Friday, June 29, 2012

Short Parsha Riddles: Chukas / חֻקַּת

בְּמִדְבַּר / Bamidbar / Numbers 19:1-22:1

Click for printable PDF version.

Don’t forget to read my Parsha Poem and parsha overview, plus this very easy snake craft project.  Plus… copywork and parsha activities – something for every week of the year!

Art credit:  Once again, actual original artwork, specially commissioned from a talented illustrator on fiverr

image פָּרָשָׁת חֻקַּת
for Parshas Chukas
בְּמִדְבַּר / Bamidbar / Numbers 19:1-22:1


The parsha teaches about a red heifer,
A word that only rhymes with zephyr;
An easier word you can say for it now,
‘Cuz a heifer is really a girl kind of __________!


This may be a source of infernal frustration;
But please guess the meaning of the word “lustration.”
Does it mean envy, purity, festivity, wrath…
Or maybe the steam that escaped from your bath?


The mitzvos we learn from the Torah so dear,
Six-thirteen we read in our shuls each year.
But only three different kinds – what a shock;
Mishpatim and eidos, and those called a __________!


Moshe lived for honesty, and not for petty lies,
But Aharon’s death was news the Jews accepted with surprise;
In fact, they couldn’t believe him at first –
So how did Hashem help them realize the worst?


It’s very strange to think Hashem would take a man to task,
For messing up a little thing that He would deign to ask;
And yet we know He holds tzaddikim higher than the rest,
And we can see that Moshe here had failed to do his best. 
What was his mistake?


In many ways we’re all confused with what this parsha teaches,
And many different folks all come to help explore its reaches;
When Moshe hit the rock so hard, to quench the masses’ thirst,
He got water the second time, but what came out the first???


STUMPED?? Here are some answers: 
[ 1 ] Cow!  Do Torah translators get paid for finding fancier words???
[ 2 ] Purity.  The red heifer ritual was used to create “waters of lustration.”  Google it – it’s true!  Speaking of fancy words…
[ 3 ] Chok (see Devarim 4:45).
[ 4 ] They couldn’t believe that Aharon, who’d helped them defeat death and was more beloved than Moshe, was gone.  Some even claimed Moshe murdered him.  Hashem showed them a vision of Aharon on his deathbed, which quelled the rumours. (Rashi 20:29)
[ 5 ] He hit the rock instead of speaking to it (20:11).
[ 6 ] Blood.  The midrash in Shemos Rabba (13:3) introduces this based on a verse in Tehillim (78:20).  Somewhat convoluted, but fascinating!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thtupid-Word Thursday: Cloths / Clothes

WRONG: “I Have my own business, Desiging hats and dog cloths.”  Um, in so many ways, wrong, even setting aside what society has forgotten:  that it is reasonably Weird for Dogs to wear stuff.

Here it is – visual and easy:



Really, which would YOU want to wear???

If you Google images for cloths, you will find, mostly clothes (a couple of loin cloths, so don’t google it while the kiddies are around!).  Here’s a YouTube video offering to “stretch UR $” by turning “WINTER kids cloths into SUMMER cloths” – sounds easy to me, though perhaps you’d want to dye them a lighter, pastellier shade.  And this is a reasonably moronic thread discussing “Parents and their kids cloths.”  Argh.

Kind of along the same lines, and misused in the same way, are Breath and Breathe.



It’s okay, I tell myself.  Just take a deep breathe.  Don’t forget to breath, I say… don’t forget.

Two more for Superman Sam…

Please daven for Shmuel Asher ben haRav Pesah Esther.

DSC03368With the photos we sent the other day, I had Ted draw a cartoon of Sam himself in superhero getup.  I think it turned out great!  Of course, Ted had no idea why I wanted to take a picture of the picture, given that it was printed from the very computer where I now sit and type this.

But to me, there’s something REAL about a photograph that you don’t get from a JPG.

So here it is – real as all get out.  I packed the cartoon between two pieces of cardstock for safekeeping, then got scared that they’d think it was JUST blank cardstock, so I wrote “open me” or something stupid on both sides of the cardstock.  Wish I’d included a frame, but that would cost way too much to mail.

And THEN… well, I opened up First Language Lessons, our grammar book, and in a perfect confluence of the stars, our “lesson” for the day was to address an envelope!  How perfect is that?  However, Naomi refused to use the WI postal abbreviation for Wisconsin.  I think it was just so exotic and wonderful, sending off a package to a faraway land.  (the last time she had to write out her address, I had her do it on a small envelope and tucked in a secret message for her; then, we timed how long it took to get from the mailbox a block away to our house – 2 days!)

Anyway, here’s her envelope – I think she did a great job! 

 Dsc03369 mod

(We actually only have about 13 FLL lessons left and then we are “graduating” to Book 2!!!)

Anyway, Sam’s ima-on-the-bima says he doesn’t really need more packages right now (now she tells me!).  But if you want to help their hospital, the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, here is a great list of ideas.  There’s also a wish list at the Ronald McDonald House where they’re being hosted.  She has a few other suggestions for how you can help as well…

So that’s how one little Canadian homeschooler is reaching out this week…

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gavriel Zev’s Alef-Bais Siyum (okay, party)

GZ AlefBais SiyumInvite mod Once again, we’re planning an Alef-Bais Siyum – just an excuse to plan a party, really, and what better time to do it than right at the end of the school year as friends and family are sort of drifting away for exciting summer plans?

Just as I did for Naomi, I made a video of Gavriel Zev's wiggle worm letters and of him singing the entire alef-bais. 

Their different temperaments really shine through in these.  It was tough to pin him down, and a measure of how keyed up he is about this party that he actually condescended to (sort of) sing his alef-bais song properly on camera (he rebelled a bit by pointing to the wrong letters as he sang).

If you live within driving distance and you’re free this Sunday, you’re welcome to join us, of course!

Here’s the video from Naomi’s siyum, if you’re interested.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Shiva Asar b’Tammuz, Tisha b’Av and the Three Weeks – for kids


This is an overview of shiva asar b’Tammuz, Tisha b’Av and the Three Weeks which I wrote many, many years ago for my old Geocities website (I’m dating myself here… does anyone still remember Geocities?).

I have gone over it a bit (I didn’t have an electronic copy anymore, so I had to type it in), but the style is still a little different from what I usually do.  But it’s hopefully somewhat fun and somewhat functional and a good way to introduce these topics.

For this time of year, I really recommend Round and Round the Jewish Year (link is to a different volume in the set), a series I use quite a bit anyway, because it has a lot of information even for months that aren’t really dealt with as much in kids’ material.  And they show girls, and mommies!  (here’s a previous review)  However, the selection for Tisha b’Av does contain the rather grisly, and lengthy, story of Titus’s Death by Mosquito.  Avoid if your kids are sensitive.

In any event, my overview is here now – hope it’s useful to somebody!  (and let me know if you spot any boo-boos!)

For grownups, I also recommend checking out my Tisha b’Av FAQ, which always starts heating up at this time of year.  All the questions folks are afraid to ask their frummie neighbours but don’t mind asking Rav Google.

  • To download this and hundreds of other Limudei Kodesh (Jewish) printables – including weekly parsha copywork and holiday resources, click here.
  • For General Studies printables, including science, art and music resources in Hebrew and English, Ambleside, composer and artist resources, click here.

Hey!  Now you can click through and LIKE my new facebook page.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What’s the deal with Midrash?

How should we teach midrash as Jewish parents and educators???

Someone posted a great question in the comments section of this post.  Perhaps she had noticed that in the parsha overviews, I generally introduce midrash and other non-pshat elements (NPEs?) with the words the words “some people think” or something similar. 

Here’s what she wrote:

Can you explain to me the issue with Midrash? I keep seeing this amongst a lot of homeschoolers and I don't understand. When you say "some people say" it sounds like you are negating the authenticity and value of those Rabbis who wrote these texts as well as what those texts say. Rashi often uses Midrashic texts to elucidate the pshat.

I answered this briefly in the comments section, but honestly, there are a couple of interesting parts here:

  1. What’s “the issue” with MidrashBy which I assume she means, why not just include it so it flows along with the story like some other parsha books and websites do…?
  2. Is this an issue among homeschoolers in particular?
  3. By introducing midrashim with a caveat, are we negating the authenticity and value of those Rabbis who wrote these texts as well as what those texts say?

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a rabbi.  In fact, I keep hinting that I’d like a sweatshirt printed with those very words, and I do have a birthday coming up this winter… something like this:


It would be arrogant to suggest that I know everything about everything, or that I know better than anyone else.  But I have been sitting quietly and watching the frum world for some time.  And I have had kids in every level of Jewish education, so I’ve also seen what goes on in yeshivas, bais Yaakov schools, day schools, and elsewhere.

So here’s where I begin answering Question 1:

There’s no “issue.”  Happily - just like Rashi, I love Midrash (if you don’t know what midrash is, please click the link and read a bissl before going on…!) (if you haven’t time for that article, you can read this definition

I was so excited when, after growing up Conservative and thinking I knew what Torah was all about, I realized I had no clue.  In the religion I was brought up in, we sat in our seats and read along with the pshat, and the divrei Torah would either be about the text itself (shallow, but tied into the modern world and made relevant to our lives) or about something midrashic (ie elite rabbinical knowledge that most of us couldn’t even begin to fathom).  Finding books and books and BOOKS of midrashim was both eye-opening and liberating in the extreme.

However, unlike Rashi, I can’t even begin to claim to know and understand ALL of the midrashim on a particular word or passuk. 

And the trouble is that many of the midrashim contradict each other - for instance, how old was Rivka was when she married Yitzchak?  Any yeshiva kid these days will quote the midrash that Rashi brought and tell you she was three!  Which is a great understanding of ONE particular midrash, but which overlooks others which may be equally authoritative. (see DovBear for details)

Look at the story of Pesach Sheini a few weeks ago.  A midrash says that the men who were tamei and approached Moshe were Eltzafan and Mishael, the cousins who’d removed the bodies of Nadav and Avihu from the Kodesh HaKodashim.  Now, maybe they were, but there’s another midrash that says the men were the bearers of Yosef’s bones. 

I suppose I could include ALL the midrashim… um, no, I couldn’t.  There are too many, the conflicts would be confusing, and my goal with the parsha overviews is to keep every single one down to a single 8.5 x 11 piece of paper.  (that’s very, VERY hard sometimes!)

Another example might be the story of the Mekoshesh Eitzim (wood gatherer) in parshas Shlach.  There’s a midrash (I think it’s actually in Pinchas) that he was Tzelofchad, father of the righteous daughters.  This is NOT as authoritative as the actual Torah text, but I don’t want to be one of these people who dismisses something as “only” a midrash, either.

Which sort of brings me to Question 3.

I’ve heard many people use the expression “that’s only a midrash.”  I don’t like it.  Only???  For an interpretation that’s been preserved for thousands of years: transmitted orally, written down (before the printing press, this was a HUGE deal – people were very selective about what they recorded and only the very best and most important was preserved), studied, quoted by Rashi and other giants.

Midrash is part of Torah she b’al peh, Oral Torah, which I believe was received on Har Sinai and transmitted to every generation since.  So there’s no “only” here.

But while Rashi had the skills to pick and choose midrashim to support his views; I don't, and neither do most baalei teshuvah - frankly, neither do most FFBs I've met. 

On top of which, there is a movement afoot within the frum world to say "the midrash" and mean “a single indisputably authoritative set of comments and stories-behind-the-pshat that precisely supports our current worldview and practices.”  Just as there is a trend toward blurring in matters of halacha vs minhag vs chumra (which is the subject of a whole ‘nother potential post), most people teach (especially to kids and baalei teshuva!) pshat and midrash interchangeably.

I don’t like that.  I have no disrespect for Rashi or (chas v’shalom!) for the earlier rabbis who transmitted these midrashim, yet I have trouble respecting educators who don’t mention sources and teach single midrashim as if they are the only ones students need concern themselves with.

Of course many of these traditional midrashim are valuable - for kids and adults - and I also believe that in some cases, the pshat is very hard or even impossible to understand without them.  So I don't AVOID midrash, but I want my kids to understand as well the idea of "eilu v'eilu divrei elokim chayim." (these AND these are the words of the living G-d, in case anybody's still reading), in other words: "Some people believed this, others, it's implied (I think), do not."

I do try to bring in many major, ie "popular" midrashim (or, as DovBear would call them, "lucky" midrashim).  But I DO want my kids to know that few of these have the same authority as the pshat and that, in fact, some are quite puzzling (Rivka was 3 years old?!?).

Which is how we come to the hidden question, number 2, which I didn’t even NOTICE when I was replying initially:

Question 2) Is this a homeschool thing???

Darn tootin’ right it is!  If you are seeing this phenomenon “amongst a lot of homeschoolers” it’s because the Jewish education system out there is substandard, not just at transmitting secular education, which it is, often woefully so (though of course there are exceptional schools that DO get it right!), but at transmitting the nuance and richness of Jewish tradition itself.  Ironically, since this is their presumed purpose.

As a homeschooler, I often think about what hard work it is (okay, cynically, I wonder to what extent I’m wasting my time and energy), reinventing the wheel, so to speak, when folks have been educating children Jewishly quite nicely for millennia.  We were literate through the middle ages, at a time when nobody but a few Irish monks knew how to read and write – right?  We set up a system of yeshivos at the very earliest dawn of our present galus – right?  And at a time when women barely had any rights, Sarah Schenirer – right?  We have it all, educationally… right?

My personal theory is that in modernizing Jewish education and attempting to embrace the best of secular education (in the name of accreditation, high school diplomas, etc., which are not in themselves bad things), Jewish schools, which did indeed have a time-tested and reliable model, began emulating non-Jewish schools and perhaps also cutting corners, Jewishly, to make room for all the “new” subjects that had to be included.  They’ll tell you they haven’t, and indeed, the secular programs may be great or terrible – either way, I believe Jewish education has suffered – or should I say, become more streamlined and efficient.

If you’re looking for efficiency, it’s definitely quicker to say, “here’s the midrash.”  Later on, there are courses in Mikraos Gedolos (if you’re a girl, and good enough in chumash) so you can get a sense of the nuance behind it, if you’re lucky. 

Of course, that part is just my theory about where things started to go wrong.  If you have a different theory, I’d love to hear it.  I’m not a rabbi, not a mechanech, I’m just one view from the trenches of Jewish parenthood – among many more qualified, I’m sure.

What I do know is this:  one of the nice things about homeschooling, if you do it right, is that there’s TIME.  Sometimes, lots and lots of time.  Efficiency isn’t the idol it has become in modern education.  I don’t care much that Naomi Rivka and I won’t finish Lech Lecha next month – or that it’s taken us nearly a year to learn the 17 pessukim we’ve covered so far.  What makes me happy is that she has REALLY learned them, and that we don’t move on until she has. 

Same with parsha.  I’ve seen kids in schools rush through parsha in half an hour on a rushed winter Friday.  We have had schools and teachers that do better – that visit it maybe twice a week; if they get to it early enough that kids can think about it for a day or two before Shabbos, that’s wonderful.  But we’ve also had weeks, many of them, when it didn’t get done. 

And that’s just parsha, which is most kids’ introduction to chumash, and perhaps the friendliest way to begin inching through the thing, 1/54th at a time.  There are other huge gaps I won’t even go into right now, like the halacha teacher who told me there was no time in his year’s schedule to cover hilchos Pesach.  I believe it; that totally wasn’t his fault, but it is sad that kids don’t learn hilchos Pesach past the age of, say, eight.  Oops – did I say I wasn’t going into it?

So yes, it’s true.  Saying “some people believe” to introduce a midrash is definitely a can of worms.  It implies that some people DON’T believe whatever the midrash is that you’re teaching, which is true.  But those aren’t just ANY people.  Like the Ibn Ezra, they were gedolim and tzaddikim of their eras, and they disagreed with each other but still preserved each other’s words, in the same way that we eat the “Hillel sandwich” at the seder – because of Hillel’s gadlus even though we don’t, in this case, pasken his way.  I believe this helps give our kids a sense that our path, when we learn Torah, is a well-worn and trustworthy one.  Though there are twists and turns, we are all walking in the same direction, together.

It sure does take longer to learn parsha this way.  Potentially, a lot longer.  Because sooner or later, a kid is going to ask about the people who DON’T believe Yitzchak was 37 at the akeidah, or who aren’t sure whether Avraham Avinu followed all the mitzvos as we know them today. 

Personally, I’d rather open that can of worms – though worms is a bad analogy.  Rather, I see it as opening a door for discussion, rather than closing the door by presenting a single-midrash view of the world that is unstable and easily ridiculed by the uneducated.  Choosing to homeschool means, in addition to supporting your child’s education in any way possible, rejoicing in opening doors to the bigger, broader world of Yiddishkeit beyond your home, school, shul, and community.

As I said in the comments section:  I hope this approach makes sense to at least a few people who are not me.  ;-)

Agree or disagree?  I’d love to hear from other parents.  How do YOU share midrash with your kids???

New Bilam and Balak Printable PDF Book


Well, not exactly new – but just in time for next week’s parsha, Balak!  This is just about the same story as last year (and every year, because the Torah hasn’t changed much… ;-)).  But I have splurged (um, thank to Fiverr and unemployed cartoonists willing to draw anything for $5!) and commissioned semi-exciting new graphics that you may enjoy somewhat more than the stolen graphics in last year’s edition.

If you use this site's resources and want to help support my Fiverr habit (ie acquiring legitimate, fun images to use for the parsha summaries, riddles and mini-books like these), please click...
  • Download this and many other mini-books and parsha/holiday resources from my Limudei Kodesh (Jewish Studies) page, here.  (scroll down or search the page for “Balak”)
  • For general-studies downloads and printables, including bilingual Hebrew-English science resources, click here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Win a FREE copy of Morah, Morah, Teach Me Torah – plus an author interview! GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!  The winner is Elissa/Elisa.  Please contact me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com within 3 days (before Tuesday, July 10th) with your mailing information.  In the event that I don’t hear from you within that time, I will draw another winner.  Thanks!!!

I bought Morah, Morah, Teach Me Torah just before Shavuos (literally, minutes before the bookstore closed) and have been enjoying it weekly ever since.  I don’t look at it before I write my parsha overviews, but I do read it when I’m planning what sorts of things to do with my kids in connection with the parsha.  It’s also something I can read with them if I choose. 
There are so many reasons I like this book!  Despite the very cute picture on the cover, it’s not just for teeny-weeny kids.  It features simple songs (if you know basic tunes to kids’ songs in English, like Mary Had a Little Lamb, or The Ants Come Marching, you can sing these songs!), parsha summaries, activity ideas, Shabbos-table discussion topics, crafts and lots more.
But why take my word for it…?  I contacted one of the authors, Nechama Retting, and she has agreed to send a free copy to one reader, anywhere in the world.  Plus, she was very, very nice about answering my nosy questions.  So check out what she has to say about the book, and then enter the giveaway at the bottom of the page.
Contest ends motzaei Shabbos, July 7th.  There will be one winner, announced at the top of this post, on Monday, July 9th.  I will contact the winner to get an address for shipping.  Please allow several weeks for shipping directly from the author.
And remember, you can still enter to win (and keep on tweeting if you’ve already entered) my other giveaway, for a set of Aleph-Bet Stix!!!

JML = Jennifer in MamaLand; NR = Nechama Retting
JML: What is Morah, Morah, Teach Me Torah? What makes it special?
NR: Morah, Morah Teach Me Torah! is a multi-media guide to help teachers and families learn about Parashat Hashavuah (the weekly Torah portion) throughout the year. There were many books on the market that covered Beresheet and Shemot, but very few that covered all 5 books of the Torah (only a few from the frum community).  We also wanted to have suggested activities to help make learning Torah fun for all ages. Then we created a Family Parasha Discussion page for each parasha that helps families have a summary of the parasha and a few discussion questions designed for Shabbat table discussions. Plus our fun little songs to help children remember information! :)
JML: Who's using the book?
NR: Baruch Hashem, we have heard from many people who love the book! There is even a Hillel that is using it as a basis for their Torah study with college students. We have also heard from parents who use it in homeschooling, teachers in Day schools, preschools, also Tot Shabbat leaders and Religious School teachers and even lay leaders who use it for their youth services!
JML: For what ages and grades is it most appropriate?
NR: It was written for Early Childhood (which encompasses ages 2-8) but we’ve heard from many others using it, too!
JML: What's your own Jewish background?
NR: Tobey and I both teach in a Conservative Congregational School. I also teach in an Orthodox Religious School. Tobey comes from a traditional Conservative background and reads Torah regularly at the Conservative shul where we teach. I am the product of a mixed marriage, and didn't really begin my Jewish journey until I was a young adult. I have become more observant over the years and now define myself as “Conservadox.” Since there is no Modern Orthodox shul in my Community, I go back and forth between the Conservative shul and Chabad which are both walking distance from my house.
JML: Tell me a little about your own family.
NR: Tobey is married and has 2 grown children. I am also married and have 5 children ranging in age from 10-24.
JML: For how long have you been teaching?  What's your favourite age to teach?
NR: Tobey has been teaching for over 25 years and LOVES teaching Pre-K children. I have been teaching for 18 years and have enjoyed teaching children between the ages of 3-8. I currently teach a 3-4's class, a 2nd grade Hebrew school class, and a multi-age Hebrew school class – all of which I am really enjoying!
JML: How did you two come up with the idea of releasing this parsha curriculum as a book?
NR: Tobey and I lead a Kaballat Shabbat program at our school and found it challenging to find child-centered information about the weekly parasha, so we started writing our own. I had always wanted to write a “Parasha with a Project” kind of book, so as we started compiling we realized we had a pretty cool thing that we should try and share with others!
JML: How long did it take you to put this book together?
NR: I'm not sure how long it took to put it together, since we sort of wrote it as we went along (so at least a year), and then we compiled it and edited during one summer.
JML: Was it easy to find a publisher for the book?
NR: Finding a publisher was not so hard since there are not a lot of Jewish publishers out there! We were very blessed that Torah Aura Publications wanted to publish it!
JML: What's the best part about the book, in your opinion?
NR: My favorite part of the book is the Family Parasha Discussion pages because, in our current world, we've found that in a lot of cases, the kids know more than the parents when it comes to Torah study. So this way, our kids are teaching their parents about Torah. This is a very important component of our book: helping families learn together. The parasha summary and discussion questions are like a cheat sheet for mom and dad if they need it! :)
JML: What was the hardest part to write? And how do you teach parsha in situations where there isn't a straightforward “storyline”?
NR: I think the hardest parts to write were the parshiot in Vayikra, because there is a lot of rule repetition so we really had to challenge ourselves to come up with different multi-media ideas to engage the kids. You know how EC kids like repetition! When there is no straightforward storyline, we just chose something from the parasha that we thought would be meaningful to the children and that they would be able to apply to their own lives. Sometimes it was learning about Lashon hara (gossip), using the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. We can have a meaningful discussion about how our words, or our tone of voice, can hurt people; this is just one example.
JML: Are you working on any other books or new projects at the moment?
NR: We have other things we've written which are available on our website We’re currently working on a Holiday Service Guide to use throughout the year. I teach Tot Shabbat each week, plus have led youth services for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach, and Shavuot. Plus, I write a free monthly newsletter for Shlock Rock that talks about Torah, Mitzvot, Middot, Israel and the Holidays. Anyone is welcome to join the newsletter list; just email me!
JML: Tell me something homeschooling parents might not know about introducing very young kids to concepts in the Torah...!
NR: No one is too old or too young to learn from the Torah! When you sing the Shema to your infant, that is learning from the Torah. When you buy or make a plush Torah for your child to play with, that is instilling Torah into your child's life. When you remind your 2 year old to be kind, that is Torah! :) Torah is everywhere, we just need to point it out! :)   
Thanks so much for your interest in our book!
And I’m sure you’re VERY interested by now… so here’s how you can enter to win:
(Ummm, okay, timeout for a sad little warning – a giveaway is a great thing, and there are certain things that are requested in order for you to join in.  It has come to my attention (waah!) that people are entering by just SAYING they have done certain things, like tweeted or followed or liked or whatever, when they actually haven’t.  Sure, that is easier.  But is it honest?  Is there something weird about wanting a product to teach your kids about the Torah’s lessons by CHEATING?  Hmm.  When I enter a giveaway on someone else’s site, I have the good manners to follow the steps asked of me.  I hope you will, too!) 

Chukas Parsha Summary: “Okay, whatever you say!”

This is a basic overview of the parsha story in a format that can be adapted for a wide range of ages. Sources include parsha text, commentaries and midrash.  When introducing midrash or other non-pshat elements, I use the words “some people think” or something similar.

Please see the Vayeishev overview for how we use these narratives  in our homeschool.  I also have copywork sheets to go with the weekly parsha… enjoy!


image How were bnei Yisrael like teenagers…?

Since they came out of Mitzrayim, they’ve had three strong leaders: Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. Now they’re learning to do things for themselves, for a time when they won’t have those leaders anymore.

Do you remember the word tamei?

A few weeks ago, we read that people who were near a dead body couldn’t bring a korban Pesach – they were טָמֵא/tamei. The opposite of tamei is טָהוֹר/tahor. Sometimes people explain these words as “clean” or “unclean.” But you could be very, very clean – with soap and everything! – and still be tamei.

Kohanim who were tamei couldn’t bring korbanos or work in the Mishkan.

In the time of the Mishkan, things were different from today. The way of making people tahor again seems strange to us – it’s called a חֹק/chok, a rule we don’t understand. Nobody knows how it worked – but it did. Here’s how people became tahor again:

  • · A kohein would bring a פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה/para aduma, a red cow that never worked, to the Mishkan
  • · The kohein takes the cow outside the camp and shechts it (kills it in a special way)
  • · The kohein sprinkles its blood, then burns the cow’s body with branches and wool
  • · Ashes from the cow’s body, mixed with water, are sprinkled on a person – who becomes tahor!

Many of the Torah’s rules make sense – but not the Para Aduma.

We keep Shabbos because Hashem did. Pesach helps us remember yetzias Mitzrayim. But a chok is like when parents say, “you don’t understand, but do it anyway.” At Har Sinai, we said naaseh v’nishma – we’ll do it first and ask later. We do what Hashem asks, even if we don’t understand.

Remember: “Okay, whatever you say, we will obey, right away!” (try it on parents, too!)

Now, something terrible happens. Miriam the neviah, Moshe and Aharon’s sister, dies in the midbar. Everyone loved her – they are terribly sad. But when they get thirsty, they realize – the well has dried up! The water had come through Miriam’s zechus – she was so great, she earned it for everybody.

In the midbar, people would die quickly without water!

Bnei Yisrael were used to being taken care of. Hashem had given them man and water and kept them safe. But now they were scared – so they did something rude. When a relative dies, we are aveilim: too sad to do regular work. But bnei Yisrael interrupted to complain about water. (Did you think they were done complaining when Hashem proved Moshe & Aharon were His chosen leaders?)

derp_mosesBut: Hashem asks His tzaddikim to be better than other people.

Hashem showed Moshe a rock and said to speak to it and the rock would give water. But when Moshe took the people there, maybe he was sad, or angry, he HIT the rock.

Is that what Hashem asked him to do???

Water came out – but Moshe was still punished. Moshe did not behave like a tzaddik or a good leader, so Hashem said that he and Aharon could not lead the way into eretz Yisrael. They would never get to go to the land. Have you or your friends ever been to Israel? Moshe never did.

Moshe & Aharon were now old men.

Moshe took Aharon and his son Elazar up on a mountain. Elazar put on the bigdei kehunah – he was kohein gadol now. Aharon died, and everyone wept. Some say Aharon was loved best for being a rodeif shalom: ending fights and helping enemies become friends.

But Moshe was still alive, wandering with bnei Yisrael through the midbar.

Some kings feared Hashem and let bnei Yisrael cross their land; others were stubborn and refused. When the king of Edom refused, they went the long way around instead of fighting. Some people complained to Moshe that they’d be wandering lost forever – they even called the man “rotten bread!”

Hashem sent snakes to bite the complainers. Everyone who was bitten died!

Once more, the people did teshuvah and begged Moshe to save them. Moshe made a copper snake (the word snake, nachash/נְחַשׁ, is inside the word copper, nechoshes/נְחֹשֶׁת!), held up on a pole. Everyone who looked at the copper snake was healed.

The next time a king refused, Hashem told them to fight!

They fought Sichon and the Emori people, and won – so they went through that land, and others, too.

So some of the other kings in the area started to get nervous…as we will see next week!

On Sam’s Superhero Team!

You-all know that Naomi Rivka is much more of a princess kind of gal, but she has happily (kind of) donned Gavriel Zev’s Superman pyjama shirt (the bottoms were lost years ago) to pose for pictures we are mailing to “Superman Sam,” son of Phyllis “Ima on the Bima” Somer down in Wisconsin, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia a few weeks ago.

Naomi Rivka, 7, Toronto, Canada - normally more of a princess, posing in her brother's Superman shirt for Sam!!! Naomi Rivka, 7, Toronto, Canada

You can join Sam’s superhero team, too!  Here’s how.  More ideas here.  (just don’t ask Dr. Google…)

May Shmuel Asher ben HaRav Pesah Esther have a refuah sheleimah, a complete and speedy recovery.

First Parsha Copywork


This has been an exciting couple of weeks of firsts for Gavriel Zev.  Little things, not anything anyone would notice unless they are with him every day and notice he is changing and growing (inside).

I think a big part of it has to do with being outdoors – almost all day, every day.  And the freedom to go outside basically whenever he chooses.  Naomi Rivka is jealous, but she’s out there a lot, and I think being alone and being outside are helping Gavriel Zev immensely.

So yes, this is his first copywork of any kind, parsha or otherwise, and I’m rather pleased with how he did.  I told him there were four of each word, but that he only had to do two.  At first, he announced – as he always does – that he was going to do all of them.  But I said he should do two of each and then go back and do more if he wanted to… because I know how that turns out; he bites off more than he can chew and then gets discouraged.

Anyway, he did two of each, and even coloured the stick at the bottom of the page and then announced he was done.  Dayeinu.  There will be many more to come, I’m sure.

Want to read about his first challah???

I am here from the future…

…and I come bearing ground pecans!


Before Shabbos (on Friday, June 22nd), Ted rummaged around in the freezer and found his trusty baggie of ground pecans for baking Shabbos honey-mustard salmon… and the date on the baggie said June 23rd.  Yes, I made him throw them away and start with fresh pecans.  And I made him stand and have his picture taken.

Does your freezer have any delightful surprises?

Summertime Gnocchi Pesto for Shabbos Lunch! (with Gnocchi recipe)

Mmm… this was great; truly classic light Shabbos lunch fare.  Another delicious new favourite from the Kosher by Design Teens & 20-Somethings cookbook… (that’s a link to BUY the cookbook, but you can find the complete recipe here).

Basically, you round up all the basil your garden has to offer, throw in a half-cup of pecans, some garlic, sea salt, olive oil, lemon juice and mayo, whir it up in the blender…

 DSC03325 DSC03326 DSC03327

… and then toss it with a whole bunch of store-bought gnocchi!  What?  No store-bought gnocchi handy?  No store sells it near you?  Kosher store-bought gnocchi costs a ridiculous $6 for half a pound???  Make it yourself – it’s easy! 

No recipe for this, but here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 organic potatoes, preferably russet or another baking variety, scrubbed and poked with a fork
  • Salt, kosher or sea salt or whatever you like
  • 1 egg
  • all-purpose flour, maybe a couple of cups?
  • Big pot of seasoned / salted / oiled water (see recipe for cooking instructions)

And here’s what I did:

  1. Bake potatoes around 375-400 maybe 45 minutes, until soft through
  2. Peel & mash potatoes, add salt to taste (give crunchy peels to big kids to snack on as they get ready for Shabbos)
  3. Add 1 egg
  4. Knead in enough flour to make a kind-of firm dough (it’ll still be a bit sticky – mashed potatoes have a lot of moisture in them)
  5. With plenty of flour on the table, roll 1/4 of the mixture into a long snake and slice into 1”-ish pieces
  6. Toss pieces in flour
  7. If desired, roll against a fork to get “sauce-holding” ridges, if desired; otherwise, they’ll look more like slimy boulders than gnocchi, but they will still taste delicious.
  8. Repeat until all dough is used up.  Flour finished gnocchi generously and either a) freeze in a pan until solid, then toss in a freezer baggie, or b) use right away.
  9. To use, boil big pot of seasoned water and toss 1/2 of gnocchi in.  Cook 3-4 minutes until they float to the surface, then skim from pot with slotted (or holey) spoon to remove to colander or sieve.
  10. Rinse very well in cold running water; further cooking will turn them to mush.
  11. Drain well and toss in bowl with vegetable oil so they don’t stick together.  Handle cooked gnocchi gently; I used a rubber spatula to ensure that I didn’t smush them.
  12. Repeat to cook second half, or save them for another time!

Here’s what the recipe looks like in the cookbook…


Mmm… right?  Well, here’s MY version.  Blah!


Blech!  Yes, they look like slimy boulders coated in bile.  But I assure you, it was absolutely heavenly.  I tossed in some small tomatoes cut in eighths just before serving to brighten it up a bit, and the flavours blended together just perfectly…

This was only my second time having pesto, by the way.  But yet again, it was a delight. 

In other Food Xenophobe news, I ate my first blackberry yesterday.  Needless to say, the USB port gave me quite a shock.  Ha ha ha… I joke. 

No, it was a real blackberry, the fruit kind.  And honestly, I was somewhat underwhelmed.  It tasted like a cross between a delicious raspberry and, um, wine?  Or maybe just a not-so-great raspberry?  Maybe a grape, but there was definitely something earthier in the blackberry.  Earthier and coarse; where a raspberry flavour kind of seems to float ethereally, the blackberry tasted more like it’s tethered to the soil.

Hmm… several websites I just visited have me wondering whether what we have might not be black raspberries, based on the size and shape and the fact that they have a distinctive “rasp” in the centre which leaves them hollow when pulled away from the stem.  Still – not my favourite.

In other news, the real raspberries should be ready very soon – maybe even tomorrow!  And we might even get a few blueberries…!

What yummy stuff is growing in your garden???

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Short Parsha Riddles: Korach / קֹרַח

בְּמִדְבַּר / Bamidbar / Numbers 16:1-18:32

Click for printable PDF version.

Don’t forget to read my Parsha Poem and parsha overview, plus this cool sprouting branch craft project.  Plus… copywork and parsha activities – something for every week of the year!

Art credit:  I am so excited to present actual original artwork, specially commissioned from a talented illustrator on fiverr… I can’t believe I have to pay for art when I live with several talented illustrators.  Nevertheless, I am thrilled with this image!!!

image פָּרָשָׁת קֹרַח
for Parshas Korach
בְּמִדְבַּר / Bamidbar / Numbers 16:1-18:32




clip_image002Korach was a wicked man to argue with Hashem,
So it was his destiny that that was who’d condemn;
He could run to the north and flee to the south,
But he’d never escape the earth’s gaping __________!


We see that Moshe was most humble of men
So when Korach challenged him, what happened then?
Most of us would have just sneered at his thunder,
But Moshe perhaps took a moment to wonder.  Where can we see this?


Hashem will never waste a word,
Yet sometimes wants His rhythms heard;
So the Torah offers poetic touches –
Like in this parsha, repeating “too muches.”  Who says it – each time?


The pans that all the rebels brought were made of holy copper;
So when they died the leaders couldn’t chuck them in the chopper;
Instead Hashem told Elazar to beat them smooth and shiny,
And lay them on the __________, to remind them if they’re whiny.

[5] um, not exactly a BONUS this time…

The kohanim were pure, surely not here at fault,
Given Hashem’s trust just like a bank vault;
And in ancient times when you’d never default,
This praise would be given, this promise exalt.
    What, like Hashem’s word, lasts forever and makes everything “tasty” that comes in contact with it?

image image

STUMPED?? Here are some answers: 
[ 1 ] Mouth.  Yummy?
[ 2 ] When Moshe hears Korach’s charges, he falls on his face.  The first Lubavitcher Rebbe (1745-1812) suggests this is an introspective moment so Moshe can be certain he’s free of pride.
[ 3 ] The first “too much” is Korach, saying leadership is too much for Moshe (16:3).  The second is Moshe telling Korach he’s probably bitten off too much to chew (16:7).
[ 4 ] Mizbeyach.  Do you think it worked???
[ 5 ] Salt (18:19).  In the ancient world, salt was rare and valuable – indeed, it’s the source of the English word “salary.”  Are you really worth your salt???

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Easy Parsha Craft for Korach

We seem to be having an on-top-of-things week around here for a change.  (um, ignore the fact that the kids in the pictures below are wearing pj’s please…!)

DSC03305DSC03301Since I have already read them the parsha overview and both kids did parsha copywork (yay!) about Aharon’s sprouting branch, we followed up with this super-easy craft project today. 

In the parsha, the leaders of all the shevatim (tribes) bring a stick which is left in the Kodesh Hakodashim overnight.  All the staffs are unchanged except Aharon’s, which – in the morning – is sprouting buds, flowers and almonds.  And I thought, “we have all those things… even almonds!!!”

DSC03302So here they are:  sticks.  I wrote “Aharon” on one side of each kid’s stick in Hebrew and “Levi” on the other side.  I cut out leaves from a folded piece of green construction paper, and let the kids make tissue paper buds and flowers (buds = wadded up into a tight ball; flowers = loosely pinched at the base).  Finally, we glued on almonds (use lots of glue!) and left the sticks to dry lying down for a while.

DSC03304(As with any craft project, I recommend Aleene’s Fast Grab or similar “instant” glue – it makes a remarkable difference in the quality of the finished product when you’re dealing with kids’ 2-second attention span.)

When the sticks were mostly dry, after a brief almond snack, then lunch, I had each kid make a lump of dollar-store clay and we stuck the branch into the clay and left it to dry.  These are going to be centrepieces for our Shabbos table.

DSC03315     DSC03308

And the best part of all is, of course, my favourite part of ANY “green” craft project:  when we’re sick of looking at these, we can take them out back and dump them into the composter.  Okay, I worry about the glue, and dyes on the paper.  But honestly, I know for a fact that there are more toxic substances on the peels of the veggies I throw in there.  At least the craft supplies mostly say “non-toxic” on them, although, as I often tell the kids, it’s far cheaper to print the words “non-toxic” on a Dollarama craft item than it is to actually travel to China to see what goes into that item’s production.

All of which should not detract in any way from the greatness of this craft project.  There’s still a day or two to try it out… let me know if you do!!

(Challah crumbs says you can do a similar project with paper towel rolls, but honestly, who doesn’t have a stick nearby???  And half the fun is the REAL almonds – um, unless you have allergies in your house!)


By the way, the book on the table in the background behind the branches is called Dirt is Good For You: True Stories of Surviving Parenthood, a loaner from my friend Rachel, which I’m greatly enjoying.  Just captivatingly fun stories of folks who parent to a slightly different drumbeat.  Not entirely orthodox by any definition, and yet – refreshingly counter to some of the more annoying Parenting Orthodoxies that predominate western culture.

So there you go:  a craft project AND a smart-mama book recommendation to go with it.  Have a great rest-of-week!

Working through the heat!

Despite the temperatures and humidity today, the show goes on through the summer, mostly, with liberal breaks for camp, cottage, playdates, etc. 

DSC03313Here’s Naomi grinning over her Hebrew book.  That’s because it’s super-super-easy.  I mentioned we were switching from Migdalor 2 to Shalom Ivrit 2… well, we DID, and it was going fine, in my opinion.  But Naomi felt overwhelmed; I have no idea why.  Just as had happened in Migdalor, even though the vocabulary was all familiar, and even though she could read it just fine, she’d end up crying.

So I marched out to the store and bought Shalom Ivrit 1.  It’s basic, but not babyish, with a clean, modern feel to it.  Here’s what she was “working” on today.

image image

Now, I know and you know (because I’ve told you!) that she’s well beyond this type of vocabulary and grammar stuff.  But she loves it.  And now, every time I pull out Book 1 instead of Book 2, she’s surprised and delighted anew.  I think she thinks I’m bluffing, and that I’ll haul out Book 2 again at any moment.  But I won’t.  I told her today, “I know you can do the material in Book 2.  You  know the stuff in Book 1 is very easy.  Whenever you’re ready, or whenever you get bored, you can ask me and we’ll switch to Book 2.  Until then, we can keep using this one.”

Ultimately, here’s the reason why:


Ewww… what a weird, gappy smile.  But I’d rather see THAT when I haul out a too-easy book than the tears I get with the ones that make her feel overwhelmed.

Dsc03311Meanwhile, in Song School Latin… this week’s vocabulary words are:  edo (I eat), bibo (I drink – they loved saying it over and over:  “beeee-bo!”), cibus (food), aqua (water), cena (supper).  Both kids continue to really enjoy this program.  The workbook tasks are so simple that I have started splitting them in half:  Naomi does the new work at the start of the chapter, and Gavriel Zev does the “matchy-matchy” questions at the end, most of which are review of previous chapters. 

Sometimes, I have him ask Naomi the words and have her provide the English.  In this case, the review words were ridiculously easy and they were both giggling over the thought that they might not know “meum praenomen est” (my name is) and “salve” (hello, greetings).

And you know what?  As with the Shalom Ivrit book, most of what they’re learning in Song School Latin is way below the level at which I know they COULD be learning.  But I have to ask myself, am I in a hurry?  Why is it important to do Level 2 NOW?  Why should I ramp Naomi Rivka up to a Latin program that will present a serious challenge, but perhaps leave Gavriel Zev in the dust?

Of course, this leads to another question:  if you’re working at a ridiculously easy level anyway, why bother keeping these subjects on the roster at all?  But I think there is a very good reason.

The truth is, some of our subjects are serious, and hard, and we have to pay attention, and sometimes it’s tough going, but we slog on through it.  Chumash, math, handwriting and copywork… those are pretty dreary subjects (though I think we do them in a mostly-lively way, if that makes any sense!), at which Naomi Rivka does perform at or beyond grade level – and doesn’t always enjoy herself. 

So to have a few “freebies” that are easy, and fun – well, it simply isn’t the end of the world, educationally.  Indeed, it may be that these throwaway “extras” are essential to their learning.  One of the keys to a Charlotte Mason home education (which I’m not doing a great job at implementing, in case nobody noticed) is to vary the subjects so you’re not just doing the same thing, over and over – one workbook after another; one copywork sheet after another; one read-aloud after another.

As with so much else, it turns out to be all about balance.  With these “extras,” I feel balanced in a way I don’t think I would without them… and it’s a very nice feeling indeed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Aleph-Bet Stix Interview and free GIVEAWAY!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!  The winner is Yael.  Yael, please contact me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com within 3 days (before Wednesday, July 4th) with your mailing information.  In the event that I don’t hear from you within that time, I will draw another winner.  Thanks!!!

imageENTER TO WIN A FREE SET OF ALEPH-BET STIX, courtesy of Jewish Educational Toys and Menlo Toys

Oooh, I am so excited!  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Aleph-Bet Stix, an educational alef-bais learning product that I just happened across in a local bookstore… and, of course, being SUPER-nice, I wished I could share the fun with all of you.  Well, now I can!

I was fascinated by the idea of inventing your own Jewish educational product to fill a niche (hey, I kind of do it all the time), so I wrote to Chris Bishop, creator of Aleph-Bet Stix, who – while not a Jewish homeschooler himself, is an engineering & science-supplementing dad to two Jewish boys – agreed to an interview. 

And after the interview, you’ll find a form so you, too, can enter and win between now and June 30th.  Entries allowed from anywhere in the world – there will be one winner, announced at the top of this post, on Monday, July 2nd.  I will contact the winner to get an address for shipping.  Please allow 3-4 weeks for shipping from JET.

So let’s let Chris tell us all about how this product came to be…

What is Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix?

Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix is a set of shaped wooden pieces that fit together in various ways to form the whole aleph-bet.

The original idea was to give kids a way to make their letters before they could hold a pencil. So instead of writing, kids arrange the wooden pieces on the floor or table using a printed gameboard as a guide. There is also a die and instructions to turn the activity into a game, and there is a bag to hold all the pieces including the board.

Tell me a bit about your family.

Rebecca and I have two boys, one is nine years old, and the other is six and a half. We don’t homeschool, but we supplement their science education a great deal.

Rebecca is Jewish, but I am not. The boys learn Hebrew from their Baubie and Zaddie. I must say that I tried to learn the aleph-bet at the same time as they did, but they picked it up much faster than me!

What was your inspiration for creating Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix?

When my older son was about two years old, we went to a Chinese restaurant. He tried forming the alphabet using chopsticks. “A” was easy, but “B” took so many chopsticks that they filled the whole table! I thought, “There ought to be a set of curved sticks to make this easier.”

I called the English version Letter Sticks. A couple of years went by as I worked, on and off, on prototypes. I tried to sell Letter Sticks but couldn’t find a buyer, at least in part due to the poor economy. So while I was waiting for the economy to improve, I made the Hebrew version. I sold that version very quickly because it was a unique toy in a niche market. (The English version never has found a buyer.)

Do you have a background in education?

I actually have a PhD in electrical engineering: my day job is making antenna systems for commercial spacecraft. However, Rebecca has a PhD in psychology with a specialty of evaluating the use of technology by children; part of her work involves evaluating a science curriculum used in schools. And her sister is a teacher, so between the three of us we had the bases covered for this project!

What were your design goals for this product?

I’m most comfortable working with wood, and it is such a great-looking and great-feeling material that I knew that I wanted Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix to be made from it. Besides, wood is a sustainable product and much more environmentally friendly than alternatives such as plastic.

I was driven to large diameter pieces not only because of safety concerns but also because the larger pieces have a certain heft, and they feel comfortable in the hand. Kids like bold, bright colors, so I wanted to use many of the colors of the rainbow. At the same time, I didn’t want the toy to be viewed as a “girl” toy or a “boy” toy, so I tried to avoid too much of one color.

(Secret facts: The favorite color of one of my sons was blue, so three sticks were made blue. My other son’s favorite color was purple, so the biggest stick was made purple!)

The die was added later to help turn the toy into a game. We had a big wooden die from another game, and I knew it would be a great addition to this one.

What other features or accessories did you think about?

The English-language Letter Sticks were play-tested at a local preschool. I tried out several ideas in that environment which ultimately got transferred to Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix.

One idea was to replace the board with a stack of pages with outlines of the letters printed on them. This idea worked well in a short-term play-test environment, but there were significant problems. First, paper is not very durable and is easily chewed, torn, or otherwise destroyed. Second, the pages have to be large to fit the letters at full size. This leads to additional printing and packaging costs. Third, the pages do not store in the bag thus eliminating the advantage of having the bag. In the end, since the Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix is intended for a slightly older audience than the English-language version, it was decided to just use the folding board that fits nicely inside the bag.

That said, I will be making a pdf version of the aleph-bet available on the website,, within the next few days, so families can print their own pages. It contains full-sized outlines of the letters to make building letters easy!  [watch this space – I’ll update this when Chris tells me the pdf is live!]

Are you working on any other educational products or toys right now?

Not yet, but mostly because I haven’t thought of any good toy ideas recently. If you think of any, let me know. I have written and illustrated a children’s book aimed at kids aged six through nine called “The Green Apple Child.” It is available through under the penname Daddy Bishop. Currently I am working on a counting book called “Mr. Ree’s Mystery.”

What was the best part about creating Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix?

The emulation by my kids. While I was making Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix, they would make their own games from cardboard, paper, and dice. When I started writing books, they became interested in writing books! Live and learn and pass it on!

Okay, now everybody’s ready. How can we ALL get Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix?

Jewish Educational Toys has done a fantastic job of engaging a manufacturer and distributing Aleph Bet Puzzle Stix around the world. JET developed the packaging and artwork and made it possible for kids everywhere to have a lot of fun! You can find their products in Jewish stores around the world. You can also order directly from their website, but you have to order 6 at a time.

Wow – thanks, Chris, for telling us all about this great new product! 

Now for the giveaway!  Enter to win ONE complete boxed set of Aleph-Bet Stix, including all the “Stix,” bag, die, game instructions and letter-shape board.  There will be ONE winner.  I’ve never tried Rafflecopter before, so I’m going to give it a go and see how well this works.  There are five ways to win, and you can Tweet about the giveaway every day to enter again and again until June 30th.

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!  The winner is Yael.  Yael, please contact me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com within 3 days (before Wednesday, July 4th) with your mailing information.  In the event that I don’t hear from you within that time, I will draw another winner.  Thanks!!!

Okay, I hope that worked (I can’t see the entry code, but hopefully you will once this is “live”)… by the way, my low-tech We Choose Virtues review & giveaway has been extended until THIS Friday, June 22nd, so enter that one now while you’re here!

Monday, June 18, 2012

If you can read this…

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

While we’re on the subject of Korach…

image This is perhaps the first in a series of simplified parsha copywork for even younger kids.  Here, the parent reads the passuk with the child, who copies three words from the parsha.  There’s also a quick, simple drawing/colouring parsha activity at the bottom of the page.  I have tried to provide transliterations of the words so it’s English-language friendly for parents who didn’t have the benefit of Hebrew day school or homeschool parsha copywork!

There are four outlines provided for each word, but just ask the child to do as many or as few as you are both comfortable with.  (I usually ask for four because that’s GZ’s age, but in future, I may provide more outlines, because he sometimes likes to surprise me with extras!) 

Use any medium you’re comfortable with as well.  Pipsqueaks (mini Crayola markers) are useful for writing in these outlines, but crayon is fine as well.  Pencil doesn’t work great because there’s not enough contrast, but that said, Gavriel Zev has been insisting on working with pencil lately because a) he thinks it erases (not the way he does it, but that’s another story), and b) that’s what Naomi Rivka uses, most of the time…

NOTE:  The first page of this 2-page download is the regular, advanced-level copywork for this parsha, in case you have older kids who’d like to try that.

  • To download this and hundreds of other Limudei Kodesh (Jewish) printables – including weekly parsha copywork and holiday resources, click here.
  • For General Studies printables, including science, art and music resources in Hebrew and English, Ambleside, composer and artist resources, click here.

Hey!  Now you can click through and LIKE my new facebook page.

Korach / קֹרַח Overview: Follow the Leader!

Bnei Yisrael have been complaining all the way through the Midbar!

image But now, a large group, led by one man, Korach, brought the ultimate complaint: they thought Moshe and Aharon shouldn’t be the leaders of bnei Yisrael. Moshe was angry, but decided to let Hashem choose the men’s punishment. He told them to bring ketores, spices burning in a pan for Hashem, the next day, and see what would happen. Well, they all brought burning ketores in the morning, and Hashem made a neis: a huge mouth opened up in the earth and swallowed up Korach, his followers, their families, houses, and all their stuff.

This is very strange: Why did it swallow their possessions, their families and houses?

Imagine you won a wonderful new bike in a raffle. You’d feel so proud! You’d ride around, showing it off, bragging, and forget that some kids don’t even have bicycles at all. You might even forget that you won it – you might start to think you’re extra-special and deserve it more than the other kids.

We can use our “stuff” for mitzvos or aveiros: guess which Korach’s followers preferred?

Something else interesting and strange happened. Every follower of Korach who didn’t get sucked down into the mouth in the earth was burnt with fire and killed. But the copper pans they brought ketores on were not damaged. Hashem told Elazar, Aharon’s son, to flatten out the copper (soft metal can be pounded super-flat, almost like aluminum foil!) and lay it over the Mizbeach as a reminder of what happens if we don’t listen to Hashem and follow His chosen leaders.

Remember, bnei Yisrael are not always good about listening to these reminders…!

In fact, the very next day, all of bnei Yisrael came to Moshe and said, “why did you kill those tzaddikim?” They thought Korach and his followers were right. Hashem got very angry and sent a plague to destroy them, but Moshe sent Aharon out with ketores (good ketores, this time!) to save their lives. This is not the first time Moshe has had to work hard to save bnei Yisrael.

Even though they were saved from the plague, they still wonder who’s the right leader.

Hashem came up with a test that would prove, once and for all, who was the leader He’d chosen. Each Shevet (tribe) brought a dead stick of wood with its name carved on it and left it in the Kodesh HaKodashim overnight. In the morning, all the shevatim came to get their stick back… but something wonderful had happened to the stick of Shevet Levi, the family of Moshe and Aharon. It was blooming! But it was not just blooming in the regular way, with clusters of beautiful flowers…

Have you ever seen a tree with flowers? Have you seen a tree with fruit?

image Nature always works in order: first, a tree has buds, then the buds open into flowers, then the flowers fall off and turn into fruits. But when Hashem does things, He doesn’t have to follow this order. The stick of Moshe and Aharon did not just have flowers; it had flowers AND buds AND fruit at the same time! (The “fruits” were actually almonds. Most nuts are a kind of tree fruit.)

At last, Hashem has proven that Moshe and Aharon are the rightful leaders!

(do you think that means the end of the complaining in the Midbar…?)

Were bnei Yisrael the only ones still wondering all along who should lead?

We have already heard that Moshe was עָנָיו מְאֹד מִכֹּל הָאָדָם (“anav me’od mikol adam”/ more humble than any other person). Many great leaders don’t believe they are meant to be in charge (remember at the Burning Bush, when Moshe told Hashem he couldn’t lead because he wasn’t a good talker?). The greatest English writer, William Shakespeare, wrote in a play (Twelfth Night), that “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.”

Moshe and Aharon had greatness “thrust upon them,” but now everyone believes in them.

The kohanim have also learned that their job is a very serious business. They have seen that they can die if they don’t perform the avodah and bring korbanos and ketores properly.

I’m glad they’ve learned this, because big changes are coming in next week’s parsha…

I know nobody loves to leave comments these days, but if you use these overviews in any way, with or without your kids, it’s always more fun for me to work with feedback than to just keep typing into a vacuum… ;-)