If you are taking out time from your busy Pesach prep to read this, well, I am honored.

It seems that our family ends up with all kinds of interesting hospital visits around Pesach time. I don’t think it is a coincidence. Springtime + school vacation can equal broken legs, noses, bumps, scrapes, etc….. not to mention the fact that 6/8 of our children are Pesach babies! Thank G-d, so far this year all are healthy in our home this year, ptfu ptfu; so far, so good.

My son went for an MRI last night. This is not due to some recent malady, but rather a stubborn pitcher’s elbow that doesn’t seem to want to go away. The prescribed treatments so far haven’t seemed to work. He has been eager to have the MRI, and impatient with the process that is Israel’s socialized medicine. The MRI for him symbolizes our increasing attention and management of his problem, taking it seriously, and an intensified effort to get whatever treatment is going to help him make it “to the majors” in baseball someday.

baseballboys

 

 

 

 

 

There were two noteworthy aspects to the MRI. The first is that it was scheduled for 6.30 pm and happened closer to 11 pm. Not noteworthy at all, but sadly typical, right?  The administrator at the hospital in the MRI department called us four separate times, each to alert us of the delay and to tell us to come later (and later, and later) to spare our waiting around in the hospital.  A true Pesach miracle:  the hospital went out of their way to be sensitive to us and reduce our wait time!  What I love most about this is that the first time I told this kind man on the other line how busy we are getting ready for the holiday and how much I appreciated the heads up, so he took it upon himself to keep updating me. That Pesach informs hospital procedure is one of those little “only in Israel” moments that just never get old in this amazing country. 

My son was shocked to learn that the procedure wasn’t simple, and that the IV he had to have for it hurt. He wasn’t being treated, and he had been looking forward to getting more information about his injury and closer to recovery. So to find out it was going to be annoying and painful was a big shock. He was upset, uncomfortable and scared. I did what I could to reassure him, and now that it is over, he is relieved and smiling (although exhausted).

But I see in this a true Pesach lesson, and the MRI is going to be my “teachable moment” at the Seder this year.

Very often in life when Hashem gives us something wonderful and special, we have to experience a great deal of discomfort first. Childbirth is an example that naturally comes to mind for me. But it is true for many other times in life too. For some, an excrutiatingly difficult divorce is the necessary pain before finding the love of one’s life, and many years of marital bliss. I had to have a procedure on my toe this week (you don’t want the details, I promise), and it hurt so much to have it done that I put it off for at least a month. And after a month of suffering and one day of pain, everything feels great now. The process can be true for a move, getting a PhD, or losing weight.

To heal, we often go through a great deal of pain, and it has to get worse before it gets better. I don’t know if the reason is, as the Rabbis teach us, that we need difficult transitions to strengthen us enough to cope with a new reality. Or if it is a test and then a reward. Or, if it is simply the truism that change means coming out of ones “comfort zone”  - and doing that is almost always painful. It is probably all three.

Leaving Egypt was painful and difficult. We weren’t zapped and then just left. We had to learn mitzvot, follow commands, get out of our slave mentality, stand up to our former masters, pack up in a hurry and run away (I can’t even pack up my kids quickly to run to the corner store, never mind out into the desert) .. and then choose between what must have seemed like certain death by drowning or certain death by oncoming Egyptians.

vintage-cleaningLehavdil*, sometimes preparation for the Seder and the holiday is painful and difficult. I hope it isn’t for you! But Hashem is there in the pain, in the transitions. Our natural world is constructed that way to help us learn about our spiritual world. I think that leil haseder is about choosing to relive the pain and the transition of yetziat mitrayim in order to better appreciate the redemption and healing that followed. I think this is obvious to most, but I wonder if the MRI’s, toe procedures and childbirths in our lives can help us truly empathize and experience that process on an emotional level. 

Chag Kasher v’Sameach. May you have an uplifting and transformational Pesach. 

 

*Lehavdil is an expression that is hard to translate. My best effort is to say “Similarly, but of course not the same!”

Our first Pesach in Israel

April 10th, 2013

This post originally appeared in the Princeton-Mercer Bucks New Jersey Jewish News

At home abroad: our family’s first Pesach in Israel

 

This is the first time in at least nine years that I didn’t make any apple kugel for the Passover seder. I didn’t make it because Max Goldfarb from East Windsor wasn’t at my seder table, so there was no special request.

This was only one of many changes for the holiday, since we moved from the Twin Rivers Jewish community in East Windsor to Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion in Israel last July.

I had expected drama — after all, this was our first Pesach as free people in our own Jewish land. THIS year, in Jerusalem.

What I got was a whole lot of normal. There were no tears at the seder and no virtual symphonic music running in my head. Just the same fun, goofy singing of “Chad Gadya” as in years past.

Since I last wrote about our aliya from New Jersey, the kids have become more and more settled, and I have begun working part time. I am now the spokesperson for the One Family Fund, a national organization helping terror victims and their families with legal, financial, and emotional assistance. The work is very intense yet incredibly meaningful. While it is an adjustment for us all, it is one more step toward full acclimation.

Our Passover seders in New Jersey were beautiful, uplifting, and a lot of fun. But they were also a lot of work: lots of guests, long drives to Lakewood for Passover supplies, two days of holiday to cook and clean for — in Israel, only one seder is observed — and generally swimming upstream in a culture celebrating Easter all around us.

Here, in the two weeks leading up to Passover, I was also busy — but with my job: As a One Family Fund representative, I was preparing to attend President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem. Being in Israel meant there were other factors mitigating the hectic approach to the holiday. A yeshiva student-for-hire scrubbed my oven and refrigerator for me. Every Pesach ingredient imaginable was available 15 minutes from my house. The community has a vat for kashering metal items, which meant sending my husband off with pots and silverware to Minha services and the dunking of the utensils — and that was it.

Rachel Moore with her press pass — as a One Family Fund representative — to attend President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem.

During the intermediate days of the holiday, day trips (“tiyulim” here) could be arranged spontaneously, just 20 minutes from our home in every direction. And no need to pack food; the restaurants at attractions and throughout Jerusalem are kosher-for-Passover.

At our one seder, we had 10 people. Israel didn’t change clocks until after the first days of Passover, so we were able to begin the seder by 6:30. We could start before what I used to feel was bedtime and finish before the middle of the night.

Passover break for the kids was a full three weeks. While that may have been its own challenge, in general the holiday season was marked by a welcome lack of hard work. It honestly felt like a vacation.

Our family was finally initiated into a true Israeli rite, when we went on our first family hike in Nahal Sorek, near Beit Shemesh. It was a beautiful (downhill) trek, with Israel’s famous spring flowers bursting forth throughout the expansive valley.

We also visited the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, which is quickly becoming a favorite destination for our kids. I know they enjoy seeing the animals there, but I must say I get more pleasure from seeing the kaleidoscope of Jews all gathered together; the variety never ceases to amaze me.

Ironically, it was during Passover that I became most nostalgic for our previous life. While preparing for the holiday in New Jersey was always a production, it was a production we put on together, and we enjoyed every minute once the day came.

In Twin Rivers, the preparation brought a sense of drama. Despite Obama’s first presidential visit to Israel, the holiday — this “first Pesach in Israel” — was decidedly lacking in drama. The normalcy of being a Jew in a Jewish culture, where Passover is just part of the national rhythm, felt great.

Most of my children said they missed the second seder, but in general did very little comparing. They did read the Haggada in Hebrew — and even questioned the translation! But life here is so different in so many ways that it is getting harder and harder to compare. We are slowly getting better at just living in the here and now.

Having said that, they all did want to know what happened to the apple kugel, and we all dearly missed Max Goldfarb and all of our other wonderful NJ Passover guests.

Passover Granola

March 19th, 2013

I am posting this again, because it is still my favorite and I have been receiving requests. More Pesach posting to come!

This is my favorite Pesach recipe. I got it from “Stove Tops Personal Chef Service” several years ago when speaking about Pesach at a local Hadassah meeting.

I have talked about the Pesach granola so much that everyone is tired of hearing about it. But it is easy to make, yummy to eat and with yogurt is a million times better than pesach cereal for breakfast.

You can substitute or omit most of the ingredients. I recommend mixing it right in the pan you bake it in. My hope is I am giving you enough time to buy the ingredients.

If you make it, PLEASE post a comment.

Ingredients:
4 c. matzo farfal, or broken up pieces of matzo
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. dried raisins/cranberries
1 1/2 c. sweetened, shredded coconut
2 tsps cinnamon
2/3 c. veg. oil
1 c. honey
2 tsps Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Toss the matzo, almonds, fruit, coconut and cinnamon together in a large bowl ( I do it in an aluminum pan I am baking in). Pour the oil and honey over the mixture. Stir until the mixture is thoroughly coated. Add the Kosher salt and toss.

Spray pan with non-stick spray ( usually don’t do this step.) Pour mixture onto the sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the granola and cool on the sheet pan. Stir occasionally as it cools. Store the granola in an airtight container.

Variations: you can add chocolate chips when cool, add more dried fruit, change or add more nuts.

 

Seven Stones

Chag Sameach

April 6th, 2012

Happy Passover to you all. May this be the year of redemption for us all. I will be crying tears of joy over our personal return from exile later this year, G-d willing.

I hope it is a meaningful and uplifting experience for you all.

Haveil Havalim #352

March 25th, 2012

Welcome to Haveil Havalim, the Jewish blog carnival!  Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week.  Next week’s edition will be hosted by Tripn’ Mommy at  Trip’n Up, to be included, please send your blog entry and link to  tripnmommy @ gmail . com.

I apologize for the delay in this getting up, due to technical difficulties. Of course it had to happen this week, but I am so pleased to be up and running again.

Opinions expressed in the posts linked below are those of the respective bloggers and not necessarily endorsed by me.

If you would like to join the Haveil Havalim facebook group, click here.

I wish all of you a redemptive and meaningful Passover holiday. L’Shana Habaa B’yerushalayim Habnuya! 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

I didn’t get a single submission about Yitta Halberstam’s controversial article on the shidduch crisis in The Jewish Press. So I just went ahead and am including some myself. Feel free to add on!

Pacific Jewish Center Rabbi writes How to Solve the Shidduch Crisis WITHOUT Advocating for a Bunch of Nose Jobs, and In The Pink weighs in with My Shidduch Experience and  More Beauty Reflections.

Esser Agaroth explains why he thinks we should not vote for Shmuley Boteach. I am very relieved that I don’t have to make a decision either way.

He also tell us  about The Machon Shilo Pre-Passover Conference that is taking place today, March 25th. I hope we will learn more after the fact, with a follow up post.

Batya muses in Shiloh How Would CSI, Bones, Cold Case or Harry Bosch Have Handled the John Demjanjuk-Ivan the Terrible Case? at Shiloh Musings.

Joel Katz over at Religion and State in Israel brings us his digest this week in Section 1 and Section 2, touching a lot of important material, including A.B. Yehoshua’s controversial statement.

Speaking of controversy, Michael at An Aspiring Mekubal writes about the passing of Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg on the same day as the children in Toulous in Measure for Measure. You may not agree with what he has to say, but it is definitely food for thought.

In the light of the hate-filled tragedy in Toulous, it is nice to read Susan Esther Barnes’ A Message of Hope from Israel at TCJewfolk.

… and unfortunately in more hate-filled news, there is a March on Jerusalem expected this week on March 30th(!) “an anti-Israel publicity stunt that aims to have a million people marching on Israel’s borders from all the surrounding countries.” Please get the facts from CiFWatch, and see what you can do to help!

Dr. Eyal Levin wrote about Israel’s defensive approach in Israel Hayom, and here is Batya’s response “Is The Best Defense, Self- Defense or Offense? Is Life Like Football? in Shiloh Musings.

At Tripn’ Up we hear about how special the Neve Daniel Community is in Lean on Me…. I can’t wait to find out for myself.

And inspired ima reminds us all how our inner child relives it all through our children’s experiences in Childhood Anxiety.

RonyPony gives a comprehensive commentary on Jewish Homeschooling in response to a Yated Neeman article on the topic, that unfortunately isn’t available on line. If you think homeschooling isn’t about you, but you are interested in Jewish education in the US and its lack of affordability and future, I recommend you read on.

Me-ander asks if Passover – Spring Cleaning is a Dirty Word? … I should be doing both right now, but this is of course more fun. : )

GOOD VIBES… 

Spring is coming, Pesach is coming, redemption is coming… time for some positivity, people! I love Pesach and refuse to bring the grumpy stressed ones bring me down, but I am happy to see a a little anticipation, too.

I love Jacob Richman’s Collection of 177 (!) Passover Videos, at Good News from Israel.  I have enjoyed and shared some of them already, and not just the one my daughter is in! (More on that later.)

Visit the beautiful Spring Edition JPix Jewish Photo Bloggers’ Blog Carnival over at  Ilana Davita.

And other wonderful photos of and commentary on the Jerusalem Marathon from the Real Streets of Jerusalem.

I saved my favorite for last: Networked Blogs writes about Mama Doni’s Passover tour and video, sponsored by Streit’s Matzo. I hope you watch the video (which is highlighted in Jacob Richman’s collection too); my daughter is in it! She and Mama Doni have become fast friends. Look for the young lady with a long brunette ponytail and spygear — in a skirt. Mama Doni – I hope Michal gets a chance to perform together with you in Israel one day!

I apologize profusely if something has been omitted; please let me know and I will modify.

Happy cleaning everyone! 

 

 

 

 

Please visit next week as I host the Haveil Havalim Blog Carnival (and “celebrate” turning 40!).

This week I want to leave you with my FAVORITE Pesach recipe… so you can join me in hording the ingredients that run out at the store.

As much as Purim is not my favorite time of year... Pesach is. I love freshening up the house, the arrival of spring, the intensity and seder (order) of the holiday.

When I start to think about Pesach, I start to think about granola. Pesach granola. I love to make it, I love to serve it, and I especially love to eat it.

My recipe is based on the one from “Stove Tops Personal Chef Service” in NJ.  Several years ago I was asked to speak about Pesach at a local Hadassah meeting, and this was the gem I walked away with.

It is easy to make, yummy to eat and with yogurt is a million times better than pesach cereal for breakfast.

You can substitute or omit  ingredients. I recommend mixing it right in the pan you bake it in. My hope is I am giving you enough time to buy the ingredients.

PESACH GRANOLA

Ingredients:
4 c. matzo farfal, or broken up pieces of matzo
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. dried raisins/cranberries
1 1/2 c. sweetened, shredded coconut (the stores run out of this one.) 
2 tsps cinnamon
2/3 c. veg. oil
1 c. honey
2 tsps Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the matzo, almonds, fruit, coconut and cinnamon together in a large bowl ( I do it in an aluminum pan I am baking in). Pour the oil and honey over the mixture. Stir until the mixture is thoroughly coated. Add the Kosher salt and toss.

Spray pan with non-stick spray ( usually don’t do this step.) Pour mixture onto the sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the granola and cool on the sheet pan. Stir occasionally as it cools. Store the granola in an airtight container.

Variations: you can add chocolate chips when cool, add more dried fruit, change or add more nuts. 

I try to make a variety of batches, but we always run out. I don’t like Pesach cakes, candies or cookies, so this becomes my treat for the week.

If you make it, PLEASE post a comment. Happy Pesach prepping! 

Post-Pesach Wrap-up

April 28th, 2011

I remember last year at the end of Pesach A Mother in Israel asking on Facebook about the amount of leftovers in our fridges. I remember this  because I can’t forget feeling horrified by own my answer.  This year I had a lot of successes, including a lot less food leftover. I am not patting myself on the back, or at least not trying to. I am FINALLY getting up a Pesach learning curve, learning from my twelve-years-married mistakes.  The learning began by emailing myself notes at the end of the holiday the last couple of years. One of the first things I learned (the hard way) is that by next Pesach I won’t remember all of the things that at the end of this one I am sure I will.

I invited fewer people for Seders this year. I really didn’t want to, but my kids are at this particular stage where they needed the seders to be about them and their (long and many) questions and divrei Torah as much as possible.  (Amusingly predictable, they complained at one point at the lack of company.)  This allowed me to have the energy to invite more people for Shabbat and the final days, and to end Pesach less ‘burnt out’ than in years past.

I didn’t try a lot of new recipes. I didn’t make a lot of courses. I made lots, and lots (and lots) of mashed potatoes. I barely ate them. The kids were happy, no one complained about the repetition, and I wasn’t stuck with the remains of a fancy dish they didn’t like.

I didn’t buy mixes, pre-made food, or a lot of “substitute” stuff. We lived without Pesach mayo, mustard, pasta and cereal for one whole week, believe it or not.

I did try one thing new: I made delicious stuffed mushrooms with sauteed onions and celery, mushroom tips, spinach, pine nuts and matzo meal. I will wait until next Pesach to post the full recipe, but I will definitely be making these again. I didn’t even try to get my kids to enjoy them. We just gobbled them all up on our own.

I pushed myself to teach a shiur close to Pesach on “Coming to the Seder Elevated and not Exhausted.” I felt really stupidly ambitious for choosing such a topic – after the fact. As with every shiur I give, I learn more than anyone from it, and it pushed me to try and live up to that ideal a lot more this year. It also forced me to learn as much Torah beforehand on the topic as I could to prepare! This helped me plan ahead and strategize.  Not menu plan or strategize my shopping lists, but to think about the ways I wanted to maintain Shalom Bayit in the extremely stressful lead up to the holiday.

Rebbetzin Heller‘s practical tips through shiurim at Naaleh.com were a big help in this respect. I hope you check out her classes, especially if you are currently raising kids. After listening to her advice, I tried something new a couple of weeks before Pesach, and had each child make their own list of all of the responsibilities they felt they could commit to in preparation. This included a number of “Yechiel hours”, referring to the time the would put in watching my youngest. I explained (as R. Heller advised) that if everyone completed their own devised lists, they would get a family reward at the end.  Which they did. The family reward actually bought me a lot of prep time during chol hamoed as the novelty of it kept them busy.*  But the most effective aspect was their own recognition of their abilities and my ability to remind them that when I recruited them to help I was merely asking for something that was “on their list”.

It’s important to get it right at Pesach. Of course in order to fulfill the mitzvot of the holiday, but also because Pesach is the beginning of our journey to redemption, not its completion. Since I am once again pushing myself to teach, I am cognizant of our entrance immediately into the Omer and our need to keep climbing upward.

It feels a little like a treadmill, spiritually and physically (with a lot of laundry and dish washing and sweeping and lugging garbage….) .  I am NOT looking forward to cooking tomorrow!

But I left this Pesach feeling much better in years past. Less in this case is more, and that less has given me much more stamina for the rest of the climb.

As if it didn’t happen?

April 24th, 2011

If any of you haven’t completely given up on me  yet and are reading this, then it will be most likely after Pesach has come and gone… without a single blog post from me. Not an essay, not a recipe. And I even came up with a brand new one of my own today for stuffed mushrooms that is SO good…but I suppose it will have to wait to be posted until next year.

What can I say? I decided that being relaxed, organized and happy this Pesach was going to be my priority this year. I am happy to say that I have succeeded for the most part, and I will post about my lessons learned and successes after the holiday. But the only way this happened was to allow something to go overboard, and one was blog posting. I apologize.

I am quite sure there is a direct correlation; I have lost my patience with the kids twice in the five minutes I have scrambled to write and type even this. How pathetic to lose my winning streak in the home stretch of the game.

I truly hope that once we are back to a school routine, I will find a better balance.

In the meantime, please send me your favorite experience from this whole Pesach, as I would like to use them in a future post.

What is the moment YOU want to hold on to?

I want to apologize first for not posting this in time for it to be relevant in Israel. I seem to be customarily behind in everything again this year.

I am preparing for Shabbos and cleaning for Pesach at the same time, which is actually convenient and productive. But it leads me to try and find a balance between getting ready for Pesach while still really making Shabbos Kodesh

We spend weeks focused on the preparation for Pesach, whether it is shopping, cleaning or simply swapping recipes. At the same time, we need to remember that Shabbat is here and it has its own holy essence that we cannot skip (pass?) over because we are so focused on what lies ahead.

As Rabbi Tatz writes in “Living Inspired“: “There are many ideas in Shabbos, but perhaps the most basic is that it represents an end-point, the tachlis of a process. The week is a period of working, building; Shabbos is the cessation of that building, which brings home the significance and sense of achievement that building has generated. It is not simply rest, inactivity. It is the celebration of the work which has been completed. Whenever the Torah mentions Shabbos it first mentions six days of work – the idea is that Shabboss occurs only after,because of, the work.”

Shabbat is not just a rest stop in the many-step process of Pesach preparation. It is an end in and of itself to the intense work most of us have been doing this week.

I hope that you can try and be in the moment this Shabbat and celebrate its own holiness and essence. I hope you can impart that to your kids. I hope you can feel even just a little sadness as Shabbat departs Saturday night, and not just relief that you can  get back to what needs to be done before Monday night. I am mostly hoping this for myself, as I know it is going to be a challenge.

My plan is to light the candles and do my best to shut the “to do” list out of my brain completely. While I know we can use the time to learn about and discuss Pesach, I plan to davka spend time with the children on this week’s parsha and on Shabbos itself.

I am not saying we need to divorce ourselves from the time of year. We don’t call this Shabbat HaGadol for nothing.  Interestingly, there are a lot of different opinions as to why it has this name. I am pretty sure it isn’t because of the “gadol” menu and elaborate set -up this particular Shabbat!

The Shibolei Haleket writes about the custom for a lengthy sermon to the kahal this week: “The customary lengthy Shabbat HaGadol speech makes the Shabbat feel long, drawn out, and ‘gadol’.”  Do we want it to feel drawn out to force ourselves to stay in the moment, or does it feel drawn out because we want to get to Pesach?

And if we need to feel that anxiousness, then let it be for our redemption from exile and slavery and NOT anxiousness to get on with the cooking and cleaning!

May you have a focused and meaningful Shabbat Shalom…..

Some Pesach favorites

April 5th, 2011

I have been reading a lot of other material on line rather than writing much here as of late. I taught a shiur last night on the Seder Night: Feeling Elevated, not Exhausted. I hope my own learning and preparation will allow me to achieve that! I also hope to post a summation of that class here as soon as possible… but not now.

Today I just want encourage you to check out some other great stuff:

The Joy of Kosher has invited Kosher on a Budget’s Mara Strom to guest post on Frugality and Pesach, and as usual, she does a great job.

The Bima’s Ima has hosted the Kosher Cooking Carnival … just enough time before Pesach to still be planning.

In preparation for my class I came across a great piece By Rabbi Spoltor of Orot on leaning at the seder that is worth the read.

The Jewish Hostess has a great list of Charoset Recipes from around the world.

And last but not least, Esti Berkowitz is running a great (but “cheesy”) contest over at Prime Time Parenting. I have probably just hurt my own chances of winning. Oh well. May the best recipe win.

Enjoy!