Shavua Tov and Chodesh 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.]
This week we have a great number of posts, and I hope you take the time to check out a few…. it is worth your while to read down to the end this week…
Please consider submitting your posts next week and every week. You can email the links to your blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want more information, find and join our facebook page, or just contact me, email@example.com.
Let’s Feel Good
I want to start with some Adar fun, so we have a parsha wordsearch for Parashat Mishpatim 5773 over at Thinking Torah.
When the weather was bad, I really asked myself for a moment why we shouldn’t just run off to the Golan. And then the some comes, and all is gorgeous, and beautiful and wonderful and I can’t imagine ever living any further from Jerusalem than I do right now. Sharon brings that feeling home, in pictures, of course, in Jerusalem After a Very Wet Week at Real Jerusalem Streets.
And for a super tourist-at-home experience, read the ROUNDUP IN A ROUNDUP! Tali Tarlow, founder of Jerusalem Scavenger Hunts brings us the Bloggers Nachlaot Scavenger Hunt Roundup. A great time was had by all – you should try it too!
I was in an Adar groove, and not sure how I wanted to include posts of a more critical tone this month, since I am in the Adar spirit. But the truth is, increasing social responsibility and accountability is one of the best, most positive things about today’s blog world.
Esser Agaroth wants your take on a conversation he shared with a shadchan in The Facebook Match-Maker Incident. I don’t think I agree with either one of them, but you decide for yourself.
Batya gives us an update on the coalition building process and the remarkable number of new MKs that have just been sworn in (without swearing) at Shiloh Musings with New Government Coalition in Israel? Can our new Knesset have a new tone, maybe with a little more Adar in it?
One of those MK Moshe Feiglin has made some statements that has Ariel’s unhappy over at The Torah Revolution. I have to personally disagree again, but healthy debate is part of social responsibility, right?
What about the changes in Greek government? Esser Agaroth discusses the disturbing Rise of the Nazi Party in Greece. Oh, how Amalek just keeps coming back in so many different and varied forms….
Let’s Show the Love
I learned that Mishloach Manot are all about brotherly love within the Jewish People. And that brotherly love; caring for one another, seems to be the natural these this week! What will be your random act of kindness today?
Maybe you will help an orphan today. Liz from Lizrael Update reminds us of our need to help Israel’s orphans and HOW in her timely Help an Orphan Help the World.
Maybe you will be a special-needs advocate today. A Mother in Israel gives us VERY practical advice to advocate for our children with the government bureaucracy we all know and love here in Israel. (Okay, maybe love is a bit strong…) Fighting City Hall: Get Services for Your Special-Needs Child is really a great post for anyone who has a child that needs anything from “the system”.
Maybe you will help someone who has lost their way on the derech today – or even better, prevent it from happening. Check out Shlomo’s Freiing Out – A Book Review over at Thinking Torah.
Maybe your prayers will add to the fight against cancer today. Yarden of Crossing the Yarden has given us an update on his family’s personal rollercoaster battling Stella’s cancer in Turning a Nightmare Into a Dream, where we get to join them at DISNEY. And if you are reading this, say a little prayer for Stella and her winning this fight before you keep reading, okay? Thanks.
Maybe you will invite in a guest, someone radically different from you, today. Yael sends us Open Doors in the Wild West Bank on Yael Yells… Softly. About the power of hachnasat orchim, for hosts at least as much as guests.
Maybe you will just help someone who is down today (maybe yourself?) with Cheriblevy’sRolling With the Punches... thoughts, ideas, and unique way of giving us all some “@cherapy”.
Leave With a Smile
..So before you get on with your day, your week, your Adar, I wanted to do something nice for all of you that are still reading, just to make you smile, and hopefully someone else as well.
( ***giveaway was removed because of a lack of proper entries…..)
Have a great CHODESH ADAR, and do something to “marbim” (increase) someone’s simcha (happiness) today.
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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.
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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.
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So much for my blogging Elul. I haven’t been here in a number of days.
We have continued our experiment, choosing a mitzvah a day to focus on as a family, but I have seen the kids so little this week that I haven’t been able to
nag them monitor their progress as much as I would have liked. They chose v’ahavta l’reecha kamocha yesterday. This mostly related to school and didn’t seem to spill over to a cessation of sibling rivalries or bickering, unfortunately. Today they chose don l’kav zchut, giving someone the benefit of the doubt. This seemed to go better, but wasn’t as relevant throughout the day as some other choices, like brachot.
Back to school and back to my full-time work load has simply been the focus this week, consuming a lot of time.
I am not sorry for staying away for the few days; I was needed in the real world, not the cyber-world, and it is an important part of my Elul experience to remember that and stay focused on it.
Jack B. put up and interesting article in June that I stumbled upon now, called “Mean Girls Come from Mean Moms.” He has an interesting premise that basically states that girls aren’t mean because their moms are mean to them. Girls are mean because they see and hear their moms being catty and mean to other women. I never really thought about it that way before. But it is just another stark reminder that our children do as we do, more than as we say.
My eldest daughter started a blog this week. She is both more proficient and more profound than I. I am at once awed by her efforts so far, and equally unsettled by them. She spends her time singing, reading, working with / playing with little children and now blogging. Which is exactly what she sees me doing. (To be fair to myself, she also loves to come learn Torah, something she sees me do as well.)
I suppose I should be proud. If she resented my time blogging she certainly wouldn’t emulate it right? At the same time, I never want my children to feel that my time on the computer comes before them. Sometimes they do feel that way, since I can’t always shut off work when they are home.
So once again, it all comes down to balance. I invited my daughter to “guest blog” here, even though her doing so may put me out of business.
My hope is that in sharing this on line experience it becomes family time instead of competing with it.
Now to just translate this into everything else in my life. I have to keep reminding myself every single day that my children will grow to become what they see us be, not what we tell them to be. I realized very early on as a parent that raising good kids meant raising up myself. Being a better me would make the best “thems”. Yet I have to keep being reminded. It is so much easier to give fine speeches than to set a fine example.
So when I don’t blog Elul, you will know that I am demonstrating to my children that this isn’t my parnasa and it isn’t my family. It is my outlet. An outlet which has value and is important to me but never to the extent of eclipsing higher priorities.
And that’s me raising up myself.
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Last year I wrote a piece for Elul “If you are doing Elul right, it’s hard.” Sounds uplifting and motivating, right? Well, maybe not.
Yet this year, yet again,while I am excited for the New Year to come I find this month tough. Life in the Married Lane gives some great inspiration and ideas, but as I commented to her “I feel like my soul wants to hit the snooze alarm and go back to summer vacation”.
This year’s Elul is a significant one for me. I have a lot of work to do! I recently posted about being in transition. The lack of little baby in the house means I can no longer procrastinate the many pockets of clutter in my house and inside of me. Given my self-professed need for a real cheshbon hanefesh this year regarding my computer use and boundaries, I have my work cut out for me on several fronts.
So in order to wake myself up – and to get in the spirit – I decided to search for a sounding of the shofar: I hope it helps wake you up, and get you in the spirit too! Shofar Blowing
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Welcome to the August 28, 2011 edition of haveil havalim.
Whenever I have the opportunity to host the Jewish Blog Carnival, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude to be able to include myself with this group of bloggers. Thank you for everything that has been contributed and for giving me some great reading while I stayed awake for Hurricane Irene. Any omissions, other than a few obvious off-topic spam posts, were purely accidental, and I do apologize.
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 coordinated 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.’
It appears that over this week there have been two major storms; One a weather pattern and the other, a certain American celebrity’s appearance in Israel. I am not yet sure which one caused more of an uproar.
The Hurricane received less blog commentary, but Allison Josephs presents us with Me, Myself, and (Hurricane) Irene: The Importance of Daily Personal Reflection | Jew In The City posted at Jew in the City.
We may see more on Hurricane Irene next week.
As for Glenn Beck’s appearance in Israel, I want to mention that I didn’t enjoy the tenor of the comments on this topic. Clearly feathers were ruffled, but the lack of civility in tone was quite disturbing for me to read. Perhaps those leaving comments should read Life in The Married Lane‘s Using Social Media in a Positive Way, Part Three before leaving any more comments:
Batya presents Are You Partying With Glenn Beck? posted at Shiloh Musings.
Tomer Devorah presents Parshat Re’eh: Of false prophets and idolaters posted at TOMER DEVORAH.
Sharon A presents Restoring Courage « The Real Jerusalem Streets posted at The Real Jerusalem Streets’s Blog, saying, “Love him or hate him, Glen Beck was in Safra Square and he brought 1000s with him”
And lastly, Batya presents What’s Christianity? posted at Shiloh Musings and I Get My Strength and Courage From My Jewish Sources posted at Shiloh Musings.
Other news from Israel includes:
Batya shares some beautiful photos of the new Trolley in Jerusalem with Jerusalem News, The Trolley Comes to Town posted at me-ander, and Jerusalem Trolley Unites Jews and Arabs posted at Shiloh Musings.
Joel Katz presents Religion and State in Israel – August 22, 2011 (Section 1) and Religion and State in Israel – August 22, 2011 (Section 2), both posted atReligion and State in Israel.
Judy Lash Balint presents Look Who’s Making Aliyah posted at Algemeiner.com, saying, “Mid-life N. American Jews who are making aliya…” and Steve Ornstein shares Daniel Goldschmidt’s personal aliyah experience in First Summer of a New Immigrant In Israel | IsraelSeen.com posted at IsraelSeen.com.
We hear about Eilat in the wake of the tragedy there from Harry in Nostalgia Sunday – Eilat posted at Israelity, and Sharon A in A Paradise Lost posted at The Real Jerusalem Streets’s Blog, saying, “Response to renewed terror in Eilat, the show must go on.”
Mrs. S. presents National Parks: Ein Afek Edition posted at Our Shiputzim: A Work In Progress.
A Walker in Jerusalem presents Summertime, libraries, Brooklyn, Jerusalem posted at Walkable Jerusalem, saying, “Jerusalem residents grossly underserved by the municipal library system, particularly during the summer peak season.” I believe her comments on this subject are really important – but for me, quite depressing.
Elise/ Independent Patriot presents Sometimes Israel’s real friends also need to know when to be quiet…posted at Liberty’s Spirit.
Steve Ornstein presents After August comes September | IsraelSeen.com posted atIsraelSeen.com.
On a positive note:
Harry presents Israelis help ease the headaches during Ramadan posted at Israelity. I would love to get some of this medicine from Israel before Yom Kippur – yet another sign I am in the wrong country!! He also presents Foto Friday – Jerusalem to the IMAX posted at Israelity. I absolutely loved watching this, and it made me miss Jerusalem that much more. I hope you all click through and enjoy!
Sharon A presents Feeling Festive posted at The Real Jerusalem Streets’s Blog, saying, “Festival season in Jerusalem and there is a security alert”. This also reminds me of the unique excitement of Jerusalem in the summer. Clearly, with all of the fear and disruption right now, Israelis live fully and move on with their customary and amazing resolve.
Jacob Richman presents New Video Online: Learn Hebrew Phrases – Computers and the Internet posted at Good News from Israel, Thanks Jacob! I am now planning to use his clever and clear Hebrew riddles with my Ivrit students in NJ this year!
Izgad presents Medieval Jewish Art (Looks a Lot Like Christian Art) posted at Tipsy on Books: Dispatches from the Tavern, saying, “Izgad has started a new blog called Tipsy on Books and to open things up he presents a post on medieval Jewish art.”
Susan Barnes presents Glossary for People New to Orthodox Jewish Blogs posted atTo Kiss A Mezuzah.
Daniela presents two kosher reviews over at Isreview: Milka’s Choco Moo Cookies and Five’s “Evolution” Sugar Free Gum.
Then Chaviva over at Just call me Chaviva presents her own ups and downs with Kashrut in Kosher Flops and Flips, with her usual refreshing and inspiring honesty.
satiricohen presents Netanyahu: Palestinians are not our enemies, only the terrorists are posted at Israeli Satire Laboratory, saying, “After a very long hiatus, I’m back with the same gallows humor that makes you realize how silly this country really is.” Definitely gallows humor, satiricohen….
Rachel Barenblat presents Earth and pine posted at Velveteen Rabbi, saying, “a reflection on the scents of wood and soil: evocative of new construction, these are also the scents of a Jewish funeral in the summertime.”
Susan Barnes presents Choosing an Etrog Set Ain’t Easy posted at To Kiss A Mezuzah. I personally have to survive back-to-school next week before I can even think about Sukkot!
Batya presents “Special” Couples, Rav Arele’s Solution posted at Shiloh Musings. One might think that this subject would have engendered more controversy. Maybe on a week that Glenn Beck stays home, it will.
Elul starts this week. So to get us in the right mood, I will close with Mordechai Torczyner’s post asking us When is it better for a rabbi to hold his tongue? posted at The Rebbetzin’s Husband.
I would like to conclude with a request to include Tzuriya Kochevet Bat Sarah in your thoughts and prayers. Yarden Frankl of Crossing the Yarden and his wife are fighting the battle of a lifetime, and as one of our own, he (they) can use our support.
Thank you so much for all of your entries. May you and all of your loved ones stay dry and safe this week.
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.
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Margelit Hoffman of Shmuel Hoffman’s Blog wrote a very honest and thought provoking article for Mavenmall.com called “The Facebook Churban”. In it, she explains why her family is removing the internet from their home. They are Torah observant Jews who work on the internet. It is their livelihood. She has done a fabulous job of articulating the powers of good vs. the dangers. This move will have serious ramifications on their daily routine and what reads to be significant inconveniences. Yet they are removing it anyway.
I agree with just about every word she has to say. At the same time, I am not getting rid of my facebook account, or the internet in my house. I feel really good about my remaining focused on using them both for good, and trying to only utilize the blessings of technology for kiddush Hashem. Maybe I am just “not there yet”, maybe my working from a Starbucks is just too unrealistic. Maybe I have an easier time shutting them off and down – I would like to think I do.
Where her post hits closest to home is on the matters of disconnecting from family members and bitul zman (an inappropriate waste of one of Hashem’s greatest gifts to us, time.) If I am going to be honest with myself and truly put G-d in the center all of the time, then I need to do a serious “cheshbon hamachshev, v’machshevot” (accounting of my computer, and my thoughts) about my use of the internet and social media, and perhaps make more guidelines and restrictions for myself. It is as much of a danger from my droid as it is from my laptop, if not more so. And that isn’t dependent upon internet in my home. That depends on me. I have left her article up on my laptop, nagging me to reread it and make the personal assessments necessary. Which means getting off of all of the other stuff in cyberspace and really focusing on it!
I don’t think it is an accident that Tisha B’Av comes about a month before Elul. The process of teshuva has begun, and before we know it, the time of cheshbon hanefesh will be here. I know for me this year, my relationship to my computer, my email, my blessed and beloved social network and the internet will be at the forefront. Stay tuned.
What do you do to avoid hillul Hashem and bitul zman in your house from the internet????
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I occasionally have an opportunity to teach Torah classes to women in my local community. It is one of the many reasons I am so grateful to live where I do. Had I remained the tiny fish in the huge pond that is Jerusalem, I doubt that I would ever have had a chance to grow into a teacher, or to learn that it was one of my favorite things to do.
I have been asked often to post a write up of my shiurim on this blog. Most of the time I don’t prepare early enough or have time to post soon enough, and the material is then for a holiday that has come and gone by the time I get to it.
However, last Shabbat I taught a class on the Nine Days & Tisha B’av, so thought I would put down some of the discussion while we are still in this solemn period. Especially since it was an analogy to parenting that struck me so deeply while preparing the shiur, and that has been the sharpest part of my focus this year. So this is a recap of some of what we discussed:
During “The Three Weeks” and then “The Nine Days” and finally on Tisha B’av we mark the destruction of the Holy Temple. I asked the women gathered if we are “mourning” or “yearning.” Although the word mourning is often used, we are on the one hand mourning the loss of something we never experienced first-hand. And, usually when we mourn something it is a process of letting go because that thing (or person) is gone to us forever. Here, we mourn the Beit Hamikdash that was, but we also hope for its return. So we do mourn our loss, but we also yearn for it. We yearn for a new Beit Hamikdash and Moshiach’s arrival.
The word that we use for yearning is “tshukah” in Hebrew, and it is a concept that I would like to return to later. But this is the other feeling we invoke during this period, because we not only mourn what we have lost, but we long–in fact strive–to get it back.
The next question I asked is: Why are we fasting?
Fasting is not a very popular means of connecting to Hashem for most people I know. In fact, for some of us it is a distraction from whatever process we feel we should be going through, since we feel little more than hunger. Lastly, fasting is certainly not something we associate with mourning! The restrictions during the Three Weeks and the Nine Days are those associated with mourning, but the prohibitions of Tisha B’av are more akin to Yom Kippur.
I came to learn that the period leading up to Tisha B’av is constructed in such a way as to evoke a feeling of loss, to help concentrate on mourning what we no longer have. This is done so that we will be stirred on Tisha B’av to do teshuva* – do improve and repair ourselves, our community, and our world so that we can have a day of celebration on the 9th of Av, as the Gemara explains, rather than a day of mourning. The sadness of the day comes from our feeling that we are “still not there;” it is not a sign of mourning. It is intended to be our sincere demonstration of teshuva; of “tshukah” to Hashem so that it will be the last sad Tisha B’av.
The word tshukah as explained by Rabbi Fohrman in The Beast that Crouches at the Door, is a yearning that comes not from a needy deficit, but an overflow of abundance. It is not the feeling a newborn has when it needs to nurse… it is the feeling the nursing mother has when she needs to provide. It is our overflow of love for Hashem and our desire to serve him that has nowhere to go until we once again have a Beit Hamikdash in which to channel our love and desire to cleave to G-d in the proper way.
My final question was: Why do we need to mourn for Three Weeks and to have a day of sadness and teshuva? Surely we demonstrate to G-d in our prayers and rituals every day that we miss the Holy Temple and that we yearn for its return? The commemoration is deeper than the historical anniversary of so many tragedies for the Jewish People.
Rabbi Label Lam answers this question so beautifully in his wonderful piece on Tisha B’Av at Torah.org:
“On the 9th of Av we are like little children sent away from the table. The child sent to his room can artfully distract himself. His parents wait for the breaking point. He might then even be willing to admit his faults like fighting with his siblings etc. That time never comes. Why? He’s found some candies, there’s a cell phone, a computer and a treasure of other goodies. He’s forgotten that he’s being punished.
The father realizing that the child is too busily engaged in his “things” forbids him for a time to play with these toys and those. Suddenly, he feels alone and isolated from the family. Tears begin to stream. He cries out longingly to his father and is invited to the table again with a pleasant mixture of joy and humility.” (click here to read the whole article. )
We are like G-d’s punished children all year. We are in exile every minute of every day. We do not have our Holy Temple, and we are banished from the closeness with Hashem that we enjoyed when it stood. We are so distracted by our comfort and blessing that we forget that we have been punished. Our computers and cell phones, wonderful kehillot and yeshivot, our beautiful built-up modern Israel… all allow us to forget. We don’t always know what we are missing, and we don’t know what it feels like to have such an intimate relationship with our Creator. It is sometimes easy to forget that we can and will have more; but Hashem gave us intimate interpersonal relationships precisely so that we can taste that closeness and yearn for it with him.
The Three Weeks are our reminder that we have been sent away, that we can be so much closer to the Divine… that we once were, and that it is truly up to us to be so again. Done right, the limitations imposed during the Three Weeks and Nine Days bring us to this difficult combination of mourning our closeness to our Father that we lost and our yearning to be back in his good graces. The power of mourning and yearning together ideally mobilizes our true and deep teshuvah on Tisha B’av; a teshuva marked by fasting and focus.
I bless you all with a meaningful remainder of the Nine Days, and a meaningful fast. May our communal Teshuva bring Moshiach bimheira yameinu.
*teshuva = repair, return, improvement, repentance.. or as Aish.com puts it “dry cleaning for your soul”
I welcome your comments and thoughts, and am happy to suggest the following articles (far wiser than mine) at Torah.org and Naaleh.com:
Why Do We Fast? by Rabbi Prero
Mourning on the 9th of Av, the Reasons, by Rabbi Jacob Mendelson
What Are We Missing on Tisha B’Av by Rabbi Lam
Why Destroy Our Sanctuary? by Rebbetzin Tzippora Heller
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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.
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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…..
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