Saturday, 26 October 2013

Chayei Sarah

In Chayei Sarah we say goodbye to Sarah Imaynu, the first matriach, and welcome the second, Rivkah. I appreciate how when one door closes the next opens.

Last year my blog focused on Elizer seeking a wife for Yitzchak and meeting Rivka at the well. We learned the story and made a 'large' well. The girls loved it and it made a deep impression on them, as this year they were able to recount the story and experience.

This year we turned our attention to the relationship between Yitzchak and his new wife.

 67. And Yizchak brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rivka, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Yizchak was comforted after [the loss of] his mother. סז. וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ וַיִּקַּח אֶת רִבְקָה וַתְּהִי לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶהָ וַיִּנָּחֵם יִצְחָק אַחֲרֵי אִמּוֹ:

Sure, it is only one passuk, but a lot can be learned from it. To me, the word 'ahava', love, speaks volumes. It is the first time the Torah uses this word for the relationship between a man and a woman. 
I asked the girls about the part following the love.
"How does Rivka comfort Yitzchak?" I asked.
"Well, he was lonely after his Ema died," Gabi suggested.
"And he need someone around," Cohava added.
"For what?"
"Uh- tefillah?" Cohava asked.
"Well, tefillah is nice with a group, with a minyan, but is Rivka going to help make the minyan?" I asked.
"No, that for boys. Rivka make him feel better with girl mitzvot," Gabi suggest.
"She lit candles," Cohava said.
"And made challah, and yummy food," Gabi chimed in.
"Thank you Rashi!" I cheered. And then I explained how Rashi shares the same idea from Bereshiet Rabba.

to the tent of Sarah his mother: He brought her to the tent, and behold, she was Sarah his mother; i.e., she became the likeness of Sarah his mother, for as long as Sarah was alive, a candle burned from one Sabbath eve to the next, a blessing was found in the dough, and a cloud was attached to the tent. When she died, these things ceased, and when Rebecca arrived, they resumed (Gen. Rabbah 60:16)
 האהלה שרה אמו: ויביאה האהלה ונעשית דוגמת שרה אמו, כלומר והרי היא שרה אמו, שכל זמן ששרה קיימת היה נר דלוק מערב שבת לערב שבת, וברכה מצויה בעיסה, וענן קשור על האהל, ומשמתה פסקו, וכשבאת רבקה חזרו:

We discussed how we cannot ever make a holy cloud, some weeks we make challah, but every week we light shabbat candles. 
We talked about how special candle lighting is, how uttering the bracha changes the day and changes the world. We discussed why there are two (or more) candles and how following the bracha is a special time for personal prayer.

And then we decorated candlesticks. 

Ikea has some super cheap and nifty candle holders which work either way. One side holds a tea light. Upside down holds a tall shabbat candle in a foil holder. Suits everyone, right?

With some permanent markers the girls got to work.  

We will be gluing on some sequins soon.

May everyone in your home be comforted from the Shabbat candles.
Shabbat shalom!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Welcome to Vayera

I always marvel at the number of incredible events packed into each parasha in sefer beresheit and sefer shemot. It is very difficult to really learn/teach all the content in a week. Why can't some of the excitement be spread into the other three books?

Vayera has the three angels visiting, pleas to save Sodom, destruction of Sodom, Yitzchak's birth, exile of Hagar and Yishmael, and the binding of Yitzchak. I could spend weeks on any one of those events.

As for teaching the girls something to influence them on a daily basis, we looked at Avraham's efforts to welcome the three angels. We talked about what Avraham did in the fulfillment of hachnasat orchim and what we can do ourselves. 

And then we made welcome mats for our house. We actually did this last year as well, but I never blogged it and this year I improved upon the activity.

floor mat
heavy non fraying fabric, like felt
tacky glue
stencils (optional)

I cut out the words "ברוכים הבאים" [Hebrew for 'Welcome' but literally 'Blessed are those who come'] from the felt.  This would probably be better if you have stencils (manuscript alefs are hard to free hand). This was fairly time consuming and done while the girls were asleep.

The next day I gave the girls glue, the letters, and a mat. They knew what to do because we did it last year, but...

"Ema! The letters are in a pile! What order do they go in?" Gabi said.
"Sound it out," I suggested.
"But thats too hard," Cohava whined.
"Do your best to put them in the right order and I will help you before you glue it, OK?"

And off they went.

 The shape of the letters, like the outside of the heh versus the resh, bet versus kaf, yud versus little heh piece tripped them up a bit. But with a lot of work and a little help, they got it.

Last year when we made welcome mats, I tried to have them paint straight onto the mat. The color got absorbed too easily and their writing was poor. I remedied it by cutting some fleece scrap into letters and gluing it down.  
I prefer the two from this year. What do you think?

New mats
Last year

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Persumei Ha'Nes

This year Hannukah is special for American Jewry because the first night of Hannukah is Thanksgiving. Exciting! This will be the first Thanksgiving for my family, so the uniqueness of this, once in hundreds of years anomaly, is lost on them. Because this is their first year in the US, it will also be there first time witnessing the holiday which usually occurs near Hannukah, Christmas.

You may be confused as to how this is their first Xmas. If you are not American and have never been here in December, it is impossible to understand the complete sensory assault coupled with this holiday. You have to be in solitary confinement to avoid the overwhelming experience. And if you have always been in the US, it is hard to conceptualize how people in other countries can make it through December without 'Jingle Bell Rock' stuck in there heads.

I need to prepare my children. Hannukah and Xmas are not meant to be a competition, but the lure of latter is intense. According to the very recent PEW population survey of American Jewry, one in three people identifying themselves as Jewish have a Christmas tree!

If you ask the average person what was the miracle of Hannukah, they will tell you that it was because the oil lasted for eight days instead of one. Which was miraculous, as recounted in the Gemara. But when we say "al hanisim' in all teffila over Hannukah, there is no reference to the oil. It is about the militaristic battle, the victory of the Maccabees and the Jewish people over the Greeks. What caused this war? According many historians, the battle grew out of a civil war between the Jews and the Hellenists. The Hellenists were the Jews who had strayed from religious life and had embraced the popular culture and lifestyle of the Greeks around them. 

Kind of like putting up a Christmas tree if you are Jewish. The miracle of Hannukah is that the Jewish people overcame assimilation. And as part of the celebration, we light a big candelabra and place it outside our homes. Persumei Ha'Nes Make the miracle known. We had this in place long before Xmas lights.

Putting something outside, to publicize the miracle of our dedication to Judaism (and our rededication of the Temple), is part of Hannukah.  The chanukiyah is only for 8 days and leaving it to burn outside isn't done everywhere. 

The girls and I made 'mobiles' to hang outside to show the miracle of Hannukah.

First we made bakers clay.

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (160 degrees C).
  2. Mix the flour, salt and water. Knead dough until smooth. Roll out dough and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 300 degrees F (160 degrees C) for 1 hour.

Armed with Hannukah shaped cookie cutters, we got to work. Since we don't have rolling pins we used cans of soda. After each shape is made, you must poke a hole with a straw for threading. I thought a straw hole would be too big and I tried other things. But the holes got smaller during baking and a straw hole would work well. The girls worked nicely. Ruti proudly made a tower of clay and cutters, announcing "Tower! Tower!"

You'll notice these look a lot like cookies. I left them to cool on parchment paper where I always leave cookies. Any my husband tried to eat them.

I planned to get paint in traditional blues and silvers, but neon is more fun.
We painted and left them to dry. This activity took more days than usual. 

Finally, with some beads and lanyard, we strung the pieces.

Seeing Stars- Lech Lecha

It has been a busy week, so the girls did not have an opportunity to make something for Lech Lecha.  We talked a lot about what Hashem asks of Avraham in leaving his land, birthplace, and his father's house to an unknown place. We spoke about our own journey and how it makes us feel. My big girls have now lived in 3 continents!

Last year we did make something but I never blogged about it.
So here goes:

There are countless beautiful elements in parasha Lech Lecha, first and foremost getting to know Avraham and Sarah. But the moment which most makes my heart sing is when Avraham stares into the night sky and Hashem promises him as many offspring as there are stars. It is no coincidence that my eldest’s name is Cohava, ‘star’.
In order to capture the majesty of those countless stars and be able to look at them night and day, we made star globes. Like snowglobes, but of the night sky.

Tools required:
Empty glass jar with lid
baby oil
hot glue gun
anything starry/sparkly, like sequence

I had fun collecting random star things, like these clear plastic stars. Cohava colored them with gold permanent markers and I hot glue gunned them to the lid of the jar.

Then the girl filled the jars with glitter and sequence. And put star stickers on the outside. Who doesn't love sparkles?!?

Then the baby oil is added. You could probably use something other than baby oil, but it worked. We filled the jar about 75% with oil, 20% water, 5% air.

On went the lid with hot glue (glue it really well), and walla! A star globe!
It is hard to capture the beauty on camera. You have to make one yourself.
Maybe next year we will make a telescope and enjoy the real deal.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Noach- Keeping Afloat

I really wanted to take the family to the zoo for Parshat Noach. It is a great way to appreciate the awesome
variety of Hashem's creatures and the envision the miraculous way they all fit on the ark.
However, the rains started before we had a chance, so it was too wet to go to the zoo. I waited for it to dry for a few days, but then realized I was missing the chance for other projects.

It was time to do some scientific research.

1) Rainfall study.
 We set a baking pan outside to see how much rain it would catch. During about 6 hours of rain, one inch of water was collected.
Cohava charted the progress.
Before we were able to move onto the next part of the experiment, Ruti dumped out all of the water!
We were going to estimate how much more could be collected and multiply for 40 days and nights non-stop. Next year we'll try again.

2) What floats?
"What did Noach build his boat out of?"
"Wood!" Cohava replied.
"Hashem told him to," Gabi said, offhandedly.
"Does wood float?"
"What else does?"
"I dunno."
"When we went on a boat with Sam and Reggie, was it wood?"
"Nope. It was plastic," Cohava said.
"Maybe metal," Gabi added.
We collected an assortment of materials to see which would float. Gohava was keen to include actual fabric. The girls talked about when Curious George made boats out of newspaper and tried that too.
They added a wooden teapot, plastic container, metal coins, glass bowl, and a few other odds and ends.  They were surprised but what did and did not float.
"Why do metal coins sink and metal boats float?" Gabi asked.
We made a 'boat' out of aluminium foil and floated it.
"Why does the foil float? It is the shape? It it lighter?"

Shabbat Shalom!