Thursday, October 13, 2016

I'm Taking Suggestions!!!

Okay, my Yom Kippur was not as fantastic as I was hoping it would be. It went alright, but I think it could have gone better. Truthfully, I think this was due to lack of planning - so let's get your ideas and opinions on what do better next year...

I have a 5.5 year old (going on 13), a four year old and a two year old. All were up early and all were quite tired, cranky and overtired. My four and two year olds decided it was a good day to be physical with each other and run through my apartment in circles, climbing and falling off the couches, crashing into things and into each other, climbing the bookshelves (don't worry, they're attached to the wall)... can we say... OMG!!! I did manage to fast, but suffice it to say, it was a rough day.

So I'm open to suggestions for next year... Any thoughts out there that don't include television, computers, videos, anything electronic and not killing the kids (just kidding)?

Oh, and by the way - Sukkot is starting sundown October 16!
Check out my go-to websites:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yom Kippur Video and Reflections for Jewish Mothers

Tuesday night begins Yom Kippur, the day that we apologize to G-d for our mistakes. Hopefully by this point we've already apologized to our acquaintance, friends and family for hurting them.

I just came across a fascinating video, about four and a half minutes, about a golden bell that hung at the bottom of the Kohen Gadol's (High Priest) robe. Click here to see it. Good to watch before Yom Kippur.

Otherwise, take a few minutes before the holiday to check out these websites, and maybe print off something that looks interesting. - Yom Kippur - Yom Kippur

And something else I found for the mothers out there who won't be making it to synagogue (like me!):

Not going to be spending much time, or any time at all in shul this Yom Kippur? A bit disappointed to be spending the most lofty day of the year stuck at home with young kids breaking up fights, changing diapers, and passing out bamba?

Listen to this…
The great Rabbi Elya Lopian zts”l taught that while the rest of the Jewish people is in shul praying, we mothers of young children should not feel the slightest bit disappointed that we spend this day focused on physical tasks rather than in the elevated atmosphere of the synagogue.

Rabbi Lopian taught: “Women who are at home during the High Holidays, busy caring for their children, don’t need the atmosphere and all of the prayers that are said in synagogue, since their prayers rise upward through a pipeline that goes directly to the Throne of Glory. And with the few words they’re able to daven, they are brought as close to the Throne of Glory as all the people who are standing for long hours, begging and pleading.” (Translated from Avodas HaTefillah V’Hamussar b’Mishnasah shel Kelm)

If you are a mother of young children, and dedicate your holiday to caring for them and your family’s needs, then the few minutes of prayer you say on your living room sofa are as valuable in Heaven as a rabbi’s 3-hour Amida in synagogue.

And remember: if you feel like your children are getting in the way of your serving Hashem this Yom Kippur…
Rabbi Brezak teaches: “Children don’t get in the way, they ARE the way.”

And let’s finish off with a story I just received from JewishMOM Chaya Cohen:
There once was a king who made a ceremony in honor of his birthday. 
All day, he sat on his throne receiving his citizens’ well wishes. Each was rewarded for his or her visit in accordance with the king’s respect for that subject. 
In the line stood the nanny of the prince, the king’s son. 
When her turn came, everyone waited to hear what reward she would receive, as the king surely valued her role immensely. 
But when the nanny came before the king, before she could speak, the king said to her: “If you are here, WHO is watching my son?!?” 
I have a friend, a mother of 9, who shares this story every Yom Kippur as she watches her children from the neighborhood park bench. She says, “when my turn in judgment comes this Yom Kippur, all I know is I will be able to say that I spent this holy day watching Your children.” 
Gemar Chatima Tova, JewishMOM!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Good Reading for Kids and Adults

I was going through an old storage unit and I came across a fantastic set of books that I grew up with. They are perfect for 4-6 (and even older) year old kids, full of Jewish content and great to read. I brought them home and my kids are loving them. The author is Michoel Muchnik, also an artist.

The Double-Decker Purple Shul Bus
Hershel's Houseboat
Dovid Comes Home
Leah & Leibel's Lighthouse
Tuvia's Train that had no End
The Scribe that lived in a Tree

I also have been coming across some really interesting articles - if you have a moment, take a quick read.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Rosh HaShanah is Coming! You Ready? Me Neither

Crazy I know - Rosh HaShanah is coming! Facebook groups are starting to obsess about the menus, what to cook, what to freeze... omg!

Okay, so I'm not that person who's quite that organized. I think I'm lucky that I get Shabbat meals ready every week. Not too bad an accomplishment. But the truth is, we should be starting to prepare for Rosh HaShanah, it is the Jewish New Year. Even if we're not ready to get our menus in order, we should start to think about what Rosh HaShanah is actually about.  It's about crowning HaShem (G-d) King over ourselves and over the universe. Huge. But what does that actually mean?

We are not the end all, be all. We like to have control over our lives, and we do the best to have that control. However, that control is really a facade. Usually, we don't realize that we don't have complete control until something goes wrong - health problems, loss of a job or something else. Then clearly, it's no longer in our hands... and we start to wonder, and talk to G-d (usually in anger or pain) and finally see that most things are not really in our control - the reality dawns that HaShem wants us to talk to Him and make a connection. Unfortunately, it's usually hardship that forces the connection... since when things are good and floating along cheerily, we forget about the Guy in Charge. But it doesn't have to be that way. We have to make the connection even when things are good, recognize HaShem's hand in all of it... and let go of some of that "control".

I won't be in synagogue this year to pray... but I will be there to hear the shofar blown. Hearing the shofar is the key mitzvah of the holiday. Don't miss it. Close your eyes, clear your mind, and let the sound enter your heart.

A great book to prepare for Rosh HaShanah is: 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays by Rabbi Simon Jacobson. It is great. Rabbi Jacobson has broken down the month prior to Rosh HaShanah (Elul) and the month of Rosh HaShanah and the following holidays (Tishrei) into their individual days. He then gives fascinating information about what you can learn/do each of those days to get the most out of preparations and celebrating the holidays. It's also a workbook for self-improvement, if you have the time - but if you don't, there's plenty for you to read and enjoy. It also has a guide to the prayers of Rosh HaShanah.

If you're not able to go to synagogue (or even if you are), make sure to visit and print out before the holidays interesting articles to read and think about (there are also recipes, if you need some inspiration): High Holidays Jewish Holidays

All the best to everyone for a Shana Tova U'Mituka - a sweet and good year ahead!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Fast of Tisha b'Av

Tonight starts the fast of Tisha b'Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. It includes mourning for both Holy Temples, both destroyed on this day. It also includes mourning for all the horrible things that have happened to the Jewish People over the course of history. And yet, while we sit low to the ground, we believe that whoever the Moshiach will be, the one who will bring us all back to Torah, mitzvot and HaShem, is also born on this day. There is always light, even at the darkest of the night. Let us all strive to be candles in the darkness we find ourselves in.

Please strive to say a kind word to someone every day - especially a family member. It's always easier to be nicer to a complete stranger than to our own flesh and blood. Remember we want to build and not tear down.

* To hear/watch Eicha (Book of Lamentations) chanted in its entirety *

Remembering Jerusalem - Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

A Day of Mourning - A Day of Hope (Chabad)

The Holy Temple (Chabad)

The Pain of Distance (Aish)

More Tisha b'Av articles (Aish)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The High Holidays and the 3 Weeks

I found this article I wrote back in 2010, the High Holidays and the Three Weeks. Still works today. Hope you like it. Have a good week!

Just last week I saw an big sign outside a synagogue advertising High Holy Day tickets to services. I was shocked. Here we are in July and they are advertising early bird tickets. I could not believe it.

But the message planted itself into my brain and started bouncing around. It's true, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are only two months away.

One of the main ideas associated with the High Holidays is one of teshuva, return. We are attempting to return to G-d and doing the mitzvot. The time of year we try to make amends. Many people spend the week prior to the Holidays running around to their family, friends and acquaintances apologizing for the way they may have been mistreated over the past year.

I think that this is a nice idea, but there's a better time of year to begin this mea culpa ritual. I believe that the time is now.

There is a period of time during the Jewish calendar year called the "Three Weeks". This is a period in our history that includes terrible things that have happened over the last 4000 years. It's a period of mourning. It begins on the 17th of Tammuz and ends on Tisha B'Av.

While there is more to the 17th of Tammuz than I am including here - I am going to focus on the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life. On the 17th of Tammuz the enemy broke through the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple. The Second Temple (and the First) was then destroyed on Tisha B'Av, the Jewish national day of mourning.

The Talmud teaches us that the reason that G-d allowed for the Second Temple to be destroyed was because baseless hatred had become prevalent within the Jewish People - known in Hebrew as sinat chinam (free hatred).

While it is difficult to imagine the High Holidays coming up, it may be a good time to think about that concept of teshuva. During the Holidays we are focused on our relationship with G-d, not on our relationship with others. In fact, G-d can not and does not forgive us for what we have done to our fellow man, rather G-d expects us to work on these relationships and right the wrongs which may have occurred.

Since this is the case, it is really up to us to do teshuva in the interpersonal relationships of our lives. During this period of the Three Weeks where we remember the loss of the Holy Temple due to our own loss of love and baseless hatred for our fellow Jew - this - is the time where we need to take the time and call our friends, family and acquaintances to ask for their forgiveness for any errors in judgement on our part. This is the time to outwardly show baseless love for all Jews. Don't wait for the High Holy Days to roll around, jump on the early opportunity today.

For more information on Tisha b'Av and the 3 Weeks - check out two of my favorite Jewish websites and

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me! Twice!

Happy Birthday to Me!

This past week was my secular birthday - I turned 41! Can't believe it. I always thought you had to be a grown up to have kids, at least to have three or four of them. Guess I'm a grown up now :)

Anyway, what's great about being Jewish (or at least one reason why it's great to be Jewish) is that you get two birthdays. A secular one, the calendar we are all used to - and a Jewish birthday according to the Jewish calendar.

My Jewish birthday doesn't come for another 3-4 weeks approximately. It's the 12th of Av. My mother (of blessed memory) used to say that in between the secular birthday and the Jewish birthday was chol hamoed, a semi-celebration -- basically keep a higher level of celebration than you would normally but not birthday level - then celebrate birthdays on both ends. It's kind of like we have for the holidays of Passover and Sukkot, 7-8 day holidays, the first days and last days are serious holidays and in between the first/last days is chol hamoed, still holiday, but not celebrated at the level of the first/last days.

Party on!

If you want to learn when your Jewish birthday is - check out this website and it'll help you figure it out. What's also great about this website is that it tells you other events in Jewish history that occurred on your Jewish birthday. Mine is Nachmanides' disputation of 1263 - which happened that year to coincide with my secular birthday July 20. Of course, I've read the disputation (it's not that long, it was in English, and so so important to understand why Christian missionaries are wrong) - and when I realized that it landed on both my secular and Jewish birthdays... it totally blew my mind. Just so you know, your secular and Jewish birthdays intersect every 19 years (or sometimes come one day after the next, why? I don't know.)

I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy and successful year ahead. And to wish everyone peace in their homes and around the world. Moshiach now! :)

Jewish Birthday Calendar