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Nov 22 2013

Torah MOMentary: Climbing Out of the Pit

By at 12:43 pm


In this week’s portion, Vayeshev, we read about Joseph’s father giving him the coat of many colors. This is the last straw for his jealous brothers, who decide to get rid of him: they cast Joseph down into a pit, then sell him to some passing slave traders. “When Joseph came up to his brothers…they took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.”

Although I’ve read this story before, this time that empty pit stopped me for a moment. It felt personal. Not so long ago, for about a year and a half after my daughter was born, I was in a pit of my own.

It took me 14 months to realize there was a problem. I was on a plane, landing at SFO with major turbulence, holding my little daughter on my lap. As we jolted down towards the fast-approaching tarmac, I found myself thinking with a strange sort of excitement: “Maybe the plane will crash and I won’t have to be here anymore! And it’s perfect because I won’t be leaving her alone, either.” Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 15 2013

Torah MOMentary: Let There Be Mama

By at 9:31 am

mama nametag

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

“The earned name is worth much more than the given name.”

–Ecclesiastes Rabbah, 7:4

I didn’t change my name when I got married. I’d always thought sharing a name sounded romantic, but when the time came, I realized I would resent giving mine up. And besides, I was too busy (or lazy) to even think about getting a new passport, driver’s license, and credit cards, so I managed to live three and a half decades with the same name my parents gave me back when I was born. Until I had my baby.

Now I have a new name: Mama.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlah, Jacob wrestles with the angel. After a long night of struggle and a hip injury, the angel finally asks Jacob to let him go. And Jacob says, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” And the angel blesses him, not with riches or descendants, but with a new name: Israel, “One who struggles with God.”  It’s a complicated name, but fitting after Jacob’s all-night wrestling match. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 8 2013

Torah MOMentary: Why Are We Passing Down These Crazy Bible Stories?

By at 9:31 am


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

Have you seen the new episode of that crazy reality show about the dysfunctional family where a father tricks his son-in-law-to-be into marrying both of his daughters instead of just one (dooming the second daughter to a loveless marriage)? And then the two sisters compete to see who can have the most babies, even using their kids’ names to gloat about their victories? And then finally the whole family takes off in the middle of the night, stealing the father’s most precious possession, then lying about it?

Just kidding, it’s not a reality show–it’s this week’s Torah portion, Vayetze.

This is the time of year I start asking…why are these stories in our holy book? Why do we read them every year? Why did my ancestors pass them down generation after generation until they reached me? And why should I pass them down to my daughter? Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 1 2013

Torah MOMentary: Even Esteemed Matriarchs Play Favorites

By at 10:17 am

sibling rivalry jacob and esau parashat toldot

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

Maybe you’ve been feeling a little guilty about your parenting lately; you shouldn’t. There is no one perfect way to be a mom, and you’re doing your best with the resources you have. (Remember, #YouAreAGoodMama.)

Still, it’s so easy to feel insecure sometimes–especially when you constantly see other mothers who seem to have it all together, all the time: they take to breastfeeding with the greatest of ease, they throw birthday parties that are Pinterest boards come to life, and they look damn good doing it in their little black dresses two months after giving birth. Meanwhile, you’re desperately tossing back Fenugreek like M&Ms for just a minute increase in your milk supply. Your nipples look like Mike Tyson’s face (or Evander Holyfield’s ear) after a brutal round in the ring; your parties are fly-by-night operations with whatever was left over at Amazing Savings; your fashion style is more worn beatnik than city slick. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 25 2013

Torah MOMentary: Remaining Calm in the Face of Uncertainty

By at 9:51 am

i can't keep calm i'm jewish

This post is part of our new Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Haye Sarah. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

My adorable toddler has a disturbing new habit.

It goes like this: Sylvie’s playing with another kid at the park. Suddenly she grabs the kid’s hair, shrieks in excitement, and pulls. The kid’s mom and I run over and pry her hands off (harder than you’d think!), mom kneels to console crying kid, I apologize profusely. And there’s Sylvie, grinning uneasily.

I know she doesn’t mean to cause pain; she’s just excited. But on some basic human level, it feels odd to see someone smile while hurting someone else. So when this first started happening I was pretty concerned. I’m still new to this whole mothering thing. Was this a developmental stage, or the beginning of a real problem? Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 18 2013

Torah MOMentary: What Was Abraham Thinking?

By at 10:00 am

abraham sacrificing isaac

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

This week’s Torah portion is called Vayera, and it tells the story of an extremely questionable parenting decision.

God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. And Abraham agrees. In one of the most emotional, cinematic scenes in all of Torah, father and son walk slowly up the mountain.  At the last minute, God provides a ram, and Isaac is spared.

But Abraham’s willingness to offer up his son has sparked many centuries of commentary. How could a father agree to such a thing?  What was Abraham thinking?  Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 11 2013

Torah MOMentary: How Do I Tell My Kids to Go Forth When I’m Not Ready?

By at 11:35 am

little girl running away

This post is part of our new Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Lekh L’kha. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

There is little that breaks the heart of a parent more than leaving their child in the care of a stranger for the first time. Daycare drop off, new babysitter, even the first day of kindergarten–these necessary experiences all yield that same gut punch: letting go of a sweaty hand, watching your tiny child–did they ever seem so small?–walk forward into the unknown. Your stomach drops. You inhale sharply. Did I just do that? Did I just send my baby off, alone?

Maybe she’s looking back at you, eyes enormous, and crying. Arms outstretched, in that moment, she doesn’t think she’ll survive without you near, and you don’t think you will either. Or, maybe he’s bolted forward and found a friend, a toy, or a teacher he takes to quickly. Maybe it’s a matter of hours before your child has adjusted; maybe it takes your kid weeks or months. Maybe your baby doesn’t ever adjust but you keep trying, you keep dragging her to the edge of the pool and throwing her in. “Go!” you say, “Swim!”

In this week’s Torah portion Lekh L’kha, we watch as God throws Abraham into the water. “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” God commands. Leave your home behind. Step into the unknown. Trust me.  Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 4 2013

Torah MOMentary: Noah Wasn’t Perfect & Neither Are We

By at 10:02 am


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

You know the dirty look you get at a café when you turn your back for a second and your toddler gets her sticky hands very close to the laptop of the guy working at the next table?

I used to feel terrible when I got that look. After all, not so long ago, I was that guy with the laptop. And so I know exactly what he’s thinking: “Can’t you control your child?”

To be clear: common courtesy is important. I don’t want my kid messing with my own laptop, much less anyone else’s. And if she’s making a ton of noise in a quiet place, I do my best to get her out of there as fast as I can.

But still, she’s a kid, and I’m a mother, and sometimes we’re on a walk and I woke up at 6 a.m. and I want a cup of coffee, and at those moments, we’re the obnoxious people in the hipster café. And in the past few months I’ve stopped feeling quite so bad about it. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 25 2013

Torah MOMentary: Was God in Labor?

By at 1:38 pm


This is the first post in our new Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Bereshit. To learn more, click here.

The Torah begins at the beginning, with the creation of the world.

We often think of creation as making something out of nothing. An artist takes a blank canvas, marks it up with colors, and voila: a painting. A builder takes an empty plot of land, builds on it: a house. A baby is born, and there’s a tiny human where before was just…air?

But wait. Something was there before the baby…I can almost remember…oh yeah, it was what I called “my life”! Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 24 2013

New Series: Reading the Torah As a New Mom

By at 12:00 pm

alicia jo rabinsAs Simchat Torah fast approaches and the new Torah reading cycle begins, Kveller is very excited to announce the launch of a new weekly series–Torah commentary from a new mother’s perspective. The series will be led by Alicia Jo Rabins, a multi-talented musician, writer, teacher, and mother.

So what will make this Torah commentary different from all other Torah commentaries? Here’s what Alicia has to say:

My daughter Sylvia is 16 months old. Everyone said having her would change my life, and it wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, but… I didn’t realize becoming a mother would change ME so much. Life looks different from this vantage point.   Read the rest of this entry →


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