Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why be a Vegetarian? (and contest & 5 places)

Tomorrow is World Vegetarian Day. I'm a big fan of any day that gets people to think about the food that they put into their bodies.

I am a vegetarian, although technically, I'm a pescetarian because I do eat fish on occasion. (Someday, I think our family might end up being best classified as "flexitarian" There are a number of reasons for this. First, I think it's healthier and better for me and my family. When I was beginning to feed my oldest (now almost 6) solid foods, I did a lot of research and was very concerned about food additives/hormones. I decided that the best choice would be to go meat-free for him, and thus for our household. My husband still eats meat, either out or whenever he can convince my dad to make him a steak (which is pretty darn easy). The other reason for eating vegetarian both in and out of the house is the concept of kashrut, or keeping kosher. We don't technically keep kosher, but by not mixing milk and meat (because there isn't any) we keep a form of it. I read labels rather than hechshers (the markings that indicate a kosher certification) because I feel that organic products are often a better "kosher" choice for me -- as in, they are usually environmentally-friendly, worker-friendly, etc., things that a kosher certifcation is largely unconcerned with.

I have a dream (spurred by an article that I read once -- anyone else read this article and can remind me where I read it?) that one day there will be a new kind of kosher certification -- one that takes environmental and fair business/labor/land practices into consideration along with the Jewish dietary laws.

So go veg for a day or for the whole month! I guarantee you won't regret it:-)

Tomorrow....I'll find one of my favorite vegetarian recipes to post in honor of the occasion. (Along with my Best Shot Monday, I'm sure!)

Stop by Crunchy Domestic Goddess (definitely a favorite read of mine) to read more about World Veggie Day and also to see the adorable t-shirt that she's giving away from her online shop Cute as A Bug...which by the way I'm planning to win, so you don't even have to go enter her contest (ha ha).


Five Places I've Been This Week

Remembering Marcel Marceau (did you know he was Jewish?)

Tees for Change (positive message shirts)

Etrog Liqueur (I am so buying some of this next year. Etrog-tinis anyone?)

One Laptop Per Child

Downtime from Murder (NY Times Op-Ed...SS officers frolicking)

from my
Where have you been?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Do They Like Me? Wrapped Emotions #4

This week's prompt at Wrapped Emotions made me pause and consider....

As you can see from my "about me," I am a rabbi. This means that I am constantly in the forefront of my congregation, constantly the person to whom they turn for words of advice, words of wisdom, lifecycle events, holiday celebrations, and more. One of our great rabbis, Arnold Jacob Wolf, once said that if 50% of the members of your congregation don't hate you, you're doing something wrong. We are also told to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." While in my intellectual self, I know that these are laudable goals for me as a rabbi, I also know that in my emotional heart, I want them to like me.

There, I said it. I want them to like me. (I wonder how many of my congregants actually read this blog? Anyone lurking out there?) I think this extends beyond my "job" though, and into my life. I've always wanted people to like me, to be happy with me, rather than dislike me. Sometimes I'm sure that this did not serve me well (think middle school) but overall, it makes me a generally happy person who is happy to do for others as often as possible. I suppose it is part of what makes me "good" at my job. (and by the way, I'm not the only one who feels this way in the clergy. Here's an interesting article, although not totally relevant to my life, that gives a bit of insight into how we feel...)

The past few months, and coming to a head this week, I have been dealing with someone who decided that she didn't like me. It's a long story and of course, confidential, so to paint broad strokes, it involved a life cycle event and a congregant-friend, and some decisions that I made regarding the life-cycle event and this friend's ex-husband. I believe in my heart that what I did was right, and today's event (mostly) played itself out beautifully. But I have indeed lost my friend, who no longer "likes me." I struggled with it all through Yom Kippur. I struggled with it all week. I struggled with it all day.

And now I'm done with it. I have to be. I'm not even sure where the ritual is in this (I know that was part of the prompt) but I also know that I've told myself that I'm going to be done with this. I think the ritual is in the writing, right here, right now, I'm done with it.

Someone doesn't like me.

I'm sure there are more out there, people who just haven't told me yet, but in this world, I know, this person is now out there, not liking me.

And I have to believe that that's okay.

How to let go of it? I tried my hand at some art, of course. (Thanks, Melody!) Using my trusty new journal, I ripped and glued and stuck and just mucked around, all with the intention of "letting go" of this need, this fear, of being un-liked. (As I did it, my husband's PC Magazine was on the table, and the cover headline caught my eye: "Who can you trust?" At first, this seemed in total to belong in my art. Trust is, after all, possibly one of the most important parts of this. But thinking more, I decided just to use the word "trust?" because I thought that the whole sentence perhaps illustrated that I hadn't quite done the letting go that I was working on!)

Here's the result:

And you know what? I do feel better. Much of this occurred, by the way, before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The day that "does not atone for the sins of one human being against another until they have made peace with one another" (that's from our liturgy for the holiday)... and I couldn't do it. It was too fresh, too raw. But I don't have to wait until next Yom Kippur to let it go....

See more Wrapped Emotions folks here...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shabbat Rest...

Shabbat is almost here.

It's supposed to be the day of rest, the day of peace.

For me, not always so.
It's often a day to run around, to serve others, to be present for them.

But I still feel Shabbat.

Even with all the running, all the craziness that is coming up tomorrow morning
(A little more on this in tomorrow's post...oy)
I feel Shabbat coming on like a wave...

Blowing over me.

A cool breeze.

And I can't wait!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

13 Things I Love About Sukkot

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot began Wednesday night. Here are some reasons that it's my favorite holiday:

1. The myrtle. It is part of the arbah minim, the four species, that we use to celebrate the harvest holiday. I love the smell of the brings me back to the Sukkot of my youth... (plus, the shape reminds us of the eye, through which we see the world...)

2. The etrog. A citron, bright yellow, it smells delicious. I love the feel of it in my hand, cold and heavy, bumpy and smooth... And it reminds us of the heart, a heart full of love and joy at the holiday of Sukkot!

3. The decorating. I am so loving the decorating thing...sometimes I wish we could put the sukkah in the front yard so the whole world can see it. (our front yard is too much of a hill but also that just isn't the custom!)

4. A chance to put up lights. Okay, I know that this isn't totally a typical Sukkot thing, but it's the chance for me to string up some pretty lights and turn them on at night...

5. The weather. It always cooperates by cooling down. Sometimes it chooses to rain (which is supposed to happen, actually, since we're now praying for rain) which does make it harder to celebrate outside in the sukkah. Whole holidays have gone by (it's a week long) without being able to eat in the sukkah.

6. The gourds. They always come out at the same time as we're decorating for Sukkot. They're so cool looking and fun and festive at the fall time.

7. Remembering Israel. Eating out in the sukkah reminds me of living in Israel, where most restaurants had their own sukkot in which you could eat during the holiday. How cool is that?

8. The Sukkah Trolley. Each year, our congregation takes a ride around town in a trolley to visit sukkot around our congregational community. Usually we go aroudn the synagogue, but this year, because of our construction, we are going closer to our temporary site for Religious School and so the trolley is coming to my house!

9. The food. Sukkot for me means the return of wintery food like chili, soup, stews, etc. Yum!

10. Our indoor sukkah. Our first year living in Chicago, we didn't have a sukkah so I put one up in the kitchen. I strung up decorations like leaves and fruit as well as a little string of shiny stars (you're supposed to see the stars through the roof, hence the stars on the ceiling). It's more of the decorating fun but it also means that we are eating *every* meal in a "sukkah" more or less, even though it doesn't really follow Jewish law, it still is fun. Plus, as I said before, it often rains (or even snows, like last year) and we can't get out to the Sukkah. This reminds us of the holiday's presence...

11. Thinking of those in need. The sukkah provides a great visual aid for teaching young children about what it means to be homeless. Imagine if you had to live in a sukkah all the time...

12. Singing Hallel. We sing the Hallel psalms on Sukkot. Bonia Shur has an incredible musical setting for the Hallel Psalms that is performed once a year at Hebrew Union College. We sing one piece of it at Am Shalom to celebrate Sukkot (and other holidays too).

13. The end of Sukkot is Simchat Torah, which might be my other favorite holiday. (Okay, regular readers of my blogs will note that I actually like them all!) That's next week's post, though so I'll hold onto it!

See more Thursday Thirteen here...

Handwashing - Works for Me

We are big on handwashing in our family. Perhaps a mite too much, but I must say that most of it is about keeping my pretty new carpet clean...still, we try to wash hands whenever we come in from playing outside, before eating, and after eating. That's not over the top, is it? (It does seem that way when you're a 5-year-old boy, though -- especially if you eat quickly, it feels like I just told you to wash your hands!)

So the things that "work" to make handwashing go well in our house...

  • cool foamy soaps (I don't buy this kind, I usually buy whatever's on sale, especially if it's not antibacterial. I think the kind right now in the bathroom is Sponge Bob. Oy.)

  • accessible handtowels so there aren't drips and drops all over

  • sometimes allowing playtime while washing -- it's not all about business all the time, is it?

  • keeping a plastic cup by the sink to aid in washing the hands of the 2-year-old. He's not big enough to reach the water stream for rinsing, even with the stool, so I've started to use a cup (a la the Jewish handwashing cup) to rinse his hands. This way he's washing at the sink and doing the rubbing of hands together, but I get to help with the rinsing. It works better than trying to pull his poor little arms out of the sockets to get him to reach or squish his tummy against the side of the counter...

What do you do to keep hands clean in your house?

See more Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Learning to be Funny...Knock Knock Jokes!?

We are very into "knock knock" jokes in our house. Like this:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Who who?
Is there an owl at the door?

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Boo who?
Why are you crying?

Okay, they're not great humor. But my almost 6-year-old is in love with them. He really doesn't always understand any that are more complicated than the ones above...but I'm having way too much fun with them. Who knew that there were so many knock-knock jokes online!? And, wikipedia even has an entry for the knock-knock joke. Wowza.

When my brother was little, he was not very good at telling jokes. In fact, we made him preface all jokes with "this is a joke" so that we'd know we should laugh and not make him feel bad. It took a while, but now (he's 22), he's finally got it:-) It just goes to show that you can learn to be funny.

So how do you teach your kids to be funny? How do you teach them to tell a joke? I think it's a pretty important skill...what do you think?

P.S. Someone in my office told me that about once a month as her kids were growing up, they would have a monthly "joke night" during which each kid would stand up and give his or her "routine" for the stand-up comedians?
P.P.S. My dad, the funniest guy I know, is celebrating his birthday today...Happy birthday, Dad! Thanks for teaching me to tell a good joke!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Angel Touch - my Best Shot Monday

I was having so much fun outside snapping shots as the sun was peeking through the trees. I love the way the rays of light shine down on my little boy, bathing him with angel blessings. And he is blissfully unaware, yet his world is so good and safe (except when Daddy leaves the room...but that's another post!)...

There are some who think that Jews don't believe in angels. We do! The Hebrew word for angel is mal'ach, meaning "messenger." Angels serve as the messengers for God. Angels give God both distance and closeness...for example, God could not really go and wrestle with Jacob so an angel takes God's place. But this angel, God's messenger, brings the Godly spirit closer to Jacob. Both close and far at the same time. Read here for more on Jewish angelology.

(and scroll down or click here to see my post about putting up our Sukkah...lots of pictures there too but the light was not good enough for any to be my "best shot" this week...)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Putting up our Sukkah...and Five Places I've Been

It is customary that, as soon as Yom Kippur ends, we begin to put up our Sukkah for the holiday of Sukkot. Sukkot is the "Festival of Booths," a harvest festival for which we build and "dwell in" small huts (usually in our backyards) to recall the wandering in the desert, during which we were transient and dependent upon God for our welfare. It also serves to remind us of those who don't have homes and are in need of our assistance. It is definitely one of my favorite holidays, it's a week long and I love building our sukkah.

This year, we put up a new sukkah, thanks to my dad (hi dad). He was tired of helping us put up our old one, which was great but very difficult to assemble each year. He created this new sukkah, which is so easy to put together, and as you'll see from the pictures below, so light that even my son can carry the parts!


Five Places I've Been This Week...

Last Jew in Afghanistan Marks Yom Kippur

Tips for Helping Beginning Readers

Jewish Pirate Jokes

How to Fold a Shirt in 2 seconds

Accidental Gun Discharge at Synagogue Injures Three...oy!

from my

Necessary Bindings...Wrapped Emotions #3

This was a crazy week. Not to mention that the whole thing that Melody asked for on this week's Wrapped Emotions post almost made me quit the whole endeavor...I'm not even sure why except that I felt like I'm very happy within my little bloggy world doing these creative exercises but when it comes to the real's harder to keep up, I guess. Plus...this was a crazy week (did I mention that?) and I knew I wouldn't be able to do it. Tonight, I was feeling guilty (who knows's not like I made a contract to do this or anything -- and don't get any ideas, Melody!) and I had a sudden flash of here goes.

Once upon a time, someone told me about the "craft" of altered books. After getting over my initial "I can't deface a book" instinct, I fell in love with the whole idea...and got a little bit started on my first "altered book." I went to a rummage sale and rummaged through books 'til I found one that "felt" right and was, in my opinion, okay to destroy...a cookbook. It happened to be a Kosher cookbook, which was also interesting to me... and a bit old, so I didn't feel at all guilty. I made a pretty cover for it, and I folded some of the pages, tore a few others, and did a few of the things that were suggested in the altered books book (i'm a geek) that I took out of the library...and then I gave it all up. Some of the things were too messy, some too crafty, and I just never found it to be a way for me to express myself...

until now! I was so excited to reclaim my altered book for this project. I glued up the folded pages to make them stiffer, glued in the first week's project (which I had almost thrown out...oops) and made a page for the second project, which I have now sent to be really printed by the photo printer. I don't think I'm going to put in the posts or prompts, but maybe...anyway, it's a work in progress and I'll keep thinking about it. But I was very excited to have actually done this, even though I thought I couldn't. Okay, so here are the pictures....(sorry for the length, and the lateness too!)

Go to Wrapped Emotions to see more of the posts...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Chatima Tova

May your fast be inspiring and fulfilling and may you be sealed in the book of life, blessing, and peace.

A little bit of Yom Kippur humor to get you through the day...

Gottlieb called his Rabbi and said, "Rabbi, I know tonight is Kol Nidre, but tonight the Yankees start the playoffs. Rabbi, I'm a life-long Yankee fan. I've GOT to watch the Yankee game on TV."

The Rabbi responds, "Gottlieb, that's what VCR's are for." (I think he means TiVO, right?)

Gottlieb is surprised. "You mean I can tape Kol Nidre?"

13 Thoughts on Fasting

As we prepare for our fast on Yom Kippur, I offer these 13 thoughts on fasting...some personal, some educational.

1. Jews actually have two major fast days and four minor ones. The major ones are Tisha B'Av, the 9th of Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temple (twice!) and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is coming up on Saturday. The minor fasts are: 17th of Tammuz, the day the Romans breached Jerusalem's walls, the 10th of Tevet, the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, Tzom Gedalia (3rd Tishrei) which is the date a Babylonian governor of Judah was killed, and Ta'anit Esther (13th Adar), the Fast of Esther, which is the day before Purim. The minor fasts start at sunrise and end with 3 stars in the sky. The major fasts are 25 hours long, beginning at sundown and ending with 3 stars in the sky.

2. It is traditional to give charity/tzedakah on a fast day as well, some say to replace the food one would have eaten with equivalent to those in need.

3. We fast for three major reasons: one, it is conducive to atonement and repentance; two, a communal memory, such as the destruction of the Temple; and three, a communal gratitude for what we do have.

4. Fasting can be difficult! Those who are unable to fast for health reasons are exempt, although many feel that there are ways to "replace" the fast with other personal abstentions.

5. Some tips for an "easier" fast: drink lots of water in the days before; taper off your caffeine intake to avoid the caffeine headache; don't overeat the meal right before; don't talk about food; take an afternoon nap...

6. I have not fasted for the last two years due to pregnancy. This year, I'm back to fasting since my baby decided she no longer wanted to nurse...oy. It's been a while for me...

7. Fasting can be a very spiritual experience. Knowing that you are choosing to deny yourself something in the name of holiness is a powerful thing.

8. It's not just about fasting. We also refrain from washing, anointing, leather shoes, and sex.

9. Children do not fast for the full day until after their Bar/Bat Mitzvah (age of 13). But it's important to begin "training" probably around the age of 9. No snacks, no treats, etc.

10. I'm always amazed at how many people don't fast. They will tell me that it just doesn't mean anything to them or that they just don't "buy it." I say...try it!

11. Fasting for a whole day can certainly put the brakes on our way of life. It gives you the opportunity to pause and remember that for many people, this is an existence -- no food. It also gives you the opportunity to think about what's really important in your own life.

12. One beautiful custom I've read about is to place books on the table after the pre-fast meal. Instead of food on this day, we spend our time in prayer and study at our mikdash me-at, our mini-altar, in our homes. Remember, in Judaism, eating is indeed a mitzvah, a commandment. Therefore, a fast should be replaced with something equally important and holy.

13. I like to begin a fast with something sweet. This brings me back to when I was a teenager at summer camp, fasting for the first time on Tisha b'Av (which falls in the summer). A counselor who was also fasting told me that it should begin with sweetness even though the reason for the fast is not sweet. We dug up some cookies and shared them. Each time I prepare to fast, I taste those same cookies. I think it was then that I decided to become a rabbi.

How do you feel about the fast? What is your own personal tradition?
See more Thursday Thirteen here....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Family History...Works for Me Wednesday

Maintaining our history is so important. Where we come from is a critical part of our personal identity. In our family, we maintain this history by naming children for deceased relatives. (This is an Ashkenazi Jewish custom, Jews of Eastern European descent. Sephardic Jews, Jews of Spanish descent, will often name for living relatives.) My children are named for my father-in-law, my husband's grandfathers, my grandfather, my husband's grandmothers, his uncle, my great-uncle and my great-grandmother.

This is one way we maintain our family history. As each child grows up, we tell them more and more about the person or people for whom they are named.

The more tangible, more regular way, that I personally maintain our family's ongoing history is through photographs. But I, like so many others, have trouble putting the digital photos into albums, into's a daunting task, isn't it? I am not a scrapbooker, although sometimes I wish that I was! (All the cool toys and papers...mmm....)

Until I discovered Shutterfly's photo books. Here's what I do...I take my pictures off the camera regularly and label the folders with the date (for example: 9.16.07 Sam's New Bed) and I put them right into Picasa. Then I use Picasa to directly upload to Shutterfly, which maintains the folder names as album names (cool, eh?).

On Shutterfly's website, I maintain an ongoing Photo Book Project. They allow you to save the projects and add to them as you go. When I've uploaded a few albums (every month or so), I go through the albums and add them to the Photo Book, and place all the pictures in the album. Sometimes I have time and write the captions, sometimes I go back and do it later. I continue to fill the book until it seems to be a nice length, a nice ending point (like an end to the season), or Shutterfly is running a free-shipping sale or 20% off sale or something like that.

Then I click on "order" and it's done. The book arrives at my house and we sit together and look at it. And I keep them all on the shelf in a pretty row! And, to make it even better, there is a full "backup" of each book on Shutterfly's website.

My kids love to look at the books of themselves. We can look back, as my oldest (an elderly almost 6) says, "when I was little..." Since I've started making these books, I also do things like scan artwork, invitations, etc, and take pictures of big projects so we can put them in a book. I also made a book for my middle child of his first year, one page for each of his monthly photos for the first year, with his ultrasound on the back. I'm working on that book for my 3rd child. My poor first-born, born before the age of digital fun!

How do you maintain your family's history? This works for me!

See more Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

Chazak Chazak - May we be Strong (100th post!)

Rabbi Harold Kushner teaches, "When I pray, I speak to God. When I study Torah, I keep quiet and let God speak to me."

One of the ways Jews worship is through study. Through examining and wrestling with the text of the Bible, we find meaning and purpose in our lives. And it's not just a personal wrestling -- usually our study is in groups or pairs, known as chevruta.

Each week, members of my congregation engage in our Shabbat Morning Torah Study. It's a relatively small group, varying from 10-15 people each week. Most of them are "regulars" and most are much older than I am. Most have been through the cycle of Torah reading many many times before.

Because that's what it is. We re-cycle the Torah each year. There is a set rhythm to the year, as we end at the end and begin at the beginning again on the holiday of Simchat Torah (this year on the night of October 3rd). The Torah, divided into its weekly portions, guides our lives, guides our's fall, and I know it's time to read Genesis. We come into the winter and I know that we are onto the story of Joseph and his dreams. As the weather gets colder, we sing the Song of the Sea and as spring begins to dawn, we explore the priesthood. We travel with the Israelites through the desert as spring turns to summer, and as the heat turns up, we begin the sad and uplifting final moments as Moses imparts his wisdom in Deuteronomy...and it all begins again in the fall. And it happens each year. Each year we study the exact same words, the exact same portions.

And it never gets old.

I never grow tired of reading and sharing and studying and learning the text of the Torah. I never find it boring, I never find any of it to be dull or ordinary. Each time I re-read the text, I know that I am finding something new. Rabbi Ben Bag Bag said in Pirke Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers, "Turn it and turn it and turn it, for everything is contained within it."

How true.

How powerful.

To know that for my whole life I can be consumed with the study of this one book -- and all the peripheral knowledge that the Jewish people have collected and written alongside it, the ancient and modern writings that accompany the Torah -- to know that there will always be new books written that will try to illuminate and illustrate its ideals, to know that Judaism will always have this is powerful. It is inspiring. It is amazing.

To know that the Torah will not change but that I will. That each time I read it, I come from a new and different place, a new and different perspective, a new and different opportunity to find wisdom.

May my learning continue to bring me closer to God, with each word that I study. As we come closer to the end of our cycle, may this end bring us strength. The words that we say as we come to the conclusion of a book of the Torah are "chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek" -- Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened. Each conclusion brings the strength to begin again. May it always be so.

Written as part of Scribbit's Write-Away Contest...the theme of Learning.
(and came out to be my 100th post. Chazak Chazak v'nitchazek!)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Blow the Best Shot Monday

Doesn't he look spiffy? This is David, dressed to the nines for Rosh HaShanah, his first time going to something other than the Tot Services...and toting along his own Shofar. A shofar is a ram's horn that is blown on Rosh HaShanah to start off the New Year. Its sound is primal and strange, considered to be a "wake-up" to us as we begin the year, wake up to our past, wake up to our future.

I love the way he is trying so hard to make the sound come out of the Shofar. It's very hard to blow, there is a special technique that is tricky to master. This too, I believe to be part of the lesson of the's not easy to make the sound come out, it takes a great deal of work and practice. Being the best human beings we can be...that too takes work and practice. Sometimes we just get a squawk out of the shofar, sometimes we miss the mark in our dealings with other people. But we must keep practicing and working at it!

See more Best Shot Monday at Picture This...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Contests...and Five Places I've been This Week

I want to win this cool pouch being given away at From Dates to Diapers. The pouch is from Rockin' Baby Shop and let me tell you, it is rockin'! They sell slings and pouches that are all awesome and they have pictures on their site of daddies wearing babies...yay! Check out their gorgeous designs (that link is to page 3 of the slings, which has my personal favorite, "fell in love with a girl")!

There's also a great giveaway going on at Tangled and True...for 2 pieces of Lisa Leonard jewelry...don't go enter, please, so I can win:-)

Last one...Mum's the Wurd is giving away a $100 gift certificate to Natural Pod...I love these playsilks and felt balls...I seriously want to throw away all of our toys after all this China stuff, and these look like the perfect replacements. Birthdays are coming up for all my kidlets...but this giftcard would make it all better! (This xylophone is cool too...)

Hope you had a great weekend...I'm trying to finish my Yom Kippur can I work in blogging?


Five Places I've Been This Week

A Little Love for the Jewcy, one of my favorite sites

Project Peanut Butter

Biggest Loser slideshow...I love this tv show!

Freud as Defender of the Faith? (from the NY Times)

Mommazen's Block Party (see who's there!?)

from my

Where have you been?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Community of the Bloggers...

It's so wonderful to be a part of the blogging community. There are so many blogs to read, so many wonderful writers out there, so many people in need of the support that this community is giving. I believe in and love the power of the internet for creating that community that is so often lacking in our lives, or as an enhancement of the communities in which we already live. I feel so blessed by my friends and family, but I am also feeling blessed by the community that I'm creating here on this blog and as part of other blogs. I've finally set up a blogroll (see sidebar) and these are some of the blogs I enjoy and read, based mostly on my Google Reader subscriptions.

Two blogs have recently noticed me (!?) and that is so cool...thank you so much.

First, SAHmy says gave me the Nice Matters award. (and it's taken me a while to acknowledge...thank you!) I'm speechless...truly. Her blog is a great insight into her life as a stay-at-home mom, and her postings are worth reading. Thanks!!!

The other one is Karen at Cheerio Road. This one is such an honor for me because I read Karen's blog, I've read her book, and I admire her reading and her outlook on life so much. Thank you for making me a part of your Block Party, Karen! (And yes, I bought her book, just to keep her rolling in toasted oats...)

What are some of your favorite blogs? Where else should I go?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Unwrapping the Mind...Taking a Breath...

This week's challenge over at Wrapped Emotions is...

With your digital camera in hand...and I know you have one because I see the photos you post on your blog...step forth into the world. A public place, not your living room or Aunt Bessie's kitchen. Think of places you frequent...a park, a museum (where cameras are allowed), a store, a playground, but do not be limited by my suggestions. Find an object or objects that you have seen objects I mean anything from buildings to poles to poodles to garbage trucks, anything. Lie on your back on the ground or floor and snap at least one photo from that vantage point. Relax.

This has been a busy week for me. With Rosh HaShanah in the middle, I've been rushing around. I think I've only taken a few pics in general, let alone bring my camera into a public place. Have I been in any public places? See the dilemma...

So today, what is technically the second day of Rosh HaShanah (I'm usually a one-day gal myself, but I did lead second-day services at Am Shalom this morning), I am relaxing at home, getting things done, and enjoying the absolutely amazing weather. But I'm still not in a public place!

So...I did the best I could. I went outside into my front yard -- pretty public, don't you think? I laid out on the was wonderful. For a moment, I just breathed. I looked at the gorgeous trees above me and I marvelled at the wonder of God's creation. The Torah reading for the 2nd Day of Rosh HaShanah is the story of Creation, Genesis Chapter 1. I think that the fall is the perfect time to contemplate creation as everything is so beautiful and lush and perfect...

And so I captured these pics...of the trees above and this one of the roofline of my house. Both are certainly a new view for me, I don't think I've ever laid down in my front yard.

And that is the other lesson of these Holy Days -- to look outside yourself, to look outside your comfort zone, and see the world as you'd like it to be. Looking at these trees, this blue sky, doesn't the world look perfect? I must believe that we have the capacity to make it so...
See more participants at Wrapped Emotions...
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Sweet and Happy New Year

Here's a funny reminder of the sweetness of the new year. May your year be filled with blessings.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Homemade Leg Warmers - WFMW

In these last few moments before Rosh HaShanah, these are the things that occupy my mind!?

But anyway...

Thanks to this great post from Zrecommends, I realized that I could make my own adorable baby leg warmers from knee socks that I already had. (I suppose this then gives away my own personal knee-sock love...)

Isn't she a cutie? I just cut the feet off of these nicely soft mommy-socks. I think she likes them. The weather turned cooler and I put her in pants which were a serious hindrance to her crawly-cruisy state...her toes kept getting caught in the pants. So here is the solution. Adorable and warm! Works for me...

(okay, now that I look again at the photo, I'm not sure you can tell what I did. But trust me, she's cute. They were valentine's day socks. Valentine's Day is a sock holiday, did you know that? Seriously. There are always tons of V-Day socks and then on clearance Target!)

Shana Tova!
(Stay tuned for a very funny video for my Shana Tova post later today)

Monday, September 10, 2007

All About Motherhood

I participated in MamaBlogga's September Group Writing Project.
Spreading the "link-love" here are all the entries...check 'em out! I've read almost all of them and I must say I was impressed!

Some Days are Like That...BSM

Originally uploaded by imabima.

Some days you just need two pacis to get through...

See more Best Shot Monday here at Picture This...

Sunday, September 9, 2007

...and Five Places I've Been This Week

No Small Thing from beyondthemap

Tradition, Tradition from Jewcy

Huggalugs Leg and Arm Warmers

Nefesh b'Nefesh article on aliyah

MamaBlogga's Group Writing Project

(from my I must admit, I've just been busy! So there haven't been too many places to be this week...after the holidays...)

i think it's time for a blogroll...that after the holidays too....

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Memories...and Reality

Each year, I am blessed to serve as the rabbi-in-residence for the Devorah Quilting Kallah at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute. There, we are led so capably by our teacher, Flo London, who over the last few years has encouraged each participant to explore their own creativity. Because of this, I am always looking for new creativity exercises and ways to build my own creativity. So I was very excited when Melody at Slurping Life founded a new blog all about creativity...Wrapped Emotions.

I must admit, this time of year is awfully busy for me, but I really wanted to participate, so here goes!

Our assignment was: As a young child what was your favorite-absolutely-loved-to-get candy treat? Now go buy it and eat candy. Save the wrapper or box. Sit back, savor your treat, close your eyes and remember enjoying the candy as a child. What were you doing? Who was there with you? How did you feel?

I admit, I'm not a big candy eater, and I never was. I could only think of one time in my life that candy played a role, and that was during college. One year in the dorms, a couple friends and I bought massive quantities (the jumbo bags from the warehouse store) of Mike and Ike's candy. It was quite good, sweet and sticky...except the red ones. My friends would not eat the red ones.
So I bought a box of Mike and Ike's. And you know what, they were not very good. Sticky and sweet and artifical-tasting...yuck. I ate about 5 of them, I kept hoping it would get better, and then I dumped out the box and made my collage (above) which doesn't have much artistry, I suppose...but I think my creativity comes in words these days!

I got to thinking about memory vs. reality. How often do our memories of an event supercede the actual event? And how often do our memories prevent us from enjoying something current because it's "not like it used to be"? I think, as I'm doing a lot lately, about the upcoming High Holy Days. So often people will tell me that they can't find spirituality in the services because it's not the way it used to be, it's not their old rabbi, their old cantor, their old seat, their old prayerbook....whatever it is. And I'm sad for them. Because each year is a new year, each opportunity is a new opportunity, and each time we open ourselves up to the possibilities of something new, we let in those possibilities...for renewed spiritual connection, renewed faith, renewed intention, renewed relationships with each other and with God.

May this holiday season bring for each of us the possiblity of being open to new experiences, new ideas, and even...gulp...change. May we be able to live in the present, instead of in the past...always relishing our history, but knowing that what we have now holds its own blessings.

See more participants at Wrapped Emotions.
Wrapped Emotions button

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Visiting the Mikveh - 13 Things I Loved About It

The Mikveh is a Jewish institution shrouded in mystery and confusion for modern Reform Jews (and probably some Conservative ones too!). The mikveh is defined as a ritual bath, used not for purposes of physical cleanliness, but rather ritual purity or spiritual cleanliness. According to the Wikipedia entry, (which is actually pretty accurate - thumbs up!)

Its main uses nowadays are:
by Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth
by Jewish men to achieve ritual purity
as part of a traditional procedure for conversion to Judaism
for utensils used for food

It's the first one that makes many modern women crazy, the second that less people know about, the third that is the most well-known in most Reform circles, and the last that is also less well known. But what is not accurate in the Wikipedia entry is the brief entry about Reform Jews and their lack of use of the Mikveh for anything other than conversion. Okay, maybe this is somewhat accurate, but we are working on it! Organizations like Mayyim Hayyim in Boston are making mikveh more accessible to modern Jews.

Okay, so all that said...where am I going?

It is customary, in that second idea up there, that "men" go to the mikveh to achieve ritual purity. These days, anything the men can do, so can the women! Often, people (okay, men) will go to the mikveh before Shabbat or holidays in order to fully prepare themselves physically/spiritually. I've never used the mikveh in this way (I've only been once before, right before my wedding). This year, I decided to go to the mikveh to prepare myself for the High Holy Days. As a rabbi, I spend these weeks before the holidays stressing and preparing and basically running around like crazy and I rarely have the time to prepare myself in any meaningful way. (In an earlier post, I referred to teshuvah, which is the Hebrew word for repentance...the "work" of the High Holy Days)

So the mikveh it was for me...and to describe it, here is a list of
13 things I loved about it...

1. The quiet. It was in the evening, and it was dark. It's traditional to go at night to show humility and to increase privacy (of course, blogging about it doesn't make it too private, does it). It was quiet. I had a few moments before all to myself to breathe and just be.
2. The reminder. The mikveh lady (a technical term) reminded me of the special nature of this moment. She knows that I come all the time to the mikveh with conversion candidates but she reminded me to take my time, to pay attention to each item of clothing or jewelry or act like brushing my hair, to realize that this was more than just a shower and then a dip in the pool, and more than just getting ready for bed.
3. The words. I hummed the tune for Hashi-veynu, one of my favorite penitential prayers that we sing at our Selichot service this coming Saturday night. To me, that tune really "kicks off" the holidays. Hashiveinu Adonai elecha v'nashuva, chadeish yameinu k'kedem...Help us to return to You, O God, then truly shall we return. Renew our days as in the past. I felt like this helped to remind me why I was doing this.
4. The washing. As I washed my eyelashes (the purpose of the pre-immersion cleansing is to remove all "barriers" to the living waters of the mikveh, so you wash carefully all your crevices -- like blowing your nose and cleaning your navel -- and you wash the parts you might not normally wash, like eyelashes, as well as comb out all snarls and tangles in your hair so the water can fully reach every part of you.)...I thought of how unusual this was, and how much more special it made it, and different from other shower/washing/hygiene experiences.
5. The privacy. Once I was prepared for entry into the mikveh, the mikveh lady was so careful to ensure my privacy. She is required to "guard" my immersions and to help make sure I've gotten the stray hairs from my skin, but she takes such care to be modest and private about the experience. She takes the towel and holds it up in front of her face until I'm fully immersed in the water.
6. The water...ah, the water. It's warm and wonderful, embracing and uplifting. As I stepped into the middle of the small pool, I realized how deep it actually is -- just about my height! The water didn't weight me down, though, in fact, it buoyed me up, encouraging me to float. When I was prepared, I took my first immersion, deep under the water, spreading my fingers and toes to get water into every nook and cranny of my being...these living waters holding me up and filling me up with their powers of personal purification.
7. The second immersion...this is the one where the mikveh lady takes a step outside the room following the immersion to offer the dipper a few moments of personal prayer or meditation. It is a mitzvah to ask for something for yourself, and as I floated in the water, feeling how safe and warm and comfortable I was, I was reminded of the title of a book by Rabbi David Wolpe - "Floating Takes Faith" -- and I knew that to be there in that moment, I was truly renewing my own faith.
8. The third immersion. To say shehecheyanu, the blessing for a first time, it was as though I were new again, reborn so to speak. If you think about it, the last time we were so surrounded by water like this was in the womb...this is a re-creation of that living water, a chance to be spiritually re-born for this new year.
9. The exit. As I stood in front of the mikveh lady, with my back to her, she wrapped the towel around me. She is a very traditional lady, and she avoids personal touch throughout the whole process. But as she wrapped the towel around my shoulders, she gave my shoulders a little squeeze. It felt like a whole hug, as though she were giving me her most heartfelt wishes and prayers. I really believe that she feels that what she does is truly one of the most precious jobs in the world -- and she acts like it. This squeeze was, I feel, her way of telling me that. And I am grateful.
10. Getting dressed. I put on all my clothes, my jewelry, my contact lenses...and then I examined myself in the mirror. Am I different now? Somehow more pure and more ready for the holidays? I decided the answer is yes. I did look different. I looked relaxed and happy and ready to face the holidays with a whole heart.
11. The drive home. To know that I was going back out into a world unchanged, but I, I was different somehow. I felt more calm, more prepared. With Rosh HaShanah only one week away, I could face the moment with far more ease than I had felt all day long. I felt refreshed, washed clean.
12. The work. I'm not done with the work of teshuvah, repentance, just because I washed clean in the mikveh. Jewish life doesn't work that way! I still have the obligation to ask forgiveness and work on my own spiritual and personal faults and shortcomings. But somehow I feel that it will be made easier or more do-able for me after this visit to the mikveh.
13. The blogging. I was so excited for the opportunity to share this experience with those who read this blog as well as my other one,, so I could share a different and new way of welcoming the Jewish New Year. As a rabbi, my preparations are often different than other Jews. This was a great moment for me to have a personal opportunity to expand my own spiritual practice.

See more Thursday Thirteen posts here...
Crossposted on

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Kosher Bacon? Works for Me!

So...this was not the original Works-For-Me-Wednesday post that I was going to use, but it works for me:-) to follow the "theme" set forth for this week's blog carnival.

What brand works for me? I actually had to think long and hard about this because we're really not very brand-loyal in our house. The first thing I thought of was Costco, which isn't exactly a brand, but they do have their own house-brand which we buy a lot of...but then I thought of this one:

Yes...the brand that Works for Me is Morningstar Farms....maker of "fake" stuff -- chik'n nuggets, chik'n patties, sausage links, veggie burgers, corn dogs, and even...bacon. Yep, we eat the stuff like it's going out of style. Dominick's had a sale yesterday, I stocked up. This pic is of my upstairs freezer (I must admit I straightened up before shooting this picture). Downstairs....yep, there's more.

So it brings me to an interesting question/dilemma that plagues me and, perhaps more annoyingly, my husband. Does it "count" to be a vegetarian (for primarily reasons of keeping kosher) if we eat these "meat substitutes"? If I would never in a million trillion years eat a piece of real bacon (it's meat, but more importantly, it's not even remotely kosher), why would I eat this (kosher) substitute? And, in doing so, am I giving off the wrong impression that I might be eating something treyf (not kosher)? In Jewish custom, this is known as morit ayin, giving off a bad eye (loose translation) -- as in, someone could see me eating this "bac'n" stuff and think that it's "okay" to eat because I am an "authority figure" in Jewish life. But if I only eat in the privacy of my own home?

It really bothers my husband that I am a fan of the meat substitutes. I don't even really like most of these foods in their "real" form (some I've never even eaten) but here in the Morningstar Farms varieties...well, they work for me.

What do you think????

See more Works for Me Wednesday here at Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Rushing around to get everything done, I know that I am quite a picture as I march into Target, the baby in the sling, the toddler on my hip. We zoom around the store, singing songs and pointing out interesting things in the store -- toys, markers, shirts, diapers -- my almost-2-year-old repeating the words as I say them to him. The baby reaches for her brother and I gently move her hand away. The store is our playground this morning.

One day a week I am with these two. The other six days (except in the summer), I work outside the home. My job is wonderful, fulfilling, and thankfully, flexible. That doesn't mean it's not a lot of hours. So this one day, I treasure with them.

As we leave Target, the baby is almost instantly asleep, worn out from seeing the world from my hip. The bigger one is sleeping within 5 minutes. My first instinct is to wake him, jerk him out of that netherworld of dozing, so as to earn for myself a longer afternoon nap. My next is to watch him in the rearview mirror, loving his beautiful baby look as he sleeps. I turn the car and drive towards Starbucks instead of home. I order my coffee (iced, hazelnut syrup, splash of milk...the poor mama's latte) and drive slowly home. I park in front of the house and sit, breathing deeply, drinking coffee, listening to the soft sleeping noises of my two little ones... debating to take them inside, let them nap...and then the baby wakes up, slowly, quietly, and looks around. Her brother continues his beautiful sleep...and then it's over. He wakes up, and we move on with our day. My quiet moments are shattered but now we're moving...doing...being.

Booty (pirate), bubbles, and the bike...followed by a little bit of Elmo's World as we cool off from the heat outside. I sit on the floor and they battle over my legs, she is trying to crawl over them, he wants her spot. There's enough room for both, I try to say, but he will have none of it. I squeeze little toes and knees and fingers and tushies as they wrestle and writhe around the living room floor.

I am very body belongs to them. They use me as a jungle gym, horsey, pillow, snack. Even when I'm at work, my thoughts are with them. Priorities? It doesn't even begin to describe it.

This post was written as part of MamaBloggas September Group Writing Project.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Moving Out of the Shadows - BSM

This is my favorite shot from this week (there were a lot, actually!) and I can't believe that because it's Labor Day, I almost didn't even realize that it's Monday...and I almost missed Best Shot Monday. So here I am, better late than never.
I love this picture not for its technical merits or even its beauty, but for what it signifies for me. As my son walked away from me on the playground on the first day of school, I shot this picture of him...and at first, I tried to get my shadow out of it. Until I realized that my shadow is exactly what he's walking out of.

Over the last few weeks, there have been a lot of comments on my blog by new visitors (hi there! thanks for coming!) asking questions or wanting to know more about my job as a rabbi and what that means. I can't tell you all about it in one blog post but I plan to continue to write about my life and perhaps more about being a rabbi (since it seems to be interesting -- and btw, I apologize to those who commented on my Thursday Thirteen last week -- I have been under the weather and couldn't respond!)...

Which is all a long way of explaining my shadow.... up until now, my son has always been in Jewish preschools/daycares. I have always been somebody -- I'm not just a mommy, but I'm also the mommy who is a rabbi. People ask for my advice or invite me to come in and speak. They have a sense that I'm involved on a higher level in the community (and in a sense, I am).
In public school, which my son started last week, I am not really anybody more than a mommy. Of course, the school is wonderful and I'm not implying that they are treating me or my son in any way badly. But for now, he is on his own. He doesn't have my shadow to trail around after him as "my mom is the rabbi." He has to leave my shadow behind. I cannot completely control his environment any longer.
And so this picture...which as I took, I knew, would be this post,
and as I took this picture, I knew it was true.

My little baby is growing up, moving out of my shadow.

May he forge his own path, and may it lead him to a life of great fulfillment.

See more Best Shot Monday here.
(ooh, and see my BSM button over on the right!)

Sunday, September 2, 2007