Friday, July 21, 2017

On Discernment and Doormats – a summer dvar Torah for Parshas Matos-Masei

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Every year we’re in Toronto, and for years before we made aliyah, my mother hosts a shalosh seudos for the ladies of our shul.  For some reason, my mother’s shalosh seudos always manages to fall out on a different parsha, so I can’t repeat what I’ve said in previous years.

If you’re curious, here are some of these masterpieces from previous years…

    The point being - I had to start from scratch looking at this week’s combined parsha – Matos-Masei.

    There is a very shocking section near the beginning of this week’s parsha. It’s connected with what we read two weeks ago in parshas Balak. Back then, the people of Moav and Midian sent women in to seduce the men of Bnei Yisrael – not just physically, our commentators tell us, but spiritually, leading the Jewish men into worshiping idols.

    Now, it’s time for revenge. Interestingly, we’re told to take revenge only against Midian and not against Moav, even though they were both complicit. Why? Perhaps because Ruth – and hence King David – were destined to descend from Moav. This makes sense if you look at the crime as a spiritual one rather than just an episode of physical seduction, because our spiritual redemption is somehow eventually going to come from Moav. So that may be one reason we’re having compassion on Moav and not taking revenge.

    But as for Midian – it seems there is no such thing as compassion when it comes to them. Moshe tells us, in the name of Hashem, to wipe out every single man, woman, and child from the nation of Midian. Yikes. But Bnei Yisrael don’t do it. They can’t, with the memory of Amalek’s attack still so very fresh in their minds. After all, Amalek’s attack was so insidious that it must be remembered as long as there is a living Jewish person to tell the tale.

    Now, lots of people have attacked Bnei Yisrael throughout history

    Thursday, July 06, 2017

    Time for a Simcha! Short Happy Vort for a Balak Engagement

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    Our older daughter is engaged!!!  We are so utterly overjoyed.  If you are among the many, MANY people we care about who weren't able to make it to the vort tonight (given that it was held in Toronto with only 3 days' notice), I wanted to share this with you. 

    Know that we were thinking of you and are sharing our simcha in spirit if not in real live actual person.

    Speaking after the father of the chosson and one of his rebbes, I could have gone on and on and on all night – you know me – but I was told we only had 3 minutes to speak, so this was it.  Enjoy!

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    In this week’s parsha, Balak, an unusual thing happens. After Bilam tries to curse Am Yisrael, he comes up with another plan, to lead them into avoda zara through Midianite women. When this happens, Moshe Rabbeinu is not only silent, but he stands weeping. This is one of only few times in the Torah that Rashi says “nitalmu mimenu halacha,” the halacha was concealed from Moshe.

    There are five places in the Torah where this happens. For instance, when it comes to bnos Tzelofchad, the daughters of Tzelofchad, who asked about inheriting land in eretz Yisrael. Some say that was done as a punishment for Moshe, who had bragged about his ability to solve problems in halacha, so he was taken down a notch by Hashem, so to speak.

    However, many meforshim agree that the situation here in Balak doesn’t fit the pattern. One important reason is given in Midrash Tanchuma, shared by Rashi, which is that here, Moshe’s forgetting is a way of letting him gracefully step aside and allow Pinchas to take a leadership role.

    We already know how Moshe reacts – gracefully, and with humility. Moshe is what folks in Israel call

    Wednesday, June 21, 2017

    Am I back to blogging? Where have I been? What have I been up to? A short friendly post about nothing at all, really.

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    I’ve been posting more lately, here and at my other blogs.  But the short answer about whether I’m really back is… not officially.

    We’re standing right on the cusp of the 2-year anniversary of when I stopped blogging – July of 2015.  That’s when we flew to Canada and life kicked into high gear in so many ways.  (Or, as I usually put it, “all hell broke loose.”)

    Essentially, my ongoing attempts to work as a freelancer began taking off the minute we arrived in my mother’s basement in Toronto in July 2015, leading to a flurry of nonstop activity that was good because that, in turn, led to money, but was bad because it took time away from blogging, which I love.

    Oh, yeah, and my family.  I may be home a lot, but I’m not with my family as often as I’d like.

    And blogging has had to fall by the wayside.  As clearly it has.  I mean, the stats don’t lie.  Here are numbers for each year of each of my blogs:

    This blog, Adventures in MamaLand:

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    My aliyah blog, Adventures in AliyahLand:

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    My kosher food blog, Adventures in BreadLand:

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    And finally, my children’s writing blog, Write Kids’ Books:

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    So… this year looks like it’s better so far.  I mean, it’s already June and I’ve written 51 blog posts.  Compared to 2016, when I only wrote 39 altogether.

    Phew.  Frankly, it all sounds

    Wednesday, June 07, 2017

    Why I teach my kids about modesty (and maybe you should, too)

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    What are your standards of modesty when it comes to clothing? Do your kids know what these are?

    As a religious Jew, I dress in a certain way. To sum it up briefly: I wear long sleeves, long skirts, and I cover my hair. But don’t assume for a second that it’s been easy, or that it is easy for me on any given day.  It isn’t.

    And it hasn’t been easy sharing these ideas with my children – sons and daughters – along the way, either.

    The other day, though, a friend shared a post on Facebook by a parent who proudly wrote that she doesn't enforce any modesty standards in her kids. She wrote that "Modesty is too subjective and true modesty is about attitude and our heart."

    (The page it was posted on has two owners; I'm going to assume it's the mother, Jessica Martin-Weber, who's writing. Apologies if I’m wrong!)

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    I agree with Jessica Martin-Weber’s second claim in part – yes, attitude and intention are important! - but not necessarily with the first.

    Where does the idea that modesty is "subjective" come from? Well, as she claims, "The definition of modest dress has and will continue to change through history and across cultures." True enough. But our children don't come from a range of historical time periods, or a range of cultures.

    My children live in the here and now, and I believe teaching them standards of modesty is an important part of teaching them about THEMSELVES: not a range of cultures, but their own culture.

    First of all, kids have to be aware of what modesty isn't. It's not about shame. It's not about hiding your body because there's something wrong with it, or with bodies in general.

    We absolutely have to start from a perspective of positivity and even wonder. Bodies are beautiful because Hashem made them. Every day, we say a bracha over and over praising Hashem for the amazing way our bodies are put together.

    That’s where you have to start from. And then you build.

    We also have to start with the idea that both girls and boys

    Friday, June 02, 2017

    Clues to the Infinite: A dvar Torah for the 3rd Yahrzeit of my brother Eli

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    It has been three years.  What is there left to speak about for the yahrzeit of a person like my brother Eli?

    There is the fact that almost all of us know somebody with a mental illness; that Judaism has always urged compassion, understanding, inclusion, and humane treatment. This is a topic which is most vital to talk about - but I've spoken about all of this before.

    And then - there is the idea of turning to something my brother loved. So that we may find common ground not only with one another as fellow-travellers, but with him as well, though he is no longer here, and was a pretty strange character even when he was.

    There was nothing my brother loved more than math. I love math, too, but not in the same way. If math is a language - which, of course, it is - then he was a native speaker, while I am very much an outsider who enjoys the music of it tripping off the tongue.

    There are so many ways that math intersects with Judaism that actually the topic seems almost purpose-built for a dvar Torah or shiur of some sort – and, in fact, lots of people have written very eloquently about the topic over the years. We are not the first to notice that, in general, many Jews love math kind of the same way my brother loved math. As a subject to belabour over not because we have to, but because we can.

    In all our lives, whether we love it or not, math intersects with Judaism at least once a year. When? (not rhetorical q)

    At the Pesach seder, we come to an interesting bit in the middle where we stop and “do math.” Ten makkos? Not quite. How about fifty? (Rabbi Yosi ha Glili) How about two hundred? (Rabbi Eliezer) How about two hundred and fifty? (Rabbi Akiva)

    Why do we sit and obsess over these numbers?

    Wednesday, May 31, 2017

    What do we tell our kids about Chabad and “Yechi”?

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    If I start by saying I really like Chabad, and adore the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, z"l, well... maybe you already know where I'm headed.

    Naomi Rivka has been asking lately what I think about Chabad.  She asks, in part, because she already knows how I feel.  She already knows I’m bothered, though to her, it’s mostly about “liking” and “not liking.”  I wish things were that simple.

    Our little neighbourhood in Israel has a significant Chabad presence, and Chabad conducts fairly significant outreach within the community.  Which sounds nice until you realize that this is a religious neighbourhood, closed on Shabbos, where some huge percentage of people are shomer mitzvos.  Sure, it’s mostly religious Zionist, and there are a range of observances, for sure, but we’re pretty much all religious here in some way or another.

    So at that point, this isn’t outreach but inreach.  Convincing people who are religious to be… what?

    A lot of Chabad’s efforts here are focused on kids, including a big Aseres Hadibros gathering today for Shavuos.  The events are usually well organized and include prizes and popsicles, so they get a lot of kids.  And they almost always say “yechi”. 

    “Yechi” refers to the verse:  “Yechi adoneinu, moreinu v’rabeinu, melech hamoshiach, le’olam va’ed.”  It means “Long live our master, our teacher, our rabbi, king messiah, forever.”

    The phrase “adoneinu, moreinu, rabeinu” – “Admor,” for short – has long been used by chassidic groups to describe their leader.  This part isn’t controversial.

    But the part about “long live” definitely is, considering that the person in question died in 1994.  Oh, and denied that he was moshiach.

    Chabad chassidim, sometimes known as Lubavitchers, started singing this passuk a couple of years before the Rebbe died. 

    He had already had a stroke, and so there is disagreement – from what I can tell and heard from Chabadniks at the time, based on his gestures – as to whether or not he wanted them to sing it, essentially crowning him as moshiach.  He couldn’t speak between the stroke and his death.  It does seem like he was gesturing yes with greater and greater positivity.  But I’m not a neurologist, and don’t know how much understanding he still had by that point.

    After he died, Chabad was split.  For some, the messianic hopes were dashed; others hauled out proofs that moshiach can still be a person risen from the dead.  Many in the mainstream Jewish community were appalled because this view seemed shockingly close to Christianity.

    Actually, that’s not just my opinion, but also that of Rav Aaron Soloveichik, who told The Forward in 1994 that “"there is no possibility whatsoever" that Menachem Mendel Schneerson would emerge from the dead to be the Messiah. In his words:

    "That could be possible in the Christian faith, but not Judaism."

    (source – including a letter from Rav Soloveichik confirming that the quote is accurate)

    His suggestion,

    Monday, May 22, 2017

    Stepping out of the Misgeret

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    For Israeli parents, one word seems like the absolute number-one most important to remember – yes, even before Bamba and Shoko beSakit (chocolate milk in a bag, a staple of childhood here):  Misgeret.

    Misgeret (מִסְגֶּרֶת) literally means “frame.”  This is a misgeret:

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    And so is this:

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    And so is this:

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    Because the other meaning of the word “Misgeret” is “where you put your kids.”  In English, you might say something like “structure” or “system” or “framework.”  But I don’t know if you’d panic about it in quite the way parents here do.

    Sure, like working parents everywhere, Israeli parents want to make sure they can work without disruption by kids’ days off, summer vacation, etc.  So structure is important for that.  But it’s more than that.  I think parenting here used to be more laid-back, until maybe a decade ago when people started panicking about math and science scores and keeping up with the rest of the world, and now the biggest reason for the Misgeret seems to be Enrichment.

    It’s not enough just to be a kid… you have to be fed enrichment, constantly, no matter where you are and what you’re doing.

    I think some of this is influenced by Israel’s strongly socialist past,

    Thursday, May 11, 2017

    A Jewish Princess Story – for Shavuos

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    Jewish princesses may be the stuff of legend, but it’s not always the GOOD kind of legend.

    If you’re a Jewish parent, especially if you have girls, you know about the constant search for great stories of role models from the Torah and Tanach.  And since girls love princesses, it would be a wonderful bonus if there were any really awesome Jewish princesses.

    And there ARE – that’s the amazing part.  Like Ruth / Rus / Rut – whatever you call her.

    I’ve wanted to write a Jewish fairy tale for years and years.  A friend mentioned it a long time ago – so long ago that I’ve forgotten who, or else I would definitely give them credit.  And the character of Ruth is just such a tremendous role model in so many ways (all the incredibly scandalous backstory aside – though it’s fascinating stuff if you want to study this megillah on a more adult level).

    I created a couple of different iterations of the story over the years, but I was never completely satisfied with it.  Finally,

    Monday, May 08, 2017

    There’s no place like…

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    As I sit here, late at night, the Ministry of Education is debating when Lag Baomer will be.  Bet you thought they’d figured that out years ago, but nope.  First, they pushed it off to the following day (“Lad” Baomer?), but now critics are saying that was illegal and they should put it back.

    Lag Baomer is less than a week away as they sit and debate.

    Which is great.  I can sit here and chuckle at how nuts this place is, that they can’t even figure out when to do their government holidays.  Maybe in another 69 years, they’ll have it all hammered out.  In the meantime – we don’t know which day the kids will have off school.

    For me, this isn’t a problem.  That’s how come I can sit here chuckling.  But for hundreds of thousands of parents all over the country, it’s no chuckling matter.

    It’s not a problem for me because I’m home anyway.

    In this country, built on socialism, pioneering work ethic, high taxes and low incomes, I’m a rare bird: a mom who is home most of the time. 

    I’m lucky.  I work at home, my kids are old enough to let me work while they run around doing their own thing.  Soon they’ll both be at the age where they’d rather not have me interfering in their stuff anyway.

    Most parents here are out of the house a lot of the time, which is why at this time of year the other parents in our kids’ classes WhatsApp groups start panicking about “framework.”  Where North American parents use the word “structure,” Israeli parents (and teachers) babble on about how kids need a “framework” or else – or else what?  They go mad, perhaps, or spend the summer hanging out at the mall.

    The truth is, I don’t think the kids need the framework as much as the parents do.  Not so they can go do lunch or whatever… just so they can keep their jobs.

    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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

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

    Yes, that David Dao.

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

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

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

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

    Monday, April 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So what has Miriam prophesied?

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

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

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

    Sunday, April 09, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Vaccinations a  hoax???

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

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

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

    Wednesday, March 29, 2017

    A Phone Call from the Matzah Man

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    Another one from the archives…

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

    “Mrs. Paquette, please?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Wednesday, March 08, 2017

    The Year Yom Kippur began on Purim

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

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

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

    Monday, March 06, 2017

    The Big Bat (very short and somewhat bilingual divrei Torah)

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    So the Rony Pony baby is… um, not exactly a baby anymore?

    When did that happen?  We just woke up one day and – well – you know.  All the cliche stuff.  It’s all true.

    I started this blog, of course, to blog about her infancy and the joy of being with all four of my children every single day – or at least, of feeding them supper every day, of diapering them every day, of homeschooling them every day.  After a decade of being a single and working mama, it felt like a miracle a lot of the time.

    Now, a big chunk of that period is behind me.  Probably a lesser person would get a new blog and move on, but this is my home, and it’s okay to redecorate from time to time as our lifestyle changes.  True, I don’t come home very often these days, but when I do, it’s happy-making to be here.

    Here’s what I said at the not-so-big event last week.  We made a challah-making party for the girls in her class.  No shtick, no DJs, no craziness.  It was very DIY and very fun and very exhausting.

    Here’s what I said. (I had a very kind friend check the Hebrew over for me to make sure it wasn’t godawful.).  Naomi’s dvar Torah follows.

    Sunday, March 05, 2017

    Taking Time Off to (not) Write

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    Everyone knows writers write -- every day. So how are writers supposed to deal with Shabbos – a day that comes once a week, always at the worst possible time, interrupting the “flow” and standing in the way of creativity?  And what if you get your best ideas at a time when you’re forbidden to write them down???

    I’ve dredged this old article up from the archives – published back in 2001, and maybe not how I’d write it today, but still highly relevant.  Enjoy!

    Gorgeous Hebrew typewriter photo © Shira Gal via Flickr.

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    Everyone knows writers write -- every day.

    But since I became an Orthodox Jew a decade ago, writing hasn't been an option at least one day out of every week. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and on holidays, traditional Jewish law prohibits writing, whether with a pen or computer.

    The goal of the Sabbath isn't just "not working" but "not creating" -- as God did after making the world. It's hard enough for the busy stockbroker or doctor, but at least those jobs can be left behind. For a serious writer, who should be creating constantly, it's an even bigger challenge.

    What if I'm writing a great story on Friday, but the sun's about to set? What if I think up my best idea ever on a Saturday afternoon at the park with my kids? I know if I don't put it down on paper right away, there's a good chance it's gone forever.

    Yet despite this hurdle, I manage to write articles, essays and stories that editors and readers relate to. So I'm wondering whether this "handicap" might not give me an advantage over writers who write on a treadmill, never taking time to recharge their spiritual batteries.

    For me, the Sabbath is an island of peace and reflection in my hectic life. As a single mother, I don't have time during the week to just "mull". I scribble shorthand notes during my subway commute and stuck in traffic. At home, the kids fall asleep to my weary typing late into the evenings, while the dishes drip-dry in the background and the dryer hums upstairs. But on Friday, just before sunset, it all comes to a full stop. What's left behind is me, my family and an indescribably holy stillness.

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

    Confessions of a mom who was scared to vaccinate – but did it anyway

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    Scared to vaccinate?  Don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

    Tons of people – generally intelligent, thoughtful, loving moms, are petrified that they’re going to subject their baby to a procedure that’s going to wind up causing problems.

    It’s the ultimate nightmare:  you deliver your happy, healthy, kicking, sunny baby to a doctor for a needle.  After a few hours of screaming, the baby settles down, and you’re thankful that it’s over… until a few weeks later when your baby starts to CHANGE.

    I’ve read Jenny McCarthy’s book and tons of blogs and articles from mamas who have experienced this or something very much like it.

    I read so many that by the time my third child was born, I decided not to vaccinate.  I had already vaccinated the first two, but I figured it wasn’t too late.  I was doing everything differently:  warmer, fuzzier, more bonded, more attachment, more nurturing; cloth diapering, breastfeeding, babywearing. 

    I was a brand-new mom.  A better mom.

    Oh, I didn’t say we weren’t going to vaccinate her.  I said I was “delaying” her vaccinations.  I said I was “thinking about it.”  But I was convinced.  Received wisdom was wrong and there was stuff in there that could hurt my baby.

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Staring in the Mirror: a birthday, a yahrzeit, a very good day

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    Eight years is a long time.  

    Eight doesn’t seem like a special number at first, unless you’re Chinese, and then, I’m told, it’s extremely lucky.  But even in Judaism, eight is a special number: it means one more than nature, as we see in connection with bris milah and the eight-day miracle of Chanukah. It’s also my shoe size, if you don’t count the half.

    When it comes to a yahrzeit, eight feels like the first "big" number, the first time you can't honestly say "it's only been a few years..."

    Today, we sat basically at the same bus stop where we sat across from the Merkazit (central station) in Yerushalayim eight years ago. 

    Today, we were minus two kids in one way, but minus four kids in another, because the two who were babies then have magically been replaced by two who are quite a bit older and smarter (and GZ can walk now, which is a plus).

    Today, we didn’t do anything we haven’t done before:

    Monday, January 09, 2017

    Six reasons I won’t sign online petitions… do you?

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    Are you swamped with online petitions?  I am.

    Through email, Facebook and other social media, it seems like I’m constantly being asked to click through and add my “signature” to one thing or another.  So when I got one this morning on WhatsApp, and a friend asked if it was worth signing, I leapt into the fray.

    (This one was about a building project planned near the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania.  So far, it has 2,712 supporters, so it’s fairly big as these things go.)

    Another friend said it sure was, saying basically (I’ve paraphrased since I don’t have her permission):

    …it’s up to us to speak up or stay silent. Signing the petition takes less than a minute; we should pray, too; who knows?

    Now, because this was first thing in the morning or because I was feeling cranky or because I have just gotten too many of these things, I added my 2 cents’ worth:

    I believe the opposite: I don't think petitions help; or rather, I don't think online petitions help. An actual piece of paper may still have some weight. Yes, I believe we need to share and publicize things that are happening. But most people tune out - and, I believe, with good reason - when they see an online petition. They may actually undermine the credibility of good causes. 'Nuff said.

    Another person in the group – a researcher, of course! – asked if there was any research on this, so I poked around for a few minutes.  There is some, but it’s mostly about how petitions spread through social media and not on their effectiveness when it comes to policy.

    So am I right?  Should we avoid online petitions?