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Dec 6 2013

Torah MOMentary: A Bond Between Brothers, Even Those Who Sell Each Other into Slavery

By at 10:30 am


This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This past Shabbat we read Parashat Vayigash. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

As the mother of two boys, and someone who grew up with only a sister, I have recently taken an interest in stories of brothers.

I wonder about the special bond that some brothers share and what I might be able to do as a mother to nurture such a bond between my two boys. In looking to stories as role models, at first glance, I would not think that the biblical story of Joseph and his brothers would be one to which I would turn–jealousy that runs so deep that it causes Joseph’s brothers to plot together to sell him into slavery and then to deceive their own father into thinking that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. If anything, it reads like a worst case scenario, and the only thing I can take from it is relief that my boys’ jealousy of one another is not that bad, and that their greatest deception to date is hiding behind the couch to eat a candy bar that I had explicitly told them not to.

But by reading this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, I have found a more positive lesson in the story of Joseph and his brothers. Toward the end of last week’s Torah portion, Joseph hid a silver goblet in Benjamin’s (the youngest and his father’s most beloved son) bag as a test to see what the brothers would do when the goblet was discovered. Joseph demanded that, as punishment, Benjamin stay in Egypt as a slave. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 3 2012

That Baby is Totally and Completely Screwed

By at 4:45 pm
Jordana Horn's fourth child

Jordana and Baby G.

I’m sitting in the kids’ service for Sukkot, my 38-week-pregnant body uncomfortably positioned on a folding chair. In front of me is my 14-month-old daughter, Baby G. She is sitting for the first time in a plastic toddler school chair, in a circle with other kids.

It’s clear that she is profoundly mesmerized by the proceedings. It is blowing her mind how the service leader knows her name, and how she is asked to clap at regular intervals. She keeps turning around to look at me with her huge, gap-toothed grin on her face, as though she’s saying, “Can you BELIEVE this?”

She is sweet, and innocent, and beautiful. I stare at the little Florence Henderson-esque blond curls on the back of her neck. In an act of tremendous restraint, I somehow refrain from leaning over, grabbing her and covering her with kisses. I love her. And I pity her.

This gorgeous baby, light of my life, is totally and completely screwed. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 27 2011

Hanukkah, Autism, and Captain America

By at 5:52 pm

captain americaMy son Zack was 2 when his big brother noticed him for the first time. One minute we were all hanging out on the couch in our pajamas; the next Benjamin was on top of Zack, giving him a bear hug. Every couple of minutes he’d get up, only to pounce on the little guy again seconds later.

The whole time (and it went on for quite a while) my husband and I sat there speechless, shocked and amazed and choked up by the sight of our autistic (and therefore seriously socially delayed) 4-year-old finally showing affection toward his little brother. And Zack, well, Zack just lay there, grinning like a 7th grade girl who’d just learned her crush liked her back.

It’s been almost four years since that lovefest and I’m sad to report there haven’t been too many repeat performances. I’m not saying my boys don’t have a relationship. They do, and in fact it happens to be a relationship that is very special and unique. Zack watches out for his big brother, and he’s the first one to yell out, “Good job, I’m so proud of you!” when Benjamin says a new word or learns a new skill. I know Benjamin loves his brother back, but unfortunately autism makes it pretty impossible for him to express that. I think Zack gets it, but still, I feel for the kid. It sucks to give and give and give without getting anything back.

That all changed recently, when Zack opened a Captain America doll, the Hanukkah gift his brother had chosen and wrapped for him. See, Benjamin’s school had this totally brilliant idea to take a field trip to the mall. Parents sent in cash and listed the recipients’ interests (superheroes for Zack and Elmo for Ayla, our youngest), and the students (with some guidance from their teachers, I suspect) went shopping for their loved ones.

As usual, Benjamin didn’t seem to register Zack’s over-the-moon, “Thanks Benjamin, I love it!” But what happened a couple of days later was just as rewarding. I walked into our playroom and found Benjamin holding Captain America and pressing the button that makes him talk. This, from a kid who barely ever touches anything in that obnoxiously fully-loaded playroom.

Obviously Benjamin’s choice wasn’t arbitrary. He liked that chatty, leotard-clad figurine, and I like to think he thought Zack would like it, too. I also like to think they’ll be playing with it—together—soon.

Oct 27 2011

My Two Boys Finally Like (and Love) Each Other

By at 11:29 am

Mayim Bialik's two sons, Miles and Fred.

When I found out I was having a second boy (my older son, Miles was 2 when I got pregnant), I was thrilled. I love raising boys and I think that, as a non-feminine female who has no clue how to handle adult women who like shopping and manicures much less a 3-foot tall version of that incarnation, raising boys suits me. I envisioned my boys playing together peacefully and lovingly, making each other better people because they had each other. I pictured David and Jonathan from the Torah, but without the gay innuendo most people like to insinuate.


Fred was born in our living room as Miles watched from his highchair, and Miles loved Fred by ignoring him for the better part of two years. He was never mean to him or aggressive with him (he saved that for us), but he did not find anything interesting about Fred. Except that Fred got to nurse and he wanted to start up again.


Cut to Fred at 3 and Miles at 6. There’s been a lot of kvetching, to be honest. A lot of “Fred, NOOO!” or “Fred STOP!” and also “Fre-ed!” (with two syllables devoted to that vowel, first high, then low; like a true teenager-in-training).

Fred is a very late talker, but he learned how to communicate with me. About six months ago, Fred and Miles were playing within my line of vision, but I was tucked away in the kitchen. I saw anger from Miles over Fred wanting a toy. Then he pushed Fred. Not hard, but hard enough so that Fred’s feelings were hurt and he started to cry. Fred came to me and pantomimed exactly what happened. Miles, not knowing I had seen the whole incident, played it off well, like a true thespian (he is, after all, my son), but I informed him that the day had come when Fred’s reporting had surpassed Miles’ fibbing.


They have finally started to play together after a long period of me waiting and wondering if it was ever going to happen.

Read the rest of this entry →


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