Apr 10 2014
My friend Anne recently posed an excellent question related to keeping the dietary laws of Passover. “For those of us who are gluten-free,” she asked, “is cutting hametz really a hardship?”
What Anne was getting at, I believe, is the underlying observation that it can be a challenge to get in the right frame of mind for Passover if giving up wheat and other grains is nothing new. Many of us unknowingly (or knowingly) rely on the physical aspect of our holidays to access the deeper spiritual realm where we can focus on what really matters. On Rosh Hashanah we dip apples in honey; we fast on Yom Kippur; we’re commanded to eat in a sukkah during Sukkot; we fry potatoes in oil during Hanukkah; we try new fruits on Tu Bishvat; we make a dairy meal for Shavuot; we feast throughout Shabbat. Rosh Hashanah, however, is not about apples and honey. Hanukkah is not about latkes. Shabbat is not just about pigging out.
Likewise, Passover is not about avoiding bread or experimenting with a trendy diet. Still, changing the way we eat for the week can make an impact on our ability to digest (no pun intended) the lessons of the holiday. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 8 2014
If your kids can’t get enough of “Frozen,” they will love this year’s overload of Passover parody videos. Not all Passover “Frozen” parodies are created equal, though, so we’ve selected our five favorites. Each one sillier and more absurd than the next, these spoofs of “Let it Go” will have your family singing “Let Us Go,” all Passover long.
1. The Grown Up version. From Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, MA. There is a nice contrast between frowning geriatric Pharaoh who occasionally raises his staff, and the grinning temple congregants–who look like they might be your parents–performing as back-up dancers.
2. The Teen Version. This charming ukulele version from The Weber School in Atlanta, GA is like the kids’ answer to the previous parody. Created by students and teachers of the school, it addresses what young people hate most about the seder (zzzzz….) and helps bring the haggadah to life. It even comes with an attached lesson plan. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 18 2014
There’s a preschool at one of the local temples that the parents just rave about. In fact, my husband and I recently started attending the temple’s monthly Tot Shabbat programs with our 2-year-old, and we’ve already gotten a taste of just how much these little children are picking up. Some of the older ones can recite blessings and know several prayers by heart. And even the younger ones know that you’re supposed to do things like cover your eyes when it’s time to say the Shema.
This preschool sounds really, really great. It’s exactly the kind of place I’d like to send my son. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. Like most preschools, this one only offers programming for about three hours a day, and when you’re a family like ours, where both parents work full-time, three hours of coverage just won’t cut it. So now it’s up to me and my husband to attempt to compensate by introducing our toddler to the traditions I so desperately want him to love and appreciate, but I worry that my sporadic incorporation of Judaism into our hectic, over-scheduled lives just isn’t going to be enough in the long run. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 13 2014
The noisemakers are already going in my house. By “noisemakers,” I mean my kids. The groggers are going, too, of course, along with an endless medley of preschool Purim songs as my children’s excitement about the upcoming holiday reaches a fever pitch. It’s a little chaotic, but I’m glad that my kids are eager to celebrate Purim…and it’s not bad to get a reprieve from the constant refrains of “Let It Go” that have comprised our family’s unofficial soundtrack for the last three months.
“Mommy,” my 4-year-old asks, “Do you know any more Purim songs we could sing?” On a whim, I launch into that corny old Hebrew School chestnut, “Oh, Once There Was a Wicked, Wicked Man.” My children listen delightedly as I began to sing, then look at me in consternation as I pause abruptly, not wanting to sing the words “he would have murdered all the Jews” (describing Haman’s evil plot). I continue singing, instead substituting the words “he would have punished all the Jews.” My children smile at the song. I feel relieved, and very guilty.
As a rabbi, I’m committed to a view of Jewish sacred text that affirms the sanctity and importance of our foundational narratives. When I was an idealistic college student, struggling with passages in the Torah that I found ethically or historically troubling, I believed that such difficult sections of our sacred text should simply be excised. We’re an enlightened people. Why do we need Torah verses that seem (or are) sexist or homophobic? As I deepened my understanding of Jewish text and interpretation, though, I began to understand that each of our texts, even the troubling ones, have something to teach us. The sages of the Talmud imagined Rabbi Akiva as being so gifted in the art of Torah interpretation that he was able to derive meaning not only from the words of the Torah but even from the decorative crowns that adorn the letters in the Torah scroll. To the Jew, there is meaning in everything, and so every story must be retained, honored, and plumbed for its overt and hidden lessons. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 16 2014
Happy Tu Bishvat, the Jewish birthday of trees! This is a great holiday for making kids aware of the earth and all its bountiful beauty. If you’ve got some free time with the kids today, we rounded up a few craft projects you can do to get them in the “tree state of mind.”
1. Have a forest fiesta! Break out the paper, glue, buttons, and paint and create a forest with your kids. These two projects will leave you with a pretty play dough garden, and a landscape of paper trees. (Mum Paints Lives)
2. Make some cardboard leaves with stencils and paints! Get crazy and do some finger painting–there are many techniques you can use with this one. (Creative Jewish Mom) Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 8 2013
On her blog “Ima On and Off the Bima,” Rabbi Phyllis Sommer started something called #BlogElul. Elul is the Hebrew month preceding the High Holidays, and is meant to be a time of introspection as we mentally prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rabbi Sommer has designated every day of Elul to a different topic, and will be blogging about each one and encouraging others to join in.
The #BlogElul challenge spoke to me, as each year I contemplate how to weave bits of Judaism into my children’s day. Bits that over time will be threaded together to form their Jewish identities and sense of self. Read the rest of this entry →
May 10 2013
Next up on the Jewish holiday docket is Shavuot, which is a two-day holiday that begins next Tuesday at sundown.
Shavuot was originally an ancient harvest festival celebrating the grain crop. In Hebrew, Shavuot means “weeks” and the holiday is celebrated seven weeks after Passover begins. But today, Shavuot is mostly recognized as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Read more about the basics here.
So how do you celebrate this holiday with the kids? Some ideas: Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 22 2013
At last, the wackiest, craziest Jewish holiday of the year has arrived! Purim begins tomorrow night at sundown and goes until sundown on Sunday night, which means 24 hours of costumes, hamantaschen, noisemakers and more.
But Purim ain’t all cookies and costumes–it’s about beauty pageants, drinking, and evil plots, too! Refresh yourself on the Purim story, and then if you need some last minute ideas to make this year’s Purim extra fun, we’ve got you covered. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 4 2013
Let’s not beat around the bush: Purim is the craziest Jewish holiday of the year. There’s carnivals and parades, cookies and noisemakers, religion-sanctioned drunkenness, and of course, the costumes.
Many consider Purim to be the Jewish Halloween, and your kids certainly won’t mind getting into the spirit of the holiday by dressing up as whatever they want! Purim comes early this year, starting at sundown on Saturday, February 23rd, so if you don’t already have a costume in place, now’s the time to start looking. The internet’s cup runneth over with all kinds of costumes, but we’ve searched through the endless choices and found our favorites just for you. From cutesy to Jewishy to just plain weird, here they are. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 25 2013
Hello, Kveller folks. Just a friendly reminder that Tu Bishvat, the Birthday of the Trees, starts tonight at sundown. If you need some last minute ideas for food, crafts, and activities, we’ve got you covered.
A common way to celebrate Tu Bishvat is to eat foods that contain the seven species from the Bible: figs, dates, pomegranates, olives, grapes, wheat and barley. That means you could make stuffed dates or fig and goat cheese sandwiches. Or you could make this fruity dinner for Tu Bishvat featuring orange and maple baked tofu and persimmon and pistachio cupcakes.
To keep up with the fruit theme, this orange salad is light and refreshing. And what better way to eat fruit then dipped in chocolate? Here comes in the chocolate fondue with fruit. Lastly, a little adult fun can be had with some homemade sangria using any of your favorite fruits. Read the rest of this entry →