This edition of the Haveil Havelim is dedicated to those that have fallen or have been injured due to terror. In Boston, in Israel, in the world. When the world wakes up to global jihad as an international problem, perhaps we will finally stand up to evil and end the suffering.

I haven’t had the time to post my many thoughts and feelings about my first Yom Hazikaron back in Israel, my first Yom Haatzmaut back in Israel, and the rattling of my former home in Boston. I am fortunate that so many other wonderful bloggers have written their thoughts and I can share them with you in digest form.

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week, jointly coordinated through our Facebook Group. 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.’

What a roller-coaster week!!! If there was ever a time to remember to hold life precious, it would be now.

 

Boston Marathon Terror attack: 

Batya looks at the horrific tragedy this week in Boston through her Israeli lens, positing that America is a “more frightening place”. Does it strike the world as odd that there are ‘settlers’ like us that feel that way? See if you agree and weigh in at What Was The Point of That Boston Marathon Bombing? over at Shiloh Musings.

 

Yom Hazikaron: 

Yaelle brings us her take on the Yom Hazikaron experience in Yom Hazikaron l’Chalelei Maarachot Yisrael… at Yaelle Yells… Softly

Having begun work recently as the Spokesperson at OneFamily Fund in Jerusalem, my experience of Yom Hazikaron has become very different, sharper, harder, and more real. I invite you to watch this very brief and extremely moving recap of the ceremony at OneFamily. It is a safe haven for bereaved children, who have a second home where they can share their loss openly. What a blessing for them…. and what a horribly difficult thing for the rest of us to hear.

It is because of that experience that I have learned so much more the truth in Batya‘s posit that “Time Doesn’t Heal” over at Me-Ander

A late edition that’s worth the read: The Real Jerusalem Streets shows us in beautiful images the reality of Yom Hazikaron in Jerusalem….

Yom Haatzmaut: 

One follows right after the other in the blog roll, as in life. Some love it, some  hate it. I am surprised no one weighed in on just that.

… and Sharon once again captures the day on The Real Jerusalem Streets in Yom Haatzmaut Favorites in Jerusalem.

Batya connects Yom Haatzmaut to Shiloh’s local, important – and very long – history  in Celebrate Israeli Independence Where We Had Our First Capital City, Shiloh! at Shiloh Musings.

 

Controversy: 

First, let’s start with the Temple Mount. Always a great source if you are looking for some people to disagree about stuff:

Esser Agaroth shares a Palestinian article about a Jewish demonstration about the Temple Mount, in Palestinian Press Posts Pretty Pictures…Of Temple Mount Activists 

… and follow us with a very insightful – and humorous – rant (forgive me for calling a spade a spade) on MK Miri Regev’s recent declaration to tour the Temple Mount, in Jewish Prayer on The Temple Mount. Sigh… I personally cannot wait until such a decision is no longer a “declaration”.  KudosEsser Agaroth.

Then…. let’s move down below, to the Kotel, an equally generous spot for dissent and ill-will, while we offer up our holiest supplications to our Creator.

I had to include this post, because in addition to being a radical and often unheard point of view, I couldn’t agree with Leah Zakh Aharoni more in Times of Israel’s The Misogyny of the Women of the Wall. 

The Torah Revolution is tired of the fighting too, and gives his own suggestion as to what we are all doing wrong, in Strange Coincidence

 

Other: 

I learn from Tomer Devorah that the missiles that rained down on Eilat may have been targeting a US military target in Missiles on Eilat. Chilling, and logical.

Why all of the interest by women in going out to daven in public if “Women Don’t go to Shul?”  – Hadassah Levy generates some great discussion in her Times of Israel piece on Why Women Don’t Go to Shul. Don’t forget to read the comments and of course weigh in.

Tomer Devorah presents an interesting set of coincidences regarding explosions in Texas in Very Coincidental. It sounds like the makings of a great new Gabriel Allon novel. Are you reading, Daniel Silva??

Shlomo writes a Re-review of Siddur Nehalel BeShabbat in Thinking Torah:  This post looks at how the siddur uses images to enhance the meaning of Psalm 92 – Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbat.

 

Two final thoughts:

If everyone reading this invited one blogger to submit to HH that hasn’t before (or hasn’t in a long time), we would all get to enjoy some new blogs and spread the Jewish-blogger-love. Why not send a brief email to a blogger you love right now? Or just a little fb post?

I also want to give a quick shout out to Trip’n Up’s Amy today, because, well, she could use it. Find a post she has written that you like and just leave a comment or a hello. Just stop by, and tell her that Ima2seven sent you.  :  )

Wishing everyone a happier, easier week than last. With no terror attacks, no memorial days, no strife and maybe, just maybe a little bit of seasonally appropriate sunshine! 

 

 

Related Reading:

Our first Pesach in Israel

April 10th, 2013

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Reading:

Passover Granola

March 19th, 2013

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

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

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

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

If you make it, PLEASE post a comment.

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

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

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

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

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

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

 

Seven Stones

Related Reading:

Adar….

February 15th, 2013

My family had lots of good news this week!

My daughter found a turtle. There has been a three-year campaign (at least) for a pet, that resulted in my finally declaring that if they found a turtle and it lived in the yard, they could keep it. So this find means not just an adorable (???) turtle named Sheldon in our midst, but a triumph over the parents that said “no” to pets. Very exciting.

Turtle

Not Sheldon the Turtle, but similar.

I have two boys that have been accepted into a high-quality private school in Jerusalem, who have decided to commit to the longer commute and increased hours of Torah study. I am proud of them for deciding to take on the challenge. More than that, I am relieved for them because their acceptance in their current school has not been great, has caused them a lot of tears and frustration and has not helped their aliyah one bit. It is very hard to move at 11 years old, and it is also hard to accept new and different boys into your circle when you are 11 years old.  The school itself starts in seventh grade, so the rest of the boys will be “new” as well, and I hope this will help.

I also have three boys (two of them are the same boys) that were accepted into a boys’ choir based in Jerusalem. They all love to sing, we love to let them, it will give them fantastic opportunities and experiences, help them make new friends, and involve three boys in one chug  (after-school activity) – always a logistical plus.

We want you

The most important part for now about both the school and the choir is that word accepted. After feeling rejected socially by their peers for so much of the past six months, the three of them feel wanted, and we all need that.

I also am feeling a more “wanted”. I have accepted a part-time job that is challenging, exciting and rewarding. I hope to have more of an official “announcement” soon, when we finish finalizing the details at work. In the interim, I often come home feeling like I have done a little bit of good out there in the world. As I drive to work I get this ‘high’; the feeling of freedom and escape from mundane housework, the astonishing views on my commute that just feel like a daily gift from Hashem, and the knowledge that I am working in the Holy City of Jerusalem with ideas and people that make a difference just come together in a moment of endless gratitude.

My children are daily beginning to experience their first Purim in Israel. It is one of the moments in the year that olim internalize deeply, because it is so radically different than in the rest of the world.

There is much for us to be celebrating this Adar,

our first as a family in Israel. 

…BUT…..

It is hard to ignore that Adar is also a month of azkarot, memorial services. Purim is the story of the return of Amalek, and our triumph as a people over it – with Hashem’s help. Israel has suffered an inordinate number of terror attacks in the month of Adar. When people pause to remember, they realize that it was Adar when a terrorist killed eight young boys in the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. Adar when the Fogel family was torn apart, leaving those young children orphaned in a way that so clearly screamed “bloodlust”. Unfortunately the list goes on.

Fogel family, z

Fogel family, z”l, killed two years ago today.Boys murdered at Mercaz Harav yeshiva March 6, 2008.

As the Jewish calendar is cyclical, we know that Adar beckons Amalek back every single year. In our age, we triumph by simply going on, building our state, celebrating life and not death. But it is the modern day “ad lo yada” challenge for us to be b’simcha (joyful) not only over Mordechai but also Haman, and to rejoice in Adar, our month-long Purim-fest, while also attending memorial services.

Ad Lo Yada, celebrating on Purim until we don’t know the difference between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman.

 

I pray every day that in Adar this year Amalek doesn’t add any names to the list.

 

 

**If you would like to support Israel’s victims of terror financially you can do so by ordering mishloach manot for them or sending your matanot l’evyonim to them. If you want more information or ideas, please just leave a comment here, and I will respond.  

 

 

Related Reading:

HAPPY ADAR!!!

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 shilohmuse@gmail.com. If you want more information, find and join our facebook page, or  just contact me, ima2seven@gmail.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.

 .. And A Soldier’s Mother gives us a story that just has to make you feel good (and proud), in An Only Israel Story from India.

Mr. “Amazing Resource” Jacob Richman, shares Israel’s New Educational Stamps with us over at

Good News From Israel. (They are also beautiful.)

  What about a vacation? (Just the word makes me happy.) The Travelling Rabbi gives us tips to the wandering Jew for Visiting Scotland or England. 

.. But before you leave, make sure to read Beneath My Wings‘ amazing tips for Keeping Kosher Away from Home!

Batya over at Me-Ander takes on her journey in Take The Train! First Time for Me on The Israeli Railways.

 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 take in Beneath the Wings’ tourist-at-home beautiful pic too in Spontaneity.

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!

Social Responsibility

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?

In talking about the New Government Coalition in Israel,  Batya raised her concerns about Obama’s visit, and the timing… as does Esser Agaroth, in US President to Visit Israel….Without Demands?

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.

Related Reading:

Memories of Ed Koch, z”l

February 6th, 2013

Koch, z”l, former Mayor of New York City, passed away this week. He died as he lived; an in-your-face Jew who wanted to mingle with non-Jewish NY on their own turf, while never letting them forget  his Jewishness.

Ed Koch's gravestone

Ed Koch’s gravestone at Trinity Church Cemetery in Manhattan

 

Back in the days of my former adventurous life as the Assistant for Foreign Relations to the Mayor of Jerusalem, I had occasion to meet Mayor Koch. Although I wish it had been under happier circumstances, it was because of the State Funeral of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, z’l. In attendance, were Prime Ministers and Presidents from nations all over the globe….

… and the Governor, Mayor and former Mayor of New York City. Given the city’s self-proclaimed and celebrated Jewishness, I suppose it should come as no surprise. As the assistant to the Mayor, I was not invited to participate in any pomp or circumstance that surrounded Heads of State. The way the system works, even though Jerusalem is the capital, those responsibilities are handled quite strictly by the State Department and not the municipality. Similar to the White House receiving PM Netanyahu and not involving the Mayor of Washington DC or his staff terribly much about it.

In this case, the State Dept. had their hands full with said Heads of State, and was not very interested in doting on “local” politicians. So we were politely told that Governor Pataki, Mayor Giuliani and Mayor Koch were our problem responsibility.

That suited me just fine. We had to plan a dinner on the fly to welcome them all to Jerusalem, and of the non-senior staff I was the only one invited to attend. The seating and every detail had to be just right. I was tasked with greeting them as the entered City Hall. As I held the door for them, I said “welcome Mayor Koch” as he entered… right in front of Giuliani. I did not yet know that this is protocol, and that addressing him as Mayor was not only allowed, but expected. At the time I turned several shades of red and hoped dearly that Mayor Giuliani had not heard me.

Alas, at the special, important, intimate dinner I had been allowed to attend, I was carefully seated with…. the security detail. The help with the help, right? In the end, all three politicians were stiff and not themselves since the other two were there, and the cops I sat with regaled me with tales of mob-busting and more. I think I came out ahead. The dinner itself wasn’t interesting, merely a gesture to give “kavod” (honor) to politicians who didn’t seem to understand how their status was any different than the French Prime Minister or the President of Burunda. After all, we are talking about NEW YORK, right?

So I left with David Bar Ilan, z’l, who was being interviewed by international television by satellite. That was definitely more interesting. (His life and how we became friends should be its own post one day.)

I was not to see Mayor Koch again in person, but two years later he became a regular guest on my not-yet-husband’s radio show in Jerusalem. (Does anyone remember RadioWest?)

My favorite memory of him on the show was when he explained that everything in Jerusalem would be better if they would just adopt his NY pooper-scooper law. He didn’t understand how anyone, even a Jew (maybe especially?) could ever leave New York City to live in Israel. I don’t think he could understand how anyone could choose to live anywhere else.

My husband and I both disagreed with almost every position he ever had, but Mayor Koch made for GREAT radio; he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, put you in your place, or even be wrong and go back and say so later.

Rest in peace, Mayor Koch. You and New York City were so much a part of each other, that you brought New York with you wherever you went. Thanks for bringing a little bit to Jerusalem.

Mayor Ed Koch, z”l

Related Reading:

I can’t help but compare….

February 4th, 2013

I have always made a conscious choice not to be that olah that goes through life in Israel comparing. That approach works for some, but I just like to live in the thick of things here and not compare it (or prices) to how things might be outside of Israel. It lowers my expectations and creates fewer opportunities for disappointment.

But on election day here in Israel (yes, it has taken my quite a while to post this one, humble, little post) I just couldn’t help myself. This being my first year here with school-aged children, it was different than any other election day I had experienced here, or in the US.

One can easily understand the astounding voting rates here when you see and feel the celebratory air. Schools close, banks close, offices close, and the country takes a day off.

… And partially because of that, but I think mostly because in Israel we still don’t take our democracy for granted, voting is a family affair.

Most families came up to vote as a group. Children went with their parents to choose a party and many placed the envelope in the ballot box with or for their parents – including mine.

IMG_1277

Since we had the day off, after voting we went to the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. As did at least 1/3 of the rest of the families in Israel, apparently. Navigating parking was an exercise in and of itself, but after surviving the z00-at-the-entrance-to-the-zoo, we went into what was just an amazing experience.

Only in Israel can I take my kids to see the same animals we have seen time and time again in the zoo, but there are plaques with Biblical quotes describing the six days of creation from Genesis.

… I couldn’t stop myself from comparing. As regulars at the Philadelphia Zoo in the US, my children would always remark “Psst! Ima, look! There are other Jews!”. Funny how that didn’t happen once here.

And then we came upon it. Only here does our venture to see the animals end at, of course, Noah’s Ark.

IMG_1409

 

The overpriced concessions inside are all kosher, of course. So this time I could say “yes.”

IMG_1316

 

As we got near the exit of the zoo, I came upon the largest collection of birds I have ever seen, and thought to myself “I have never seen so many different kinds of birds in one place before.”

birds at biblical zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But then I immediately looked up and thought “I don’t think I have ever seen this many different kinds of Jews in one place before.”

IMG_1444

 

 

 

Related Reading:

Caper bushes

January 2nd, 2013

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

Caper bush in the kotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

capers as usually used in cooking

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Reading:

Living in Israel and not owning a television means that on a good day I can shield my kids from most of what passes for “news” today.

**********

My kids didn’t want to go to school because for them every day at school is like going back into battle. Four months in a new country, they are dealing with bullies, lack of understanding the language and the material, being too far ahead in certain subjects and too far behind in others. All of the toilet paper in the bathrooms being used up by the end of 4th period. Teachers who care, they do, but have 25 other kids to worry about, instead of ten. Even the kids who are nice to them most often are still not “friends”. And the noise; Israeli buildings, including schools, echo more than American ones, and when the student population of their grade outnumbers the entire  student body of their school (preschool-8th), it is just so noisy.

So they go off to battle every day, and some days are better than others, but it is still wearying, and still requires bravery.  Now I understand why our young soldiers get such short periods of time to go home! Ten days of sleeping in, hugs and food from Ima, choosing the company you keep and quiet when you want it? Well, of course it is hard to give that up.

They didn’t want to be brave this morning. So they carried on, crying and yelling and threatening and being altogether unpleasant. After all, I moved them here, so ultimately it is my fault.

A part of me really wanted to give them some perspective. “Look at what just happened. Don’t you know what you have? What you are? Alive, that’s what! You are here, breathing and safe, and be grateful and go to school! But give me another hug first. “

I didn’t do that. The last thing in the world they needed was for me to add to their long list of fears. It wouldn’t have given them perspective, or taught gratitude. It would have reminded them that they are right that school requires bravery – of all unimaginable types, bravery that it just shouldn’t require.

But it gives me perspective. I can’t  imagine how many parents didn’t want to send their kids to school today, or how many little children across America didn’t want to go to. Children who also cried and carried on… and unfortunately not simply because they have had a week and a half of sleep, warm food, vacation and quiet.

 

My condolences to the families and community of Newtown, CT.  I hope that there is some source of comfort and healing there for all of  you. 

Related Reading:

The New Normal

December 8th, 2012

I had a little piece published in the New Jersey Jewish News, about my kids’ adjustment to life in Israel with a war (I call it a war-let) only four months after arrival:

http://www.njjewishnews.com/article/15442/former-local-family-faces-new-normal-in-israel#.UMO2aYOTznM

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