I am a little tired of prefacing blog posts with excuses and explanations of my lack of posting.
Today, I am only posting a recent piece in the Jerusalem Post Blog by Varda Epstein, to explain my absence… more of my long and wandering thoughts on this life-changing experience in future blog posts…
Count the Stars: Finding a Glimmer in the Darkness
In the wake of the heavy pain that gripped the Gush Etzion community, a novel sort of summer stock group was founded by Sharon Katz
under the artistic direction of Toby Klein Greenwald
, both of Efrat. Raise Your Spirits (RYS), would produce musical theatre by and for women only. And 13 years on, the brave little theatre troupe is still putting on shows for women who come from all over the country to get a dose of theatre for the soul. The troupe is currently in production with Count the Stars, the Journey of Avraham and Sara
, set to premiere on December 3, 2014.It seemed onlyappropriate then, for me to interview the two principles of this show,AvitalMacales (Avraham) and Rachel Moore (Sara), the two “stars” who feature in Stars, an original musical written by Katz andMacales, and directed by Klein Greenwald. I thought the best way to explain this feisty theatre troupe would be to have the actors speak for themselves. As it happens, I had an in: this is my second time around as a cast member of anRYS production. So I hadAvital and Rachel come by and we had a nice long chat.I want you to get a real feel for what this is, so get yourself a nice hot cup of tea, sit back and relax, and get to know these two women who are bringing their own brand of light to the fore, to banish the darkness and raise the spirits of their sisters.
Rachel Moore, left, and Avital Macales
VE: Avital, how did you end up in the performing arts?
AM: I come from a musical family. Music was always a part of my home. But as a teenager, I was shy and quiet, and not many in my grade knew who I was and I didn’t know who I was. Also, this was in the 90s, and there still weren’t many artistic megamot [high-school majors], so there was nothing I could do in theatre at school.
Then when I got to my senior year we put on The Sound of Music. I auditioned and thought, “Maybe I’ll have a chance to be Leisl.” ( Far right, Sharon Katz, left Deena Lawi)
I was cast as Maria.
I decided to keep my role a secret from my mother until she sat there in the audience on opening night and realized it was me on stage. I kept the rehearsals a secret all that time and during the rehearsals I was developing into the real Avital. I began coming out of my shell, and that was the beginning of the rest of my life. The beginning of who Avital is today.
VE: Rachel, how about you? What’s your background in the performing arts?
RM: I started singing when I was about eight. I sang in my shul choir, and at a young age was apprenticed to the cantor, a woman. I started private lessons when I was twelve, thinking I would go into chazzanut. I was lucky to have as my teacher,Elizabeth Coss, a soprano at the Metropolitan Opera and a big advocate for classical training. She was friends with Pavarotti. I was twelve, mind you, and I said, “Whatever you do, do not make me sound like an opera singer.” (Laughs)
So I sang wherever I could; whatever musical theatre came my way, whatever choirs I could find; but mostly I focused on private lessons for over fifteen years – until my fifth child was born. I continued to study privately in Boston, Montreal and eventually in Israel.
I was in high school when my family moved to Boston, so I was able to participate in theBoston University Theatre Conservatory summer program. Many of the participants are professionals with agents and budding careers. It’s a very intense program where you are treated like a professional (child) actor and the staff is brutally honest – it was great training.
Some time after graduating university I began the process of making Aliyah. I came on a pilot trip and auditioned for singing teachers. I was fortunate to find Judi Axelrod and moved to Jerusalem to work with her and to prepare for entry to conservatory.
I became more religious and at one point Judi said, “You’re preparing to audition for conservatory and I think you can make it if this is what you decide to do, but I want you to think about whether this is still what you want.
“If you study opera, you will have to leave Israel, Shabbat will always hurt your career, and you’ll be lucky if you can have two kids, because that’s the life of an opera singer.”
Rachel Moore with daughter Shira and Avital Macales
So I took a deep breath and made the decision not to go to conservatory. It was a big moment for me to decide this would be a hobby and not a vocation after so many years. And then I basically stopped singing altogether when my fifth child was born. I didn’t realize I would be taking a decade-long break from music and theatre!
Other than, of course, watching.
And… it’s been amazing for me. Amazing to be back! I didn’t realize how much I would miss it. It was part of a different chapter of my life. It’s life-changing to have it back.
VE: Avital, what about the kol isha issue, the prohibition against men hearing women—other than close family members—sing?
AM: I came from a circle where it was a complete given. It was completely natural to me to sing in front of women only. In recent years, I began to better understand the complexity of [Kol Isha], and I challenged myself more about whether or not I wanted to get out there and perform in front of mixed audiences. I wanted to see where my boundaries were, as my understanding grew. After much thought I came to the decision that I’m still going to sing only in front of women and my personal reason is… Gosh, this is where it gets a bit tough… There’s a certain intimacy that I want to bring to the stage. I want to be completely intimate with my audience, and I don’t want anything to block that. I just want to be completely open, and I feel completely open in front of an all-women’s audience.
VE: What does RYS mean to you?
AM: RYS is unique in my eyes because while there are now quite a few theatres for women who put on musicals, RYS is one of the only ones who put on biblical musicals. It seems that as you go more to the right on the spectrum, religiously, there is less of a tendency to adapt a biblical story into a play because it is almost taboo to give righteous biblical characters a face, and to give a psychological and emotional interpretation to the biblical text. So RYS is one of the few who does that, and at the same time has clear boundaries based on Halacha and takes into consideration the geist of the target audience.
Cast members Racheli Ettinger and sister Chaya Lapidot
VE: Rachel, what is the scope of your part? So much dialogue, a lot of staging to memorize. I mean, how many pages is it? How many hours?
RM: Every word and every line and every thing that’s asked of me is a gift. Every single one, so I’m not really looking at it as this huge heap of how am I ever going to get all of that, but rather, I don’t know if I’m ever going to do this again.
So I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether I can learn it all. I spend time worrying that I can do justice to the other people, who have worked so hard and have learned so much and are so amazing and have been doing this for ten years, twelve years, and I’m just coming in, that I feel like I owe it to them.
To be performing in this show together with both of my daughters (Michal Moore, Ishmael, and Shira Moore, Yitzchak) is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I never imagined it possible to have a theater experience that was such a supportive, kind, generous, holy group of people. It is like a dream.
The cast of Count the Stars
VE: What’s next for Rachel Moore?
RM: I hope I am blessed with lots more opportunities to perform. I don’t know where, but I will not be on a ten-year hiatus ever again. That will not happen.
VE: Avital, how did you end up in the RYS theatre troupe?
AM: It was very unpopular for religious girls in my circle to consider the performing arts in general, so it wasn’t an option for me. But after I finished high school I met a girl from Efrat in sherut leumi (national service), and she said, “We have a women’s theatre.”
And I didn’t even know where Efrat was. But she said, “You must come audition for ‘Ruth.’”
With some encouragement from my mother, I had just begun my studies with Nomi Teplow of Ginot Shomron. She’s wonderful.
So I did audition, but I thought, why am I auditioning? I live in Rehovot, what am I going to do with this play in Gush Etzion? I don’t even know how to get there.
But I went anyway, I got in, and the rest is history.
And all I knew was that there was something bigger than me that was making me willing to endure all this sacrifice that I was making. Wanting to be on that stage, on the Raise Your Spirits stage, was bigger than I could understand. In fact, if we rewind a little bit, the first Raise Your Spirits show that I saw – and frankly, the only one I saw, because after that I was IN the shows – was “Noah.”
At the end of that show that evening, RYS director Toby Klein Greenwald invited everyone onstage to speak to the actors, so I went over and I said hello to Noah and “his” wife Naama, when this strange voice came into my head out of nowhere, and said, “This is going to be your stage one day.”
Younger cast members have girly-girl fun in between rehearsing their scenes
VE: So what was it like, writing a musical?
AM: More than any solo, more than any lead role, creating this musical has been the epitome of so many things that I love, in one project. I love Tanach (bible), emotions, writing. I love composing, singing, and drama, and I got to do everything in one project.
There was a learning process, a lot of learning. We read any book we could get our hands on, looked at any website we could find. We learned, studied, thought, and analyzed. We spoke to scholars. We did all these things until we had our artistic idea, because you could take the same story and do it 70 different ways. So we had to choose our way.
And I found that I was putting my own stamp on Avraham’s story, because it could be told in many different ways, but that this would be my own journey that I’m going through in this particular period: the journey of singlehood.
Avraham wants to become a father. Avraham and Sara want to become parents on a universal level. They start a new nation, but they also want to become parents because they’re human beings and they want to have a child. They want to nurture, give. I want to become the head of a family too.
After I began co-writing this show, I started looking up at the skies whenever I despaired. I was searching for stars.
I’m looking for my stars.
There was a night I went with my family to payashiva calltoRacheli Frankel, the mother of one of the three boys who were kidnapped and killed. It was a dark night and there were no stars and I just wanted one star. I just wanted one star to glimmer and to… there’s a line in the show, “We searched for a glimmer to console us,” and there was not a single glimmer in the sky.So Avraham’s story of counting stars is my story and the Jewish people’s story, of just finding glimmers here and there: reminders thatHashem is here, “I’m here. You may not always see me. You may be in a dark time, but I’m here.”VE: And now you’ve co-written Stars. You’ve watched this thing grow from a glimmer to something real.
AM: Yes! It was all about the connection between my heart and my mind. As if my heart and mind connected and then flew forward.
And I want to write at least a hundred more musicals, a thousand more musicals!
I want to inspire people.
COUNT THE STARS – The Journey of Avraham and Sara
Opens December 3
Gush Etzion Community Center
For more information:http://www.raiseyourspirits.org/count-the-stars.html
(All photos, Bati Katz. Poster design, Chana Singer)
Click here to see the original at the Jerusalem Post
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I have had some interest from Kveller to possibly blog there. Which is a big honor. Since I currently don’t have time to blog here, I assume taking that on just now would be a supremely bad idea. It’s nice to be asked… maybe one day. Kveller asked me to submit a sample piece, perhaps on how the 8th child is different.
The answer is, of course, that they are all different. Bringing a baby home to no children is just as unique a circumstance as bringing home a baby to four children (under the age of 5) or bringing home a baby to a house full of pre-teens that talk back and lecture you. I didn’t say they were all the same, I said they are all consistently unique.
… But when it is baby #8, one stark difference is that Ima is only sitting down now that he is 4 months old (!!!) (coincidentally when I should be Pesach cleaning and not procrastinating) to finally explain the baby’s name, Yehuda Chaim.
Rav Chaim Lifshitz, z”l, was a tzaddik, and an important Rav and teacher in my husband’s life. He passed away last year. He was a brilliant man, studied directly with Piaget, and was a renowned handwriting analyst who had questions sent to him from around the world. He was also the father of our Rav, about whom I have written here. I never met him personally, which is quite sad. But he read our handwriting while we were dating and was astonishingly accurate in terms of how and why we would be a good match and what our primary challenge would be if we got married.
I am blessed that the majority of our small family’s members that would have a baby named for them have been memorialized by family already, or are alive and well. Remembering Rav Lifshitz in this way was important to my husband, so this is what we did. We were honored to have his son, our Rav, present at the brit milah to talk about his father and his amazing qualities.
I knew I was having a Chanukah baby, and a boy. I still didn’t think Matityahu was a good idea. Looooots of name for a very tiny person.
Yehuda was also a Maccabee, and that was one reason I thought of naming this little boy Yehuda. And that was before I knew he would be a headstrong and fierce fighter even during pregnancy and delivery.
The real reason I was set on Yehuda comes from Leah’s words in the Torah when her 4th son is born. She says “HaPaam Odeh Li Et Hashem” (Parashat Vayetze). It says directly in the Torah that this is the reason she named him Yehuda. Rashi explains to us that Leah knew that Yaacov was to have 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes, and therefore the future of Israel. She also knew Yaacov had 4 wives. Doing the math (apparently Leah was taught math ) she reasoned that her fourth son meant she got more than her “fair share” of Yaacov’s legacy.
I don’t think Leah felt like she got much of any fair share in the marriage/love department. But when it came to having kids, she recognized blessing – the special blessing that feels like it goes beyond destiny, or logic, or even-handedness by the creator. Just a blessing. So his name expressed her gratitude.
In some irrational recesses of my brain and heart, I used to feel at many times that I was blessed with easy fertility and a stepson and such a house-full of children as some time of “consolation” for the twelve hard years I had to be exiled from Israel and living in New Jersey.
No, I am not comparing Leah’s “My husband meant to marry my sister not me and now I have to live with him adoring her as his new wife” hard to my “Stuck in suburbia with a Target 10 minutes away” hard. Everyone’s hard is different, and for me, twelve years forced to live outside of Israel because of a decision my husband’s ex wife made was hard.
We finally came home, returned to Israel, and chose to settle in our favorite place outside of Jerusalem’s Old City Walls, which is the hills of Judea, “Harei Yehuda“. This place means so much to me. The hills of “Yehuda” are an ever present gift outside my window, one I appreciate ten-fold precisely because of the time I couldn’t be here.
After being blessed with our return, I feel “dayenu moments”, as we refer to them, every single week, if not every day. Singular moments that in and of themselves would each be enough to say “dayenu” – to make all of the struggles of aliyah – twice – totally worth it, just for that one moment.
So when we finally made it home, and the kids are finally settling into life here, and I can finally feel like we are really here, really home…. Hashem blessed us with another healthy, happy baby. And he feels like that “extra portion” that was just a gift from Hashem. Of course they are all gifts. Yet, at 41, with a full house, my youngest already 5 1/2 and a busy, heaping full plate of noise and hugs and love and mess and holy holy chaos… “Hapam Odeh li at Hashem”.
This time is just “Thank you”… hence, the name “Yehuda“.
The Judean Hills, or “Harei Yehuda”
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Our special community of Neve Daniel lost an amazing, unique, kind, wonderful tzadeket of a person today, while she was still only a young mother.
The cancer that took her life was aggressive and everyone here watched a fight that was nothing short of miraculous. It is hard to describe an entire community in mourning; an entire neighborhood grieving and sad. It is remarkable to see this family hugged and held up by that same entire community and even more so to see how much they are aware of it and grateful for it, even in their dark, dark hour.
I was blessed to get to know Stella’s incredible journey and story before moving here, through the Jewish blogging community, and her husband, Yarden’s blog. I davened for her with my students in New Jersey, and her struggles transformed my 8 year old daughter into someone who understand real davening, with someone specific in mind, with real intention.
But as newcomers to the yishuv, the loss is hardly as personal one for me as it is for her closest, dearest friends that live here. And I defer to them.
Please read Cheri and Romi’s moving words about Stella here
Please say thank you to someone today. Tell someone you love them today. Do something that makes you feel like a “rock star”… and think of Stella, z’l.
It was an honor to know you.
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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 email@example.com. If you want more information, find and join our facebook page, or just contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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