Friday, 23 August 2013

Amen! Ki Tavo

There are many interesting things in Parashat Ki Tavo. Last year, we wrote the Torah on rocks.
This year Gabi wanted to make bikkurim, baskets of first fruits to bring to the Kohanim in the Beit Hamikdash.
"And the baskets will be beautiful, with sparkles. And everyone will be wearing purples keters [crowns]..." she began describing her plans. I love her enthusiasm! Making pretty baskets certainly avoids the very heavy tochecha, the rebuke described in the lengthy sixth aliyah.

But I wanted to teach the girls something which has a impact on their daily lives.
Every day we [should] make brachot. And whenever we hear a bracha we [should] say 'amen'. The word 'amen' is very significant. In the gemara (Brachot 53b), it says that answering 'amen' to a bracha is even greater than actually saying the bracha. Devarim Raba states that nothing is more precious to Hashem than the answering of amen. There was a book written a few years ago, Just One Word, with trues stories of the impact of saying amen, with an excerpt here.
We have know that 'amen' is important, but it is actually only in the Torah fourteen times. Twelve of those are in this weeks parasha. Those twelve times, the entire Jewish nation is uttering the word together. Pretty powerful.
I thought about making something for the project, like this:
It is pretty, made out of a spoon (connected to eating), you wear it and look at it...
But 'amen' needs to be a constant. Not just a pretty box for bikkurim once a year, or a nice bracelet you might misplace. A physical project does not do it justice.

The goal this week was a refresher in saying brachot nicely.
Before I eat or have another opportunity to make a bracha, I stop, concentrate, and make the bracha nicely and loud enough for everyone around to hear and say amen. This isn't something special for Ki Tavo. It should be a constant, but this parasha is serving as a reminder for me. When the girls do not say a bracha, I remind them by saying something like, "I am sad that I didn't get to say amen. Can you please give me the chance to say it?" And they appreciate it a lot more than, "Where is your bracha?"
Cohava likes to report at dinner how many brachot she made that day, and how many times she said 'amen'.

While I was explaining the importance of 'amen', Ruti began saying 'amen' over and over. I went to capture it on film but I was too late. So Cohava made up a bracha for Ruti to reply to. Ruti cannot make brachot yet, but is very enthusiastic about saying "amen!"

I'll get better at this video thing soon. :)

Shabbat Shalom!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Send it away-Ki Tetzei

Parashat Ki Tetzei is chocked full of mitzvot. Some are things to stay far away from, like marrying a female POW, and some to keep close, like tzitzit. One that I have always found interesting is shiloach ha'ken, sending away the mother bird before taking her eggs. The Torah states that the reward to this is a long life. There is a great Torah debate as to why this reward is stated, and if it is for this world or the world to come. 
Without the great halachic debate, the message is still of universal importance. Everyone has feelings. Even animals. Try to avoid hurting feelings.

I had a baking project planned for this, but while at a children's museum, I was inspired by something which could be done in the classroom more easily. This is dedicated to everyone in Australia, where this parasha falls out during the school year.

On paper I free handed pictures of a bird, nest, and eggs and gave each picture to one of the girls to color in. With advance notice these would be printed from clip art and colored in.
 Each girl cut out her picture (Ruti had some help). And then a drinking straw was cut into one inch sections. Two straw pieces were taped to the back of the bird, parallel, about half an inch apart.

I taped to the wall the bird's nest with the eggs placed inside. 
On the wall were also two long lanyard strings, tried together. 
A piece of lanyard runs through each straw piece.
 Cohava pulled the strings apart and watched the bird 'fly' out of the nest. 

Gabi hurried and retrieved the eggs. 

 No birds, eggs, or feelings were hurt in the making of this parasha project.
Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Shoftim - A real yarn

Parashat Shoftim is one of the parshiot where the subject matches the title. Most of the parasha deals with leadership; who, how, when, and what. Towards the end of the Torah reading there is the mitzvah of giving the first shearing of your sheep to the Kohanim. This does relate to spiritual leadership, but the theme of giving to Kohanim is not unique to this parasha. The wool given must be sufficient to make at least a small article of clothing. We can't all make ourselves great leaders of Israel (some of us must be the sheep) but we can all make something out of wool.
I planned to finger knit scarves with the girls for our project.

I had begun teaching them last month, but misplaced the yarn before we finished our scarves. I went to Target to buy more yarn, but they don't sell yarn :(. The week went by with no project :(.

On Sunday we went to my aunt and uncle's beach house. There were many lovely surprising waiting for us. One was cardboard weaving looms and yarn!!!
My aunt made a loom for each girl, equipt with beautiful thread and safety needles (definitely not from my Target)!
She left the instructions. We have our work cut out for us.

At the fair we saw the wool and the loom to turn in into yarn. The girls have tried that before.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Reeh Look here!

Parashat Reeh  begins with Hashem essentially explaining, "Look, you have a choice. And choices bring about cosequences..."
This is something the girls and I talk about all the time. This week Cohava suffered a 'no ice cream' consequence followed by her parents suffering severely in the consequence of a miserable kid. I wonder if   Hashem feels like this when we experience negative consequences...

We are in the US now, enjoying summer. Walking outside, I announced, "Look!" All around us are wild blackberries.
Gabi, thinking of pe'ah, shichecha, and leket, asked if they were only for poor people. I explained that we were allowed to eat it, but there is another agricultural law they should know.
"In Israel, in addition to saving food for the poor, some food must be saved for the Kohanim. It is put to the side, with a bracha, and called Terumot and Maasrot."
"Like taking challah?" they asked.
"Exactly! But if we pick blackberries now, we don't have to do it."
"Why not?!?"
"We are in America. We were in Australia. And before that we were in Israel. Only in Israel is food saved for the Kohanim. The fruits of Israel are most special than any other fruits in the world."
"Wow," said Cohava. Gabi began reciting the seven species in Hebrew. Then everyone started picking blackberries.
 The problem with picking blackberries is that you cannot eat them right away because of potential bug infestations. 
At home, with our bags of berries, I got ziplock bags. In each bag I put some of the berries and then double bagged it. (Important for fighting the potential berry explosion).
Then the girls set to work mashing berries. This could obviously be done in a blender, but it was a lot more fun for them this way.

 I loaded the berries into a pitcher and added 1/3 c of sugar.  The sugar could easily be omitted. 

 Then we stirred the compound.

To get rid of the bug problem, we froze the compound. Then I cut some peaches and we poured water over the berry glop to make berry juice. Berry peach juice was good. 

Later we tried it by mixing the frozen compound with apple juice. It was even more delicious. If we were in Israel we would share it with the Kohanim.

Shabbat Shalom!