However this week is a double parasha and soon it was time to move on to Bechukotai.
"I don't really want to do the parasha Bechukotai," I said my children. They looked shocked by such a confession.
"You have to!"
"It's the Torah!!!"
"You are right, and I will teach it to you. But is there something that I do to you sometimes that you don't like?" There was a long pause with introspective faces.
"You tell us off sometimes," Gabi replied. (This is the Australian idiom for scolding.)
"And that makes me feel awful," Cohava added.
"And that is what Hashem does in this weeks parasha and it makes me feel pretty awful too. But we will still talk about it," I explained.
We talked about the tochecha, the rebuke that Hashem gives in the parasha. Of course we also spoke about His promises of good. If we are good, things like rainfall for crops, will be good. If not, not.
This black and white, reward and punishment is simplest for children to understand. As we get older we struggle much more with why bad things happen when we are good. But for now, my children are content with these explanations.
Based on shmita and the rainfall, I decided it was time to plant something for our project. I am good at cooking and crafts, but gardening- I am a no-hoper. God makes plants grow. I make them die. My children have gained all of their horticultural experiences and knowledge from my lovely friend and neighbor, Amanda.
Knowing that growing was going to be a challenge for me I bought an idiot-proof tomato growing kit from K-mart. It said, 'just add water.' I figured I might be able to handle that.
The girls were very excited to finally "get to do something like Amanda!" Amanda's enormous prolific garden does not compare to this cup in which we might grow a tomato, but ok.
Add water, add seeds. Ruti tried to help with the seeds.
Next year I think I will try this for the parasha project. She mentioned that most trees are only prolific every other year. And that many trees produce a bumper crop every seven years! The trees are ready for shmita even in Australia!
Hashem promises observance of shmita will ensure enough produce in the 6th, 7th, and 8th year. Of course He will. But we still need to do our hishtadlut and preserve the extra food. So this how one pickles olives in shmita (or any other times).
Amanda taught three techniques and we tried one. But I will give instructions for the easiest of the three.
1) Pick some fresh olives. Make sure they are all the same type. Black olives are green olives which have stayed on the tree for longer and are better (imho). Make sure none of the olives are squishy and remove all stems.
2)Fill a large 'Tupperware' container with brine. Either you can mix 1/3 sea salt with 1 liter of water, or you can add sea salt to water until a raw egg floats (with children this is either a math lesson or a demonstration about the Dead Sea).
3) Pour olives into brine and put a plate on top to submerge them. Put a weight (tin can) on the plate to keep it down. Leave for 3 weeks.
4) Rinse one off and taste it. If bitter leave them for longer. If tasty, they can be washed and eaten. But to make them much yummier...
5) Sterilize some glass jars (in the oven or dish washer). Put the rinsed olives in the jars. Put in fresh herbs, or garlic, or lemon wedges, or chili- however you like olives. Fill the jar with olive oil. Leave for 6 weeks (or longer) to let the flavours develop.
6) Enjoy! The olives are divine and the oil is a great salad dressing/chumus topping/etc.
Two more years until the next shmita, right?
But may the rains always fall in the right seasons.