Everyone I know that has a blog, or uses any social media at all, seems to have had a lot to say in recent weeks about the horrible tragedy(ies) of the past few weeks.  I have been keeping quite quiet (yes me, quiet). I haven’t felt that there was anything that hasn’t been said by lots of other people. And the truth is that I have been so heartbroken and sad that there has been little room for me to think or feel anything else.  There isn’t much to say about that other than “I am heartbroken and sad”, which I did.

Having a chayal boded (a “lone soldier”) living with us  helped me feel like I was taking care of my own little corner of the IDF. Helping in our own way. That will be a topic for another post, at another time.

Everyone around me here in Gush Etzion has been helping in their own way, heroically, going so above and beyond. They did because Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali were all of our boys… but they also did because that’s what people here do. It is one of the many reasons we are just blessed to be where we are. I wrote a dvar Torah for work this week, but I have decided to share it here too. This is what I finally have to say…..

Some thoughts on Parshat Balak: 

What a difficult week it has been for Am Yisrael. When I sit down to prepare this week’s email, I am immediately struck by just how full of hope we all were just one week ago.

For the past several days it has been difficult at times to work, concentrate, move on with business as usual. As some of you know, I spend a fair amount of time on “social media”. As a result, one of the hardest part of contending with this tragedy, for me, has been the amount of hate expressed around the world. Two “bad guys” committing an inhuman criminal act was made far worse by the apparent dismissal by some and outright celebration by others.

But our one constant as a nation is always the study of Torah, and as Meryl Lee Avraham [my colleague, mentor, teacher and friend] expressed so beautifully last week, “It is amazing how every week when we read the parsha, we can find relevance and insights to what is currently happening.”

In this week’s parsha, Balak, King Balak from the kingdom of Moav petitions the grand wizard Bilam from the kingdom of Midian to curse the Jews. Balak has seen the Jews’ military success as they have forged their way to Israel. He is worried about our numbers, and has seen that military acumen is not going to be a successful way to stop Am Yisrael. He asks Bilam to curse the Jewish people.

It makes sense; since Moshe’s relationship with G-d is clearly helping Am Yisrael, certainly a different Navi should be able to counter that better than swords and arrows. Bilam makes it very clear from the beginning that he can only say what Hashem tells him to. He brings sacrifices to G-d, but instead of curses, only blessings spill forth from Bilam. After several attempts to change location (maybe they need to find Moshe’s “magic mountaintop”?) it is clear this just isn’t going to work.  “Mevarechecha Baruch v’orerecha arur”, “Blessed are they who bless you, Accursed they who curse you.” (Bamidbar 24:9) is Bilam’s reminder in his blessing, to the promise made to Avraham by G-d.

Almost the entire parsha is taken up with this strange story which seems to be about our enemies, not us, and a thwarted attempt to foil our entry into Eretz Yisrael through a spiritual plot, rather than a military one. However, the end of our parsha begins a different narrative. It describes the inappropriate relations that the Israelite men were having with Moabite women. It what seems like an abrupt change of subject, that begins with “So, while this was going on [with the non-Jews] and the Israelites were in the place called Shittim, they started being inappropriate with the women of Moav.  And these Moabite women enticed them to join in some Baal Peor worship, which made Hashem very, very angry – “Yachar Af”, incensed.  

The result of this was a plague in which 24,000 Israelites died!

Not only is this particular chapter added on after a long, fluid narrative, but the rest of the story of their relations with the Moabites continues immediately after in next week’s parsha, Pinchas.

So why is it here? Why not just tell the next story… next? 

The Midianites and Moabites aren’t really allies, but they form an alliance of sorts in an attempt to destroy Am Yisrael. We are told a great deal, in detail, about the Ancient non-Jewish world’s perception that they cannot destroy us militarily. That our real power comes from our bond with Hashem. So it is there that they will try to undermine us, and bring us to our knees. It specifically states that Balak’s concern was our size, our numbers:  “…they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land.”  (Bamidbar 22:6). Balak’s efforts, through Bilam don’t work. He can’t cut down our numbers. He cannot get the greatest spiritual guru of the age to curse the Jews. Hashem just won’t let it happen.

… And still, a few lines later, Hashem strikes down 25,000 of our men? How can that be?

The answer, was that the only way for us as a people to be cursed was to bring it upon ourselves. No nation can come from the outside and truly address the “Jewish problem”, or find a successful “final solution”. Military might won’t work, spiritual leadership won’t work. No tactic can help an outside people or force destroy the Jews.   We all know that this has been proven out over thousands of years. Certainly not for lack of trying!

The reason it is so important for the parsha to include the plague at Shittim, the licentious behavior of the Jews, and its disastrous consequence is to remind us that we are not invulnerable. We are our own worst enemy. The non-Jews cannot curse us no matter how hard we try… but if we stray from Hashem’s ways, become comfortable and are “romanced” by the world’s peoples, cultures and religions, we won’t maintain Hashem’s protection. They can’t take it away from us; we can take it away from ourselves.

The past few weeks have been so trying, such a strain. We maintained such hope. Everywhere around me the people of Gush Etzion have been looking for every opportunity to do more mitzvoth to merit the safe return of our boys. There have been extra shiurim, gatherings to say tehillim, chessed drives, and more, all in the merit of Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal. At times it has felt like the support for the terrorists involved was shockingly overwhelming. Worse, the silence and apathy from much of the Western world felt isolating. The reminder that there are so many people out there who still want to curse us, to bring us down, to drive us out, added great insult to injury.

But we came together as a people, clinging not only to each other, but to Hashem’s ways.  It is in the studying of Torah (to prepare this) that I have found the most solace in a most difficult week, and it is in the studying of Torah that we will guarantee ourselves Hashem’s ongoing protection.

We couldn’t do enough to save those boys’ lives. But we know the warning encased in the last narrative of our parsha. We do not run into the arms of a different people, seeking approval and connection there. We respond to the greater attempt to once again address the “Jewish problem” by crying out to – and clinging to – Hashem.

May the tremendous Achdut, unity, and swelling of mitzvoth that were there the result of this terrible tragedy remain an indelible imprint to bring blessing to the memories of Eyal, Naftali and Gil-ad, z’l.  – Shabbat Shalom. 

Welcome to the August 9, 2013 edition of jewish-israel blog carnival aka havel havalim .

The Jewish blog carnival  is a weekly digest of several Jewish blogs from around Israel and the world. Please feel free to join us and submit your blog posts. Make sure to comment at each of these wonderful sites,  and tell them I sent you!  To be a host, you can contact us at the  blog carnival index page, and/or join us on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/283537885020583/

Since my last blog post my family and I have reached our 1 year aliyah anniversary. I had expected this to be commemorated with a meaningful and reflective blog post. While I still hope to write one about being in year two, the reality is that every single one of us has been too busy LIVING life in Israel to stop and do much celebrating, reflecting – or blogging. This is a tremendous mark of aliyah success in my book, and while I am sorry for the lack of blog, I am happy about the reason.

I participated today in a wonderful Elul tradition on my yishuv. A diverse group of women get together Shabbat afternoon, Rosh Chodesh Elul, for singing, food, and words of Torah and inspiration for the month. One participant, Yael of Yaelle Yells… Softly* mentioned that she enters Elul with trepidation but her father, z’l, always did so with excitement.  (*This is Neve Daniel, after all, “Har Habloggerim”….. ) 

What about you? Do you enter this month feeling fear? Excitement? Or both? I am feeling the weight of my very heavy to do list – work, school supplies, bus schedules… and spiritual cheshbon.

Whatever your feeling about the month, Chodesh Tov and enjoy all of these posts:

 

If you have never checked it out before, take a peek at Jewels of Elul, a project where different writers / bloggers contribute for and about Elul. This recent post “Elul 4: Choose, Don’t Refuse” is from my friend and all-around brilliant superwoman, Yael Untermann.

 

Ima on and off the Bima, tries to blog all of Elul… a better blogger/woman than I. Her first post in the series is Blog Elul 1, “Prepare”

 

Esav Exposed gives us some insights into one of Tommy Wallers teachers in an ongoing effort to expose Christian Missionaries proseltysing specifically to Jews in Who Are Tommy Wallers Teachers Part 1

 

Jacob Richman of Good News from Israel bring us his own digest of cool stuff to help us prepare this Elul in Educational Resources, Cool Videos, Games and Greeting Cards for Rosh Hashanah.

 

Good News from Israel also posted his photo album from Jerusalem’s current Model Train Exhibit. I would love to make it over there, but am at least going to share the pics with my kids.

 

Sharon of the Real Jerusalem Streets blogs to say Thank you, Women of the Wall. Regardless of personal feelings or opinions on this controversial issue, I am so happy to hear that she has had a positive experience!!!

 

My Parnasa tell us How to Make a Million Blogging for Times of Israel. One could argue that the Haveil Havalim Carnival is for those looking for the non-TOI blogs, so what do you think?

 

Batya of Shiloh Musings has brought us a variety of different kinds of posts, in

 

Loni Books presents Making Challah posted at Small Thoughts, saying, “I’m a college student by day, a writer by night. I love to write about those small moments that inspire me all day long.”

 

… Before I leave, I would like to ask all of our readers to make a quick stop off at Crossing the Yarden, and leave a little note, blessing, prayer, or token of love for Yarden and his “Rock Star”. Just tell him how many of us are out there with their amazing family in our thoughts and prayers. Thanks.

 

I hope this is an inspiring and uplifting Elul for you, and that you blog about it!

Chodesh Tov,

Ima2seven

 

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of jewish-israel blog carnival aka havel ha using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Caper bushes

January 2nd, 2013

Last year I was introduced to my incredible chef friend Ruth Baks’ “Kotel Chicken”. It is a top secret recipe, and definitely in the category of divine food. It was from Ruth, through this dish that I learned that the bushes in the kotel are caper bushes.

Caper bush in the kotel

I really never gave that much more thought, as more than a fun fact. Until today.

I am studying two mornings a week at the Women’s Beit Midrash in Efrat. It is an amazing learning community for women, by women, in Hebrew and in English. One of the benefits of living here is that the superstar Torah teachers add one morning class a week to their busy roster and we benefit. But I digress.

Tehilla Elitzur is teaching a class (in Hebrew) about the inclusion or separation of Mussar, character development, in Jewish Law. Her knowledge of gemara is breathtaking, and what amazes me most is her familiarity with the authors of the Talmud, what period they lived in, who knew each other, and how all of this affected each one’s particular voice.

There is a story we read for other reasons about a Rabbi who is rewarded by the appearance in his garden of a caper bush. Why was this such a reward? Tehilla explained that caper bushes were of great value because each part of the plant could be used. Rabbi Steinsaltz’s Talmud explains beautifully in English the discussion in Masechet Brachot, chapter 6, of the tithing necessary specifically on a caper bush since one may be using it primarily for different parts.

I didn’t get enough information from the Talmud about how each part is of value, so I went to another holy source, wikipedia.

The leaves are used in salads and fish dishes. (The site says primarily in Greece, but that would logically mean it mostly was the case in Ancient Israel as well.) The berries can be cured, as well as the buds, the part we know and love as ‘capers”.

capers as usually used in cooking

According to flowersinisrael.com, “Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) writes in Natural History XIII 127:”…a shrub with a rather hard wood; also its seed is well known as an article of food, and is usually gathered together with the stalk.” Pedanius Dioscorides (40-ca. 90CE) also provides instructions on the use of sprouts, roots, leaves and seeds in the treatment of strangury and inflammation. Powdered root bark is quoted by the Venetian Prospero Alpini (1553-1617) as a treatment for skin ailments, and as a vermifuge (substance which kills worms) and emmenagogue (substance that stimulates menstruation).”

So this amazing bush was used in earlier eras for its stalks, leaves, seeds, sprouts and buds.

I don’t think it can be a coincidence. The one plant that grows – thrives – in the kotel, on its own, with no gardener but Our Creator, has lots of different parts, all useful. The buds, usually considered “not yet something”  - just potential – in most plants, are perhaps the most valued.

I don’t appreciate the politics at the kotel as of late, nor do I have any desire to enter into them. I believe in religious freedom and at the same time I don’t believe that this site, of any in the whole world, is the place for provocation of any kind.

But we are certainly being given a message about just how valuable each Jew is  - how Hashem intends, nurtures and loves our differences and variety –  whether we are a leaf or stalk, bud or berry. Perhaps while we are tucking all those notes into the kotel’s cracks, Hashem actually has also been leaving us a note in the cracks all along.

I will never again look at caper bushes, or the kotel, in quite the same way.

Shavua Tov!

This week I once again have the honor and pleasure of hosting “Haveil Havalim”, a roundup of posts from the Jewish blogsphere, carnival style. Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and is organized by way of our facebook page.. [The term "Haveil Havalim," which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Koheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon.]

We love growing our blogging community and showcasing great Jewish blogs that readers may have not yet discovered. So please check out the facebook page, or get in touch with me, and submit your posts! When submitting posts, remember that they should be from the last week.
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Judaism
Think Judaism brings us an explanation of the dichotomy between Torah morality and human morality in Does Judaism Care About Morality?
… and Think Judaism also brings us an exploration of Vegetarianism with controversial title Vegetarianism is Immoral. Think Judaism, is that immoral as in Torah morality, or human morality? ;  )
I hate the name “Modern Orthodoxy”, but I love Think Judaism’s post about it, Why the Modern Orthodox Should Suffer the Most. I am sure it is because he is describing the column of Judaism I would put myself in (if I had to put myself in a column, that is.)
Politics and The Middle East 
Esser Agaroth is also talking about ‘my column’ in Who Is Voting for the Jewish Home Party? As a new olah in Gush Etzion, I am still navigating my relationship to “Religious” and “Zionist”, and I don’t like the question he poses… mostly because now I have to figure out my answer!  What’s yours? 
The problem with a digest blog posts that deal with Israel’s politics is that last week’s news is, well, last week’s news. Our reality changes so quickly that it is dizzying to try to keep up. Especially these days, with war, cease fire, primary elections, upcoming elections and UN bids! 
Having said that, Esser Agaroth gives us a helpful explanation of Hamas’ position on the cease fire in Hamas’ Peace Translated. In my always humble opinion, it is crucial to understand the widening gap between Hamas/Gaza and Abbas/the PA in order to understand the current moves of all of the parties involved. In order to do that, we need to best understand last week’s drama in order to comprehend this week’s move by the PA.
For a real reality check on just what went down with Hamas, Real Jerusalem Streets brings us 3 Things to Remember After Pillar of Defense. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words, and once again, she just nails it. I don’t know how she manages to do that every time, but it is fun to watch.

Photo from (and property of) Real Jerusalem Streets

Batya blogs her experience voting in the primary elections in The Muddy Path to Israeli Democracy, Likud Style at Shiloh Musings. I wish she could be giving seminars on voting in Israeli primaries; I agree with her that so many voters just can’t understand the system.
Yoel Meltzer over at Towards a Jewish Mindset writes about the issues he would like our candidates to focus – and not focus – on in the upcoming elections in Please Some Real Issues.  While the post is sobering, I would love to hear an actual debate where some candidates tell me how they are going to deal with his list of challenges. It would be such a refreshing change.
Tomer Devorah gives us an interesting perspective on the recent UN Palestinian Authority Vote in November 29th – 1947 & 2012. I encourage you to read and weigh in, and The Kvetching Editor gives us her take on the UN bid in The Bid for Palestinian Statehood over at Just Call me Chaviva.
Penina at It’s All Hafuch! true to the name of her blog, turns the notion of apartheid in Israel on its head in Israel an Apartheid state? Truer than you know Peter Beinhart, are you reading? 
Other Stuff….
…When all of those politics have your blood boiling, visit Making Aliyah and get some perspective on anger in The Heat Is On.  She is right; while it is always brought up at High Holiday time, I think we need it more at election time!
I wouldn’t have thought that therapy-by-blog* would work had you described it to me, but check out “Everyone Needs Therapy”. Her blog-form insights into psychology are suprisingly interesting and practical, and as she says, something we all can use. In this week’s submission “What to Do About Differentiation” she talks about a topic currently overwhelming this “Ima 2″ pre-teen twins. Hopefully you can get something out of it as well.
 * (She doesn’t claim to be therapy by blog; that is my description not hers. She doesn’t see it as a replacement.)
It’s MY Crisis and I’ll Cry If I Need To! offers us some important advice on accessing the help that is out there in a medical crisis when travelling in How to Lower Your Medical Costs and Keep Your Cool Under Missile Fire!
Esser Agaroth asks How is Spain Granting Citizenship to Jews a Good Thing?  Again, I am not sure I agree with him; the symbolic gesture is long overdue.  But please! Weigh in…
No Holtz Barred also blogs about an experience we all have to deal with at some point in our lives, in Tick Tock, How to Play the Waiting Game.   I personally hate the uncertainty more than the waiting itself. Maybe he can blog about that next? Just for me?
… and the most upbeat for last:  Chanukah is coming! If you have kids, any age (that means including husbands) you should check out Jacob Richman’s digest of links and resources for Chanukah at Good News from Israel in Chanukah Educational Resources and 335 Chanukah Videos. I have used Good News from Israel as my go-to spot for pre-holiday educational materials for my kids (and students) for years; One stop shopping!
I don’t know about you, but after the week it has been in the world and in the blogosphere, I am more than ready for some sufganiyot, chanukiot, spreading light and Jewish Heroes….. 
Many of you reading this are bloggers, so make sure your post is in next week’s digest! You never know who you might reach that has never heard of you before.

How Are We Doing?

November 18th, 2012

We are doing great. Now you don’t have to read the rest of the post.

I haven’t been able to update this blog in so very long. Unable to be reflective on our aliyah process long enough to write about it, I have been caught up in the living of our new busy life. And it’s a great problem to have.

And I really didn’t want my return to blogging to be another “here is my perspective of war in Israel as an American living here” post. There are lots of people that can try to make real for you their personal experience of a bomb shelter, the disruption of daily life, and the reality that it isn’t just southern Israel anymore. You don’t need me for that.

The truth is that bloggers have been writing in English about the heart-wrenching reality that is life in Southern Israel at Hamas’ expense. And they haven’t been trying to tell the world for three days; they have been writing about it for the last decade, since we traded Gaza “for peace”, while the world has largely ignored the ongoing assaults.

But today I got a message from a dear friend that started with ” Worried sick over here about you guys.” And it makes me sad and a bit aghast that my friends and relatives in the US should be suffering over my reality so much more than I am. I am reading the status updates and posts of my friends who live only a block away, and they also seem far more distressed than I feel.

This is partly because they are indignant with the injustice of the situation we are currently facing, and many of them have had to living with that indignation for a decade already. It is partly because the siren or the situation is scarier for them, or because they have the good fortune to compare current reality to years of relative calm and quiet.

It is partly because I am still in the honeymoon phase of our aliyah, and I know it. I admit it. 

Even so; I feel great, I really do.

First of all, when I left Israel for twelve years, I did so after a series of 18 bus bombings, horrible suicide bomber attacks and then the second intifada.  I didn’t adjust to a decade of relative calm.

Second, I have watched with sickness from afar the horrible – deadly – decision for Israel to leave the Gaza Strip, and have wrung my hands at the inability to help as Israel has suffered showers of rockets in the south. I waited, and waited, and waited to be here part of the communal problem/solution/family/support system/whatever.

I feel triumphant that we are FINALLY doing something about it. We are going after the leadership of Hamas; the bad guys who are oppressing their own people at least as much as they are building a machine to destroy Israel.  I feel exhilarated to be here and not far away; part of the Zionist response, part of the banding together, part of the offers of help, part of saying tehillim for our soldiers, part of the collective national cry of “enough is enough is enough; I can’t go on, I can’t go on….!

I stood last night as my children participated in the induction ceremony for their Zionist youth group (Bnei Akiva). Children of all ages were standing outside singing “Ani Maamin”  - I believe – and Hatikvah at the top of their lungs. This is our response to barbarians trying to annihilate our presence in the Middle East, to erase our place in history. It does not make me feel scared, it makes me feel brave and proud. 

I understand the important need of the Public Relations Team that is the Jewish People to explain to the world that this is self defense on Israel’s part. That includes explaining just how many rockets Hamas is sending, and has sent. That they have killed three innocent people and injured scores more. It IS important; we didn’t bring this upon ourselves, and whatever we are doing is so, so much less than what is deserved. We are destroying an infrastructure of evil, and crippling a terrorist organization. Not retaliating in measure by any means, or taking revenge.

But the story many are perhaps reluctant to share is that we are kicking some very serious bad-guy butt. We have taken out some serious Hamas leadership, a win for Israel, and for “The Force” that is all that is Good in the world. We are not only shooting down LOTS of their precious arms that they are blessedly using up, but doing so in great numbers with no harm to anyone. We are taking out weapons caches and factories. They are more interested in a cease fire than we are after only three days – and with good reason. Hamas’ “destroy Israel forever machine” will hopefully never be the same.

I don’t feel afraid. I felt far, far more fear when Israel sat back, let the situation get worse and worse, and did nothing. I felt far worse when we waited for rhetoric in the West to express support, and tried “negotiations” – or even worse, cessations in building in my precious West Bank. All of which produced an increase in violent bravado that brought us to our current reality.

More than anything, I felt more fear when we lived in a place where I didn’t usually know who or what was evil. Who to trust and who had my back. I felt more fear with my children at the playground in NJ without an adult than I feel every waking minute in Israel today.

As for my daily reality? I went into our shelter room on Friday night when we had a siren. It is set up like a den, and we hung out in there for a very un-dramatic five minutes. I have since gone on with my routine, trying to be sensitive to neighbors who may have husbands called up for reserve duty. This routine includes an early morning run to the local grocery story here in the West Bank, where my excellent customer service was almost exclusively from the Arab employees there. A security stop on the road home with lots of “racial profiling” – good news for me. A trip to the health clinic to deal with a child’s allergic reaction, teaching a class, laughing with friends, seeing the very, very sad end to my mother in law’s visit, and enjoying a fabulous afternoon in the park.

As I helped my four year old out of an olive tree whose very existence celebrates the resettling of Jews in the ancient Jewish area of Efrat (in the West Bank), I looked up at the gorgeous blue sky and the sunny, breezy balmy day, and thought with sadness for a moment that Jews in southern Israel may not be able to be outside in the park enjoying the beautiful sunshine. And my children told me how sad it was their their “friends back home” (in NJ) have only now gotten back power, (“and isn’t it sad?”) Homes were destroyed, those poor people!

I live in a place where the people who live around my country hate me. I live in a place where our final borders and status is still an open question whose answer will not come quickly or easily. I live in a place where my enemies are not concealed, and where the source of my security is in the hands of brothers and sisters and our Creator, the Parent to us all together. Where the problems are OUR problems, and therefore I can be part of the solution.

Pray for Israel, help Israel… but do NOT worry about me, and do not feel sorry for me. Help me cheer on the only country of the Jews as we finally stand up to evil and say NO MORE.

How are we doing? This is how we are doing:

 

 

 and   and

Haveil Havalim 381

October 14th, 2012

Shavua Tov to everyone!

Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs founded by Soccer Dad — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week, jointly coordinated through our Facebook Group., and headed up by Jack.  The term ’Haveil Havalim,’ which means”Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ’hevel,’ or in English,’vanity.’ (*I just want to note that some translate hevel as ‘fleeting’, not ‘vanity’, but it’s a great discussion for another time.)

Consider submitting your blog posts to the carnival in future weeks, and joining our community.

I would like to dedicate this week’s Blog Carnival to Stella Frankl and her “Army”. Stella is the wife of blogger Yarden Frankl, and an all around extraordinary human being. She has just begun her second battle with cancer, and there are many, many of us around the world joining her fight. I would never presume to suggest why such a painful, scary and difficult thing needs to happen to such a happy, positive, wonderful person. But I can tell you that there have been many heartfelt prayers and tremendous acts of charity and kindness to come about solely in the merit of her recovery. May they continue, and may they be successful.

In honor of Stella, you will see a special section today of bloggers from her – and my – yishuv, Neve Daniel. I believe the time has come to dub our little town “Har Hablogim”, as you will see from the heavy concentration of writing talent. Maybe it is the mountain air. I hosted this Carnival before moving here, and the bloggers of Har Hablogim welcomed me in such an amazing way that I didn’t feel quite as much “the new kid on the block”. It is a very special place, and I am privileged to live here.

The Neve Daniel garin* of Stella’s Army:

I think it best to start with Yarden himself, who can best explain what Stella’s Army is all about at Crossing The Yarden, in My Wife Has Cancer and I’m Going for a Bike Ride.

Culinart Kosher gives us a tasty treat and another way to help the cause with Miriam’s Magic Mix Challah Topping.

Trip’n Up backs up my claims that this isn’t just any yishuv in Loving Life in Israel: Special Treats.

At Sussmans B’Aretz we are reminded to exploit and enjoy the quiet moments when we can in Creating the Space for Beauty.

Cheri B Levi asks Who Am I?. She seems much closer to an answer than I am. Can you answer the question? 

Laura Ben David, often found blogging over at Times of Israel had her first blog post at Kveller.com, about Hospital “Lactophobia” here in Israel in Why Was Breast Milk Banned from an Israeli Maternity Ward Fridge? - note; read the comments, too.

Gedalya Reback warns us of the danger of hubris – theirs and ours – in military conflict at The Times of Israel in  The Simchat Torah War: Egyptians Celebrate 1973 Loss to Israel

Ruti Mizrahi writes on Ki Yachol Nuchal about personal and meaningful celebration of her Aliyahversary (Mazal Tov!!!) in Party, Party Party! - Stella – when you read this – may we only have reasons to celebrate. 

And from the rest of the world:

Israel

Walkable Jerusalem asks whether  downtown Jerusalem, and its historic buildings, should be emptied of “mundane” uses and dedicated solely to culture and tourism The dowtown trophy wife at Nine Measures of Beauty.

Batya asks questions surrounding the drone interception in Israel last week in  IDF, Bibi- It’s Not Enough to “Intercept” Attacks and tells us a wonderful story of history recorded and friends reuniting in Days (and Nights) of Action, Can’t Keep a Good Jewish Activist Down at Shiloh Musings.

Politics

Batya presents Stop The Sarcasm! They’re Trying to Kill Us!!  and Bibi Calls for Elections! Israeli Politicians Dance The Tango at Shiloh Musings. While the “election speculation” all over the newspapers in the US and Israel is driving me a little crazy (how is that reporting?) I am surprised that Batya is our only ‘Elections-Coming-Up-in-Israel’ blog post this week. Perhaps the lack of blogging about it indicates that there is not much competition worthy of mention (as Batya suggests), and Bibi made a smart move. Or, perhaps it means that many bloggers are drowning in “acharei hachagim“* and  we will see more commentary next week…..

Personal

Mazal Tov to Chana Jenny on the birth of her baby boy. She tells her beautiful and mystical story in The Amazing Story Behind My Baby’s Name at  JewishMom.com  

Batya is also kvelling* over her special yishuv in The View From the Top posted at me-ander.

Yocheved Golani joins Stella’s Army with Crossing Jordan – and Begging Heaven to Heal a Special Lady over at It’s My Crisis and I’ll Cry if I Need To!

LATEST UPDATES: 

The following posts weren’t included initially purely due to MY oversight.. and I apologize. But they are worth the look, I promise:

What I love about The Real Jerusalem Streets is that Sharon always reminds me what I love about this country. She has posted Favorite Sukkot of Sukkot, and 10 Special Smiles in Sukkot Holiday Crowds to show us the best of the best from Jerusalem’s Sukkot holiday.  They are gorgeous pics!

Esser Agaroth‘s posts, in contrast,  ask some hard questions, and make those of us in Israel face some realities we might prefer not to in U. S. Troops In Jordan: Now Will You Believe Me? and Can Israel Win A War Against Iran? (or Syria? or Hezbollah? or anyone?) But his insight and analysis is important. It saddens me to say that I think that he (and Barry Chamish) are probably far, far more than 5% right…

Netivotgirl has a guest post  The Negev Is Alive and Well up at Shiloh Musings, and reminds us that “no casualties” from all of those rockets in southern Israel is simply a fallacy. May all those living there be in our prayers as well.

Maybe now that you have read through this list, you wish your blog was included here? Or your friends? Here is the submission form

This concludes this edition. While not all of our ND bloggers are represented here, don’t you think the nickname “Har Hablogim” should stick?

Please include Stella, Tzuriya Kochevet Bat Sarah, in your prayers and thoughts, and please submit your blog article to the next edition of haveil havalim using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Have a great week!

Note:

*garin = Means seed, but refers to a Unit, or Group, in the IDF.

*kvelling = Yiddish for “feeling extremely proud, gushing, and/or swelling.”

*acharei hachagim = literally meaning “after the holidays”, this phrase is used in Israel from the week before Rosh Hashanah until the end of Simchat Torah to explain that anything and everything can/must wait until mid-October. Once the holidays are over and we are in the period of acharei hachagim, feelings of being overwhelmed and inundated with that which was put off are commonly known to occur.

 

 

A Bat Mitzvah Message

January 22nd, 2012

I wanted to share with you the words I said to my daughter upon her becoming a bat mitzvah. I have not forgotten nor moved on from the situation in Nachlaot, and I hope to have updates in the future.

I learned something very powerful through the experience of making my daughter’s bat mitzvah; the fact that should be obvious, that she is “frum from birth”. Having chosen a life of Torah and mitzvot, this difference between us was never so apparent or relevant for me until the mitzvot became hers as well.

I am hoping to hear some comments and reactions to her choice to sing in front of women only; but that would mean you have to read through the whole thing. :  )

I hope you will find some meaning in it for you:

Welcome everyone. We are so happy that you could be here to celebrate this milestone in Michal’s life with us.

Michal is my daughter, my student, my friend, and definitely my teacher. Learning how to parent Michal has made me a better person, and I thank her so much for her patience while I learn! I am so grateful for the wisdom of Hakodesh Baruch, our holy Creator, in the matchmaking he does between children and parents.  She is my extraordinary gift, and my tremendous obligation and responsibility.

Michal chose the theme of butterflies for her bat mitzvah. If you look, you will notice them with the crafts, on the centerpieces, in her scrapbook and even in her hair.

I think it is so fitting that she chose this for her theme. Butterflies look delicate, but in order to fly, they actually must be very strong… just like someone I know.

 They also go through a metamorphosis. Since Michal decided at three years old she was going to be a herpetologist, she learned the concept of metamorphosis then.  Becoming a bat mitzvah is also a metamorphosis.

My wise father once told me that when he was asked if he was ready to become a grandfather, he answered that he would be ready the minute he became one. I believe this is the process we all go through at different stages in our lives. We can prepare as much as we like, but experiencing it is the only way we truly get there.

When a butterfly breaks out of its chrysalis it must work painfully hard. I was once taught that if one were to watch a butterfly during this excruciating work, one would be so inclined to have pity on the poor creature, and help crack it open, aiding their escape. If we did, however, we would be killing the butterfly. Only through the effort and perserverance, does the butterfly develop the wing strength to fly and survive.

So too as parents, it is sometimes hard to allow our children to break free themselves, and to develop the strength and tools that they need to fly.  Michal, you are developing so much strength, every day, and I will always – ALWAYS – be here to talk with, to help you, to love you. This immense metamorphosis into an adult member of G-d’s people is truly cause for celebration. It will not always be easy, and it will not always be fun. I cannot always remove the challenges. But you will never, ever be alone.

As most of you sitting here know, Michal has many gifts, and many talents.

Reb Zushe of Annipoli, who taught:

 “Our Sages have said, ‘Just as their faces are different, so too are their thoughts different’ (Brochos 58a). There exist on earth millions of people, and they all have the same basic features on their faces: two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Nonetheless, no two people look alike. Similarly, if the outward appearances of people are so diverse, then how great must be the differences in their inner workings, the qualities of their souls, and their natures. If the beauty of the soul in all humans was identical, then why would Hashem need to create so many millions of people, where each one is no different from the next?

The secret is this: Each person is sent down to this world in order to fulfill a specific Divine task, to carry out on earth a lofty, heavenly purpose. This is the mission of human beings on earth; moreover, for as many people as Hashem sends down to earth, He has just as many different tasks and purposes. The work of one person is totally independent of the task of any other person, and each one must carry through and complete his or her given purpose. Therefore, Hashem endows each person with unique talents and attributes necessary for him to fulfill his task. These talents cry out within each person, demanding to be expressed and to fulfill the mission for which they were sent to this world.” 

When most people think of Michal, they immediately think of how much she loves to … read. But the secret is, it isn’t really the reading itself that she loves so much. Like a butterfly, Michal is flying off to other places and times. This journey into the imagination and sparking of her intellect while satisfying her adventurous spirit is the real reason she sits with books for hours.

But Michal also has a very special talent with young children. When she was born, I insisted we give her a middle name. This was to avoid her feeling jealous of the many other children we did not yet have, all of whom would have middle names. I chose Sarah, in the hopes that Hashem would bless us with many more children, and would also bless us with Michal becoming a “little matriarch” to help with the brood. And  I think Hashem listened. Michal’s ability to engage small children and to bring them into the world of imagination she so often flies off to is a gift I hope she will continue to cultivate. Michal, may it be one of the unique ways in which you serve Hashem throughout your lifetime.

Michal’s first name is after my grandfather, Michel, my mother’s father. He had the most wonderful gift of making each person, regardless of their age, religion, abilities or circumstance feel like a mensch. Connecting to people of different ages I believe is the greatest gift Michal has received from her namesake. The friendships Michal has forged with adults is partially due to her recognition of the extraordinary in other people, and partially an internalization of the commandment to love every fellow Jew. Michal, may you continue to excel in the mitzvah “v’ahavta l’reecha kamocha” and to be an ongoing aliyah (raising up) of your namesake great grandfather’s neshama (soul).

As only some of you know, Michal has another unique and special gift. That is the love of singing and music. Praise of Hashem through music is chronicled throughout Jewish history from the Torah until today. Michal has chosen as part of her gratitude to Hashem for bringing her to this day to sing a few songs, including some she has written herself.

Part of the process of becoming a bat mitzvah is a heightened awareness of gender separation and the role our femininity can play in our serving G-d.  For us, as Orthodox Jews, this means celebrating all that is within a woman’s realm, but recognizing the power within as well. Our laws of modesty are in place because of the immense power a woman can have on the focus of Klal Yisroel. For many, these laws of modesty include a woman singing alone.  This is why Michal will be singing for an exclusively female audience. 

When I am (finally) done speaking, we are going to kindly request that all of the males present with us today join my husband for a brief Mincha service. I am happy to explain this more one on one, but I would encourage all of them men to direct those questions to my husband at the end of Mincha, so he can field them instead of me!

Michal I bless you to always lean on those that love you, to always face that which confounds you with a commitment to learn and study more, to always love your yiddishkeit and Hashem as much as you do today, and that you always, always remain aware of the spark of Elohut –the special piece of Godliness – that exists within you, and that you connect to that Heavenly spark in order to fulfill the unique divine mission for which you were sent to this world.

 I love you.  

Passions

December 12th, 2011

I must stop working/typing/writing, and go to sleep. It seems however, that I have to choose between remaining a lapsed blogger or losing some sleep. At least until I can clear a few things off of my plate. (I am working on it.)

As you might have read, I recently had a chance to meet a “rock star” – one whose music I really enjoy. (I think I have said that once or twice.) What I am passionate about however isn’t the rock star …. but music. I don’t always get to spend the time involved with music that I would like, and when I do it is always restorative.

I have been working on a project “on the back burner” for years now that combines my love for children with my love for Judaism and my love for music. Truly three of my passions. I hope to be able to share more of this project with you… but in a later post.

I won tickets to a Mama Doni concert this coming Sunday (!), and I am really looking forward to it. Not only will I get to enjoy some real “ima time” with the little ones, but I also plan to meet Mama herself and speak to her briefly about this project.  More to follow on the contest, the tickets, the concert and the encounter.

I am also working on another project “on the back burner” which involves my other passion – zionism. I am truly excited to see that this may also be moving forward, however slowly.

I consider myself very blessed to work in a career that touches on all of these loves. But my “back burner” projects are my own. They may take longer to see the light of day, but they are being nurtured by my heart and soul.

I have spent the better part of the last decade being responsible for small children and primarily occupied with diapers crisis management and household maintenance. It feels good – and right – to now be refocusing some of my energies on my passions. Doing so is good for me, I know, but I believe it is also good for my family.  I see that my involvement in these passions engages my family in them as well. Children, zionism, music and Judaism are all wonderful things for us to be involved in together.

What are your passions, and what are you doing to involve yourself in them? 

 

 

Sept. 11th. Not a good day.

September 11th, 2011

A lot of people have written and tweeted and posted and blogged about where they were on 9/11 one decade ago. I am not sure whether I should be embarrassed to admit it, but I didn’t even know anything had happened for hours.

My twins were almost 5 months old, and my daughter was a year and a half. I was drowning in child care all day every day. Nursing two babies through the night and tending to three all day. I thought it odd that we had no TV reception – which also meant no news. My husband had been working blocks from the towers and getting off of the train at that stop for months – but had taken to working from home much of the time given how much help I needed.

… I have wanted to blog all day today about how much I remember, and how much has changed.  How I had time to “wake up” to the world as my babies grew, and to wake up to the national new reality on so many different levels.

But my six year old fell off of the monkey bars yesterday (on Shabbat) and broke two bones in her wrist. I had to navigate her  intense pain, questioning nurses, halachic judgement calls and decisions, and six out of town guests staying at my house.

So today, I was absolutely worn out. I did the best I could to wander through unbreakable commitments like a zombie, vaguely aware of the mourning, the memories, the still-open wounds of loss and tragedy of others around me…..

So today as I drown in the fog of exhaustion from my own family’s needs, it feels eerily like very, very little has changed.

 

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone touched and hurt by the horrible losses of 9/11, and victims of terror everywhere. 

An Elul Experiment….

August 31st, 2011

 

Female chemist

I am feeling prodded? inspired? by Rabbi Phyllis Sommers’ BlogElul project. She challenges us to blog daily for the month of Elul about the month and its process of introspection and teshuva. Since I am working on the parameters of my computer and internet use this month, it might be quite counterproductive for me to participate.

I have to see whether the exercise helps me use my internet time better, or becomes one more task that just pulls me away from the people I love. Time will tell… and I am here, blogging Elul, for now.


I am trying a new family project this Elul, as an experiment.  We are going to (try to) focus on one midda (character trait) or mitvzah each day of Elul and try to improve it.

While I know this is not that different from what many people do during the omer leading up to Shavuot, I am trying this new approach with the children that somehow managed to turn into big kids on me this summer. All of them. All at once.

That’s a different blog post. What I have found to be so interesting so far is the list itself. I had put some choices down on paper to give the kids some ideas and a head start. What they wanted to add was such a personal and honest reflection of what they know they need to work on that it simply fascinated me.

I know that part of real teshuva means not focusing on everything. Choosing one, maybe two areas or challenges in your own life and truly focusing on change in them is the advised course, and often the most effective.

list

I wanted everyone to be setting an example for each other, and it of course is forcing me to step up. Today the kids chose to focus on saying all of the brachot, or blessings, and doing so properly. So I had to be more focused on nursery-teacher like loud pronouncements of my own, making time and space for their “Amens”. Which is all good.

It feels a little like the office pool that loses weight together. We are a team, trying to take baby steps and improve, but together.

I don’t know if this will work, or if we will keep it up all month. I hope we do. It certainly is a self-imposed mechanism for me to focus on my family on that which matters.

I will keep you posted on our progress, but if you have any ideas for what should be on our month long list, I would LOVE to hear them!