Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fear of Family Reunions: Thoughts for Parshas Vayeshev

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My mother recently spent two Shabboses (Shabbatot) with us here in Israel.  In her honour, I actually put together an unprecedented TWO divrei Torah in a row.  This is the second one, which was not too fancy because I was just planning to say it over privately over lunch but then we ended up having guests, and I think it went over nicely.  Sorry it’s too late for this year – I was too busy visiting to post!

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Last week’s parsha, Vayeitzei, ended in sort of a cliff-hanger, as Yaakov set off to reunite with his brother Eisav. As this week’s parsha opens, we see that Yaakov is preparing for his meeting with Eisav – and he is very, very afraid.

This fear reminds us, as it should, of several parshiyos from now, when the shevatim go down to Mitzrayim and are afraid of Yosef when they realize who they have been dealing with there.

There are many similarities here anyway: parting on bad terms, a separation of decades, a reversal of fortunes (Yaakov, the mild-mannered son, has become the leader of a large family and a person of great wealth; Yosef, the wimpy little prognosticator, has become the ruler of Egypt.).

Here’s another similarity: When Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, וַיִּתֵּן אֶת-קֹלוֹ, בִּבְכִי, “he wept aloud.” And Eisav, too, the big bad Eisav, bursts out in tears, as it says, וַיִּבְכּֽוּ, - and they wept. Both of them. All of the other similarities between these stories suggest that Eisav, too, is sincere, at least in that moment (though a midrash goes on to say he bit Yaakov’s neck).

But an earlier question must be asked: why is Yaakov afraid when Hashem says not to be? Hashem has already said go back to eretz Yisrael וְאֵיטִ֥יבָה עִמָּֽךְ: / and I’ll make it good for you.

To understand this,

Motherhood, Broken Hearts, and Dreams: Thoughts for Parshas Vayeitzei

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My mother recently spent two Shabboses (Shabbatot) with us here in Israel.  In her honour, I actually put together two divrei Torah.  This is the first, which I said over at a kiddush we also made in her honour.  Sorry it’s too late for this year – I was too busy visiting to post!

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So my mother is here visiting Israel, and I actually felt more like talking about last week’s parsha instead of this week’s, because of a line we mentioned in our shiur that says so much about motherhood:

כח וַיֶּאֱהַב יִצְחָק אֶת עֵשָׂו כִּי צַיִד בְּפִיו וְרִבְקָה אֹהֶבֶת אֶת יַעֲקֹב:

"Isaac loved Esav because he ate his game; but Rebecca loved Jacob." (Genesis 25:28)

The actual Hebrew of this verse reads that Rebecca "loves" Jacob, in the present tense.

According to Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz, we can understand this verse according to a teaching of our sages in Chapters of the Fathers (5:16). "Any love that is dependent on something will vanish when that thing vanishes. But a love that is not dependent on something will never cease."

Isaac's love for Esav is described as contingent on the food that Esav provided - that's why the love is spoken of using the past tense. But Rebecca's love for Jacob was not tied to anything, it was unconditional and therefore described in the present, ongoing sense.

Ha, so I guess I did talk about last week’s parsha after all. But when I looked, I realized that of course, this is the most appropriate parsha in which to honour my mother. After all, we have not one but FOUR mothers in this week’s parsha: Rachel, Leah, Bilha and Zilpa.

10 newest solutions for better sleep on buses and planes: a sleeeeeepy Mamaland guide…

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Know what this crazy world needs?  A better way to look dorky on airplanes.

Okay, actually, not planes, but buses.  I travel by bus more often than I like to admit, and it's tough getting comfy on those long hauls.  I've tried bunching up a sweater against the window, I've tried a standard-issue "travel" neck pillow (on planes, not buses), I've tried just grinning and bearing it.

And let's face it, sleeping while you're travelling is terrible.  And it is also one of the biggest missed opportunities I can think of.  Two hours with nobody needing me for anything?  No chance to do work, except for the occasional text or email?  (When I go by train, I usually use the whole time to get work done, but bus = sleepytime, as far as I’m concerned… sleepytime WASTED because I’m so uncomfortable!)

With so much serious stuff going on in the world, I felt that what was needed was a hard-hitting investigation into ten of the newest and most amazing ways I can make my head and neck cozy while I travel.  Science has been working on this problem for a while – or it ought to have been – so I wanted to see what they’ve come up with.

(If you have any suggestions for this list, I’d love to hear about them!)

And why now???  I’ve been keeping all these windows open on my browser for about 2 weeks waiting for the right time to post, and after spending an hour up with a sick kid last night, and then waking up much too early in the morning, I have decided – in the midst of my sleeeepy haze – that today is the day.

A number of these offerings come from Kickstarter, and some are not available for sale the regular way.  In fact, “things to help you sleep” seems to be one of the more popular Kickstarter genres.  And no wonder – sleep is so delicious.

So “without any further adieu,” as they say, here they are, in no particular order:

1. THE FACE CRADLE

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If that doesn’t look cozy enough, this successful Kickstarter project has an even dorkier-looking full-face mode:

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Their slogan is “upgrade to sleeping class.”  I agree!  Mmm… sleeep…

2.  THE NOD TRAVEL PILLOW

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Another successful Kickstarter project.  This one, however, looks less appealing, since essentially you are strapping your neck to the seat.  The product’s FAQ includes a claim of a “a saftey break away in the event of an emergency.”  Confidence-inspiring, but this one seems less likely to win my approval.

3. THE J-PILLOW

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You can’t really tell from the pictures, but a careful analysis of this product on Amazon suggests that this is basically a regular U-shaped travel pillow with a J-shaped extension sticking out perpendicular to the pillow.

However, Amazon reviews seem to suggest that this isn’t really “grippy” enough on its own to hold your head up if you’re sleeping in an upright position, like on a plane… or a bus.

4.  THE ZZZBAND

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Like the Nod Travel Pillow and a number of other offerings, this Amazon product straps your head to the seat behind you so you can’t shift while you’re sleeping.  Some of the reviews are kind of iffy, however, suggesting that it doesn’t hold firmly enough to the seat back, and (duh) it makes it tough to get up and go to the bathroom.  (Which I suppose wouldn’t be a problem on Israeli buses, because there’s no such thing as a bus bathroom in this country.)

Another strapping-in option

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Extreme Emunah, Extreme Chessed: Thoughts on Chayei Sarah 5777

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We learned in parshas Noach a few weeks ago that one of the condemnations of Noach comes about because he doesn’t leave the Teiva after the flood. He sits there, plays around with sending birds, it’s a very nice story but eventually Hashem has to intervene and tell him, “LEAVE ALREADY.”

(I’m paraphrasing.  And speaking of paraphrasing, most of this dvar Torah was heavily inspired by three divrei Torah of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.  You can find links to them at the end.)

Noach didn’t want to leave the teiva. He had seen the world destroyed. He didn’t know how he could go on. And, looking backwards perhaps, he drowned his troubles rather than looking forward.

We have all met people who have been through something like that, I think. People who lived through the Shoah, who saw their world destroyed. And yet – most picked themselves up and went on with their lives.

Rabbi Sacks calls these people his “mentors in courage.” He spent time asking what allowed them to move on. Unlike Noach, to leap out of the boat and rebuild the world. To not descend into the depths.

My mother grew up in the generation when people didn’t talk about the Shoah. For better or worse, nobody could talk about it. It was told in whispers – and in silences. Eventually, they began to speak, but only when they realized that it was long past, and that the future was assured.

This is what Avraham does in this week’s parsha.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Why are Jewish children's books so bad?

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I shared this post last week on Facebook asking why so many Jewish kids' books are so awful.  Lots and lots and lots of people clicked Like.  Some even shared it.  But very few people actually answered the question, so I’m asking it again here.

What do you think?  Why is there so much bad Jewish children’s literature?

Before we start, though, here’s another picture from Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf, the masterpiece that kicked off this whole controversy.

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Yup, a nice Jewish story to share with your Jewish kids for any Jewish time of year!

I don’t want to write too much because for once, I really do want to hear what you have to say.  But just to get those brain-thoughts flowing….Here are some comments that a few people did post on Facebook:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Why Tablet Magazine has it all wrong. :-(

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Dear Tablet Magazine,

I read an article on your site today.  It’s not a common thing, I don’t stop by every day, but as with so much of the great content on your site, I liked the article.  Indeed, I agreed with it, and felt that I – as a Jewish writer of Jewish children’s books - had something to add to the dialogue.

That’s why I scrolled down to comment… only to find THIS:

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And THIS:

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Commenting Charges!  But I don’t need to tell YOU that, of course.  It was YOUR c̶a̶s̶h̶ ̶c̶o̶w̶  idea.

$2 per day.  Ouch.

And then I saw THIS – your largely nonsense-based explanation of how there’s so much spam out there that you want to charge me $180 a year for the privilege of adding my text to your site (usually, people pay ME for my content – that’s what being a writer is all about).

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(Oops – sorry, it’s not a FEE, it’s a commitment to “the cause of great conversation,” as if your site is surely the only place I will be conversing over the next 365 days.)

You’re also quick to assure me that if I don’t have $18 handy (like if I’m using it for other things, like raising my Jewish family), or I just don’t feel like paying, then I can try to get your attention in some inferior cheapskate way, like Facebook.

I know, I know, it’s not actual MONEY, it’s a “largely symbolic measure” to create a more pleasant environment – ie, one without me in it.

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But here’s the best part, Tablet Magazine. 

Oh, yes, it does get better.

Friday, October 14, 2016

My reluctant conversion to cheap fake Lego

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Before, I begin, I want to say that there are few people who adore Lego as much as I do.  OK, if you're one of those fans who can tell the difference between a BURP a LUMP and a POOP [glossary here], then good for you.  You win.

But short of that, well, I adore Lego.

REAL Lego.

For years, in Toronto, I made a habit of picking up used Lego for the kids at Value Village.  Painstakingly, I'd pick through the sets chucking out any FAKE Lego - all the Megabloks and other imposters, weeding them out like toxins.

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But here in Israel, Lego is expensive.  Ridiculously expensive.  Like over 100nis for a tiny set that would cost under $10 in the States, and maybe $12-15 in Canada.

So, I admit - painfully, reluctantly - I've started buying the fake stuff.

It started last summer when I happened to show Gavriel Zev some of the super hero menschies (I know, they're called minifigures – I call them minifigs for short) that were available on AliExpress for 99 cents instead of the 20-30nis he'd pay for them here.  Cautiously, I let him choose 5, figuring 5 bucks wasn't much to waste on an experiment (shipping was free!).

It took forever for them to come, but when they arrived...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Easy, Quick, Fun Sukkah Decoration Craft for Older Kids

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Looking for a sukkah craft for slightly older kids that hasn't been done to death?

I totally was, because we're making GZ's birthday party in the sukkah and I wanted to do some kind of simple craft that would appeal to the boys without being too fiddly.

I eventually found this post about a Xmas craft, and decided that, writ slightly larger, these would make terrific sukkah decorations.  They have all the elements I love - namely, tinfoil, glue and Sharpies (!!!) PLUS they don't take much time for 8-year-old boys' attention span.
And I think they look terrific - shiny and bright to light up any family's sukkah.

Here’s what you'll need:

- Cardboard circles - I used a bowl with a diameter of about 5.5" to cut these babies out.  The originals are much too tiny to see at night in a sukkah!  I used fairly thick cardboard from a box that held a six-pack of soda bottles.
- Yarn - original post says fine yarn, but I blew this up accordingly to a medium-weight yarn; colour doesn't matter.  Pre-cut these lengths so kids don't have to guess.
- Glue sticks - enough to go around the craft table
- Sharpies - enough to go around the craft table
- Needle - to pierce a hole in the final craft
- Pipe cleaner - to make a loop at the top, because I found that a yarn loop was too twisty and it didn't hang straight.
- Extra yarn - to make a loop through the pipe cleaner so it hangs perfectly. :-)

All the supplies (glue not pictured):

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Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Hidden Sweetness: Dvar Torah for Rosh Hashanah

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The words Rosh Hashanah never appear in the Tanach. Nor is the chag referred to except as the shofar-blowing on the first day of the seventh month. The first time we see the term Rosh Hashanah being used is in a mishnah:

“There are 4 Rosh Hashanahs…”

ארבעה ראשי שנים הם.

(Maseches RH 1:1)

So the very first time we see the words “Rosh Hashanah,” they’re actually in plural form. This mishna teaches us that there are actually not one but 4 rosh hashanas. 1 Tishri (new year for years), 15 Shevat (trees and fruit), 1 Nisan (kings and festivals), and 1 Elul (animals and cattle).[1]

It’s a strange phrase, if you think about it: “The new year for years” (ראש השנה לשנים). It doesn’t seem to make much sense, especially given that in the Torah this is the 7th month, not the 1st.

So why is this Rosh Hashanah the big one, the one we all celebrate every single year?

We get a hint in the very next mishna, which says, “there are four times when the world is judged: at Pesach for crops, at Sukkot for tree fruits, and on Rosh Hashanah all the world’s occupants pass before Him like sheep.”

And all of a sudden, something strange has happened. Even though in the first Passuk there were 4 Rosh Hashanahs, now there is only one. Because we all know which one the mishna is talking about. THE Rosh Hashanah. The big one.

Now, this development probably took some time and to some extent has been lost in the mists of history. Somewhere between matan Torah and the recording of the mishna it had become understood that the shofar day, the first day of the 7th month, had become THE rosh Hashanah.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Book Reviews of Kids’ Books by (my) Kids

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We’re back to summer schooling, which includes weekly book reports / reviews (I know there’s a difference, but whatever…).  I thought it would be fun to share a list of book reviews my kids have written over the last however-many years, mainly during the summer.

Hopefully, I’ll update this list as the kids create new reviews.  I’ve vowed that I’m going to make them write one new review each week for the remaining 7 weeks of summer…

(NOTE:  Some of the links are messed up.  I have vowed to fix them but it seems like it’s not going to happen until summer is over.  Forgive me if you hit a broken one!)

Almost a Winner (Teddy Mars)

Almost a Winner (Teddy Mars) - Funny and interesting, a review by GZ, age 8

 

 

 

The BFG The BFG – A Great Classic, Review by YM, age 12 and GZ, age 8

 

 

 

The Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth Goldfish -  A fun and suspenseful story, a review by NRM, age 11

 

 

 

Schooled Schooled by Gordon Korman, Review by NR, age 11

 

 

 

On Stage, Please - On Stage Please, a review by NRM, age 11

 

 

 

Holes Holes - a review by GZ, age 8

 

 

(Click through to see older reviews from previous years, going way, WAY back...!)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Schizophrenia and the Narrow Bridge, thoughts for Parshas Shlach Lecha

Maybe you think this is the age of “let it all hang out,” when Google rules, your friends post their snacks on Facebook, and there are no secrets left in the world.

But believe me, there are still plenty of secrets. And this bold new world may have more in common with the world of the Torah than we’d like to believe, as this week’s parsha shows us.

That’s because what we share on Facebook and other social media is actually a redacted version of our true selves. We tend to forget this, and then we envy other people’s lives. If you’ve ever looked at a friend’s Facebook status and wished that was your life, you know what I’m talking about.

  • · They’re having babies (and at my age, their kids are having babies, too!)… and I’m not.
  • · Their kids – my kids’ age! – are getting married… and mine aren’t.
  • · They’re getting promoted at work… and I’m still sitting here doing the same old thing.
  • · Their children are smart, talented, celebrated… when mine kind of aren’t.
  • · They’re celebrating anniversaries… when my husband and I barely talk to each other.
  • · They’re sharing brilliant ideas about the world… when most days, I have all the insight of a potato.
  • · They’re reaching their fitness goals… while I sometimes can’t even get out of bed.
  • · They post inspiring quotes full of faith… when I sometimes doubt way too much.

I once heard a rav say that that whole thing about “lo sachmod” (not coveting) isn’t just about houses or wives or donkeys.  It’s about the package.

He said that if we could see someone’s whole package – the deal they’ve been handed in life; their upbringing, their family, their career; their health – we would probably not be so eager to trade, no matter what they post about themselves on Facebook.

By the way, I don’t mean we should post more negativity on Facebook! Please don’t!!!

You can see the real effect of negativity from this week’s parsha.  The negative reviews of ten meraglim outweighed the good intentions and happy stick-to-it-iveness of two of the holiest people who have ever lived, Yehoshua bin Nun and Kaleiv ben Yefuneh.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

New Shavuos/Shavuot Story – FREE Download – The Humble Princess Ruth

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I’ve been fiddling around for years with the idea of a “princess story” around the story of Megillas Rus.  I actually wrote one and made it available here about six years ago, but I wasn’t happy with it.

This version, The Humble Princess Ruth, is a little closer to what I want to tell.  It’s shorter and I think a little more interesting.  It’s a tough story to retell.  I’ve taken some authorial license here: added some details, left out some others. 

And I still don’t love the title!  If you have a better one, LET me know!!!  Why, oh, why, am I so bad at titles???

Download the story here: http://bit.ly/RuthNaomiStory

The 4shared site is a little spammy – don’t click on the BIG word “download,” but rather, on the small download button:

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I’d love your feedback on this story, either in the comments or directly to me at Tzivia@tzivia.com.

And don’t forget – I have a ton of other great Shavuos resources here at this site:  click here to find them.

Chag sameach!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jewish Book Carnival, May / Iyyar 2016 Edition!

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Welcome to this month’s Jewish Book Carnival, brought to you by the concept, from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, that “Whoever is able to write a book and does not, it is as if he has lost a child.”

As a writer, I know how much creating a book, creating any text, is like giving birth.  And as a reader, how marvellous it is to be handed someone else’s precious and fragile thoughts and words.  May we as a people never lose our fascination with books or our drive to keep creating them.

This carnival has been going on continuously since August of 2010.  The Jewish Book Carnival is headquartered at the Association of Jewish Libraries’ site here.  Stop by for information on past editions or to sign up to host a future issue.

  • Last month’s carnival (April 2016) was hosted by The Book of Life.
  • Next month’s carnival (June 2016) will be hosted by Barbara Krasner at The Whole Megillah
  • And for now, you’re right here… at Adventures in Mamaland!

Read on for the roundup… and if you’re featured in this month’s roundup, be sociable:  click through and visit others’ posts… and tell ‘em I sent you!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Breathing Lessons for the Canadian diaspora

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Growing up as a hyphenated Jewish-Canadian, I admit, the “Canadian” part didn't really matter much.  It was just a word for everybody around me, including me, but mainly everybody else.

These days, being Canadian usually comes up when Israelis ask me, "What part of America are you from?"
The answer, of course, is NONE.

Sure, I could get by on a technicality, since I'm from North America just like United Statesians are.  And Cubans, Barbadians, and many other people.  Heck, even if I was from South America, it's all still America, right?

But that's not what they mean.

What they mean is which state, which major American city?  Am I from LA, New York, one of the handful of other places in the U.S. that a typical Israeli has heard of?

Nope.  I'm from Canada.  Oh, Canada.  Great.  They nod.  They've heard of it.  "Isn't it cold there?"

Canada… is the cold bit, the hat America wears to protect itself from the arctic.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Yom Ha’Atzmaut 5776: Celebrating Israel with a Free Kids’ Chapter Book Excerpt!

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Yom Ha-what???  Yeah, I admit, we never really did anything special for Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, before moving to Israel.  And neither did most of the Jews around me. 

Sure, some years we had a flag, maybe even a car flag, but really, that was the extent of it.

It’s so incredible celebrating every single yom tov and chag here in Israel… but especially Yom Ha’Atzmaut.  It just makes sense, but I never gave it much thought before we made aliyah.  Indeed, huge swathes of the Jewish world as I knew it outside of Israel didn’t really celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut at all… and that, I’m convinced, is a shame.

And when it comes to Israel, there’s no better way to study its history than by studying its STORIES, the stories of the people who built this incredible place.

The history of modern Israel is inseparable from the story of the life of Naomi Shemer. Born in 1930, she grew up as the country became more mature and established, and became an adult exactly as the country was becoming independent.

So many of the great “folk songs” of Israel’s 20th century were created by Naomi Shemer, but what has always really impressed me is that her writing goes far deeper than the 20th century, all the way back to the times of the nevi’im (prophets) and the words of the Tanach. Though she and her family were not religious, Israel was for her deeply spiritual – more than a homeland, it was a place Jews could live and thrive like nowhere else in the world.

She travelled and spoke passable English but never really reached much fame even in the Jewish world outside of Israel, besides her song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold, written just before the six-day war in which the Jews won back the city after thousands of years. (Here’s one version of the song with translated lyrics, sung by Ofra Haza.)

In honour of Israel’s 68th Independence Day this week, I’m sharing an excerpt from my book, Naomi Shemer: Teaching Israel to Sing.

I started writing this book in 2005 after my daughter Naomi Rivka was born and we named her – partly – after Naomi Shemer. I wanted her to really understand who this namesake was. But I didn’t actually finish it until 2013, in the final stages of planning our own move to Israel. Throughout that time, my knowledge and understanding broadened and deepened considerably – as it has continued to do during the almost three years we’ve lived here so far.

Throughout the book, I’ve tried to use scenes from Naomi Shemer’s life, along with her poetic, poignant lyrics, to explore the history of Israel and tie it in with the history of the Jewish people all over the world. It’s history, but the kind of history I love best: one that sets important events within a context that’s enjoyable for adults to read alone or with children.

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Please read on for the free excerpt… and Like, Share, etc if you can!

© 2013 Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod, excerpted with permission.

 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Trembling with Gratitude: a Sentimental Yarn

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There’s a feeling when you’re crocheting and your yarn gets tangled.  Even if you don’t crochet, you’ve probably felt something like this.  A moment when everything mounts into impossibility and you want to scream and give up.

I’m sure you’ve felt something like that.

It’s a feeling of frustration.  You just want to stash the entire project.  It’s a feeling of disgust.  You never want to look at it again.  It’s a feeling of pointlessness.  Snipping the yarn would be both so easy and so wrong.

But more than that, it’s a feeling that you’re all alone in the world.

It’s your ball of yarn.  It’s your crochet project.  And it’s your snarl.

Ultimately, nobody cares if you untangle it or not.  How depressing is that?

If I stashed the project – no-one would know.

If I threw it away – I doubt anyone would notice.

If I snipped the yarn and carried on past the tangle – for sure, nobody but me would know about that.

But it’s a tangle, and there’s something both depressing and important in working through it and not taking shortcuts.

Last month, while I was in Toronto oh, so very briefly (2 days!), my mother and I were visiting an older relative.  I had brought along a big blanket project I’d been working on for more than 2 months.  I was so close to the end, but I had had to unwind a big section of it, and I did it carelessly, and the yarn kept on getting tangled as I tried to crochet it together again.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Gullible Manifesto (Just kidding!)

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Twice in the last few weeks, people have done that thing to me.  Maybe this has happened to you? 

They tell me something absolutely astonishing, so I’m like, "Really?"  Then they laugh, because I’ve fallen for it.

And I cringe, because I've forgotten again.
I've forgotten the tendency of reliable, fairly nice people to turn around and lie.

Why do I always forget?

Probably because the idea is so foreign and, hey, I'll say it, kind of repulsive.
To me, it says more negative things about the person who's doing it, the suckee, than about you, the sucker.  As repulsive as a fart in polite company, this person has breached every conversational and societal norm for the sake of a not-very-good joke.

A relative once brought his young kids to our seder and told them the spicy red horseradish on the table was strawberry jam.  I'm sure they never took jam from him again in their lives.  But is that really the point?  What's the message?  "Be careful about jam?"

Nah, the message truly is nothing more complex like, "Watch this person carefully.  They'll turn on you so you can never trust them."

I even hate the WORD "gullible."  It sounds like something a drowning, helpless, floppy goldfish might say.

I am that goldfish.

Friday, January 01, 2016

What kind of God? Yahrzeit/Birthday Thoughts for Parshas Shemos

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Someone once told me, “If there is a God, then certainly he is much too busy with wars and everything to care whether you eat kosher food.”

This is interesting, but it is not what I believe about Hashem.

Many more people say, “There is no God, because if there was, he wouldn’t allow ____ to suffer.” With the blank being whoever in the world is currently suffering, whether it is Yezidis or Tibetans or Sudanese, or, in this week’s parsha, us.

But this week’s parsha tells us he did indeed allow us to suffer. It says that, right there in the pshat.

For years, and years, and years, we suffered as slaves. Some say until we cried out, until we begged him in exactly the right way. But as a parent, this feels petty to me. Sure, sometimes I make my kids apologize “properly” – no sarcasm allowed. But I’d like to think Hashem is a lot less petty than me.

My friend Nina pointed out that twice, Moshe calls Hashem on this, face to face. Asking Hashem what kind of God he is that he’s doing this to his treasured people. I think I’m paraphrasing.

But Hashem is telling Yosef right there exactly what kind of God he is. He’s the God who appears in a thornbush. Not only appears – we know the thornbush is not just incidental, like the desert equivalent of a coffee shop where it was convenient for Hashem to meet up with Moshe while he was out shepherding.

The thornbush, it turns out, is crucial to understanding who Hashem is. Later on, in Devarim, the Torah refers to Hashem as שֹׁכְנִי סְנֶה, shochni sneh, “the One who dwells in the thornbush.” This is actually part of Hashem’s identity.

And the root of that word, שכן, shachein, is important. It’s the same word Hashem tells us when it’s time to build the Mishkan, as we’ll read in a couple of weeks: וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם. “Build me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in their midst.”

Which is a little strange. If Hashem