Saturday, 27 April 2013

Tooth for a tooth???

Towards the end of this week's parasha the phrase 'tooth for a tooth' appears. It appears three different times in the Torah, but its halachic significance is secondary to this discussion. More importantly, towards the end of this Shabbat, Cohava lost her first tooth!

When it first fell out she was scared, but when I expressed great excitement, she quickly mirrored it. On our afternoon Shabbat walk she eagerly displayed her new gap to anyone who would look.
I am thrilled by this milestone, but feel that we should have a Torah way to mark it. 
There is whole tooth fairy/truth debate, but I think it is secondary for the potential learning experience in tooth loss.
First, in retrospect, I should have promoted Cohava to say 'Shehechiyanu' when it fell out, to bring Hashem into the moment.
When I searched online for what other people do for a Torah tooth loss, I was unimpressed with the results, although I enjoyed this article about teeth in the gemara and other rabbinic writings.  
I also looked at some Jewish themed tooth fairy pillows but prefer the fuzzy pink and white one Cohava and I sewed together. 
Still tooth and Torah-less, I started to think about what I have taught Cohava about teeth.  A couple of weeks ago, for parashat Tazria Metzora, we made lashon toothbrush holders.  In their parasha reader that week, it had explained that ones' teeth and lips are the soldiers and guardians against the tongue speaking lashon harah. Now Cohava is missing a solider she is going to need more reinforcements!
In addition to the money I will be giving her for the tooth (there is no reason to go against convention), Cohava will be getting a short note (not sure if it will be from me or the tooth fairy) about Lashon Hara. I need to reread the Chofetz Chaim (it will do me some good) so I can get the statements into phrases she will understand.
The first tooth is going to include a note which says: Fight the Lashon Hara! Do not say something that will hurt someone else."
 If it is from the tooth fairy it might be written in pink on glittery paper. 

If anyone has ideas on making tooth loss a teaching moment I would love to hear it!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Count on It- Emor

Parashat Emor begins with laws relating to the cohanim. This is an area which I described in very broad terms with my own girls, although discussed in depth with a girl whose Bat Mitzvah is this week. The BM girl was very unsettled by the "unfairness" related to cohanim. We spent a great deal of time discussing how being different isn't the same as unfair.

Cohava's approach to cohanim was simpler. "I am going to marry Binyamin (a boy in her class) because he is a cohen and is going to be a rabbi!"
The next day I mentioned it to Binyamin's mother. "Interesting," she said. "I didn't know he planned to be a rabbi. That is good. But I am not sure how he is going to become a cohen, since his father isn't one..."

After all of the laws of marriage, impurities, deformities, and mourning relating to a cohen, Emor describes all of the Chagim of the Torah and the mitzvah of counting the Omer. The variety in Chagim is quite special. Rav Kook famously explained that there are 613 so everyone has a mitzvah they truly love, embrace, and embody. I think the variety in Yamim Tovim serve the same purpose. Everyone has their favorite holiday and their favorite components of each chag.

For our weekly project, we made an Omer counter. Husband wandered in the room while we were hard at work. "Umm, you know we are more than half way through," he remarked.
"Yes, Abba. Today is 30," Cohava replied, barely looking up from her work. The girls count the omer every night with a scroll counter from the Olivewood Factory. My objective in this project had less to do with the mitzvot of the Omer and more to do with teaching numeracy.

I cut 13 pieces of construction paper in quarters, found a cheap carabiner clip, and a whole punch. The girls got their markers and they got to work.
"I will do 1!" Cohava announced.
"I've got 2!" Gabi added. And so it went. With Cohava the focus was writing in the right direction. With Gabi it was number formation. They both practiced ordering.

Once all the numbers were written, the girls had to sort them into the right order. Again, this is a very important numeracy skill. Once all the numbers were in order, each girl made a picture of Matan Torah for Shavuot. 
Then hole punching began. If I really wanted to preserve the project the papers would need laminating, but with only a few weeks left, I think this will be fine. I slid the papers onto the carabiner. Our counter does not include weeks and days, but the girls worked hard on early maths skills. In a few years they can practice dividing by 7. 
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Counting!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Take two- Pesach Sheni

I love Pesach Sheni!  One month ago was Pesach, celebrating and commemorating the exodus from Egypt. In the Torah, when the second Korban Pesach was performed, not everyone was able to participate. In Bamidbar 9:6-8 those who missed out approached Moshe and Aaron for advice on their omission. There Hashem explains Pesach Sheni, an opportunity for people in certain situations to offer the sacrifice exactly one month later.

This is a day which many Chabad and other chassid groups hold dear because of the theme of second chances.  I find this component very moving.  Usually if you miss something you miss it, but here Hashem is saying, "I know it wasn't your fault that you missed out, please share your korban with Me." Pretty profound.

Sefer Hachinuch provides an even more powerful look at the mitzvah of Pesach Sheni. Pesach is one of the greatest examples of Hashem's awesome control over the world. Yitzeat mitzrayim, the amazing miracles, signs, and wonders He created to free us from bondage, produced a cornerstone of our belief in Him. Hashem wants everyone to have the opportunity to celebrate that belief and trust in His control over the world.

In spite of these two impressive reasons for Pesach Sheni, the lack of a Beit Hamikdash prevents much from happening today.  There is a tradition to eat matza. People don't say Tachanun.

For a week my girls have been getting excited for Pesach Sheni (as a date between Yom Haatzmaut and Lag B'Omer).  When I asked if they wanted matza pizza for lunch Gabi looked confused.
"But we don't eat matza pizza at seder," she replied.
"I don't like matza so much. Why can't we have charoset and marror?" Cohava added.
"Yes! Charoset! And huevos haminados!"

Why not?
I didn't make it to the shops for marror, I wasn't cooking huevos haminados for 8 hours, and the charoset has to be nut-free, but I think they will still be happy at lunch time.

May your second chances be meaningful and your days filled with awe for Hashem.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Sweet Mitzvot- Acharei Mot Kedoshim

Another double parasha! Acharei Mot is important, with a thorough description of the avodah done by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. But as I explained to the girls, "We don't have the Beit Hamikdash, we aren't the Kohen Gadol, and it isn't Yom Kippur, so it doesn't apply to us right now." But Kedoshim describes numerous mitzvot that apply to all of us, all the time.

The idea of being holy and behaving that way was prompted by the girls, right before we started learning about it. I had the parasha book on my lap and Gabi was getting ready for bed.
"Is it ok that I am going to sleep in leggings and a T-shirt?" she declared. (The idea here is no skirts)
"Sometimes I see ladies outside running in only leggings. Is that ok?" Cohava asked.
"Good question," I replied. "This week's second parasha is Kedoshim. In it Hashem says that we are holy because He is holy. So we act and dress, think and do things in a certain way to keep our specialness. Who is our Abba in Shamayim?"
And then we began learning some of the mitzvot. Kibud av v'Em, honoring one's parents is one of my favorites to teach. Cohava came home with a lovely card which described the mitzvah and how she will try to uphold it. V'ahavta l'reyacha kamocha, love your neighbor as yourself is definitely another.

But making a project from these wonderful mitzvot wasn't very easy because it was a very busy week.
Highlights include Yom Haatzmaut and my Hebrew Birthday. Obviously I only focused on the Jewish calendar with the girls, but the general calendar does play a role. In this case it was left over Easter candy. Although there isn't much kosher, I found some good cheap stuff. Amazingly the M&Ms were perfect for Yom Haatzmaut. However the pareve bunny chocolates were creepy looking and didn't taste good. But I decided without the ears, they looked like smiling people (maybe I used too much imagination).

 Since the girls were busy every afternoon this week, I made the project myself. Using this recipe (without the milk and with red food coloring) I made heart shaped cookies and placed the smiley bunny people inside.
 I explained to the girls that these were "V'ahavta l'reacha kamocha" cookies, which is why they had happy faces and love hearts. And then I explained that they were made for sharing more than eating. My plan was for the cookies to come to shul and the girls to distribute them to everyone, and explaining this mitzvah. The cookies were yum, but my plans for the project didn't come to fruition.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Watch your mouth! Tazria Metzora

Sorry for the long Pesach hiatus. One day I might post about our adventures, although I suspect parashat Tzav will never have a project.

This week is the double parshiot of Tazria and Metzora. They are read together during all non leap years (get ready for next year!) with the same topic dominating both: Tzaraat!  Tzaraat was a condition which appeared on the skin, clothing, or a house in response to a person's sin. It offered a physical manifestation so a person could witness the consequences of their actions.  Although the Torah does not state it explicitly in this parasha, lashon harah is considered one of the primary causes of Tzaraat.

Because Tzaraat is a challenging topic for children by itself, the connection to how we speak is an important tie in.

One day this week, Gabi complained about a rash on her leg.
"Gabi was speaking lashon hara. Now she has Tzaraat," Cohava announced.
"I think it is dry skin and she just needs some moisturizer," I countered.
"Nope, definitely tzaraat," Cohava argued.
Gabi stared at her leg. "It is red, not white. And you are not a Kohen. So I don't need to leave the house," she concluded. Amazingly, moisturizer cleared it up.

Explaining lashon hara to children is important, but not simple. We read Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna (yes, Madonna) which is a semi-modern take on the chassidic tale of opening the pillow. The illustrations are the best part of the book, but here you can hear the Material Girl reading her book.

The book is a good jumping off point of how we don't tell tales, true or otherwise, but barely scratches the surface of what lashon hara is really about. And one cannot get too involved in telling children about not speaking about others, without the important caveat of immediately reporting to an adult if someone touches you...

I was unsure of how thoroughly my girls understood lashon hara when I set off to create a parasha project.
 At K-Mart I found these toothbrush holders, which I decided were perfect. Big mouth, almost skin coloured, and only 20 cents each!

But I let the girls choose what to do with them.

"We could tape their mouths shut so they can't speak lashon hara," Cohava suggested.
"Or put things in their mouth," Gabi added. When they asked about the actual purpose of the containers and I demonstrated with toothbrush and paste, they wanted to maintain authenticity.

 Cohava decided hers would represent lashon hara, while Gabi chose lashon hatov.
They set to work with permanent markers. Cohava worked hard at making Tzaraat sores with a white-out pen and red stop signs. Gabi drew "happy pictures" all over hers.

They were proud of their results and discussed how they would remember not to speak lashon hara every morning and night when brushing teeth.

I still was unsure of how well they understood what is lashon hara. One day Gabi asked, "What are consequences?" so using a scenario we had seen involving other people, we discussed various consequences.
Gabi said, "Now I know what consequences are, but I think we are speaking lashon hara." She ran and got the new toothbrush holders and put them on the table.

If  you do not find these nifty holders at K-Mart, Cohava brought this home from school:
 Much simpler to make and also gets the point across.