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Jul 28 2014

Why Are There No Children’s Books About the Saddest Day of the Jewish Year?

By at 12:04 pm


It seemed like an easy enough question. What books could I use to teach my preschooler about Tisha B’Av? Since my son was born, children’s books had heralded every event of his life, big or small. We had Boynton for waking up and bedtime; “How Are You Peeling?” to discuss emotions, Berenstain Bears to assist with our move to a new city, and ­I had bought ­picture books for every Jewish holiday. But the first time I tried to explain why I wasn’t eating or drinking on a hot summer day, I didn’t have a book to help me.

The concept of fasting was relatively easy.

“Not eating is a way of remembering sad things that have happened,” I told my 3-year-­old. “When we don’t eat, our bodies feel bad, and that reminds us of feeling bad in our hearts. It’s also a way of talking to Go­d. It’s like we’re saying, ‘Go­d, help me. I feel so sad about what happened, I can’t even eat anything!’” I stopped and responded to simple questions about when I could eat again and whether I was allowed to drink water. But my son didn’t stop there. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 15 2014

Not Your Bubbe’s Baby Shower

By at 10:58 am


I am expecting twins any day now. The excitement is rising and the worries that these babies may arrive too soon are being relieved day by day. But when my colleagues offered to give me a baby shower months ago, I cringed.

As a rabbi, the idea of disappointing every bubbe in my congregation by having a baby shower did not feel right. Members of my own family had already asked, “You’re not going to have a baby shower, right?” As if that is a question and not a statement. Jewish women are not afraid to share our opinions, and often baby showers are simply taboo.

The conversation continued and the other rabbi’s wife, who happens to be a mentor and friend, reminded me that communities like to celebrate with their rabbis, so we had to come up with something. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 15 2013

Why I’m Grateful for the Saddest Day of the Jewish Year

By at 5:02 pm

bricksTisha B’av starts tonight. I won’t say that this is my favorite Jewish holiday, but it is, perhaps, the one I am most grateful for.

In case you’ve forgotten, Tisha B’av is the saddest day of the Jewish year, a day of fasting and mourning. It commemorates the destruction of both temples, as well as number of other tragedies that have befallen our people over the centuries.

This is not an easy holiday for me to relate to, for many reasons. I am a Jew living in America in a time of relative safety and security. My generation has never known a time when the State of Israel didn’t exist, and few of us have experienced overt and personal anti-Semitism. While the shadow of the Holocaust and the other tragedies of our history follow us throughout our lives, they rarely impact our daily functioning in a meaningful way. We have never fled for our lives. Compared to those who came before us, we have so little to mourn.  Read the rest of this entry →

Causeless Hatred Can Only be Fought with Causeless Love

By at 2:27 pm

trayvon martin protestThe thing about “causeless hatred” is that it sounds like something that other people do.

Causeless hatred is something other people do–because it’s something that is obviously wrong. And we aren’t people who would do something obviously wrong. We’re thoughtful most of the time. We have people in our lives that we love. But causeless hatred–hating someone else for no reason? That’s something other people do, people who are bigots, idiots, war criminals, or terrorists.

This is a convenient emotional shorthand that we all adopt from time to time: we assume, in the big scheme of things, that we are the “good guys.” I’m sure most of us are “good guys.” And I’m equally sure that we are all guilty of instances of causeless hatred. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 12 2013

Buying My Son from a Priest for a Few Silver Coins

By at 9:51 am

silver coinsI knew my life had gotten strange when I found myself standing in my in-laws’ living room, having recently purchased my son from a priest, as my husband threw chocolate silver coins down my hooter hider while I breastfed my son.

We were at my in-laws for my son’s pidyon haben, a ceremony where a firstborn male child who meets all sorts of criteria, such as resulting from a vaginal birth and not having a mother who is the child of a Cohen or a Levi, is redeemed from Temple service. I am pretty ambivalent about all things Temple-related so it wasn’t the top ritual to perform on my list. Breastfeeding in public while among a large group of elderly relatives was also not on the top of my list, but I had low milk supply and my son was latched on, more or less, 10 hours a day, so secluding myself entirely for months didn’t seem like a viable option.

My husband had apparently gone a bit bonkers from sleep deprivation, which was accounting for the throwing the chocolates down my hooter hider while yelling out “Fifty points! I am going to be able to win a cheap plastic toy!” Apparently the last level of sleep deprivation-induced insanity involves confusing your wife for an arcade game. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 27 2012

Tisha B’Av With Kids: Why I Won’t Be Mourning

By at 2:38 pm

tisha b'avTisha B’av, the saddest day of the Jewish year, starts on Saturday night.

In addition to the fall of our beloved Temples, we have much to grieve this year. The murders in Colorado. The war in Syria. The memory of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team who were kidnapped and murdered in Munich, Germany in 1972–a tragedy that will go unacknowledged during the London Olympics this year.

We have much to grieve.

Yet many of us won’t, myself included. We may post an image or brief statement on a Facebook page or Twitter feed, and then get on with our day, running errands, planning playdates, fixing meals, managing tantrums. We may take a moment to remember, but we probably won’t grieve. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 6 2012

Jewish Holiday Alert

By at 2:14 pm

Moses and the 10 CommandmentsIf you’ve ever tried to get a rabbi to marry you during the summer, you’ve probably heard of Tisha B’Av–a fast day that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples. (This year it starts the night of July 28th.)

The three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av are simply called “The Three Weeks.” During this period some people abstain from listening to music, getting married, and cutting their hair.

The Three Weeks kicks off this Sunday–the 17th of Tammuz. It’s believed that a lot of bad stuff happened to the Jews on this day. Moses broke the original Ten Commandments after coming upon the Israelites as they worshiped the Golden Calf. The Roman rulers forbade sacrifices to be made in the Second Temple on this date in 69 C.E.. In the following year, the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem were breached. This attack led to the destruction of the Temple three weeks later.

So, in commemoration of all that, it is traditional to fast from sunrise to sunset.

We will not say “Happy 17th of Tammuz” because that sounds wrong.

For more info, check out this piece on Tisha B’Av and more here on the 17th of Tammuz.

Aug 10 2011

How I Observed Tisha B’Av

By at 11:06 am

Yesterday, Jews all over the world observed Tisha B’Av, the commemoration of the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Observance consists of refraining from luxuries such as wearing leather shoes (not an issue for this vegan), showering (not an issue for this overwhelmed mama), and not eating (a very big issue for this lover-of-food who is still nursing and can on most days use that as my excuse for constantly eating).

Not all Jews observe Tisha B’Av, and we don’t all observe it in the same way, but I find observing this day as a reminder that we are literally and figuratively living in exile. I was not raised religious, but I have come to find this day life-affirming and beautiful in its tragedy and complexity.

However, as the mother of an almost 3 and almost 6 year old, I struggle to find ways to explain the day to them. My older son knows the Temples were destroyed and he finds it sad–in an age-appropriate way–that Jews weren’t allowed to practice our religion and that the Babylonians and the Romans desecrated our Temple and all the things that we believed in. However, that’s about as far as it goes for him.

His day doesn’t stop simply because I am not eating. He still needs breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and snacks in between. He still rejoices in small pleasures: a new set of marbles (with a “shooter”), buying party favors for his brother’s upcoming birthday party, the way our cat rolls on the carpet in the sun to warm up. These things bring joy to my son every day, including on Tisha B’Av, when laughter, rejoicing, and celebration are significantly tempered among adults.

The beauty of this day is that in all of its sadness and profundity, we see as parents that life goes on. I may sit on the floor in mourning in disheveled clothing and feel heavy and sad, but you cannot ignore the innocence of a child even through a lens of focusing on death and sadness. I wondered today what children were like in the time of the Temple’s destruction. They must have been devastated and it must have been a tremendously tragic existence to live amidst all of that sadness. But I also know that children then, as now, rejoiced at a set of new marbles. They rejoiced when they were generous simply because they felt generosity well up inside of them. They rejoiced when they observed the wonders of the world. Just like my son did today.

Being a Jewish parent means living with tension no matter what you practice or how or why. How do we embrace our past while allowing our children to move into their own future? We can’t stop their rejoicing any more than we would want to quash their innocence and we also can’t stop them from hurting any more than we would want to shelter them from reality.

To every thing, there certainly is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Read about why Mayim doesn’t have a nanny, how she studies on the set of The Big Bang Theory, and why she breastfeeds a toddler.

Aug 8 2011

It’s Tisha B’Av–See You on Wednesday

By at 5:06 pm

Jews remember the destruction of the Temple on this sad day.

Tonight is the beginning of the holiday of Tisha B’Av, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av. And if you thought Yom Kippur was serious, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Tisha B’Av is the most solemn day of the Jewish year. It commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, and is a day of mourning and fasting.

You can read more about the history and observances of Tisha B’av here.

So our offices are closed tomorrow. We hope your Tisha B’Av is meaningful, and we’ll see you back here on Wednesday morning.


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