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Mar 17 2014

What Not To Say to Your Friend Who is Adopting

By at 7:00 pm


I assume that I get this response more frequently because of my profession, but you would probably be shocked at how frequently I hear, “Just like Moses!” when I tell people that we are in the process of adopting. (Yes, Moses was adopted. Remember, mother places him in basket, daughter of the Pharaoh finds him, Moses’ mother nurses him and then he was raised in the palace as Pharaoh’s grandson before leaving to lead the Jewish people into Israel.)

We have all been there–when we don’t know what to say, we often say the wrong thing (and sometimes, the really wrong thing). And even though it is usually said with the right intentions, a verbal misstep can be not just awkward, but actually very painful. So here is some guidance on what not to say when you hear that someone is adopting: Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 14 2014

What My Daughter’s Favorite Stuffed Animal Has to Do with the Golden Calf

By at 9:41 am

Torah Momentary: Was the Golden Calf the Israelite's version of a lovey?

This post is part of our Torah MOMentary series, where we interpret the weekly Torah portion through the perspective of a mother. This Shabbat we read Parashat Ki Tissa. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

As parents (and humans), we spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting to grow up. Waiting to meet the right partner. Waiting to move in together, get married, or partner up in a long term way. We wait to get pregnant. Then we wait for our baby to be born. Once our baby is born, we wait for him or her to grow up. We don’t want to rush it, but in some ways, we do. We’re waiting for him to smile, laugh, eat solid foods, sit up, sleep through the night, point, clap, wean herself, talk, walk, run, use the potty, listen to reason, win a Nobel, have kids of her own. But like Tom Petty knows, the waiting is the hardest part. And yet, we have to do it.

Our kids have a hard time waiting, too. Mine are not yet 3, and they cannot wait for anything. Sometimes, it’s a matter of waiting just a few seconds, as long as it takes for me to finish chewing before I answer their question about icicles, or the letter “M” and how it really does look a lot like a “W.” Sometimes, they cannot wait the two minutes it takes for me to find a missing puzzle piece that is lodged beneath the couch, or the 10 minutes it takes for chicken nuggets to cook in the toaster. They certainly can’t wait five days until our weekend trip or the two months it’ll take before their birthday arrives. For them, waiting is beyond hard. It’s impossible. It often reduces them to tears. (Me too.)

Apparently, the Israelites didn’t like waiting, either. In her commentary on this week’s Torah portion Ki Tissa, Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses writes, “Waiting is difficult. When a child waits…for a parent to come home, the time can feel excruciatingly long.” Cohler-Esses points out that when the Jews waited for Moses to come back down from his tete-a-tete with God on Mount Sinai, they grew impatient, just like a child might. Their leader—their parent, in a sense—had disappeared. “They are anxious that Moses will never return to them, frightened that they will have no leader to lead them to the Promised Land,” Cohler-Esses explains. “They are so scared that they build themselves an idol—a Golden Calf to accompany them through the desert.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 17 2014

Torah MOMentary: How Moses Inspires Me to Ask For Help

By at 10:15 am

help spelled in toy blocks

This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a new mom. This Shabbat we read Parashat Yitro. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

Asking for help does not come naturally to me. I’ve always been independent to the point of stubbornness. And that worked for me…until I became a mom. Now, ohmygosh, I need help constantly. And little by little, I’m learning how to ask for it.

I know you’re dying to know how this connects to this week’s Torah portion, and I promise it will, but first a personal litany of top five motherly vulnerabilities:

1. Diapering technique. It all started when a hospital nurse showed me how to diaper my brand new baby. I watched her expertly fasten the tiny disposable diaper, thinking, how the hell did I get through 35 years without learning this? It seemed like the most basic skill in the world, but also entirely mysterious. Even after my hospital lesson, it took me two weeks to remember which side went in the back.

2. Post-partum help. For two weeks after Sylvie’s birth, my mom stayed in our tiny apartment to help us out, sleeping on our couch and sharing our one bathroom. (Yes, she is amazing.) For the first week, I couldn’t bend over because of my c-section incision, so my mom had to help me put on my underwear. That was humbling enough. By the end of week two, I was slowly healing, but when it was time for my mom to leave, I surprised myself by losing it. I still needed her help. I probably hadn’t cried and begged her not to leave since I was 4 years old. This was not exactly how I’d expected to start off my new life as a mother. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 10 2014

Torah MOMentary: Take it From Moses & Ask For Help Once in a While

By at 10:03 am


This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a new mom. This Shabbat we read Parashat B’shalah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

I once went to a “New Agey” Passover retreat deep in the Israeli desert. The woman leading it was a kind of hippie Jewish priestess: long hair, flowy dresses, batik. To end the retreat, she had us all perform this birth ritual she made up based on the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, which we read about in B’shalah, this week’s Torah portion.

The Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, she explained, was actually a birth narrative; they passed through the narrow canal made by the waters standing apart, and were transformed from Egyptian slaves to free Israelites, servants of God. And we were going to re-enact this.

So we all divided into pairs and stood in a line, made a giant tunnel by joining our hands overhead, and participants volunteered to be “birthed” one after the other by crossing the Sea of Reeds, which in this case meant being carried on their backs through the tunnel of arms overhead. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 20 2013

Torah MOMentary: How Some Sexy Vibes Saved the Jewish People

By at 10:09 am

bottle of wine in an orchard

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

In the first portion in the book of Exodus, Sh’mot, there’s a new Pharaoh in charge who hates the Israelites and decides to destroy them.

Mothers are all over this story. There’s Moses’ mother, who sends him off in a basket of reeds to save him, and ends up being hired as his wet nurse. There’s Pharaoh’s daughter, who rescues baby Moses from the water and becomes his adoptive mom.

But I want to talk about the non-celebrity moms. The regular, unnamed mothers who make the whole story possible. What we can learn from them, and from Pharaoh himself.

According to a famous midrash, actually, the Israelites only survived because of the women. In this version of the story, Pharaoh’s first plan of attack is to make the men work so hard that they are too exhausted to go home and sleep with their wives. No sex, no babies, no more Israelites! Read the rest of this entry →


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