Friday, December 30, 2005

Some Chanukah Thoughts

I really love Chanukah! There are lots of reasons, many very personal, but right now I am thinking about the whole concept of new beginnings and rededication. The ideas of teshuvah (repentance) and returning home. The story of Chanukah, the threat of assimilation and the fight for religious freedom. The small army of Maccabees defeating the great Antiochus' army. The disaster that the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple)was in, being desecrated with idolatry. The cleaning up afterwards, and of course the miracle of oil, talk about something from nothing! I have been reading some of Rebbe Nachman's writings and I think this has really fueled these ideas. Basically it is never too late to begin again! No matter what a mess our own lives may be in, no matter where we have slacked off, even given in, we can rededicate ourselves to the Most High! Often when we have made such a mess of things we feel like we have nothing to give Hashem. We may feel like we are empty and do not even have the strength to begin again. Barukh Hashem, the miracle of the oil of the menorah teaches us that Hashem can take the tiniest bit of oil, the tiniest bit of what we have, and make it blaze for eight days. There is much more significance to all of this, deeper and loftier, but this is just the simple lesson that I am learning this year. It is amazing to me that we learn what is most needful to us in our specific situation! The depths of torah and the lessons of the chaggim (holidays) are endless! I pray all of you have a very bright and joyous chanukah and that you too learn the lesson that is needful to your neshama (soul)!
Chanukah Sameach!

Sixth Night of Chanukah and Shabbat

Tonight is the sixth night of Chanukah, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh Tevet and parsha Miketz. In other words, it's a big 'un! During the week when we light the chanukiah, we light at twilight about 13 minutes after sunset. But since tonight is shabbat we must light the chanukiah BEFORE we kindle the shabbat lights. Since we light the shabbat candles 18 minutes BEFORE sunset we must be careful to light the chanukiah before this time. Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat) is another story. We light the chanukiah after havdalah at home or before havdalah when we are at the synagogue.

"The debate whether lighting Chanukah candles or reciting Havdalah comes first has been partially resolved. The accepted practice for Shul is to light Chanukah candles first. The question regarding what to do at home has not been resolved (accept for Sefardim who recite Havdalah first). One should consult with his Rav for guidance. One should also consult with parents or family elders to see if there is a specific tradition regarding this issue in his family."

Chanukah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rainy days and Mondays...

Do you remember that song? Well, I can tell you Karen and I totally understand each other and I am not ashamed to tell you that today is one of those days. I am not having a good time of it and this rain is not helping me at all. You know in less ten days my beloved eldest daughter Racheli will be joining her brother in Israel for a six month program. She won't actually be in Jerusalem, she will be in the northern part of Israel in Tzfat. Very holy place, but I suppose all of Israel is. She will studying at a girl's seminary and it is a very good thing. I know this. If it was me I would want to go too! I know this is an INCREDIBLE opportunity for her. I know that this is G-d's will for her as He has provided all the finances, etc., for her. We could never afford to send her or Ya'akov for that matter but their Father can! I know that this is the best for her and that she will grow in her love of Hashem and Torah. I know, I know, I know! What I do not know is how in the world I am going to breathe when she leaves. This just seems so much harder than Ya'akov. And that to me was the WORST! She is my best friend and my right hand. What am I going to do without her here?

Listen, I know I will survive. I know I will breathe. But I tell you, I just don't know how. I know Hashem will give me strength...I am just scared of this change. She is much braver than I. But brave I must be too, for her, for my youngest still at home, and for myself. I know somehow I will get through this, but I need to talk about this. I think some of you must understand how I feel. Support dear ones, support is what I need and I am not ashamed to tell you. It is not like me to reach out. I am a very private person, but this is very painful, and I am trying to keep it together for her sake. I do not want her to see her Imma upset. So here I am. A very blessed mother indeed, but awful sad right now.

Fourth Night of Chanukah

I cannot believe it is already the fourth night! The chanukiah is already half way lit and is beginning to shine ever so brightly! It has so far been such a lovely time. Mostly we are spending it with family sharing our hearts. Of course there is plenty of eating to be done, so I thought I would share a recipe for potato latkes with a Spanish twist that I have made this week with you. Now since I do not actually follow a recipe I am approximating it. But I am sure many of you also cook this way too so you will forgive me. Most Chanukah foods are fried with lots of oil to commemorate the miracle. I know, I know, not at all good for you, but look at this way, it is only once a year.


Potato Latkes

Shred as many potatoes as you think your family will eat. With five adults and three children in our family that night we shred about 20 small ones and they were all GONE!

Add three eggs

1/2 cup matzah meal give or take

Adobo, sprinkled generously! This is a wonderful blend of spices that adds just the perfect zest! There are brands without MSG so look for those. I really like LaFlor (O-U)

I also add some garlic and onions but not too much.

Mix it all together and let it set a few minutes.

I use about half an inch of oil in my iron skillet and let it get good and hot. Please be very careful and make sure the children are out of the kitchen. I use the end of a wooden spoon to test if it is hot enough. I place the end in and if bubbles come up it is time to fry!

I make patties a little smaller than my palm and place them in the fry pan until the edges are golden. Then I flip them and let them cook checking to make sure they do not burn on the other side. They are wonderful just golden brown. My family gobbled them up! I bet yours will too!

The catalogs are coming, the catalogs are coming!

Yippee! They are starting to trickle in! The seed catalogs are coming and that just tickles me so. Just when the winter is starting to kick in and the cold seems so lonely the seed catalogs come in to remind me that winter is just a season that does not last forever and spring and the sunshine will return. I love to just look at them over and over again, quietly sipping my of tea.

I am dreaming already of what I shall plant and how I shall plant it, given my very small part of earth. Today's was from R.H. Shumway and it has several small greenhouses in it. It seems affordable and doable on my patio. I've never ordered from them before so I cannot recommend them, but I will say the catalog is a lovely one and nostalgic looking.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Second Night of Chanukah

The second night of Chanukah was even more wonderful than the first! (Of course that is the whole the light increases so does our joy and many other spiritual aspects but I shall save that for another time) Last night was our Hebrew School's big Chanukah Party and it was such a blast! I could not believe that a large crowd had turned out. I was a bit concerned because Uncle Moishy was in town too, and he is a hard one to compete with. Even so, we were FILLED to capacity and on top of that Fox 29 News was there too! They interviewed one of our beloved Rabbis and our hard working and most beloved Principal. I could not get over the crowd!

After our Rabbi shared a little on the miracles and holiness of the holiday, he made the brachot (blessings) and lit our very large chanukiah. We all sang songs, rejoicing and clapping to the music! It is amazing that something that happened so very long ago still fills us with such joy and gratitude!

The children from our three classes each did a presentation. Kita Aleph sang songs, as did Kita Bet. My class, Kita Gimel, put on a short play about Chanukah and they did wonderfully! :::proud smile::: We had crafts there for the children to do, sand art and a project to make their own chanukiah. There were games and prizes and even a One Man Band! A Rabbi from our community had a Chanukah store set up with all kinds of gifts and educational toys to sell just in case you had extra gelt (Yiddish for money) to spend! And of course there was sufganiyot (Israeli jelly donuts) to over flowing with other snacks and drinks. What a wonderful time we had!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Knitting, knitting everywhere and not a stitch to drop

I enjoy knitting...I really do, but it seems it is all I am doing these days! Feverishly trying to finish gifts for my family. Mind you I am making nothing more complicated than scarves for everyone, and to all of you who are 'real' knitters you may be giggling at my pained efforts right now, but I tell you this is all a labor of love for me. I am really working quite hard. I have finished two scarves for my daughters and still have two more to finish. :::sigh::: I really do enjoy it as I can get quite zen with the whole thing. I watch the needles and listen to them gently click together. It takes real silence to hear them and to hear the rhythm I have created as they move. They move slowly near each other, gently caressing one another, and I try to think loving thoughts as I am creating these scarves. I think of the recipient and how they will enjoy my gift. I think of the blessings I want G-d to give them and of how much I care for them. I also think about how I wish I was a faster knitter and how come I can't knit like the little old ladies on cartoons.

I had to take a break one night and make myself a flannel blouse just to comfort myself in my perceived failure (lack of cartoonish speed) as a knitter. Sewing comes very easy to me and I can whip out a blouse in a couple of hours. In fact I become quite obsessed when I sew. There is no world outside of my patterns, fabrics, and my sewing machine. Total tunnel vision in my happy place behind the sewing machine. I love feeling the flannel and trying to figure out how to shrink the blouse pattern I have to fit me. I loved putting the pieces together and hearing the whir of the machine. I am so one with my machine I can have no physical hindrances between me and it so I have to remove my right clog so I can really feel the peddle. Ah...such bliss! My new flannel blouse comforts me so greatly, I would like to wear it everyday. I don't see why I can't, but I opt not to nonetheless.

So, now I can return to my knitting, knowing that although I am not the fastest knitter I am pretty quick on the draw when it comes to sewing. I think I would prefer to knit with bamboo needles, the aluminum needles I have seem impersonal and are literally cold. But alas aluminum is all I have in the requisite size 10 1/2 needed for the scarves. It's okay though, I can do this and I need the serenity. Besides I am the one creating and giving life to the needles, and I am always up for a challenge.