Wednesday, April 6, 2022

A Worthwhile Podcast to Follow

You must check this podcast out.

I do not say this lightly. Nisa Harris has created a podcast named Shomea V'Oneh - reading a chapter of Tehillim/Psalms - then follows it with a short explanation of that chapter. 

Tehillim is something special. They are prayers written and compiled by King David. It is incredible that we have something so amazing available to us. Some of those prayers are praising and thanking Gd, and some are ones we say when we are in need of help on a personal or national level. Every Jew should have this book on their shelf on home, alongside a Chumash (the 5 Books of Moses), and a Tzedukah box.

Click here to read her piece in The Layers Project Magazine.  I sincerely recommend reading this article written by Ms. Harris and following her podcast. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Dirt is not Chametz

Hi everyone! I hope everybody had a wonderful and enjoyable Purim.

...and surprise, about four weeks later we find ourselves at the Seder table for Passover. It's really quite incredible. Get rid of that Purim candy! Someone suggested on Facebook that we should be giving Kosher for Passover candy at Purim time so we don't have to stress about getting rid of it so quickly. It's clever, but I'm pretty sure that idea will not go mainstream anytime soon.

So, not to stress anyone, the first Seder is a week from this Friday night. Believe it or not, this shouldn't be a big deal on the "cleaning" front. The magic mantra that you need to start repeating to yourself is, "Dirt is not Chametz."

I'll tell you a quick story. Many years ago, I did not know what I needed to clean for Pesach. Seriously. When I heard the expression, "time to clean for Pesach", I thought we needed to actually clean the house for Pesach - dirt and all. This is very stressful for someone when their house would generally fall on the cluttered side of living. An understatement of that would be... it was hard.

I ended up going to Israel some years later to study more about my Judaism and one of the most important ideas I heard there regarding Pesach was that dirt isn't Chametz. Chametz is leavened bread - in other words, food made with flour... bread, cake, cookies... you get the idea. 

What should we practically take away from this? Where don't you eat? The bathroom! See, that was easy, knock that off the list. The bedrooms? Just vacuum and make sure there's no sandwich hiding under your blanket. In my house, the basement is a food no-go zone, I'm very strict about that since it's virtually impossible to get it clean (in other words, it's a toy filled area - try not to kill yourself there). 

Think about what you can cross off your Pesach Chometz cleaning list before you start. It'll make your life soooo much easier! If you eat in front of the television, that room will need to be cleaned - vacuum under the couch pillows (maybe you'll find some treasures!) and clean the floor. The kitchen obviously, will be your focus. Self-cleaning ovens are Gd's gift to mankind (along with whiskey and coffee) and you'll end up with dealing with stove tops/fridges/floors. Truthfully, it's not terrible.

If you need more information - I am not a rabbi and do not play one on TV - please check Aish and Chabad. They are the main two websites I depend on.

Please remember that the goal is not to drive yourself crazy before Pesach. G-d wants you to come to the Seder and actually enjoy yourself. I know that this runs counter to all the Jewish mother jokes out there - but we are not supposed to hate Passover preparations - or Passover. Holidays, or Holy Days are there in order to help us connect us to our Creator and remind us of all that's been done on our behalf over the last 3300 years. 

Wishing everyone a Wonderful and Enjoyable Passover/Pesach.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Life is a Choose Your Own Adventure

Lo and behold my kids have discovered the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series - and they are loving it. About a day into reading the one book we own (yes, I'll get more), my 9 year old son says, "Hey! Life is like a choose your own adventure!" I was just blown away by that epiphany. He is totally correct.

However, in the books it is very clear when you have to make a decision. At the bottom of the page it gives you your choices.

"If you decide to run for it through the back door of the house, turn to page 40.

If you decide to wait where you are and prepare to defend yourselves, turn to page 30."

Funny enough, life never clearly points out those important "choice" moments.

A car just cut you off in traffic, leaving you at a red light. Should you-

a. Run the red light, so you can catch the perpetrator and give him a piece of your mind.

b. Stop at the red light, breathe deeply and carry on with your trip.

c. Stop at the red light, and give the jerk a piece of your mind anyway.

d. Be aware of your children in the backseat who will hear your rants about lousy bleeping drivers.

Every choice we make, whether big or small fills in the puzzle pieces that make us human beings. The trick is to be aware of those "choice" moments - and choose correctly as best we can. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler talks about these choice points, that real free will happens when there is a conflict in how we would approach a choice. 

For example - I don't have issues with murder. Do I have free will in that topic, no, because that's really not an issue for me. I do, however, have issues with losing my temper. That is a very real issue for me. So when one of my kids spills the entire jug of milk on the floor when trying to pour themselves a glass of milk - this will hit my "choice" moment. Do I freak out at the kid who really feels bad enough or keep my calm and clean it up? If I keep my calm, then I conquered that choice and established a precedent for next time (don't worry, there will be a next time) - and my "choice" moment moves forward. The idea is to keep growing and creating a better You.

Judaism is about using the Mitzvot to create a better You, a better You who will create a world that G-d wants to be a part of. 

Let's recognize our choices in our own personal Choose Your Own Adventure book of life and see how we can move our "choice" moments forward.

Have a great week!


Sunday, January 2, 2022

YouTube Channel to Follow - BAYT

Welcome to 2022!

It's important to start the new year with Torah! I found a fantastic rabbi to follow on YouTube. His name is Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, he is head rabbi of the BAYT, a large synagogue in Thornhill (north of Toronto), Ontario. He gives his take on the parsha and posts it on YouTube.

Here is the link to the BAYT YouTube page. I sincerely hope you subscribe to it. I have been thoroughly enjoying his takes on the parshas found in Breisheet/Genesis and Shemot/Exodus so far. Posted above is this past week's parsha of Va'era found in the Book of Shemot.

Wishing everyone a fantastic week ahead!


Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy 5th Birthday!

It's truly incredible how fast time flies. Today we celebrated my 5 year old son's birthday. It was an incredible day, mostly because of my oldest, 11 year old daughter. She happened to be home this week, attending her classes on zoom. She really cares about her brothers and tries to make their birthdays special. Today was no different. She decorated a blank t-shirt for him as well as baked a cake in the shape of his favorite Numberblock character (it's a fantastic math show). She was incredible. I didn't mind her taking off class today, she made her brother so happy, doing fun things with him all day - especially since he's been home sick all week.

Aside from the creativity she showed - what I saw was my oldest, growing up - and doing something that unfortunately many adults cannot do... celebrating without jealousy with another person. She focused herself completely on the task of making her little brother happy, doing things he wanted to do - and she was incredibly successful. He had a wonderful day, and I am so grateful.

There are at least two lessons to be learned here. First, I think is that empathy is something that must be taught if a child isn't naturally inclined to be empathetic. It's not simple. My daughter comes to it naturally, but it needs to be nurtured in every child. Second, to enjoy without jealousy someone else's life successes, life events, career successes - anything positive going on in someone else's life. I think that many times, it's easy to say - how come that amazing thing happened for them, but not for me? That may be a natural response in some ways, but we have to remember that we aren't in charge, and that perhaps what G-d gave to another person isn't appropriate for us, and that we don't generally have the bigger picture available to us. Also not simple.

So heading into the new year, while I'm not a fan of resolutions - I will try my best to be genuinely happy for my family and friends who are successful in whatever they are doing. Even small gestures mean a lot. A small chocolate bar with a drawn heart - goes a long way in showing your encouragement and happiness for them.

I wish you all a year ahead full of good health and happiness.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Tishrei, Cheshvan and Lech Lecha

Wow! Welcome back! 

It has been an intense time this past month. Tishrei, the month with a zillion holidays (okay, not a zillion - but it felt like every other day was a holiday - yeah, okay that's true). We reconnected with Gd and family over Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. On Simchat Torah we finished our yearly reading of the Torah and started anew.

We're now in Cheshvan. The month after Tishrei. No holidays to celebrate. Some of us are breathing easier because we aren't making 20+ full blown meals in one month. Lol. Personally, I enjoyed the holidays, but it was definitely a marathon of cooking.

What occurred to me after finishing the month of intense connection and walking into a month of "nothing" - reminded me of something my child's speech language therapist with my child. She did intensive work with him for a few months, then gave him a month to let the work he did with her 'gel' and work on it on his own.

Elul (the month before Tishrei) and Tishrei are intense. We spend much time apologizing to friends and family for possible mistakes and how we may have mistreated them. We think about our connection to Gd and how we want to improve for the coming year. And now we're in the time of Cheshvan - the month without holidays. This is the time we want to take the work we did back in Elul and Tishrei and let it 'gel' - revisit our goals for the coming year. 

This week's parsha is Lech Lecha. The parsha where Gd tells Avram to 'go for himself' - to set out to the Land that He will show him. Where are we going? What goals have we set for ourselves? Start small - every step we take counts. No matter how small a step it is - it creates stamina for the next step we take.

Have a great Shabbos everyone!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Can't Make it to Services? Watching Children on Yom Kippur

I wrote this back in 2016 and it is relevant every year. If you're a mother or father that cannot go to synagogue because you're watching your kids at home - this is for you. It's written for mothers, but is relevant to anyone who is home watching their children. Click HERE!

Wishing everyone an easy and meaningful fast. Gmar Chatima Tova!