Thursday, 13 December 2012

All in the bag-- Miketz

And the plot thickens!

Parashat Miketz begins with Paroh's usual dreams and the Sar hamashkim (butler) suddenly remembering Yosef. The details of his dreams, the cows eating cows and wheat eating wheat, never struck me as peculiar, but probably because the story is so familiar. Gabi was scared of cows eating other things (like her) but Cohava assured her that cows only eat other cows. I set the record straight. The next day I saw Gabi drawing what I thought were giant yellow flowers but she explained that they were 'fat wheat, hiding from the skinny ones'.

The girls were not surprised by Yosef's appointment to Paroh's viceroy nor the eventual arrival of the brothers. But the brothers being accused of being spies? "Are spies baddies?" Cohava asked. "Umm sometimes," I replied, visions of the Cold War, James Bond, and Jonathan Pollard tumbling through my head. "Like if you are trying to get secrets to keep Israel safe, you are a good spy. If you are trying to sneak around and get secrets to hurt them, you are bad," I explained. I couldn't think of any other way to make something so gray, black and white for her.

As the story continues, the sacks the brothers carry play a large role. They are mentioned when they leave Canaan, arrive in Egypt, and leave Egypt. They are shocked to discover their bags are filled with food and the money they intended to pay.

The parasha ends with the biggest bag moment, the discovery of Yosef's special cup inside the sack of Binyamin and Yosef's threat to keep him as a slave. Dum dum dum...

These sacks the brothers carried were pretty integral to the story.  So that is what we made.

The girls have been interested in sewing but they are not ready to really work with a needle and thread. They need a little more practice. They sell "sewing kits" that are fabric with pre-punched holes, like threading cards, with yarn and plastic needles. I decided to make my own such project.

I was thrilled to discover that a regular hole punch works on fabric. Using some scrap of white cotton, I made trails of holes for the girls to 'sew' through.

The girls were very excited about sewing "just like Ema."

 "May I please have some food, Yoseph?"

Then to change things up a little, they decorated with crayons instead of permanent markers. I could iron the project to make the colors stay, but that would require ironing.

May your proverbial bag be filled with brachot and not too many unwanted surprises.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Vayeshev- Sibling Rivarly

I love Parashat Vayeshev! In fact I love the whole Yosef story. It is one of Tanach's greatest suspense thrillers, includes a cast of interesting characters, and it conjures emotions everyone can relate to personally. It has all the makings of a great Broadway show! And I do love the soundtrack to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This week, instead of listening to shiurim during evening chores, I enjoyed Joseph. Lunches get made a lot faster to "Go Go Joseph".

The themes in this parasha are also much easier to teach children than last week. Obviously it needs to be softened, but the idea of wanting to harm your sibling because of jealousy is something that all children can relate to at some point.
This week my girls inadvertently acted out their own sibling rivalry battle. Cohava took a piece of dress-up clothes that Gabi wanted. Standing on the bathtub ledge she taunted, "I got it and you don't!" Then Cohava lost her balance and fell on Gabi, fracturing her leg.
Following this episode, the girls listened to the story of Yosef with extra attentiveness.
And their project reflected the physical representation of their jealousy, the ketonet pasim, the striped tunic Yaakov presented his son.

Target t-shirts + sharpie markers =

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Transformation in Vayishlach

Parashat Vayishlach is a little lacking in good content for children. From preparing for war against your brother, the abduction and rape of Dina, to Rachel's death during childbirth, most of the parasha deserves an R rating.
It really was hard to teach my girls this week. The encounter between Yaakov and Eisav, both in the form of an angel, as well as in human form was the only part that I could recount easily. Gabi liked the bowing seven times the most, and practiced it repeatedly. She also complained of a sore gid hanashe.

I watered down the story of Dina to a brief kidnapping. 'Dina left the house without a grown-up and without telling anyone where she was going. She thought the strangers she met seemed nice and they kidnapped her. She was very scared, but her abba and brothers rescued her.' The end. My girls then spoke about not wondering off and not talking to strangers. These are lessons that are always important to review, but do not really reflect what the Torah tells us.

Because I am expecting and I don't want to give my children unnecessary insecurities, I entertained skipping the story of Rachel's death, but without it I could not tell them about Binyamin's birth or Kever Rachel. But I explained that it is very rare today for Ema's to die in childbirth.
"Ema, don't worry. When the baby is ready to come out, you just need to do a little extra teffilah and I will also and then you will be fine and won't die," Cohava said reassuringly.
"But if you die then I won't have an Ema anymore," Gabi exclaimed. "And if Abba found a new wife then I would get a step mother and she might be mean to me..." Gabi began working herself into a frenzy. Cohava and I both assured her IYH everything would be fine.

 What did that leave for parsha project? The fight with the angel! This was Cohava's favourite part of the parasha, but I struggled with how to make something for it. I found these very large paperclips and thought they resembled an angel.
I gave the girls each a piece of wood to decorate and then hot glue gunned the 'angel' on.

 The girls each made a Yaakov to be 'stuck' in the malach's grip. On one side on the wooden block it will say "Yaakov" and on the other "Yisrael". The transformative nature of a struggle is an incredible message, but one too mature for my children.
 Above is Cohava's Yaakov. He is full of love. And below is Gabi's Yisrael. Can you see the band-aid on his gid hanashe?

Cohava also had her own plans for a project. She insisted on 12 plaits (braids) in her hair, to represent the twelve brothers.
Gabi was inspired and wore three buns in her hair to represent the three things Yaakov did to prepare for seeing Eisav (tefilah, sending gifts, preparing for war.)

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Vayetze- Coming to a Compromise

The Hachnasat Sefer Torah was beautiful.
Cohava's siddur concert was also very special. Hopefully I will have the video soon so I can share my nachat on the best part of the event.

 Parashat Vayetze starts with the famous sulam Ya'akov. Ya'akov's dream of the angels moving up and down a ladder speaks to people in different ways, across ages and cultures, from Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven to the classic toy. This Jacob's Ladder toy is what I initially planned to do for the project because I love playing with them. I found many instructions on how to make this toy, including one made out of chocolate bars.
But no matter how entertaining this toy is, it does not really capture anything from the parasha, and I decided chinuch points must be higher than entertainment points. I asked the girls what part of the parasha they liked the most and what they felt we should make.
"The ladder! And the angels! And the rock pillows! We should make rock pillows for our project! Twelve, and then like stick them together," Cohava excitedly share her ideas.
"That is not my favourite part," Gabi argued. "I like the wedding! And the two brides. And their dresses. And their thick veils. And the chuppah..." Gabi, the romantic, stared off dreamily. "We should make kallah dresses," she concluded.
"I like both of your ideas, but I don't think we have time to make rock pillows and sew bridal gowns. What if we make clay and from that you can make your favourite parts?" I suggested. Thankfully getting the girls to compromise on this was much better than any of Ya'akov's efforts. The girls excitedly agreed.

We made a batch of bakers clay.


  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 4 cups all purpose flour


Stir the salt into the warm water. Let cool. Add flour and knead for 8-10 minutes.
Form the desired shapes. Cook in the oven at 140 F for about 45 minutes.
Cool. Paint. Marvel at masterpieces.

 Other than supervising clay making, I really let the girls do whatever they wanted. Even Ruti got a ball of clay and enjoyed mushing it around.

Gabi and Ruti made some interesting shapes, but Cohava made something very impressive!
 After cooking, the girls painted their work.
Then they dressed the dolls more appropriately.

I'll get better pictures soon.

Shabbat Shalom!
May agreements in your personal life and those happening in Israel bring about more peace than those of Ya'akov and Lavan.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


This has been a very busy week. Our Beit Kenneset is getting a new sefer Torah! Tonight we had an event with the sofer at our house to thank the major donors. On Sunday we will be having the siyum sefer Torah. I am very excited. This business was reason #1 for a smaller parasha project.
The second reason is that the well from last week stayed in Cohava's classroom until Tuesday. Every day a dejected Gabi asked,  "When is it my turn for the well?" On Wednesday Gabi finally brought it to school. Thankfully this week's parasha also has wells and she told her teachers all about 'melech-avi-melech' and the fight over the wells.
Gabi asked, "Can I bring the project to school first this week?"
"There is nothing to bring to school this week," I replied.
"Nooooo!" yelled Cohava.
"I was thinking about making something to eat," I explained. "What food do you think we should make?"
"Ice cream," suggested a hopeful Cohava.
"Soup!" Gabi yelped.
"Red soup," Cohava added.
"Pour it down my throat," Gabi growled in a scary voice.

My usual red lentil soup is Moroccan and not very red. I think we make this soup instead:
Persian Style Red Lentil Soup
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, chopped finely
1 celery, chopped (optional)
2 -3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 (15 ounce) can chopped tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock or 4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup red lentil, rinsed
1 bunch parsley, chopped (or 2tbs dried)
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 -2 tablespoon sumac
1 dried lime (strongly preferred, but can substitute with 1/4 c lime or lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook until the onion is softened.
 Stir in the turmeric and paprika. Add tomatoes and stock along with the dried lime. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. If the dried lime is still floating, cut it in half with a knife or kitchen scissors now that it is softened.
Add the lentils, return to a simmer. Cover and cook 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.
Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree half the soup, return to the pot.
Add sumac and parsley/other herbs, cook 5 minutes longer.

Sorry no pictures this week. Maybe I will post some of the Siyum Sefer Torah.
Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, 8 November 2012

All's Well That Ends Well- Chayei Sarah

Sorry for the long hiatus on posts and thank you to all the fans who encouraged me to come back. We have done a project each week since Bereshit. Hopefully I will have the time to recount them.

Chayei Sarah has some really lovely aspects. It is the only parasha named for a woman. It marks the end of our first matriarch's life and provides a lovely introduction to the woman who now bears the mantle, Rivkah. Go women!

Cohava was perturbed by the parasha being called "The life of Sarah" when it is about her death. I explained that at the end of someone's life we try to focus on the positive of their life. "Does that make sense?" I asked. "Yah, but you still shouldn't die too soon, ok?" she replied.

My favourite part of this parasha is Eliezer's mission to find a wife for his master's son, Yitzchak.  Making a shidduch is never easy, so Eliezer asks Hashem to help him find the right girl with a sign. If she will offer water to him and his camels, she is the right one. Low and behold, Rivkah stands at the well and does exactly that. 

I was explaining to my girl's what a difficult and special job Rivkah did of providing water.

"But Hashem made a nes [miracle] and made it easy peasy for her to get the water," Cohava objected. This is what she heard from The Little Midrash Says, but I don't want her to think that Hashem always makes doing chesed easy for us.

"But getting water isn't hard. I can't reach the cups well, or I would get you some now," Gabi offered.
Obviously the girls needed to see a well in action to understand the struggle.
I found a great project to make a little well. But I wanted them to feel the difficulty, at least a little.

I got a cardboard box and cut away from both sides to give me the frame of the well. Armed with paints, the girls got to work decorating the box. They chose to colour in white, yellow, and pink, which all mixed together and produced a nice colour reminiscent of stones.

When the paint dried, I made holes in the cardboard for a wooden dowel. I drilled two holes in the dowel and ran twine through. In the bottom of the box I placed a large bucket to serve as the reservoir.  I tied a small bucket to the string and a handle to the side of dowel. Voila! A working well.

 Cohava cranked the dowel once. "This is sooo easy!" she exclaimed.
"Great! May I please have some water?" I asked.
Quickly she saw the struggle. The more she cranked, the harder it became. After many attempts she brought a bucket of water to the top.
Wham! It went slamming back down because she wasn't gripping hard enough. Cohava was frustrated and let Gabi have a turn. They took turns and after about twenty minutes they worked out the technique for drawing water from the well. Cohava brought the camel hand puppet over, and Gabi (whose middle name is Rivka) happily gave them water.

I don't know how easily you can make your own well, but you are welcome to test out ours.

Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Yom Kippur Crafts X3

Hi! Sorry for missing the last few parshiot. As you can imagine, things have been very hectic. But good.
Here are a few Yom Kippur projects to keep your children busy while you drink lots of water.

Non-Leather Shoes
Of the five prohibitions on Yom Kippur, this is the one most relevant to children. Of course most children own a pair of slippers, crocs, or rainboots, so it isn't too hard to find some appropriate footwear, but I thought making a pair would be more fun.

I traced Cohava's foot on a piece of cardboard and cut out many, in both directions (right and left shoes). Then I found some scrap fabric and stapled a swatch to each one. Markers, sequence, glue, and anything in the scrap closet went on the shoes.

The Big Fish!
I love the story of Yonah! I enjoy it from a very basic pshat level to the deeper analysis with mefarshim. And I love telling it to children. Someone in the audience always says, "But, but you can't hide from Hashem!" They see the flaw in Yonah's plan from the beginning and I hope it cements in their own minds, from a very young age, that none of our deeds are hidden from Him. 
It is a pet-peeve of mine that many people tell children the story of "Jonah and the Whale".  It was not a whale. If it were a whale, Nach would have used the word, 'levyatan'. It was a big fish. If you teach a child wrong, it is what they will remember.    For this reason, my template for the big fish is very un-whale like. I made the fish double, two attached on one paper.                                                       
 The children are instructed to paint on one fish, and then fold it over. This paints the other side with a mirror image and a changes the paint's appearance to look more textured.
 When the paint dried, I stapled the fish onto an empty toilet paper roll. And added googly-eyes. Wallah! A big fish. I put a duplo lego man in its mouth and spat him out a few times. Obviously, the children loved it and are eager to eat their own Yonahs.

Cloved Lemons

Tomorrow morning my girls are going to beit kenesset to help with another Yom Kippur project.  They will be making ponanders. These lemons studded with cloves are passed around during the fast. This gives people the opportunity to make a bracha on the smell (‘Bore Atze Bisamim), so we can reach the daily goal of 100 brachot (we miss a lot by not eating). And of course the smell is invigorating.  

Gmar Chatima Tova!

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Torah Rocks! Ki Tavo

During the last few parshiot it has been harder to think of parsha projects. Thankfully, in Parashat Ki Tavo Hashem commanded the Jewish people to do a project. "Take a large rock, write the all of the words of the Torah on it. Cover it in plaster and take it with you."

"Where can we get some rocks?" I asked the girls.
"We don't have any," Gabi replied.
"Oh, I know! At the petrol station on the way to beit kenneset!" Cohava yelled.
"We don't pass a petrol station on the way, " I stated.
"Umm, we used to. There wasn't any pertol there, but there was a little white wall, and inside of it were little rocks," she explained. Yes, two years ago, our path to shul took us past a 7-11, with some pebbles outside. Good memory Cohava.

In the end I bought some rocks. The girls had a blast decorating them. Then it was time to plaster them.

"I don't want to put plaster on it. Then you won't see my pictures."

So we didn't.

Both girls wore buns "rocks" in their hair today.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Some things don't mix--- Parasha Ki Tetzei

Parashat Ki Tetzei has some lovely lessons for children... and some very inappropriate ones. Starting with the eshet yifat toar (the laws of ravaging a female captive of war) and followed by the ben sorer (the execution of a rebellious child) the list of inappropriate ones is pretty high.  

But there are some good ones. The second aliyah discusses hashavat aveyda, the importance of returning lost articles. This is always an interesting topic to discuss with children because you end up knowing who lost what at school over the past month.

The third aliyah commands people to put a guard rail around their fence, so that people do not fall off.  
"But no one goes on our roof to fall off," Cohava noted.
"That is true. We don't have a flat roof that people would go on. But where do we have a fence to keep people safe?"
"The pool!" Gabi yelled.

Next the aliyah describes things which don't mix. Plants should not be joined. It is forbidden to wear Shatnez, a garment which combines linen  and wool. Then comes another fashion rule. Men wear men's clothes. Women wear women's clothes. My girls thought it was funny that this is a mitzvah. 
"Why would Abba wear a dress? Maybe Purim but that is silly!" Gabi remarked.

When Cohava was in Kindergarten, it was reported to me that she was bullying a child and made her cry. That wasn't her usual nature so I queried it.
"She called Sarah a boy," the teacher explained.
"Why would you call her a boy?" I asked Cohava.
"She is wearing pants and a shirt with buttons. That makes her a boy," Cohava explained simply. I still don't know if she was being a bully or if her 3 year old logic was sound.

This mitzvah is the one we choice to celebrate in our project of the week (it was certainly easier than installing a roof fence). 

With some old dresses and puff paint, the girls went wild, making their clothes, unique to them. I want them to appreciate and enjoy wearing dresses. If I had a son, the mention of tzitzit in the next pasuk would be his project.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Shhh...Don't tell Abba [father's day]

This coming Sunday is Father's Day in Australia. Other than the school's curriculum Father's day is not something we usually do, but this year we actually did something. 

I was at Kmart on a search for something for this week's parasha project, but was unsuccessful. However I did find 'bamboo cookbook stands'. They were on clearance for $3 each. Apparently no one has a used for a cookbook stand. 

But every ben Torah needs a shtender [book stand] ! 

The girls got to work painting.

We hid them outside to dry for the night. 

My husband has had a very busy week, so the next evening he was out again so we had more work time. 

With permanent markers the girls decorated. Cohava worked hard, writing "Torah" over and over, as well as the alef bet and numbers. 

Gabi said hers was a picture of our beit knessset, with Torahs and happy people. 

Ok readers, you cannot tell my husband about the project. Maybe on Sunday I will get a picture of him using it.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Two Torahs Parashat Shoftim

Parashat Shoftim starts with some very big and important ideas. The establishment of judges and magistrates in Israel and the proper way to uphold justice are outlined in the first two pesukim, followed by the command, "Tzedek tzedek tirdof... (Righteousness righteousness shall you pursue)." This is a topic that I am very passionate about and lectured on at various universities. However, it is not a concept easily transmitted to a child. I skipped explaining it to the girls, along with the prohibition of planting idolatrous trees(?!?).  

We skipped to a topic that all children love, royalty! The second aliyah begins by explaining the laws relating to establishing a king in Israel.

1) He must be Jewish.

"Of course he must be Jewish. Only Jewish people should be in Israel," Cohava replied. I decided not to dispute the point.

2) He cannot have too many horses.

"Four is not too many," Gabi clarified.

3) He cannot have too many wives.

I thought the girls would immediately say that you can only have one wife, but Cohava believes otherwise.

"He can have three wives and then no more," she said.  

"But more wives mean more queens! I want to marry a king and be a queen!" Gabi explained, having a stronger grasp on the monarchy than I realized.

4) He cannot try to get too much money.

"Because he must give it all to tzedakah," Gabi clarified.

5) He must write two sifrei Torah.

I asked them why the king needed two.

"In case he loses one he had a spare," Cohava replied. "But if I were the king I would make 172 or maybe a google so I could give one to everyone is Israel."

"I want two Torahs!" Gabi exclaimed. "And they need a keter and cover and a necklace and a yad and they will be soft and beautiful."

This inspired Cohava.  "The king needs one Torah that lies down and one that stands up! He needed an Asheknazi one and a Sephardic Torah!"

"I think that is a lovely idea! And although you aren't kings, you helped write the new Ashkenazi  Torah at Yavneh. Sassoon Yehuda is working on writing a new Sephardi sefer Torah and you will help with that!" I said.

"And then I can be king!" Gabi joked.

"But the king really really wrote it, like the sofer, right?" Cohava wondered.

"Yes and so can you," I told her. And thus began this week's parasha project.

We got the ink (okay not actual kosher ink, but some fountain pen ink) and big sheets of paper (but not klaf) and  some ridiculous tiny colored feathers.

I was impressed with their writing. Cohava is very good at letter formation from her practice at school. Gabi was very keen to try lots of different letters.

 And Ruti hid under the table, supervising.

The papers are hiding in a safe place for now. Before Simchat Torah we will make the proper casings for our Torahs (but will they be Sephardi or Ashkenazi?).

Shabbat Shalom!