Monday, August 21, 2006

On Being an Aunt

Y'know, I just love being an aunt...or in my case a Tity. It is especially easy when I have such incredible nieces and nephews. This summer I have had the pleasure of seeing each and everyone of them! I had my oldest nephew here for most of the summer. He went home last week and I miss him terribly. The youngest nephew is here once a month courtesy of my very kind and accommodating little sister.The rest I have either visited or they have come to me. Pretty kewl, huh? I really hope that we always stay close. I have so little extended family that I am close to, Thank G-d for my brother and sisters. I really hope that this generation is different. I hope my children's cousins are all close. I hope that my nieces and nephews and I stay close to each other. Heck, I hope to see lots of family reunions someday when my sibs and I are all old and grey. G-d willing, this will happen. But I know it will not happen on it's own and the hope will only become a reality if we work at it and make it happen. The roots of our family tree are unfortunately not without it's fair share of damage. They are not so strong and not so deep. But I have seen a nearly dead tree come back to life with continous watering and feeding. It can happen. We can be the beginning of a strong and new branch on the family tree. G-d willing, as each new addition joins our family, our tree will only grow stronger and stronger. L'chaim family!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Two educational methods I am very interested in

Montessori and the Prepared Environment

Italian physician Maria Montessori’s work emphasized the idea of the prepared environment: Provide the proper surroundings and tools, so that children can develop their full potential. Montessori materials are carefully selected, designed to help children learn to function in their cultures and to become independent and competent. Emphasis is on beauty and quality, and that which confuses or clutters is avoided: Manipulative are made of wood rather than plastic tools are simple and functional, and television and computers are discouraged.

Charlotte Mason: Guiding Natural Curiosity

Charlotte Mason was a nineteenth-century educator advocated informal learning during the child’s early year contrast with the Prussian system of regimented learning then in vogue. She recommended nature study to develop both observational skill and an appreciation for the beauty of creation and extended that approach to teaching history geography through travel and study of the environment rather than as collections of data to master. She felt children learn best when instruction takes into account their individual abilities and temperaments, but she emphasized the importance of developing good habits to govern one’s temperament and laying a solid foundation of good moral values.

Oh, Jolly playmate! Come out and play with me!

And bring your 'puter please!

So, I decided to allow my inner child out last night and we colored on the computer. Not really my fave thing, but I did not feel like looking for my crayons...I think I was just too pooped out to try. Anyway, this is what I came up with as a lil' reminder for my family and me. I have it as a screensaver, it's kinda cute if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


This is an article that could have been written by me, she expresses my feeling so exactly.


By: Chana Weisberg

It’s 3:49AM.

I am awake. I cannot sleep. My mind is racing. My heart is bursting. It bursts not from sorrow or pain, but from a fullness of joy, and a tinge of sadness at parting.

Tomorrow, you both leave.

In the last few weeks, you’ve both come back into my life. It’s not like you ever really left. You were always so close to my heart. You always will be. But the physical distance was between us.

I didn’t see you. I wasn’t a part of the many moments of your life. I couldn’t watch you rising in the morning or attend to the numerous activities of your day. We spoke often, but not often enough.

You are independent, far away, learning and growing, developing a life of your own. So far apart from me.

But the last few weeks, you were home. I’ve watched you both carefully. You have both grown as such different individuals, just like you always were, and I celebrate your uniqueness.

My heart is so full. So full that it aches.

One day, you will understand it. But not for a little while. Not until you, too, become a parent.

My nineteen year old daughter.

We picked you up from the airport, after an international flight on your break from seminary. I watched you walk with such a confidence, a surety in the direction you want to lead your life. You exude a calmness, an optimism in the dreams of your tomorrow.

Where has the young, hesitant little girl disappeared—the one who timidly clung to my arm and cautiously hid behind my gathered skirt?

She has become a woman. A woman full of sensitivity, full of devotion to her Creator, full of knowledge and idealism that is ready to be implemented in practice.

You’ve learned so much. You quote sources at the tip of your tongue. You speak, write and teach so eloquently and effortlessly, with fervor and true conviction. Your diligent years of studies have paid off.

Where is the little girl who used to sit next to me asking for help with her studies? Where is the shy girl who was loathe of strangers? She has grown into a woman, who now knows more than me.

I watch you learn and pray. With such devotion. Such earnestness. And as I watch you, I too pray. I ask that all the dreams of your heart, soul and mind be fulfilled. You want such good. You carry such absolute, unbridled power.

Where has the little girl gone, the little girl who I made practice her reading so painstakingly? You have developed into a woman, who connects with her Creator more intensely than me.

You insist on helping with the cleaning, cooking and tending to your younger siblings. You stay up late at night, much past my own bedtime. When my eye lids are drooping from fatigue, you continue working, accomplishing, achieving and doing. Your sparkling eyes communicate with me even more effectively than words could ever share.

Where has the little girl gone who I used to snuggle with at night and chase away frightening nightmares or daunting fears?

You have grown into a woman, ready to confront the challenges of life, strong and optimistic. You stand sure, full of power, without any cynicism, prepared to accomplish your ideals.

You stand beautiful and tall. You are not physically tall in your small petite frame, but tall in your worldview, and in the sure direction of fulfilling the dreams of your life.

My beautiful daughter, where have all the years flown?

My seventeen year old son.

I stand next to you. I no longer look down or bend down to search into your eyes. Now, I must crane my neck upwards.

I ask you to reach me a cup from the top shelf of the kitchen. You do so with ease. I used to gently toss you high into the sky as you giggled so loudly. Now you stand so much taller than me.

Where has the little boy gone who I cuddled in my arms? Where has the little boy gone who needed my help in building his block towers, or fixing his small racing cars? You have grown into a tall, upright young man.

I ask you to open up tightly closed jars—jars that are too firm for my grip, but not too tough for yours. Your grip is strong, just like your views and your opinions.

Your jaw is set sharp, just like your thoughts and mind. Your beard is growing. Where did those soft, round cheeks disappear, the ones that got a tender kiss every night? Where did the quivering chin vanish, the one that came to me to make things better, after getting a skinned knee?

You speak eloquently. You quote vast sources of knowledge. You tread the deep waters of Talmud with ease. Your mind is rational, it jumps from one point to the next, erecting a tall tower of strong theoretical foundations. Sometimes you lose me as your confidently expound a Chassidic discourse or a lengthy Talmudic exposition. But you patiently back track, step by step, as you notice the bewilderment in my eyes.

And my mind wanders back to a different time. A time when I sat like this with you, at our kitchen table, helping you solve your homework problems. Then the confusion in the eyes was yours and the confident explaining was mine.

Where has that little curious boy gone? He has grown into a knowledgeable young man, prepared to conquer even far more vast territories of knowledge.

And so I sit here on the sofa at 4:47AM, unable to sleep. This same sofa that I so often dozed on watching you both play.

Tomorrow, dear son and daughter, you both leave again. Back to your yeshiva. Back to your seminary.

And as I wave goodbye to you both, a part of my heart will break off and go with you, on your respective journeys.

My hearts is so full, so full that it feels like it will break. It swells with pride in both of you. In how you have each grown and matured and continue to grow and develop into a young man and woman.

I thank my Creator for allowing me to care for you and for giving me such joy in watching you grow up and overshadow me.

And I thank you both for reminding me with the swift passage of each of your years, how very precious these moments of life are and just how quickly a little boy and a little girl disappear to become all grown up.

- Chana Weisberg is the author of Divine Whispers: Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and three other books. Weisberg is a noted educator and columnist and lectures worldwide on issues relating to women, faith, relationships and the Jewish soul.

To view this article on the Web, or to post a comment, please click here:

And Now for Some GOOD NEWS!

Massive Western Aliyah This Week, Despite Month of War
13:34 Aug 09, '06 / 15 Av 5766
by Ezra HaLevi

Despite the two-front war, the thousands of missiles, and the evacuation of northern communities, more than 800 North American and British Jews are moving to Israel this week.

After a month of war, and even though they have had plenty of time to postpone or reschedule their Aliyah (immigration to Israel), four planeloads of Jews are scheduled to arrive in Ben Gurion airport in the coming week – the first on Thursday.

On Wednesday, August 16th – the one year anniversary of the forced eviction of the Jews of Gaza – three simultaneous flights will arrive. Embodying the Jewish prayer that the nation be gathered “from the four corners of the Earth,” the planes will depart from Canada, America and England – all arriving simultaneously in the Holy Land.

The August 16, 2006 influx will constitute the largest number of Jews in history making Aliyah to Israel from Western countries in a single day.

Overall this summer, 3,000 North American and British Jews are moving to Israel on specially chartered flights organized by the Nefesh b'Nefesh Aliyah assistance organization, in close cooperation with the Jewish Agency.

Greeting the arrivals Thursday will be Minister of Public Security and former Shabak Chief Avi Dichter (Kadima) and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Ze'ev Boim (Kadima). Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu greeted the last group of arrivals last month.

Visit the Nefesh b'Nefesh web site to learn about immigrating to Israel or sign up to greet the new immigrants upon their arrival.

Just a pinch of garden envy

Today I was out and saw the loveliest garden. It called to me in such a way that I had to come home and weed a bit. I have not had time or finances to make the garden as nice I would have liked to this year. It saddens me to have to admit this. Since I do not have land as such, my small bit of earth has been a real labor of love the past couple of years. I really enjoy getting in the dirt and planting. The smell of earth can be quite relaxing, a gentle reminder to reconnect. Fortunately I do have a nice amount of lavender growing. I enjoy looking at other folks gardens, they inspire and comfort me. But still, I can't help but wish, just a little, that I could have worked on mine this year. Oh well, maybe I will plant lots of mums this fall.

An Insider's Guide to Food Labels

Few people know that the food coloring listed as cochineal extract comes from female beetles. Food activists want to spread the word

When you dig into a strawberry Yoplait yogurt, take a moment to contemplate where the beautiful pink color comes from. Strawberries? Think again. It comes from crushed bugs. Specifically, from the female cochineal beetles and their eggs. And it's not just yogurt. The bugs are also used to give red coloring to Hershey (HSY ) Good & Plenty candies, Tropicana grapefruit juice, and other common foods.

You won't find "crushed bugs" on the list of ingredients for any of these foods, however. Companies have a bit of latitude in describing exactly what they put in our food. Many larger companies, such as General Mills (GIS ), the manufacturer of Yoplait and Pepsi (PEP ), the maker of Tropicana, identify the dye in their products as either carmine, or cochineal extract. Still, many companies simply list "artificial color" on their ingredients list without giving any details.

Food activists are trying to change disclosure requirements. The Food & Drug Administration has received numerous complaints over the issue and is now in the process of considering a proposal to require color additives like the cochineal extract to be disclosed on the labels of all foods that use them. "Hopefully we'll see something by the end of the year," says Michael Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food advocacy group in Washington, D. C.

ALLERGIC REACTIONS. Jacobson says that consumers want to know what they're eating. Some are allergic to bug extract; others are vegetarians. "The food product should indicate that it comes from insects so that vegetarians at least can avoid the product," he says.

Carmine may be the least of food activists' worries. It is known to cause allergic reactions in just a small percentage of the population. Food producers sometimes add much more dangerous chemical additives to make their products look attractive (see, 3/27/06, "Hershey: A Sweeter Bid").

Indeed, who would think that chicken, eggs, and salmon are often artificially enhanced to look more appetizing to consumers? The plump, juicy chicken sitting on the supermarket shelf is likely to have been fed canthaxanthin, a pigment added to chicken feed to enhance poultry's yellow color and make it look palatable. And egg-laying hens are also given a dye along with their feed, making egg yolks vary in color from light yellow all the way to bright orange.

IN THE PINK. Farmers can have their pick from a color chart that goes from the numbers 1 to 15, coinciding with colors from yellow to red. The yellow color comes from xanthophyll and carotenoids in the feed absorbed through the intestine, metabolized, and deposited in the egg yolk. In an article published last year, R. Scott Beyer, a poultry specialist from the Kansas State University, recommended different levels of xanthophylls, depending on what color of yolk is desired. He says 23 mg of xanthophyll per pound of feed results in a "medium orange" color.

The fresh, farm-raised salmon that shoppers buy also get their orange-red hue from eating the chemicals astaxanthin and canthaxanthin. Wild salmon are pink because they eat shrimp-like creatures called krill. But to achieve the same pink color, farmed salmon need chemicals, which are mixed with their feed. In the past couple of years, the European Union significantly reduced the level of such dyes that can be fed to salmon because of concerns that the dyes, at high levels, can affect people's eyesight.

Two years ago, in the U.S., Seattle law firm Smith & Lowney filed two class actions against grocers Kroger (KR ) and Safeway (SWY ) in Washington and California, contending that they should disclose that their salmon are dyed pink. Both lawsuits got thrown out of court. However, Knoll Lowney, a partner at the law firm, says that the lawsuits raised enough public awareness that many grocers voluntarily use "color added" labels to their salmon.

Still, Lowney says that such dyes are totally unnecessary. "This is a growing problem because the food companies are using more artificial means to enhance the appearance of the product and make it appear like something that it is not," he says. A walk down the grocery aisle for processed food is an eye opener—the bacon and ham get their red tint from sodium ascorbate, an antioxidant and color stabilizer, and the Betty Crocker icing gets its bright white color not from natural cream and egg whites but from titanium dioxide, a mineral that is also used in house paints. Betty Crocker manufacturer General Mills didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

Reprinted from Business Week

Thanks for asking, I am awful tired

My home is certainly bustling I must say. Bustling is a very polite word for what feels to me like a whole lot of chaos! Right before my children came home from Israel, we were given quite unexpectanly a foster son. It was an emergency so what could we do, obviously this was from G-d. He is a dear toddler, B"H, so it sure makes it easier. Our home is filled to what feels like capacity. My own children, a nephew here for the summer, my other baby nephew who comes once a month for a visit, and lots of people who float in and out, not to mention the dog and the cat.

Sometimes I have to tell you, it really gets to me. I feel quite overwhelmed at times. My home has always been a sanctuary for me, a place of refuge. I am feeling a little invaded right now. But what are my issues in the light of what is happening in my real Home? I am not living in a bomb shelter as my friends in Tsfat are. I did not have to leave my home as some of my other friends have had to do, traveling from family to family. So what am I complaining about? All the opportunities for mitzvot (acts of goodness and kindness) that Hashem has set before me? Rough life, huh? My children are, B"H, safe. We are all in one place. Sure things are fact they are downright squeezing the daylights out of me. Too many needs, not enough resources to fill them all. Somedays, I feel so spiritual and so close to G-d, on top of the world that nothing gets to me. Other days, fuhgetaboutit! I feel utterly alone. I know feelings are not facts, but being a very deeply feeling person, they can be pretty over powering. I don't feel like I have a haven, a refuge or a place to run.

I have to laugh now, as I just remembered two things I have learned and been reminded of recently. One was from a teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (it may have been the previous one so forgive me all my beloved Chabad friends) and one from my own Rebbe. The Lubavitcher Rebbe asks what is the City of Refuge nowadays? Our City of Refuge is our Holy Torah. That is where we can run and hide. My own Rebbe tells me, "Never despair! Never lose hope! It's is forbidden to give up! Begin again! All beginnings are hard!"

Oy...did you ever just get so tired though? That is how I am feeling, really tired. Nonetheless, I know G-d is my strength and my stronghold. My Rock. I can hide in this Rock, or stand on it knowing either way I will be sheltered or held up. This is why tehillim (psalms) and our own personal prayer time are so important. They are truly like weapons in your hand, swords and arrows, helping you to fight in the battle. Helping you to win the real war, that we are constantly beign reminded is really a spiritual one.

Oy, Abba, help me to be a good soldier. I am so tired right now. You have given me so very much, too much that I can never begin to thank You for all the blessing and opportunity You have laid before me. But Abba, you know I am so small and I am only a child before you. I feel so overwhelmed, so weak and overpowered by all that is happening in my world and the world around me. I am so utterly ignorant of You Holy Ways, that I cannot even see what is truly before me, what the reality really is. Please help me, Abba. Forgive me where I have failed you. Forgive me where I have given up, throwing my hands in the air, running from the battle field. Forgive me where I have left my post unattended. Forgive me for not being so very careful with the many treasures you have given me. Oy, Abba, I do so love You and want to please You in all my ways. Please, Abba, stengthen me. Please help me to do real teshuva. Draw me so close to You. Help me to do all that I need to do, all that you have set before me to do and help me Abba, to do it with a heart filled with simcha (joy). Abba, help me to not despair, to never give up. Abba, help me today to begin again, knowing all beginnings are hard. Help me to beging today as if I have never begun before. Help me to turn to You and only You, knowing that You alone are ultimately there. Abba, please hold my hand. I need you so much.

Another Tsfat Blog

This one is from the Tsfat Chabad house. Check it out and please help as you can.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Schooltime...

Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the mailers sent overflowin' once again
With notebooks, pencils, pens, and some Play Dough.
It's beginning to look a lot like Schooltime
Books in ev'ry store
But the prettiest sight to see is the student that will be
Learning on your livin' room floor.
Silly words written by Philly Farmgirl

Monday, August 07, 2006

Seen on a billboard off of I-76


I figure all it needs is a smiley face wearing a kippah with a tassle. ;-)

The soul of Tzfat Calls out in Pain

“I sat out on my balcony this evening, and tears moistened my cheeks; I weep for the holy city of Tzfat!” Reb Moshe of Tzfat.

I was once a holy city that thrived with life and the voice of Torah. This was during the time of the holy Arizal and Rabbi Yosef Karo. However, after they passed away, I became alone and destitute. Every one hundred years or so, people somehow think of me again and seek to rebuild this place in its original splendor. History proves an earthquake or hostile takeover will normally take place. My people abandon me, only to rebuild later. Now I sit here, alone once again, with few comforting me.

I understand why everyone left. Life simply became too abnormal; with large metal objects exploding all around me. What hurts most is that people were really starting to care about me again. Torah study could be heard everywhere. Oh, those joyous sounds were intoxicating. How much joy I began to feel! Builders were building, children were playing, and the tourists came to visit once again. When it was Bein Hazmanim (summer and winter vacation), the streets were full of souls admiring my forgotten beauty and holiness. I almost felt as if the holy Ari and his students were back again, pearls of wisdom dropping from their lips. Oh, but having come so far; I am now like a widow without her children.

My dearest children from all over the world: Those of you that live here, or who have visited me, understand my pain. You know the pain of my children who have been forced to leave my protection. Do not abandon them, or me, in our time of need. My greatest fear is that many will not return. Those who once lived here may abandon me because they are just so afraid. If only you knew of all that I, this most holy and sacred place, have to give to you. All you need do is walk along my streets and place your faith in the notion that Hashem will protect us. The air in this place, if only we were pure enough of heart to breathe it in with true fear of Hashem, would prevent anyone from fleeing. If every step were truly dangerous, if every move one of destruction, all would still remain. Their attention would be completely focused on the spirituality that can only be found in these mountains.

Sweet children of the world, if you want a city which will care about you and hold you close, counting your every move, I will be that city for you. In your hour of need, in your sadness, I will hold you close. I will comfort you in my air of tranquility. To those who dream of being here in my presence, basking in my kedusha, I want you to know that I think of you as well. When you think of me, you are here too. To you, I am your precious city. To me, you are my life.

The City of Kabbalah,
The root of the Wind and Air,
The holy city of Tzfat, Eretz Yisrael

Written by:
Reb Moshe of Tzfat,

Feel free to pass this along or post it

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Simple Truth

Please check out Over the Rainbow and her lovely post on "The Cliched Truth".