Sunday, April 19, 2015

Getting Ready for Shavuot Through Ruth

I've been seriously slacking when it comes to reading lately, mostly because when Ash sleeps on Shabbat (my exclusive reading time), I tend to nap, too. It's lonely in a quiet house, so sleeping passes the time. That being said, I've both purchased and received gobs of books over the past several months, received for review, purchased for pleasure (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk and Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties Second Edition).

For review, I've received quite a few stellar picks, among them two selections from the Maggid Studies in Tanakh on the books of Joshua and Ruth. Although I haven't delved deeply and passionately into the two of them yet, I have poked around Ruth: From Alienation to Monarchy by Yael Ziegler. I swear, every time I open the book the page I land on is full of poignant, relevant goodies. These books are very much written in an academic style, and I imagine had I stayed in the world of Judaic Studies, this is the kind of book I would have written someday about Rachav (can't wait to get deeply involved in the Joshua book for this very reason). 

A few weeks back, during Passover, I happened upon a discussion of Ruth -- a convert, perhaps the convert of Judaism -- being a devukah, which the author describes as the "act of cleaving to another ... the very opposite of selfishness." It essentially is the perfect type of relationship, it is the relationship that Ruth shares with Naomi, with Boaz, and it is how the relationship of husband and wife is meant to be, just as it is with man and HaShem. It got me thinking about my own relationships, with HaShem and with my own husband. Am I, like Ruth, a devukah? Or am I relying too much on myself? Not out of selfishness, but out of the stubborn belief that I can do and be it all. Nearly seven months have passed and I have maintained a home, raised a child, and survived the ups and downs and injuries and pains -- on my own. Yes, I've had the support of family, friends, and my husband, but by and large, I've powered through this all upon my own shoulders. That, friends, is not being a devukah

Then, just yesterday over Shabbat, I opened up to a section about Boaz referring to Ruth as an eishet chayil ("a woman of valor"). I had zero clue where this song/poem that Jews the world over recite every Friday evening sings of the only woman in the entire Tanakh to be accorded such a title. Mr. T recently spent hours making me a paper cut of this very song/poem and sent it for our anniversary in February, a special, painstakingly created gift of something that holds a bit of a tenuous history with me. I've gone nearly seven months without hearing the words sung by my husband, and it breaks my heart every Friday night to skip over it, but who wants to sing a song about a woman of valor to herself? 

To know that Ruth, a convert like me, is a face and name behind eishet chayil, is incredibly powerful. To know that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Jews around the world sing a song merited by Ruth fills me with a sense of pride -- and responsibility. 

These lessons and thoughts are hyper relevant right now. Why? Ruth is read during Shavuot, which is the holiday that is coming up after the 49 days of the omer that we're in the midst of counting right now. These weeks leading from Passover to Shavuot are intense, meaningful, and meant as preparation for the giving of the Torah. 

I can't wait to read more in this intensely fascinating and well-written book. It's thoughtful, pulling from both academic and midrashic texts. It's perfectly balanced and, without a doubt, the perfect addition to my library!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Time to Craft Your Shlissel Challah!

A Beautiful Shlissel Challah by Mandy D.

I love sharing little-known customs in Judaism, even those that I don't necessarily practice myself. I'll admit that if Mr. T were around I'd probably bake up a delicious, beautiful shlissel challah this Shabbat, but since it's just the little one and I and it's snowing in Denver, chances are I'll use my molds for some easy gluten-free challah

Just what is shlissel challah

For the first Shabbat after Passover, it's common in some circles to bake a challah either in the shape of a key or with an actual key baked inside -- shissel being Yiddish for "key." The custom is considered a good omen for livelihood, or parnassa!

I've got a whole article on it over on's Judaism page. Check out the origins, possible ties to Christianity, and recipes, too. 

Take me to the shlissel challah!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

An Unfortunate Fall and Passover Through the Years

We're in the midst of Passover and I'd like to wish you all a moadim l'simcha! It's been an interesting week, but really, seriously, when isn't it interesting?

In a nutshell, I was walking to a Passover seder on Friday night and while simply walking down the sidewalk pushing the buggy something happened and I broke my foot (fifth metatarsal fracture/Jones fracture). Yay!

There was a dramatic moment where Asher's stroller started rolling into oncoming traffic, which is why I don't remember what happened during the fall, but let's just say I didn't think I'd broken anything. I thought, maybe I sprained my ankle or pulled something. I spent the first two days of Passover hobbling around in the homes of two amazing friends, with them carrying Ash up and down stairs yelling at me to stop getting up. I can't help it. I'm not a sit-down-and-rest kind of person. I'm super freaking woman!

So for now, after two visits to two different ERs, I'm in a boot. An irritating boot that I'm sleeping in (doctor's advice). I have an orthopedic appointment on Monday, and that's when I'll find out whether I'm sticking to the boot (please G-d) or going the cast route (please G-d no I can't be that immobile for six weeks without another parent or family around).

In other news, I was reflecting on so many Passovers over the years, trying to plot where I was and what I was up to. It's easy for me to look back on the blog, of course, as I've documented most of them since my Reform conversion back in April 2006. Let's take a gander:

  • 2004-2005 (Nebraska): Evidently I went to a few seders during this time. I really don't remember with whom or where, however. 
  • 2006 (Nebraska): I actually hadn't had my conversion yet when Passover rolled around. I spent the first night seder with the other handful of Jews at UNL in Seaton Hall for a very heavily pre-packaged seder experience (jellied gefilte, folks). For second night, I distinctly remember going up to Omaha to a very large synagogue (was it Conservative? Reform?) for a big seder. I don't remember much about the seder itself, but I do remember feeling like it was something I'd been doing for years. 
  • 2007 (Chicago): It was probably my worst Passover, spent at a mega (Reform) shul community sederin Lakeview. Worst.
  • 2008 (Chicago): A lot changed between 2007 and 2008. I had really started assessing where I was Jewishly, and it led me to an Orthodox synagogue just weeks before Passover. With the flip of a switch, I was set for a seder thanks to the rabbi, and it was probably one of the best, most memorable seders I've ever had. I'm guessing it's because it was the first 'real' seder experience I'd ever had. This was around the time that I was launched face first into the world of Orthodox Judaism and my current home religiously.
  • 2009 (Florida): Yes, I got the obligatory "go away for Passover" experience when I schlepped to Florida for the first days of the holiday. Honestly, I look back on my Florida Passover adventures with a lot of fondness and happiness (my former in-laws are some very special people). This year we weren't super observant and made our way out to a Dunkin Donuts to get some chol ha'moed (middle days) coffee and visit the beach. It was pretty amazing. 
  • 2010 (Florida): We were back in Florida. I didn't write about it, but I distinctly remember hanging out by the pool watching Jewish people enjoy the grilled burgers on ... hamburger buns! Happy Passover?
  • 2011 (Monsey, NY): Funny story ... I totally forgot my ex and I were in Monsey, NY, for the seders. How did I forget that? We were with some pretty awesome cousins, and Monsey is always a trip. 
  • 2012 (Denver): I'll never forget this Passover because it involved a turning point in my life that was pretty terrible when I was in the midst of it. I came out of this Passover with some big decisions, major betrayals, and a new perspective on needing to change my trajectory. The result? Applying for aliyah just a few months later. 
  • 2013 (Edgware, England): One of my most favorite Passover experiences, I was in England just a short time after getting hitched to Mr. T. We traveled around London, me getting to do my touristy things, while schlepping cheese and matzah along the way. We had family sederim and rested in the comfort of each other's company. It was pretty amazing.
  • 2014 (Neve Daniel, Israel): This was a bittersweet Passover because our entire apartment was packed up and on its way to the U.S. We had an amazing seder with our upstairs neighbors with a fairly newborn Asher who would. not. fall. asleep. I learned my lesson from that seder experience by putting him to bed before the seders this year, of course. 
These are Passover nachos! Just toss some (GF) matzah with olive oil
and salt, bake at 400 F for 5-10 minutes. Top as you see fit. Nosh!
And this year? Well, you've already heard a bit about this year. Two seders at the homes of two friends around the corner from each other here in Denver. The first night, I used the Rabbi Sacks haggadah, because that's what Mr. T was using in the U.K. and it gave me a minor connection to my husband. It went late, but it was fun and cozy. The second night, it was a raucous and exciting seder chock full of laughs, delicious food, and a fun drinking game. Both nights Asher was tucked away in a pack 'n' play nice and early and I got to feel like an adult for a few hours. 

Mr. T was busy working a Passover hotel by the shore in England, and he's heading off to Israel on Monday to prep for his immigration interview and take care of some last-minute copies and things he needs for the interview. I'm hoping that, considering my current circumstances with the foot and all, maybe they can bump the meeting a little sooner. Your prayers are always welcomed!

Back to entertaining the little one. It's been an interesting week with him off of daycare and me with a broken foot :) All I can say is thank G-d for Instacart