Wednesday, 25 December 2013

H2O! Vaera

The plot keeps coming fast! Parashat Vaera has the four promises of redemption and the first seven of the ten plagues. Thanks to wonderful educators at Pesach time, my children can easily name and share a little about each plague.
"Which is your favorite plague?" Gabi asked me.
"Umm, I don't have a favorite. When something bad happens to someone else, even if we don't like the person, we can't be happy." I replied. I explained how when we recite the plagues at the seder, at the utterance of each one we remove a drop of wine. The drop is to lessen our happiness of seder night for their suffering.
"Okay, but which do you like the most?" Cohava was relentless.
"Frogs and darkness."
"Is that because no one got hurt during them?" she asked.
"Also in blood no one was hurt," Gabi piped up.
"Gabi, it is true that it didn't hurt the Egyptian's skin like lice or boils, and they didn't die suddenly like the last plague, but not having water is terrible," I explained.
"Cuz you could get duh-hydrated?" Gabi queried.

So in honor of this week's parasha we are learning about the importance of water. There are countless projects that one could do on this parasha, so if you are looking for something like frog puppets (super fun) keep searching.

We talked about our bodies needing water. Using a water bottle, we looked at how if the bottle were our bodies it would have to be 1/2 to 2/3 full for us to be alive. (The sticker on the top is a face).
We are going to work on drinking more water every day.

 Then we talked about how all life forms need water and that no food can be produced without water.{Gabi insists candy can}.
To show how plants need water and not blood, we did the old celery experiment. Two stalks, one in water, the other in water + red food dye. [Ruti also insisted on one AbbyCaddaby cup of celery]. Hopefully the experiment will produce results.

 Next I brought out a Pharoh doll and we enjoyed playing with him and water.
(Cohava has an angry face to match her Pharoh voice)

 The eleventh plague: being chewed on by a baby. Pharoh never gets a break!

 The girls are also doing some online learning about water at websites like:

Cohava also loves fun facts so here are some fun water facts:
  • Water is made up of two elements, hydrogen and oxygen. Its chemical formula is H2O.
  • Water has three different states, liquid, solid and gas.
  • The word water usually refers to water in its liquid state. The solid state of water is known as ice while the gas state of water is known as steam or water vapor.
  • Water covers around 70% of the Earth’s surface.
  • The three largest oceans on Earth are the Pacific Ocean (largest), the Atlantic Ocean (second largest) and the Indian Ocean (third largest). More ocean facts.
  • The longest river in the world is the Nile River, it reaches 6650 kilometers in length (4132 miles). <-----Thats a LOT of blood!!!
  • The second longest river in the world is the Amazon River, it reaches 6400 kilometres (4000 miles) in length.
  • The longest river in the USA is the Missouri River. At around 2,340 miles (3,770 km) in length it is slightly longer than the Mississippi River (2,320 miles). The two combine to form the longest river system in North America.
  • Pure water has no smell and no taste, it also has a pH level around 7.
  • Water expands as it cools from 4 °C to 0 °C (above 4 °C it does the opposite). In freezing conditions, water has been known to burst water pipes as it freezes to ice.
We will probably talk about water conservation and find ways to save water around the house and to fight water pollution. 

Enjoy and appreciate your water!

Shabbat Shalom!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Shemot challah

Almost every week I make a challa shaped like something in the parasha.
Guests have to guess what the shape of its and how it relates to the Torah reading. Some weeks are harder than others.
Usually I don't have a chance to photograph them and post.
Can you guess this weeks?

Monday, 16 December 2013

Shemot-Safe or Unsafe?

Parasha Shemot begins the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt and introduces us to Moshe.
Since this is the early addition and this is a tale pretty universally known thanks to Pesach, I will not expound more on the text.

Project 1: Recently my girls have been asking for a pet. Specifically they want a teacup chihuahua. Don't get me wrong, those pups are insanely cute in photographs, but we are NOT getting one. I explained to the girls that in our house we look after people and not pets. This led to a discussion of how we look after babies.

"If you were Miriam, and you were looking after Moshe, even before he is in the teva, what do you need to do?" I asked. They got paper and pencils and wrote "A Baby Guide for Miriam."

This led to a great discussion about people's needs, baby safety, and responsibility. It always was a good opportunity to practice handwriting, spelling, and all that stuff.

Ruti was equally enthusiastic, yelling "Baby! E!" and scribbling furiously. Much cuter than a teacup chihuahua.  (And cuter than gluing another baby in a basket).

Project 2:
The burning bush! This is a very powerful moment in the Torah which is difficult to really appreciate. Forgetting about the intensity of G-d suddenly chatting with you, the shrubbery on fire and not consumed is amazing. I do not think the words do it justice. I don't think my children even understand that fire regularly does consume things. How often do children today see a fire from start to finish and feed it logs and stuff?

Today we collected leaves. I will be leaving them out to dry. Then the pyromania will begin...

I know all of my kosherkidz readership wants to know what happened with my children and this project. Through more luck than judgement it was a success.

 First we sorted the leaves into live and dried.
 Then I made the girls promise to stand behind a line and not touch. The words "hot" and "fire" were used repeatedly. We also got a bucket of water handy. Just in case.
 And then we lit the leaves on fire!
 Needless to say, the dry ones burned quickly. The green ones extinguished themselves.
 [We looked at the glowing embers and I told my girls to look at how shinny they were. Later I told them the midrash of Moshe touching the embers and burning his tongue. See story here]
 When it was cool, the girls were desperate to feel the leaf ash and compare it to the living leaves.

We compared how for us the dried leaves burned quickly and the green leaves extinguished and that only Hashem could make the miracle of a burning bush, which burned and wasn't consumed.
We also reviewed fire safety, bush/forest fires, and not to touch matches.

Have a Safe and Wonderful Shabbat!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Vayechi Bless You

No project for the girls this week! 

Instead I made something for them. Parasha Vayechi has, among other things, the beautiful words of 'Hamalach Hagoel Oti". The words, a prayer asking for protection of children, is a common lullaby.

הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי
הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי מִכָּל-רָע,
יְבָרֵךְ אֶת-הַנְּעָרִים,
וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי,
וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק;
וְיִדְגּוּ לָרֹב, בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ

May the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
Bless these youth. 

Let them be called by my name 
And the names of my fathers, 
Abraham and Isaac, 
And may they increase greatly 
Upon the Earth.

Wall art of these words are popular, but I decided to make my own. Using photos of the girls at different ages, I made a photo collage and included the aforementioned text.

I thought the girls would be excited.
"That's not fair! I want to do a project!" yelled Gabi. 
Cohava practiced reading the words on it and they enjoyed looking at the pictures but next week they will have a physical project. 
I guess I enjoy bedtime more than they do. 

We did discuss what making a bracha on a person means, as opposed to the bracha on an action. 

One morning this week I was in a bad mood. On the ride to school Cohava said, "I have an idea. Everyone in the car is going to give someone else a compliment and a bracha." It was a great idea. It erased my mood instantly and everyone enjoyed it. 

This is the last parasha in Sefer Beresheit. Although I have been blogging my parshiot for more than a year, this is the first sefer I have finished without missing a week. I will have an extra personal excitement of this when we say chazak chazak v'nitchazek. For my next photo project, I am going to make a photo book of Sefer Beresheit. 

May everyone's brachot be fulfilled (and your children sleep well at night!).

Friday, 6 December 2013

Vayigash- The sweet sound of truth

Two weeks ago, in parashat Vayeshev, the blog was about telling the truth and the consequence of a lie. This week, in parashat Vayigash, the brothers finally come clean about their enormous lie. 
But once you have told a lie, and maintained it for more than two decades, how easy is it to be honest and be believed? Like the famous parable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Yaakov does not believe his sons when they return from Egypt and declare Yosef still alive. The Torah states that 'his heart did not believe', which is an interesting distinction. Maybe intellectually he understood the truth, but his heart could not accept the double facts of his ten lying sons and Yosef being alive.
The midrash explains that in order to ease Yaakov's heart, this earth-shattering information was shared through music. Serach, the daughter of Asher, played the harp for Yaakov and sang to him of Yosef's status. The music calmed Yaakov and made him able to accept the truth. Serach was rewarded with remarkable longevity.

I had hoped that the importance of honesty we discussed in Vayeshev would have made a bigger impact on my children. Sadly fibs are still be uttered so this week, in the very little free time we had, we talked about Serach's great mitzvah of telling the truth. 
We were going to make 'harps' for a physical representation of the truth. But there wasn't time. So we only spoke about the differences between string, wind, and percussion instruments. 
If we had made them, with rubber bands and boxes, coat hangers, or baking pans they would have looked something like this:

Shabbat Shalom!

We did try it. I found a pyrex dish worked best for a base. The girls each chose something from the recycling bin and made some music. 

Miketz- Fun or dysfunction

This has been a wonderful and busy week! Hannukah, Thanksgiving, and lots of guests!
My parents, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew all came to visit. With so much going on there was not a great emphasis on parashat miketz.
I hadn't seen my brother, Samuel, in more than four years, which of course does not compare to Yosef's alienation from his brothers. And when Samuel came to visit it was not under any duress. By one of my brothers didn't come. So I thought about imprisoning Samuel, and then holding him hostage until my other brother was brought to me, and then hiding the kiddush cup in Samuel's luggage...

But instead we just had a lovely time together. (almost) No dysfunction. Lots of fun! I am thankful to have my family and not Yaakov's.

photos by Luci Varon

May everyone's family be blessed with good health, happiness, and minimal dysfunction.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Telling the Truth about Vayeshev

I, like so many others, love parashat Vayeshev. Joseph's striped coat is great for countless projects (You can read about our project and sibling rivalry from last year here) , and the storyline is exciting enough to be on Broadway.  My girls all wore stripes to show that Abba loves them equally and are listening to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on the way to school. But none of that gets to the crux of the parasha or enhances their understanding of the world. 
A look at the scope of this entire parasha reveals a surprising theme: Liars!

Yosef's brothers plan to kill him, leave him in a pit, decide to sell him, and then find he is missing. The brothers cover their tracks of Yosef's disappearance by dipping his tunic in blood and asking Yaakov if he recognizes it. Yaakov is heartbroken by their horrible lie and the brothers watch their father mourn indefinitely.

The tale of Tamar and Yehuda immediately follows. (If you are unfamiliar with this subplot, you can read a lot more about it here.) Two of Yehuda's sons die while married to Tamar. Yehuda tells her to go home and promises to bring her Selah, the third son, when he was older. According to Rashi this was a lie. He feared his last son would die while married to Tamar. She eventually realizes that Yehuda is not going to make good on his commitment and takes matters into her own hands. Yehuda is forced into being honest and confesses his crime. Tamar gives birth to Yehuda's twins.

Next the Torah recounts that Yosef is working in Potifar's house when his wife tries to seduce him. Yosef rebuffs her advances advances. Potifar's wife lies and accuses Yosef of rape. Her lie puts Yosef in jail for twelve years.

What good comes from a lie? Nothing! Yehuda's confession of his guilt and lie are extremely praiseworthy. His offspring, Perez, the older twin, is an ancestor of King David, thus of the messianic line. Mashiach, the ultimate redemption, comes from telling the truth after a transgression.

What about Potifar's wife? I have no commentary to back me up, but I think she confessed. I think she finally worked up the courage to say, "I lied. Husband, I am sorry. Please forgive me." Her honesty does not magically free Yosef from jail, but she is rewarded for doing the right thing. In next week's parasha, Miketz, her daughter marries Yosef! Her honesty merited her daughter to marry extremely well, a happily ever after worthy of a Disney princess. [Again all of this idea is midrash Sharona].

Now let's return to the brothers and the bloody tunic. We know they did not willingly confess their heinous crime, as Yosef spends the next two parshiot making them sweat it out. But what if they had? What would have happened if the brothers went home and said, "Abba, we made a big mistake!"?

With 21st century technology, tracking down a missing person is probably easier than in ancient times, but Yaakov would have been able to find Yosef before he went to prison. When Yosef was searching for his brothers before they put him in the pit, a man appeared (the angel Gavriel, according to Targum Yonatan) and directing him to them. Something similar could have happened to locate Yosef. But the brothers stick to their lie, in spite of Yaakov's great suffering.

What if? What if they did teshuva, confessed, and found Yosef? Would we have been slaves in Egypt? Or could the whole family be together in Israel? Did the lie of these ten men severely postpone redemption? In parashat Shelach there is an uncanny parallel; ten men (the spies) speak badly about Israel, changing the course of Jewish history and causing 40 years of wandering in the desert.

I cannot be sure that Potifar's wife decided to admit she lied. I cannot be certain that slavery in Egypt and enormous suffering would have been avoided if yosef's brothers confessed. But the Torah recounts Yehuda's confession as the seeds to the Mashaich. The truth makes all the difference in the world.

Now, how did I make this message of confessing to a lie relevant to my girls? I did not share the aforementioned ideas because I am not ready to teach them about Potifar's wife, and even if I tell it in broad strokes, there is no way to do that with the story of Tamar. But obviously, the lesson must be taught. My girls are good, but they sometmes lie needlessly (Just say, "Oh, I forgot to brush my teeth." Not "Yes" when the answer is 'no').

Both girls are learning about sequencing. Cohava is summarizing her reading with 'first, next, after that, then, and finally'. Gabi's class is reading the wonderful sequential book, 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie'.

Therefore the girls are sequencing Yosef in the parasha. They reviewed the story together and took turns writing events on note cards. They like to shuffle the cards and then place them back in order. When they have the story further, I will ask them 'what happens if the brothers were to tell the truth now?'. I am curious how they will recreate the story.

Explaining it to the girls was exciting. They were able to work out that although putting Yosef in the pit was horrible, lying made everything much worse and the truth could have made it better.

"What should we tell the truth?" I asked.
"Cuz, its the right the to do."
"Yes, but why?"
"I dunno." 

So I pitched my story about how things could have been different if the brothers ran home and confessed to Yaakov. 

"If the brothers told the truth, then Yaakov would have found Yosef, right?" Cohava asked.
"Yah, because the angel Gavriel is definitely better than Tomtom  at finding things," Gabi explained.

"And if Yaakov didn't stay in Egypt what would have been different?" I asked.
"The Jewish people would never have ended up there as slaves," Cohava said.
"Being slaves in Egypt was really bad. Like way worse than 'two thumbs down'. Like really really bad," Gabi elucidated.
"And we could have gone straight to Israel!" Cohava added.
"And Moshiach would have come. But ummm, who exactly is Moshiach?" Gabi asked. We explored that topic for a while and then returned to the topic of not lying.

"Do you know the word for truth in Hebrew?" I asked. They didn't, so I taught them the word אֶמֶת. Emet. I explained how the first letter,  א is the first letter of the alef bet, the מ  is the middle of the word and the alphabet, and ת ends both. The light bulb over Cohava's head was suddenly even brighter.
"I get it!" she exclaimed. "אֶמֶת is everything. All of it is inside! Without it, it doesn't work!" 

"And if you lie, you don't know what bad might happen. Like giving a mouse a cookie..." Gabi added.

Shabbat Shalom! 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Unique Prints Vayishlach

Last year I wrote about how much of parashat Vayishlach's content is challenging to teach to children. It wasn't any easier this year.

We spoke about Yaakov preparing to meet Esav. I asked the girls what three things they would do if Esav were coming for them. After some deliberation they decided on 1) Run away 2) Hide behind a tree 3)Say 'I'm sorry'. When they compared it to the actual three actions they were disappointed they left out prayer.

We reviewed Dina's "kidnapping" and discussed ways to stay safe. We reviewed 'stranger danger', practiced  the idea of calling 911, and memorized our address and phone numbers.

The project focused on Hashem giving Yaakov a new name, 'Yisrael'. Our names are one of the unique things about us, like our body, hair, and eye color. But all of these unique things can be changed as we change. I told the girls that only one part of us cannot change and that it is not like anyone else's.
"Our neshama?" Cohava asked.
"Umm, yes, but I meant fingerprints."

We had a mini science lesson about the shapes on fingerprints and their incredible uniqueness.

Then we took our unique, unchanging fingerprints and wrote our names.
I wrote their names in pencil so they had a line to trace. With colored ink pads, they went to work.
It was messy, but the girls were very excited about their fingerprint shape and their art.
They also used fingerprints to make pictures of the meanings of their names.

Have wipes on hand for easy clean-up.

I might sit with Ruti (and Tova?) to guide their fingers.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sooner or Ladder- Vayetzei

There have been numerous requests for me to post the week's activity before I do it, so that parents and educators can do it as well. Here is the plan, and later in the week I will add photos of our experience.

Parashat Vayetzei begins with Yaakov on the run from Essav. He stops for a rest and has the most glorious dream, of a ladder to the heavens, with angels moving up and down in. I love this moment!I find everything relating to Jacob's ladder enthralling.

[Side note: Jacob's ladder is like Noah's ark, an object intrinsically tied to a Torah figure. Does everyone have one? Is it universal? 
The next time the girls and I are walking I plan to play 'Torah Word Association'. 
"I'll name a person. You name the first object you think of." 
I wonder if Moshe will be in a basket, have a stick, be holding the tablets, etc.  Answers reveal a lot about the child, or where the education has been focused. If we are going for a long walk round two could be a middah (trait) of the person, or color, or anything.]
My first plan of the week was to make the classic wooden toy, Jacob's ladder. But I decided it was too time consuming for the results. If you want to try here are some instructions. Or if you are super cool you can make one out of chocolate bars like this. I would love to do both, but this is not a good week for children with chocolate or hammers.

Therefore I went to buy a ready-made Jacob's ladder for decoupaging with pictures of angels. After wasting a huge amount of time, energy, and brain cells, it was concluded that Toysrus does not sell them (and most of the staff did not know what they are). Next year I will be prepared and buy them from Oriental Trading. I got one off Amazon, which should arrive Thursday. Not much time to get it done, so I might save it for next year.
That leads us to string Jacob's Ladders. I will use silver ribbon (sort of dream-like) and try this. The girls have never learned string games and this should be an interesting motor skill/coordination activity. I'm not sure what we will use for the angels.

A few years ago the supermarket had ladders for birdcages for 5 cents each. I bought one for each of my students and they made a clothespin angel to move up and down the ladder.

Have fun!

We started today with a mini puppet show of Yaakov going to sleep. 
We talked about the rock pillow. 
Using white silly putty I formed rocks. Gabi counted how many were made and Cohava had to calculate how many more were needed.
Then the rocks magically fused into one large rock/pillow for Yaakov (Guy Smiley).
"And then he started to dream about..."
"A ladder!" Cohava yelled.
"We are making angels for our project," Gabi yelled louder.
They were underwhelmed when I pulled out a silver string but once I showed them how to make Jacob's ladder they were pretty excited.

It is good I have started early this week because it is harder for them than I thought. They are currently up to step two. Hopefully by Shabbat they can show off their new skill.

As I continued teaching the narrative, the girls were eager to share their memories of Yaakov's movement of the huge well cover, unintentional marriage to Leah, and the births of the boys who would become the tribes. 

The part which was new and most intriguing for them, was Yaakov's manipulation of the Lavan's cattle  to get the spotted and speckled of the flock.  Gabi decided everyone must dress as one of these so they could be part of Yaakov's herd and not get stuck at Lavan's house.