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!