Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gearing up for NaBloPoMo

I know things have been quiet around here for the last few days. I've decided to take a short break in preparation for NaBloPoMo (oh, and I've started playing FarmVille, which is a ridiculous time-suck. Whose idea was this!? Oh yeah, my husband.)

Marci's going to be playing along, and I am pretty sure Miriam is too.

Anyone else planning on doing it? It's always a fun way to kickstart my creative juices flowing to get a post up every day. Come on....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Signs of Fall...

On my driveway....

In the backyard...

On the car window...

And what's fall without some cookies baking in the oven?

Go see other people's pretty pictures this week.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Haveil Havalim: The Post-Chagim Edition

haveil havalim

What's going on here today?
Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It's hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term 'Haveil Havalim,' which means "Vanity of Vanities," is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other 'excesses' and realized that it was nothing but 'hevel,' or in English, 'vanity.'
Please please please publicize HH on your own blog and share the news about it!

Please read this first:
Rabbi Harold Robinson is Remembering Captain Benjamin Sklaver (as is my friend, Rabbi Yair Robinson), and I think you should be too. Small soapbox: no matter how we feel about the fighting, the politics, etc, that is no reason to vilify our troops in any way. This is a lesson that we learned after Vietnam, and I am proud that for the last 2 years our congregation has been reading the names of the military dead each Shabbat with our Kaddish list. I sincerely hope for the day that we no longer need to read the names. In over 2 years, we've never had a week with no names. It's been a very sobering reminder. This week, as we read Captain Sklaver's name, I had a real story to go with it and I was even more sad to know that all of these names have stories. Zichrono livracha, may his memory be for a blessing. The organization that Captain Sklaver started, Clearwater Initiative, is pretty incredible. I will give ONE DOLLAR for every comment left on today's Haveil Havalim to Clearwater in memory of Captain Sklaver.

Things That Might Be Funny...cuz it's best to start with a joke or two

Toby at A Time of the Signs thinks that Someone really needs to tell them.
Torat Yisrael is riffing on the idea of Gaza zoo disguising jackasses as Zebras.
Benji Lovitt is being funny again: More Great Moments in Israeli Marketing: Oh Dear... and also with Forget Madoff, Hadassah Has Other Issues to Deal With. He's also getting psyched that BREAKING NEWS: ALF to Attend Jerusalem Tweet-Up Sunday Night! I wish I could be there too!


Good News from Israel has Photos of Second Hakafot.
Esser Agaroth shared Jew Encouraging Ascension To The Temple Mount Incurs Intimidation From Police.
Our Shiputzim is visiting National parks: Caesarea edition.
The Rebbetzin's Husband wants to know CNN - Did something blow up in Lebanon, or not?
David Morris at Tzedek-Tzedek asks Did Barak Overspend? and also The Third Temple as a Political Objective
Joel Katz of Religion and State in Israel presents Religion and State in Israel - October 15, 2009 (Section 1)Religion and State in Israel - October 15, 2009 (Section 2) (completely different material in both, btw) AND
Yechezkel presents Happy Birthday to Avigayil as the Wellsprings of Salvation Overflow (K"Y) offering analysis on newly released statistics about the chareidi growth rate in Israel and how it impacts the "shidduch crisis"...


Shmuel Sokol presents Pilgrims visit Joseph's Tomb, under armed guard.
Yechezkel gives us Ezer or Kinegdo?, an exerpt from his book about the role of Women in Judaism.
Shiloh Musings offers us The Year of Double Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, and No Simchat Torah.
The Real Shliach thinks it's fun for the whole family: The Real Shliach: Blues can be a good thing too (he was in my hometown!)
Seraphic Secret has this post about the right to bear and keep arms: Jews, Guns and Torah.

Yisroel wants to know, Is It Halachly Permissible to Leave Eretz Yisroel To Go Touring?
Ilana-Davita worked through some Blogger's Block to offer her interpretation of Bereshit.


Samson BLinded presents Civilized anti-semites need nuclear mullahs.
Eliyahu Fink presents Too Smart For Their Own Good at Pacific Jewish Center.
The Rebbetzin's Husband muses on Knee-biters.
JackB is Listening to Her Breathe.
Harry-er hopes for peace: R' Kook and the Nobel Peace Prize.
leah aharoni considers Mothers' Guilt.
David Levy wonders about the UJC's Hero Project...America’s Next Top Jewish Communal Professional.
Yisrael Medad has a few posts: Koutsoukis Corrupts The News, J Street in Three, My Right Word: Gershom Gorenberg - Gosh and Canaanites, Jebusites Welcomed But No Jews.
Mottel shares Mottel and the Mystery of the Imaginary Cliff People and also Hit The Road Jack.
Annette Berlin presents Bubby’s Lemon Pie, which rightly belongs in the Kosher Cooking Carnival, but sounded pretty yummy to me!
A Mother in Israel has a great post about Leftovers and the Kosher Kitchen...a dilemma easily solved, imho, with vegetarian eating!
Leora was thinking about her favorite books from childhood.
The Head Yenta is wondering if it's meshugenah that Anne Frank has a YouTube channel?
David is wondering what it really takes to be a rabbi these days...

Did you know it was Blog Action Day this week? Here are some of those posts:
Caring About the Environment Jewishly at The New Jew
Israel: Blog Action Day at Global Voices Online
Raising Our Voices, One Blog at a Time at the Religious Action Center's blog
Do Not Destroy right here at my blog
Did you participate in Blog Action Day? I tried to catch them...sorry if I missed you.

That's all for this week's Haveil Havalim! Please link up so lots of people can share the Haveil Havalim fun...

You could just cut and past this:
This week's Haveil Havalim is up over at Ima on and off the Bima. Check it out!

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Haveil Havalim using our carnival submission form.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shabbat Shalom!

Hope your Shabbat is restful, peaceful, and fjavascript:void(0)ull of joy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do Not Destroy - Blog Action Day

Deuteronomy 20:19-20:
“When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city? Only trees that you know do no yield food may be destroyed; you may cut them down for constructing siege works against the city that is waging war on you, until it has been reduced.”

This Torah text is the basis for the Jewish value of "Bal tashchit" - which means "do not destroy" (okay, that's not a literal translation - literally, it means "master of destruction.") It's a pretty important Jewish commandment, and I'm proud that our tradition has environmental protection as a basic belief.

With that in mind, we come to this year's Blog Action Day, whose theme is climate change (did anyone else remember that we did this topic in 2007?). Yes, that's right, the environmental disarray that we find in our world today. We definitely have a responsibility to do something about the current state of our environment.

We tend to be pretty "green" in our house. We recycle, we use cloth napkins, we take reusable lunch bags and don't buy bottled water. It's a pretty regular topic of conversation in our house.

But of all the things I've ever written about being eco-friendly, this post is my favorite. It's not long, so I'm going to reprint in its entirety:

7 year old, practically spitting: Mom, I am so mad at you!
(glances around...) I'm so mad at you that I'm going to waste water!

He turns on the bathroom faucet and just lets the water run for a few moments.

Then he shuts it off and walks away.

What does it say when your kid rebels by being eco-unfriendly!?
 Are you participating in Blog Action Day?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Winning a Good Read!

Here are the winners of my book giveaways last week:

Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman - Mother in Israel
Bending Toward the Sun - Sara
Day After Night - Nancy
Because I Said So - Debbie

Thanks for playing!
If you haven't already gotten an email from me, please send me your snail mail address so I can pop your book in the mail. Happy reading!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gonna Make This Garden Grow....

Haveil Havalim is up over by Jack's place. Stop by and visit.

As I was saying, I now have two years of gardening under my belt and I've decided it's time to step it up to the next level. My wonderful, amazing, spectacular husband offered to buy didn't have a choice agreed to get me a raised bed from NaturalYards. (Yay for an early birthday present!)

Four boxes arrived less than a week after I placed the order (4 feet by 12 feet by 16 inches these cute little boxes!) - pretty amazing delivery service, don't you think? Excuse the front-porch mess.

Not only did my wonderful husband let me get buy me this great garden, he grumbled helped me put it together! It took both of us to carry those cute but heavy boxes around to the backyard.

(Isn't he cute?)
I was totally impressed by the ease with which this garden went together. No tools needed! Isn't that incredible? And it's all cedar. Amazing. It was like a game of tetris.

And voila, a finished garden. Seriously, less than 20 minutes to put this whole puppy together.
And inspired by my friend over at Juggling Frogs (actually, this is a fascinating post about vermicomposting), I acquired a broken swimming pool from my neighbors. Hopefully it will be a nice bed for strawberries, which is what she uses hers for. My kids will flip if we can actually grow their favorite fruit. We'll see if it works. I dumped all the old garden pots into it (usually I just clean them out, I'm thinking I'll let this dirt mellow over the winter. Does anyone know - will my mint plant revive/grow/return next year?)
And here you have it, all ready for winter...(oh, and some dirt yet to arrive to fill up my garden bed) - my Victory Garden:
I can't wait to continue the updates of my garden.
What kinds of things did you do this weekend? See other people's best shots over at Tracey's spot.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tom and Me

I had one of my coolest rabbi experiences ever right before Shabbat started. I was truly honored to be invited to give the closing benediction at the inauguration of the new President of Northwestern University. I had no idea how much pomp and circumstance is involved in the inauguration of a university president!

Here is the text of my benediction (in case you're interested, which you must be because you're reading my blog!):

It is fitting that we gather here today to honor this academic institution on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah – a holiday that celebrates a most sacred book, the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. To truly celebrate knowledge, one must be a lifelong student, as President Schapiro is.

The Jewish sages ask the question: “Which is greater, study or action?” The great Rabbi Akiva answers: “Study is greater because it leads to action.” Through study and learning, teaching and imparting, we become the people that the world needs.

Today we ask for God’s blessings upon President Schapiro and the tasks he is about to undertake. Under his leadership and guidance, may learning flourish and may students and teachers alike grow and prosper. May this institution truly fulfill its motto, to think on the things that are true, honest, just, lovely and pure. And in so doing, may we all be blessed.

Keyn yehi ratzon, may this be God’s will.
Without detracting from the honoree, President Morton O. Schapiro (a really nice, mensch-y guy with a great sense of humor), one of the highlights for me was meeting the Inaugural Speaker, Thomas Friedman. (Listen to his Inaugural Speech here.) You may be familiar with Mr. Friedman's columns and his books, as I am, and I was a little bit starstruck to meet him in person. When asked by my colleague what he thought of the Peace Prize, he replied by explaining that he was planning to re-write his column for Sunday's paper. He explained to us (and by us, I mean the TWO of us who were standing with him - this was very cool) that he would write what he thought President Obama should say for his acceptance speech at the Nobel ceremony. And he did! It's a great column (as usual). And while I don't usually say much in the political arena here on this blog, I think he's got the whole thing spot-on. I asked Mr. Friedman if he would mind if I blogged about that conversation, and he said it was okay. So, Tom, if you're reading this, {{{waving}}} hi and thanks for a great speech and an excellent column!

P.S. Those of you who know me know that I'm a proud graduate of another Big 10 institution. While I was encouraged by many to root for my home team, I did behave appropriately and even wore a purple kippah to the event.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Book Review: Because I Said So

It does seem to be Book Review Week around here. Which I think is good, because we are heading up toward Simchat Torah, in which we celebrate our most precious Book of all, the Torah.  
The full title of this book, "Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race & Themselves," is a real mouthful. But it's a totally worth-it mouthful. This book is awesome.

I read it right after reading Bad Mother* by Ayelet Waldman. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Her essay from this book, "Motherlove," created a big ol' storm when it was published in the New York Times in 2005. I mostly expected to read the essay and return the book back to the library from whence it came.
(*I totally need to write a review of this book one day, because it was also amazing. Take my word for it, go read it. You won't regret it, it's truly wonderful.)

And then I started reading all the rest of the essays. I thought I'd like Ayelet's essay, I thought I might find another essay to like. Instead, I liked almost all of them! These are some amazing women, writing amazing stuff. Published in 2005, before the whole mommy-blogging thing really took off, these authors were not afraid to write what they thought, and Camille Peri and Kate Moses gave them a platform and a voice. They run the gamut of motherhood issues: autism, spousal abuse, growing up, babysitters, dolls, parents-to-be from different races, and a single woman having two children by artificial insemination...and even more. It is now on the top of my list of favorite parenting books. not get yourself this book. Or, like all the other reviews this week, leave a comment here on this post and I'll choose one really lucky reader to receive a copy from me!

Other reviews from this week:
Day After Night
Bending Toward the Sun
Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review: Day After Night (& giveaway!)

Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent and a bunch of other books, has a new novel: Day After Night.

There are four main characters, all of them survivors in various ways of the atrocities of the Holocaust. Each one came through the war in a different way and each one has terrible memories and internal scars. The young women all make their way to Israel and end up imprisoned at Atlit, a detention camp outside Haifa that was set up by the British while they were still in control of what was then Palestine.

This book was remarkable and wonderful. I truly couldn't put it down. Diamant intertwines the historical reality of the situation - the blockade, the Haganah, life after the Holocaust - with a story of friendship and healing that I didn't want to end. These young women are truly "double survivors" - after the terrors of World War II, they're now forcibly kept in another holding pen, the prison of Atlit. In 1945, the Haganah broke 200 "prisoners" out (and interestingly, the raid was planned by a young Yitzchak Rabin), and the book chronicles that story as well.

I was really touched by the connection that the women made to each other, and the way they each dealt with their grief and healing. I loved how the title was a subtle reminder that after every night comes the dawn, and that the wounds of the war began to be healed by the creation of the young state of Israel.

I had the pleasure of meeting Anita at our local Barnes and Noble the day after Rosh HaShanah. (Clearly it was badly timed because there were very few people there!) There weren't a lot of people present who had read the book (just me and one other person) and she asked me which character I had liked the best - and I answered "Zorah" - and then as she talked about each character, I ended up saying, "Oh, I liked her too!" Truthfully, each character was interesting and compelling. (Often when I read a multi-character book I find myself annoyed or even ignoring one character's storyline. This was not the case - these women all felt very close and real to me.)

(I also read this within a week or so of reading Bending Toward the Sun. The books were a lovely complement to each other and their hopeful titles gave me deep calm.)

This book I bought for myself, and I'll buy you a copy too. Leave me a comment here and tell me about a great book you've read lately and I'll choose one lucky reader at random to win a copy!

Don't forget that I'm giving away Bending Toward the Sun and Loving Rabbi Thalia also ...go click over to those posts.

Simchat Torah is this weekend, the holiday in which we celebrate the end of the yearly Torah reading cycle and begin it all over again. What a great way to celebrate the greatest Book of them all!

Book Review: Bending Toward the Sun

It does seem to be Book Review Week around here. Which I think is good, because we are heading up toward Simchat Torah, in which we celebrate our most precious Book of all, the Torah.

I read Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir, in just 2 days. It was an engrossing personal memoir, weaving together the voices of mother, daughter, and granddaughter.

The book began with Rita's story, a really amazing account of her years in hiding in Poland during the Holocaust. What was most remarkable to me was that almost the whole family was able to hide together, and most of them survived together. What a horrible ordeal for five-year-old Rita and her whole family, as she saw the death of her brother and her mother while in hiding.

Leslie's own tale is no less remarkable. Usually the tale ends with redemption, the end of the war, the emigration. But Leslie tells what happens next, the impact of those horrible years would have on future generations. We are very very concerned with documenting the stories of the survivors. We know that their generation is growing older, more frail, their memories fading - and there are incredible institutions and organizations working to preserve that history. Leslie's words remind the reader of the indelible scar left by the Holocaust on the future generations. Her awareness that things are different in her family, that her mother's experience has such a deep impact on her own life and even the life of her own child demonstrates the depth of the trauma.

The return to Poland was a particularly poignant section of the book. Leslie's realization of what her mother's life had been like and her own discovery of those places and people were breath-taking. Her daughter Mikaela's input into the book was striking as well, and the last chapter's title: Legacy, says it well. While the horror of the war years had great impact on this family, the strength and courage of Rita and her family leave a beautiful and lasting legacy.

I am thankful to the publicist for Leslie Gilbert-Lurie's book, who sent me a review copy. Want to read this book? (You do.) Leave a comment here and I'll give my copy away to one lucky reader at the end of the week.

Other reviews: by Reiza and Jew Wishes (anyone else, j-bloggers?)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book Review: Loving Rabbi Thalia

Oy vey, I'm so remiss in posting this review. I received the book a long time ago and my deepest apologies for how long it's taken me to review it!

Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman: Sex and Romance in God's House, by Gary Morgenstein, is a pretty unique book. First off, there aren't so many books about female rabbis, so I was intrigued. (Actually, there aren't so many books with realistic portrayals of any rabbis, but I digress.) Second, the story lines are a twisty, funny, and a little off-kilter.

The characters are very honest and real, their faults and foibles are displayed for all to see. I must admit to being a little disappointed in the character of Rabbi Kleinman herself, she seemed to lack spirituality and depth. Perhaps this is because I was hoping to identify with the title character and couldn't find much to share with her. I'd be curious if any of my colleagues (particularly the female ones) would find some more identifying characteristics than I did.

I had to push myself to read the whole way through, however, I think because so many of the characters were, to me, unlikable, and living unlikable lives. They were well-portrayed but their heartbreak was a little too much for me.

Thank you to Gary Morgenstein for the review copy of the book! Want to read it? Leave a comment here and at the end of the week, I'll give it away to one lucky reader. Check out the Jew Wishes review, also - I think she liked it a little better than I did.

I think I prefered Jonathan Rosen's female rabbi to Gary Morgenstein's....can anyone tell me of any other books with female rabbis as the protagonist? Check out this interesting article also.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Painting is Fun!

I thought it would be fun to paint some posters to hang in our sukkah....and I had the brilliant ridiculous idea to make the kids' know, for posterity and all that. So much for the handprints.

What a messy idea!

Then we went back to painting with brushes, which occupied the little people for quite some time!

Stay tuned for finished product pictures, which ended up laminated and hanging in the sukkah.
See other people's Best Shots over at Tracey's place.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome to the Indoor Sukkah

Our first year in Chicago, we weren't able to put up a sukkah (for a variety of reasons). But rather than let the holiday just pass us by, I decided to put up an indoor sukkah. I searched all over for some guidelines - but really, no one had written articles or talked too much about this concept. So...I went to my favorite sukkah supply store and I picked up some items that seemed like they'd work.

Shiny garlands of fake leaves, imitation grapes, pears, apples, and a few other rustic looking fall decorations went into my cart. Oh, and of course, stars! One of the primary rules about a sukkah is that you have to be able to see the stars through the roof. That would be a very very bad thing to happen to my instead I decided on some shiny star garlands and also some fluffy stars to hang.

And now that we put up a "real" sukkah outdoors (which we have been doing for a while now), we still continue to put up the indoor one as well. It is a fun family tradition that my kids really love. 

(And all the supplies fit into a nice box that lives in the basement and it all gets reused each year. Great investment!)

Yes, I certainly know that our indoor sukkah doesn't quite fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukkah. But I also know that it almost always rains during the holiday. And I know that we don't get to eat every meal outside (even though technically, we could or should)...and I know that decorating the house makes the whole week seem much more festive! If you're like us, the kitchen is the center of our house - we spend so much time there - it reminds us all the time of the celebration.

Plus, I think that anyone can do this - even if you don't have a yard or the ability to build a sukkah. It's just a great way to celebrate the holiday and get into the spirit of the season. So why not try it this year?