above to mean a convert, and indeed, this is its contemporary usage.  Perhaps before Rashi’s time, it was more common for non-Jews to hang about at the edges of Jewish encampments, but I’d imagine that in the centuries before and after Rashi, with Jews being so unpopular in medieval Europe (and indeed, around the world), that either type of geir would have been a rare thing.

These days, it’s nothing to read the word as GEIR and see it as meaning a convert – and it’s nothing to assume that, of course, there will be one law for geirim and born Jews.  Why the heck should we draw an arbitrary line when there are so many wonderful geirim breathing life into our communities… and, sadly, so many born Jews who don’t even know the first thing about their Jewish heritage?

But here’s the thing I realized, while puzzling over the interpretation of this word:

How you translate the word GEIR actually makes very little difference in terms of Christian attachment to this festival.  Either way, their interpretation just doesn’t hold together.

As I said, these messiah-following non-Jews lay claim to the word “geir,” add themselves in retroactively with the eirev rav (intermingled Egyptians who came out of Mitzrayim) and decide they are equally entitled to observe Pesach.

Entitled, indeed, but mysteriously enough, not obligated.  Any claim that they are OBLIGATED to keep Passover is already a little iffy, because they also believe they are redeemed only through their messiah’s blood.  In the words of one congregation, “We keep the commandments out of wanting to demonstrate our love and devotion for our Creator… [not] to earn salvation or make our Creator obliged to us in any way.”

In other words, their observance, as a “demonstration of love,” is entirely voluntary.  It strikes me as rather bizarre that they can ignore the rest of Bamidbar – no, the entire rest of the Torah – which states unequivocally that Pesach is utterly obligatory on all of bnei Yisrael and on geirim.

An obligation is an obligation whether or not you feel like observing it.  Whether you “feel the love” or not, Pesach is coming, so you’d better get your houses clean (Shemos 12:15) and your sacrifices (Bamidbar 9:11) ready.  Nowhere at all is it presented as optional or dependent on your current mood and level of devotion.

In fact, devotion plays a surprisingly small role in Jewish observance.  One of the interesting things I learned early on is that Judaism suggests there is a greater reward for obligatory service than for voluntary service.  Why?

Having volunteered for various things in my life, I can tell you that it’s a good, good feeling.  You get up in the morning all purposeful, feeling like you’re making a difference in the world – feeling inspired, holy.  Maybe not every time you volunteer, but in general, don’t you get just a little self-righteous, knowing you’re doing your part to better the world? 

Well, that marvellous feeling is a REWARD.  It is perhaps THE reward for volunteering.  Because it feels so good, Judaism teaches that our reward from Hashem does not necessarily need to be so great.

On the other hand, how does an obligation feel?  Say, the obligation to be standing upright, reasonably alert, and strapped into a pair of tefillin in time for a 7 am minyan?  Pretty icky, most days, I’d imagine.  There is no marvellous feeling, and most days, you might not come away with the sense that you’ve changed the world much one way or the other.

Look at the Jewish concept of charity:  or rather, tzedaka.  Charity is a bad translation, or rather, translation through a Christian lens.  As caritas, it is identified with the “agape” type of love; the inclination of one’s heart.  Whereas, as tzedaka, it is identified  most closely with justice through its root word, צדק, tzedek.  As Wikipedia puts it, “unlike philanthropy, which is completely voluntary, tzedakah is seen as a religious obligation”.

Tzedakah, prayer and, yes, the commandments involved in keeping Pesach have NOTHING whatsoever to do with feeling good, with feeling inclined, or devoted, with love or any particular feeling at all…but we do it anyway. 

It occurs to me that these people’s understanding of the word “statute” in the verse above (I’ve often seen it translated as “law”) is highly flawed if they believe that it refers only to an optional devotion. 

Imagine if you said there should be one “traffic statute” for born Canadians and immigrants.  Makes sense!  We really should all stop at red lights – it doesn’t matter where you were born.  But imagine if, by “statute,” you meant, “stop if you feel like it.”  That’s what they’re doing with the word “statute” in this verse.  That’s why we do it anyway, regardless of how we’re feeling about it on that particular day.

So we do it anyway, and we are rewarded anyway.  Not, as that one church website suggests, because “our Creator is obliged to us in some way,” but because Hashem is a God who keeps promises – He gave us these observances, and he is obliged to himself.

We do not “earn salvation” through Pesach or any other particular mitzvah; our salvation is assured because we are judged with love by Godly standards of righteousness, which are both infinitely more exacting and infinitely more merciful than any justice we could ever imagine ourselves.

Often, the holiday is its own reward, and certainly, I have felt blessed to be surrounded by loving family and friends, clever and cute children (each one cleverer and cuter than the next!), enjoying rare leisure time and occasionally, a bit of pleasant spring weather (not this year, I’m afraid).

Please don’t think I’m belittling feeling, of devotion, love – we are, after all, commanded to love God; what a crazy paradox, and a complete drash in itself for another day.  I really believe Judaism could use a bit more love and a ton more kavannah (intentionality in mitzvah observance). 

Nevertheless, I do believe – and I guess this is what makes me “Orthodox,” despite any kicking and screaming I do over the label – that observance comes first.  That when we accepted the Torah, we said “Naaseh” before “Nishmah” – “first, we will do it… and only then will we listen”; figure out what it all means and how we can bring feeling into it without losing the essential actions of this religion, which is so much more than a faith.

One final thought, which occurred to me last week in the depths of scrubbing:  some of those most vehement about their right to claim Jewish festivals would probably also be most vehemently against diluting Christian beliefs and celebrations, whether to secularize them or to superimpose meanings which distort their unique nature. 

Easter isn't simply a "spring holiday" and Christmas isn't primarily a "gift-giving holiday".   Christians adamantly defend the "reason for the season," and I’ve felt their pain at the idea of bland, meaningless but inclusive "seasonal" celebrations stripped of any Christian symbols so as not to offend anyone (except maybe Christians).

This thought left me wondering what it will take to finally earn us the right to protest the misappropriation of our own, God-given, festivals.  Alas, I sense this is a losing battle, and all I’m doing is sitting on the sidelines, chronicling the story as it unfolds, when what I really ought to be doing is… laundry.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

DovBear Meme: Post Seder DeBriefing

Inspired by DovBear’s post today, in which he tagged all readers to provide their post-Seder rundown:

Time we finished
2 the first night; 2:10 the second.

Highlight we'll still be talking about next year
Gavriel Zev’s doggie spot singing Mah Nishtana in his squeaky nasal voice:  “it’s not squeaky – it’s just his regular voice!”

Perhaps – my own WILD sign language interpretations of “Echad Mi Yodeia”.

Arguments I had
None!  :-(

I sure do wish we had the kind of Yom Tov table where fascinating intellectual debates abounded, but our arguments are always more like somebody’s elbow in somebody’s soup.

Books I read
Rabbi Sacks’s Haggadah
Kosher by Design for Passover

Various folders of old divrei Torah from the big kids’ elementary school days…

(What?  Not scholarly enough for you???)

Stuff we ate for shulchan orech
Night one: pickled brisket
Night two: swiss steak

Time we finished davening
n/a – “they have shul the first days of Pesach???”

Number of milchig meals
Two – both lunches!!!  When else could you possibly eat cheesecake?

Thing I am most thankful for
My family – and the idea that we are finally hitting our stride, in terms of seder-making, even without my father.  He was never the best “seder-leader,” but we still miss him and I still can’t imagine how we will do it without him… but every year now, it seems to happen – better and better every year.

Now, to pass on what DovBear said in his post, “If you like, let's call this a blog meme. In which case all of you are tagged.” 

How did your seder(s) go???  (leave a comment or link here if you want to tell the world!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Pesach Book! When You Give a Frog a Piece of Matza

imageWhen a friend tells you they’ve written a kids’ book, of course you’re interested and of COURSE you buy it, maybe thinking that if it’s a loser, you can just let it gather dust on the shelf or pass it along to Value Village.

Luckily, the book in question turned out to be this amazing self-published work from a friend and fellow Torontonian (by marriage), Rachel Shifra Tal.  The eye-popping illustrations were done by her sister-in-law.

The book is called When you give a frog a piece of Matza, and it’s a lot of fun, with delightful illustrations and a wonderful message to go with them.  Here’s what I said about the book on

Awesome contemporary take on the Passover Plagues!

imageWe are loving this new book! The little frog is so appealing, and the characters throughout the story are active, colourful and interesting. Its modern look is a refreshing change from the dull graphics of some Jewish kids' books!
A frog and a boy are seated at a seder table (the bowl of peas in front of them, may alarm some Ashkenazi readers, but peas are just fine for our Sephardi friends!), and the boy gradually and with a solid sense of fun reveals the steps of the "ten plagues" narrative. The easily-offended frog comes away not only reassured of his importance to the story, but also (I love it!) wishing he was Jewish, too. What an amazing way to remind our kids of how special they are to be celebrating Pesach.
I was initially concerned (from the title) that the book would be derivative of the "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie" format, but the lively text departs rather quickly from that formula, hitting a unique stride all its own.
My kids are 3 and 6 and enjoyed this book immensely; I'm SO happy it arrived in time for Pesach. The book would be an especially welcome Passover or seder gift for the 5-7-year-old crowd, and perhaps for friends and siblings a little older and younger.

Here's a direct link to buy it (for next year, I guess!) on

Seriously, buy it!  I don’t tell you that very often.  If you’re in Toronto, you can probably buy it directly from Rachel and save on shipping!

More info, pics, press releases, etc., here:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pesach Food – First days!!

The First Days

As with our Shabbos food lists, crossed out items are DONE!!!


Monday 18

Tuesday 19

Wednesday 20



Dairy – N’s

Make on Yom Tov:

  • Soup – squash
  • Slicey potto weights
  • Crunchy cheese
  • MBS’s = matzah, butter, salt “sandwiches”
  • Tomatoes? salad
  • Pickled cucumbers

Make ahead:

  • Cheesecake

Dairy – K & B’s

Make on Yom Tov:

  • Soup – squash
  • Broccoquiche
  • Hash browns
  • MBS’s
  • Tomatoes? salad
  • Pickled cucumbers

Make ahead:

  • Cheesecake


Seder 1 – Lapells/Judy

Ballies carrots fish

Chicken Soup

Dilly Potto “Kneidlach

Lokshin fr/Mommy

Pickled Brisket

Latkes made with kneidl mix

Butternut kugel (make it pareve somehow) (I used OJ to make it pareve and added chopped pralines)


Seder 2- just us!

Ballies carrots fish

Chicken Soup

Dilly Potto “Kneidlach

Lokshin fr/Mommy

Harvard beets

To make on Yom Tov because we prefer them fresh:

  • Po-chip steak??
  • Harvard beets




  • Sacrificial Brownie – to grate for crusts
  • Crusts – make first!
  • Macaroons – choco dip
  • Chocolate olive-oil mousse
  • Mommy’s lemon stuff (needs a crust)
  • Cheesecake

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pesach Poem: Four Holidays in One!

Free printable PDF version here!

Also, be sure to check out my Pesach homeschool resources roundup page here!


Pesach /  פֶּסַח


Four holidays in one, four times as super fun.

It comes just once a year, for eight days, then it’s done.

In English, we know it as Passover, too,

But it has four more names that you wish you knew!


imageThe first is Chag HaAviv, because of when it comes;

Every year in springtime, the earth (but not the crumbs),

Comes to life with green anew and so we call it that

The festival of springtime, so shed your winter hat!


imageThe shortest name is Pesach, it reminds us of a lamb –

The korban that we offered, a male goat or a ram;

We sing of it in Chad Gadya, but don’t bring it anymore –

Reminded by the shankbone, but no blood upon our door.


imageBut wait, there’s more; our freedom tale chimes;

Z’man Cheruteinu – set free from harsher times,

Slaves we were and would be still, except Hashem stepped in,

Rescued us so long ago, and helped us to begin.


imageThe final name is crunchy, it’s thin and crisp and flat –

We call it Chag HaMatzos, for our breads cannot be fat.

Matzah which we eat each year for more than just one reason –

It’s poor bread, plus we left so fast, that ancient Pesach season.


So every year it comes again, by every different name;

A holiday which teaches us the tale of how we came –

Out of slavery so sad and grew to be a nation;

Whatever name you call it by… enjoy your celebration!


חַג שָׂמֵחַ!


Naomi Rivka’s Pesach List

Naomi Rivka got hold of Abba’s Pesach cleaning list (he’d just started writing it) and added a few items of her own… :-)))

list 003

The one that says “biy fod for Abba” is meant for me.  :-)))

(but actually, Ted’s out shopping now because I cannot bear to set foot in another store between now and Pesach)

Soup’s on!

Welcome to Mama’s Astonishing World of Tinfoil!

DSC09840 DSC09842

Previous Worlds of Tinfoil pics & posts:

(and no, it’s not because I’m sitting here instead of standing in the kitchen)


So near…

kitch 003  kitch 002

And yet – so far…

kitch 001


DSC09831I know you-all are sick of my pictures of snow, and probably thinking, unsympathetically, “what does she expect, living in Canada and all???”

I realize I live in Canada, and I do expect snow for maybe a few months out of the year, but this is simply nutso.DSC09834


It stopped for a few minutes… and then came back with a vengeance:

DSC09839 DSC09843


If you don’t have a tune, sing it to Dayeinu!

imageOne of the more tedious bits of the Seder is near the end when we recite a lengthy liturgical poem, either (first night) vayehi b’chatzi halayla (“It happened at midnight!”) or (second) v’amartem zevach Pesach (“you should say – this is the Pesach offering!”).  We don’t have a tune for this, so somebody (moi) just sort of drones it while everybody chimes in on the last word of each line.  Dull, dull, dull.

So I was curled up with my new Jonathan Sacks Haggadah today during a quiet moment (thinking, “wouldn’t an Oliver Sacks Haggadah be super-cool, if a bit weird?” “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for the Marror”  Oh, never mind… nobody will EVER get that in a million years.)

Anyway, I discovered - drumroll – that BOTH of these dreary, complicated poems can be sung to the standard tune of “Dayeinu.”

Which is a GREAT choice because a) everybody knows it and b) we don't overuse it - ie we usually do it once through and that's it. Once more isn't going to kill us.
In case anyone's curious, here's the first "verse" - first, the dayeinu line (ie which bit of the tune to use), then the Hebrew, then transliteration:

Ilu hotzi, hotzi-anu,
אָז רוֹב נִסִּים הִפְלֵאתָ בַּלַּיְלָה,
Az rov nissim hifleysa balayla,

hotzi-anu, mi-mitzrayim,
בְּרֹאשׁ אַשְׁמוֹרֶת זֶה הַלַּיְלָה,
Be-rosh ashmoras ze halayla

v'lo asa vahem shefatim, dayeinu!
גֵר צֶדֶק נִצַּחְתּוֹ כְּנֶחֱלַק לוֹ לַיְלָה,
geir tzedek nitzachto k'nechelek lo - layla! (squish everything in a bit and hit “lo layla” on the “dayeinu” syllables)

Day, day, aynu,
Vayehi (you have to draw this out just a bit)

day, day, aynu,
be-chatzi (draw it out a bit)

day, day, aynu,
ha-layla (draw it out a bit)

וַיְהִי בַּחֲצִי הַלַּיְלָה
(faster) vayehi b'chatzi ha-layla!

Repeat for each group of 3 lines, and use up the second "dayeinu" to squish in the 4th line at the very end. (and end with a fast vayehi b'chatzi halayla in the space of the very last dayeinu).  I hope this is clear.  I would record myself singing it, but I’ll spare you!

There is SO much still to do… and we are nowhere near ready.  Off to watch The West Wing instead!  I have made the big kids promise they will read the haggadah tomorrow… and specifically, read through these poems so I will not be the only one singing.  If only my extended family would do the same.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Procrastinate much? Procrastinate, much! Pesach caption contest!

I was over at the Dover Publishing website and noticed they had a featured eCard.  “How lovely,” I thought.  “I will see what it is, and maybe send it to my Most Loved Ones in honour of the upcoming Passover feast.”

So I clicked… and here is the image featured on their eCard of the week:


“How perfect!” I mused.  “How utterly pleasing for the Pesach season.  But… I wonder – it just needs the PERFECT caption.”

I realize a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes, a few actual words can make the difference between a good Pesach card and a fantabulous one.  So I charge you, my loyal readers (YES, relatives are eligible!) to come up with the perfect seasonal caption to go with this image.

You don’t have to be Jewish to enter – come one, come all!

Is there a prize? 

Glad you asked!  I will include the winner’s name (or your child’s name, if you prefer) in next week’s Parsha Poem.  If there are no entries before next week, OR no Parsha Poem next week (quite likely), then I will include the winner’s name in the following poem.  If nobody enters at all ever, I will have to rely on my “standard names” of Clarence and Shmuli, so I beseech everyone to enter.

Leave your entry with your first name or child’s first name AND your suggested caption as a comment below or email it to me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com.

Parsha Poem: Acharei Mos / Acharei Mot / אַחֲרֵי מוֹת

יִּקְרָא / VAYIKRA / LEVITICUS 16:1-18:30:  READ ITHEAR IT.

Printable PDF version here.  This week’s theme, “The Jew of Pooh”!

Parsha narrative overviews are usually here, but I skipped this week – sorry!
Copywork and parsha activities available at this page – updated weekly (except I skipped this week – back to normal after Pesach, I promise!).

image Where there’s bees, there’s honey – so fine!

“Mmmm,” thought Pooh Bear, “I must make it mine.”

Up and up he sailed through the sky;

“Uh-oh,” he thought, as leaves rushed by.

“They’re awfully close – that’s not a good sign!”


“I just wanted honey,” thought Pooh, thought he.

So hard to reach – as he swayed past the tree.

“Oh, dear,” he thought, as bees came near;

imageBuzzing right around his ear.

“Oh, ouch!  It seemed like a fine plan to me!”


  Now Christopher Robin, a friend indeed.

Came by and asked, “Why, what do you need?”

“Silly old Pooh,” Christopher sighed.

At his good friend with stuffing inside.

And he got Pooh down; at last he was freed.


“I just wanted honey,” said Pooh, all sad.

“I didn’t mean to make the bees mad.”

“Well, why not just say so?” said Christopher R.

“You certainly needn’t have gone quite so far.”

“You just have to ask – you’d prefer if you had.”


image “Oh,” said Pooh, with a simple soft shrug.

“Perhaps I will,” and he turned with a tug;

“Do you have any?” he asked his good friend,

So his story here comes to a fine end.

Curled up home with honey:  safe, warm and snug.


image There’s a right way and wrong, Hashem says this week;

For Aharon’s sons taught the lesson we seek.

There’s a time and a place for every good thing;

Korbanos are great when Hashem says to bring,

If not, a punishment too scary to speak.


Tzaddikim both, but his sons kind of blew it.

Hashem taught them how, and surely they knew it;

Unlike Pooh, they both had brains inside,

Not stuffing, perhaps, but maybe false pride;

Thought they were great – “so hurry, let’s do it!”


image Hashem is a good friend on whom we rely;

So we want and we ask and we heed His reply.

All Pooh had to do was to ask a friend;

And honey was his very sweet end.

But true sweetness is knowing Hashem is nearby.

שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Going to Shul? A guide for goyim!

imageI wrote this in response to a question from somebody wanting to visit a synagogue for a Passover service, but thought it would make a great post topic, while I’ve got the non-Jews swarming around hating me over my “Feasts” posts.  :-)

If I have used any words you don’t know (yet!), please check out this fine glossary.

So you’re thinking of going to synagogue – Great!!!

What’s the best day to go?

Hands down, I think you want a MORNING service.  Evening services can be lovely, but tend to be more intimate.  Save it for later.  Go when you will be as close to anonymous as possible!

Most synagogues (Orthodox, Conservative and most Reform - and it is REFORM, without the "ed"; apparently, it offends them :-) ) have big morning services on Shabbat and all holy days.

(As an aside, the Jewish day starts at sunset the evening before; that's why the first DAY of Passover this year is Tuesday when the first NIGHT is Monday.  Confusing!  So Shabbat starts on Friday evening, and continues until sunset on Saturday.)

These services are almost indistinguishable - ie without knowing a lot of Hebrew, a Passover service is going to feel almost exactly like a Shabbat service. 

There are very few changes for holidays:  small variations in the Amidah, the silent prayer, and its repetition; a holiday theme to the sermon; and a holiday orientation to the Torah readings.  However, by "holiday orientation," depending on what time and what day, it could be a reading describing Temple sacrifices for that holiday, so not exactly tons of fun.  And the Torah reading is all in Hebrew.

I'd suggest that Shabbat is a better time to attend a Jewish service for the first time than a holiday.  Even in an Orthodox synagogue, weekday holiday services are usually less well-attended than Shabbat services because people (sigh) have to work.  More so in non-Orthodox congregations.

What kind of synagogue should I choose?

In terms of visiting a synagogue, please consider choosing an Orthodox one. 

Not just so you can see and hear the full, ancient liturgy, but because it is where you are most likely to find literate Jews who are aware of the rituals and meaning behind prayer.  In other synagogues, you may find either watered-down liturgy or disinterested, bored, unengaged Jews.  I sure wish it weren’t so, and there are surely exceptions both ways, but that is my experience.

However, (as with a full Latin mass) the trade-off is that there's less English, more unfamiliar stuff going on... and also, perhaps, people who are slightly less open to your presence.  Not unfriendly, perhaps, but visitors are less common in these communities, and depending on the size of the synagogue, it can be a tight-knit group.

Whenever I visit churches, people are lovely and shake my hand and welcome me (not just during the sign of peace!), but this usually doesn't happen in synagogues.  You may be left alone; don't take it personally, though I apologize if you get a crowd like some I’ve seen, where most of the people are there to shmooze with their friends rather than with God.

Can I bring my kids?

(the person emailing me asked about specifically about a 7-year-old boy)

If I were you, I would hold off on bringing kids until you have been there once or twice, so you can direct them a bit and also know what the best timing is in terms of when to arrive.  Arrive?  Oh, yeah...

I should come on time, right?

You’d think so, wouldn’t you!

Whether a synagogue morning service is called for 8:30 or 9:00 or whenever, most people don't show up at the stated time. 

Reform is the most on-time; Conservative, people file in quietly anytime before the Torah reading; in Orthodox synagogues, people tend to come and go seemingly at random.  In general, the more observant the crowd, the less decorum in the "churchy" sense of the word.

Showing up at the starting time can mean a very long haul.  This is another reason to go without kids first.  See what time the Torah reading is; see what time most people show up, and then your child will have a more pleasant experience.

How long does it take?

Even if you come late, services are LONG, so be prepared!  Two hours is not uncommon and three and even four are not unheard-of.  Reform and Conservative services are slightly more streamlined to get you out of there in time for lunch.


After services, there’s usually a communal “snack” called Kiddush.  You’re welcome to join in, especially if you want to meet some people (you may or may not see the rabbi there, depending on the congregation).  But you don’t have to – sneak out if you want to; I doubt anyone will be offended.  Kiddush can range from cookies and grape juice to an all-out hot-food buffet.  In some Orthodox synagogues, Kiddush is also sex-segregated.  Follow the lead of other people the same as you.

What else should I know?

- In an Orthodox synagogue, seating is sex-segregated.  A 7-year-old boy can stay with the ladies, but probably not one over 10, though there's a bit of wiggle room. 
- Sit wherever you want - and can see/hear best! - but the first couple of rows may be reserved for family if there's a Bar Mitzvah.
- Synagogues in general are more formal  than churches.  Dress a bit up.  I didn't tell my husband and he didn't wear a suit.  If you're a man, wear a suit.  You can always dress down the next time you come if it's a casual congregation.
- However, you don't need a hat if you're not a married woman.  If you like hats, and you're going to an Orthodox synagogue, feel free to wear one, but it's not required AT ALL.  In a Conservative or Reform Temple, you'll get stares if you wear a hat - I know because I do.
- Stand when the ark is opened and when the Torah "stands," ie when it's being lifted and carried around.
- During the long, standing silent prayer (longer in Orthodox synagogues than Reform and Conservative), it's okay to sit down even while others are praying.  But always stand up when told to.  ;-)
- I don't think there is anything in the Hebrew prayers that a Christian would feel uncomfortable saying "Amen" to.  We pronounce it "aw-men," not "ay-men."  :-)

They’re staring at me!!!

Wherever you go (and I do hope I haven't discouraged you!), if you're not white, you can expect a few heads bobbing around to look at you.  I hate that that is true, but the fact is that historically, most Jews ARE white.  Ashkenazim are pale-whitey-white, and Sefardim are more Arab-looking, but we're all mostly shades of pink and beige.  We love converts, we welcome born Jews who are all- or part-anything, so there is no racial hostility built into the faith, BUT it just so happens that other colours are less common.  (my cousin is Chinese but also born Jewish - and yes, she gets "looks" sometimes)