Wednesday, September 19, 2018

#MomLife: Yom Kippur Edition

Zusha and the Big Fish!
Now that we're well stuffed with the gluten-free lasagna I made, it's time to start shutting things down, bathing everyone, and getting ready to shut down for the most important day on the Jewish calendar. I have to mention that the lasagna was actually made for Shabbat lunch, but our plata didn't turn on, so we had to have challah, lox, and cream cheese instead, so I decided to heat it up for our erev Yom Kippur meal. Why? Well, the traditional pre-Yom Kippur meal includes kreplach, which are little meat-stuffed dumplings. The idea behind them is that the meat is "hidden," and it comes from this verse in Isaiah 1:18:
“Come, let us reach an understanding, —says the LORD. Be your sins like crimson, They can turn snow-white; Be they red as dyed wool, They can become like fleece.”
Meat = red. White = the pasta. Boom! Except that we don't do meat, but the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes were hidden between layers of pasta. It works! IT WORKS!

Anyway. Am I ready? No. Does it matter? No. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. But you know me. I know me. It does matter, but I'm trying really hard to not let it matter.

Yom Kippur is hard. Neither Mr. T nor I fast well, and we've got three small kids who need us to be at our very best all. day. long. So, I'm trying to pull some understanding and forgiveness to myself based on this article on
Let go of expectations for how a “real” Yom Kippur should look like. There are many ways to honor and celebrate Yom Kippur, and each year will be different, depending on the ages and needs of your children, as well as your own physical and emotional capabilities. Intense prayer may be out of the question for you, but you will still be experiencing Yom Kippur to its fullest.
The sages tell us that on Yom Kippur, itzumo shel yom mechaper—the essence of the day atones for us. Regardless of our prayers, meditation or hard work, Yom Kippur itself reveals that part of us that is always connected to G‑d, the part that doesn’t need to do anything or be anything other than what it is. This is our etzem, our essence.
Spending the day caring for your children is no less G‑dly than spending it in the synagogue. Wherever you are, you are at one with G‑d.
So, here I am, pounding Little Secrets and water instead of, well, anything else. My husband is bathing the kids, I put the baby down for bed, and now I'm anticipating what 5779 holds for me and whether I can honestly and truly commit to Daf Yomi while also blogging every day. 

It's all about carving time out, having a schedule, prioritizing. Things I'd like to prioritize better? My husband, my kids, my self-care, my learning, my career growth, my happiness, my health. It's about time that I put everything in perspective and start prioritizing what matters. And the nice thing? I think my job gives me that space. I just have to take advantage of it and stop treating every work assignment like it's the end of the world. 

Anyway, candle lighting is coming soon, and it's time to sip the last of my water and refocus myself for Yom Kippur. To really think about who I am, to celebrate these moments where we are closest to HaShem. 
“For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d" (Leviticus 16:30).
As I plead for forgiveness, I also ask for strength to be inscribed in the book of life in the year to come. 

I'm wishing one and all a g'mar chatimah tovah -- may you be inscribed in the book of life and have a meaningful fast. Catch you on the other side!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Haiku for the Jewish Mom with a Full-Time Job

Twelve hour workday.
Coming in, close to midnight.
I see Yom Kippur.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Ari Fuld, and Living it All on Loan

There is a Midrash on Proverbs 31:10, and it goes like this:
Beruriah was the learned and compassionate wife of Rabbi Meir. While Rabbi Meir was teaching on a Shabbat afternoon, both of his sons died from the plague that was affecting their city. When Rabbi Meir returned home, he asked his wife, “Where are our sons?” She handed him the cup for havdalah and he said the blessing. Again he asked, “Where are our sons?” She brought food for him, and he ate. When he had finished eating, Beruriah said to her husband, “My teacher, I have a question. A while ago, a man came and deposited something precious in my keeping. Now he has come back to claim what he left. Shall I return it to him or not?” Meir responded, “Is not one who holds a deposit required to return it to its owner?” So she took his hand and led him to where their two children lay. He began to weep, crying “My sons, my sons.” She comforted him, “The Lord gave, the Lord took. Y’hei sh’mei rabah mevorach, May the Name of the Lord be blessed…”
I bookmarked the discussion of this particular midrash this past Shabbat as I finished up If All the Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan. It felt so powerful to me, the discussion of how all that we have is merely on loan from HaShem. 

Even further is a discussion in the sixth chapter of Berachot over the blessings over foods. At once it attempts to reconcile the fact that "the heavens are the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the earth and its inhabitants" (Psalms 24:1) and that "the heavens belong to God and the earth was given to men" (Psalms 115:16). While later Rabbi Hanina bar Papa says, "All who benefit from this world without first staying blessing are as if they are stealing from the Holy One Blessed Be He" (35b).

The reconciliation for this, Rabbi Levi explains, is that everything in the world belongs to HaShem, but the moment we make a blessing, it's on loan to us. 

This discussion was so powerful to me, so potent because I struggle intensely with making berachot. One of the things that drew me to Judaism was the level of 100-percent consciousness that is required of the Torah-observant Jew. So I marked this page, it made so real the idea that all that we have is on loan from HaShem, we only need make a bracha, a blessing, in order to take pleasure of it, to enjoy it, to truly be able to cherish something -- or someone. 

And then, this morning, I awoke exhausted after going to bed around 1:30 a.m., turned on my phone, and started looking through my news feed. The first thing I saw? A distant friend, someone who helped me greatly when I made aliyah, someone who was a Lion of Zion, someone who would lay his life down for any person who was on the right side of history ... had been murdered, viciously, by a Palestinian terrorist at the very place I used to go to buy groceries or get a coffee many times every week. My immediate reaction was that I had to be mistaken. Ari, Ari who basically spends 24/7 -- or spent -- at that place in Gush Etzion speaking with soldiers and providing them with chizuk and food and other special gifts from his fundraising -- couldn't have been murdered. He was a soldier. He knew that place inside and out. And yet, there he was. There was the video. The video of him being stabbed by a vicious animal -- not a human, not anyone I would remotely call a human -- and then chasing after him, poised, shooting at the savage, and then collapsing backwards. 

There's something about watching a friend, someone you know, someone who you watch regularly from a distance be murdered ... that just crushes every possible understanding and love you have for life. For Israel. 

And then, as the day went on, and I fought between anger and tears and confusion and the question, "Could I ever take children back to that place?" And then I thought about what I'd bookmarked on Shabbat. About how this life is just on loan from HaShem, and we have to be grateful and send out as many blessings as we can every moment of every day to keep these lives and all that are part of them on loan. For it's all we have. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Haikus for a Shabbat Afternoon

Although I have much to write about, especially after finishing If All the Seas Were Ink, I want to keep this short and sweet as I have much to do this evening. Here is my Shabbat in a series of Haikus:

Sleep? I try so hard.
Toss and turn, flip and groan. Sigh.
My mind does not stop.

A quiet morning.
Kids at shul with Mister T.
Head in a book -- peace.

I promise myself
when they return I will breathe
and stay calm, happy.

The plata? Not on.
Looks like lasagna will wait.
Lox, cream cheese it is.

The whirlwind arrives,
overwhelming my senses.
I embrace crazy.

Everyone naps now.
Fast, I put head to pillow.
A cry -- poor timing.

Finishing a book
feels like fresh, warm laundry
on my skin at last.

The sky turns black-blue.
The flame flickers bright before
spices are inhaled.

Shavua tov, you.
You who dreams of eternal
shabbat and shalom.

And that, friends, is Shabbat in Haikus with Chaviva. Shavua tov!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Parashat Vayelech is Coming ... and My Daughter is Eating Soap!

Oh how I love these two crazy blond monkeys. 

I'm two days into my self-care regimen of writing every day, and as Shabbat approaches I'm feeling stressed. This is the opposite of self-care, right? Self-care is supposed to be relaxing, rejuvenating, refreshing ... calming?

Instead, I'm sitting in the bathroom on a tiny Target clearance chair from last season trying to give my daughter a bath. I go to quickly wash her hair and body using one of those pouf things and she, my 2 year old wild child, dips her finger in the soap and takes a big lick.

"No! That's soap! We don't eat soap!"

I've taken a brief moment to recognize that I say "we" like the royal "we" and every time I do I think, "Good lord I'm one of those parents." But it always just comes out. "We don't do this, we don't do that." Why is that? Maybe another time.

"But mommy, it's yummy! Yummy soap!"

She didn't even cringe. She didn't make a face. She enjoyed the soap. She asks for more, and I have to remind her, "Don't eat it!"

I had really wanted to sit down and read this week's parashah, Vayelech, and try to do some learning, but like all well-laid plans, that one fell apart before 10 a.m. In the time that I probably could have sat down and turned everything off and read the portion and tried to glean something meaningful and relevant, I was running to the dry cleaners (I forgot to take stuff before Rosh HaShanah and felt like a jerk) and to the store to pick up a few loaves of sourdough for Shabbat.

And now we're on the couch. T is watching Daniel Tiger and I'm trying to suss out something from the parashah. Here we have Devarim 31:16-18:
And they will forsake Me and violate My covenant which I made with them.
And My fury will rage against them on that day, and I will abandon them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will befall them, and they will say on that day, 'Is it not because our God is no longer among us, that these evils have befallen us?'
And I will hide My face on that day, because of all the evil they have committed, when they turned to other gods.
The thing is, I've been having a hard time connecting lately. To the universe, to HaShem, to my family, to my work, to just about everything. Everything feels big, overwhelming, exhausting, like I'm walking in sand. I have these moments of pure clarity where I feel caught up, calm, like I'm finally getting somewhere, but then I just get overwhelmed again. 

I look at these verses like most people probably do: I did something bad, I'm being punished, HaShem is a million miles away and more. You can expand it and look at global warming, disease, murder, poverty, and every other major catastrophe and wonder, "What did we do?"

When I'm having a hard time, I have to remind myself that Judaism, my core set of beliefs, my religion, my internal dialogue, my heart, my soul, are not qualified by an "if, then" statement. If I don't daven (pray) every day then HaShem will make me feel despair and loneliness. If I don't remember to make all of the right brachot (blessings) over food, then HaShem will make me feel empty and sad and unappreciated. It just doesn't work like that. It's a hard reality, but that's the reality. Yes, if you rob a bank, then you'll go to jail. If you smash into someone's car, then you'll have to pay damages and potentially go to jail. But the Torah doesn't work that way, not exactly. 

The truth is, those other gods that we turn to, those other gods that we worship and covet that send HaShem into a fury and disrupt the equilibrium that we all so desire in this totally jacked up world varies from person to person. They're not literal gods. Our gods are money, the newest phone, brand new clothes, the nicest car, the most organic and non-GMO foods we can't afford. Our gods are jealousy and vanity and anger and everything else that we let consume us on a daily basis. That's what sends HaShem into a fury, that's when He hides his face and makes us feel like we've been completely abandoned. 

At least once every few weeks, I have this conversation with Asher:

A: Mommy, how did people destroy HaShem's house when it's in the sky?
Me: Well, at one time it was in Jerusalem. That's where HaShem talked to us and we heard Him. 
A: Oh. And then they destroyed it?
Me: Yup. And now we're waiting to rebuild it. 
A: Well, I already rebuilt it. 
Me: You did?
A: Yeah, I built it, and now I can hear HaShem every day. 

I feel like, if only I had such a clear, beautiful view of the world, I'd feel less overwhelmed, less like I'm constantly being punished for not doing enough of the Jewish stuff because I'm doing so much of the being an adult stuff. It's one of the reasons, I think, that while reading Ilana Kurshan's If All the Seas Were Ink, that I started to have a physical reaction to reading about her experiences in Israel. Living in Israel, learning in Israel, living the dream I once dreamed and lived so vividly. Part of me thinks that if I were living back in Israel, all of the ways that I'm feeling empty and lacking would be filled up again. But then I remember that what I feel here is what I'll feel there, our baggage is internal and it follows us around -- it's not location specific, Chavi!

Anyway, this has been really, really long and wandering. I'm not sure what my ultimate point is, which, as a writer, makes me feel a bit like I suck at my job. But hey, I fulfilled my push to write every day! Day three down. Stay tuned for a post-Shabbat post when maybe I'll have something coherent to say about it being Shabbat Shuvah and how this entire post was perfectly on-theme!

Shabbat shalom and g'mar chatimah tovah -- may you be inscribed in the book of life!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A New Year, A New Plan for Self-Care ... Chaviva Style

My #adulting face.

I'm at the magical stage of adulthood where I have three kids under the age of 5 years old, I'm working full-time, I have zero time or energy for my very patient spouse, and I've got side hustles in the form of pro-bono work for discounts on things like childcare. Whew. Being a modern, millennial mom sucks hardcore, hardcore like my daughter trying desperately to get that sucker off the stick (and failings and me having to rip it out of her mouth, because #chokinghazard, and yes, tears follow).

One of the biggest places in my life that I'm feeling like I'm really failing hasn't changed since, well, forever, and that is self-care. Now, I know what you're thinking: Take your avocado toast and craft coffee in a reusable mug and stick your self-care up your yoga-pantsed tuches. Right? The truth is self-care has always been a "thing." It's just manifest itself in many different ways throughout time, and it's most often been the luxury of classes that had the time and money to actually take some time off from the rigors of running a household or rearing children or running a business to actually engage in proper self-care.

The term first popped up in 1841 and this is the definition that offers:

I like that Merriam-Webster had the sense to point out the need for self-care for busy parents, but that health care bit is interesting and unsuspecting, I think. I'm guessing what the definition means here is that a lot of parents will pursue self-care such as massage or acupuncture or chiropractor or medicinal marijuana or CBD or something else that you should consult with a doctor about but you don't necessarily need to consult with your doctor about. After all, so much about being a parent is physically exhausting, from carrying your kids around to carrying their stuff around to carrying yourself around after carrying all their crap around. By the end of each day of Rosh HaShanah, if I stopped and sat for even a few minutes, standing up was the most painful thing since childbirth.

Anyway, back to the point: self-care. I suck at it. 

I'm not the kind of person to get a manicure or a pedicure or go to a spa or sit down on a weekday to read a book or take a bath or just "chill" or "meditate" or anything that resembles the common approach to self-care. I spend most of my day on other peoples' time tables, so the moment my kids are in bed, the house is clean, and lunches are made, I usually just want to take a shower and go to bed.

The closest thing I get to self-care and "me time" is that ... well ... don't tell anyone ... but ... I watch shows on my iPhone in the shower.

I know, I know. Danger! It's going to fall in the water! It'll get wet! It'll get ruined! And I'm probably jinxing myself by even putting this out into the universe, but it's literally the only time of day I have to catch up on TV.

In fact, I'm writing this, right now, at 8:09 p.m. from a Starbucks near my house because I'm supposed to be working on the side hustle and finishing up an e-book for my full-time gig. Instead, here I am, talking about my new plan for self-care.

You'll be happy to know that my plan includes not watching shows in the shower because I really should just be relaxing and being mindful and focusing on shaving and not having to listen to screaming children (although, let's be honest, seven times out of ten halfway through the shower someone is screaming and I have to cut 'er short).

My plan for 5779, this brand new Jewish year, is to blog every. single. day.  Hold me to it. Keep me accountable. Is anyone even out there still reading this? I don't care! I mean, I do care, but that's not the point. 

And yes, I know: I'm writing this post at night and it's going to post tomorrow because I already wrote for today, but my goal is to have a piece of content on this blog every single day for the entirety of 5779 because this blog, this place, this space, was for so long the air in my lungs. I couldn't breathe without putting fingers to keyboard, the virtual pen to paper. And I miss it, I miss it something fierce.

All those months ago when I got my amazing copywriting gig, my dream was that it would bring me back to writing more regularly here. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. Because I'm an adult with responsibilities to everyone around me.

The side effect of postpartum hormones + parenting + a full-time job + not having the space to be the kind of wife and mother I'd like to be + everything else swimming around my head = a Chaviva that is tired, exhausted, strained, stressed, unhappy, overwhelmed, and full of feelings of failure and the inability to get ahead and get it right.

So, basically, setting a goal and attempting to prioritize self-care in the form of writing is my attempt to find my happy. Over the past year, if there is one thing our family has learned, it's that if I'm happy, then Mr. T is happy, then everyone is happy.

I also started reading Ilana Kurshan's If All the Seas Were Ink, and I'm debating starting Daf Yomi, but I'm thinking that might be too many commitments for one year. I started reading the book last Shabbat, and something really bizarre (amazing? brilliant? unexpected?) happened to me both physically and emotionally while I was reading it. I felt a longing for Israel I haven't felt in years and also felt connected to something big, something vast. But that's for another blog post. Maybe tomorrow.

Stay tuned, and please, if anyone out there is still reading this, keep me accountable, mmkay?

Recipe: Pumpkin-Pomegranate Muffins (Gluten Free)

I attempted to be crafty. It kind of worked.
Although Rosh HaShanah is now behind us, I figure it's never too late to share a delicious recipe featuring two of the simanim or symbols for the holiday that we say a special yehi ratzon over. The origin for this practice comes from the Talmud Masechet Kritut (6a)!
"Abaye said: ‘Now that you have said that an omen is a significant thing, [a person] should always be accustomedto seeing / to eating at the beginning of the year (on Rosh HaShanah) a gourd, green beans, leek, beets and dates'." 
And thus, the Rosh HaShanah "seder." The yehi ratzon prayers translate as "“May it be your will, HaShem our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers…” followed by each of the different simanim that we eat during Rosh HaShanah, which include:

  • Apples dipped in honey, that we be renewed for a good and sweet new year
  • Leeks, that our enemies be decimated
  • Carrots, that our merits increase
  • Beets, that our adversaries be removed
  • Dates, that our enemies be consumed
  • Gourd (pumpkin), that the decree of our sentance be torn up and may our merits be proclaimed before you
  • Pomegranate (seeds), that our merits increase like (the seeds of) a pomegranate
  • Fish, that we be fruitful and multiply like fish
  • Fish head, that we be as the head and not as the tail.
So, this year, wanting to be as streamlined as possible because we try to work the simanim into our meal rather than having an actual "seder" or ceremony like many do (think: the Passover seder, but shorter and tastier), I decided to combine things! 

Our dinner for the first day of Rosh HaShanah included:
  • Pumpkin-Pomegranate Muffins
  • Apples and honey
  • Tzimmes with sweet potatoes, carrots, and dates
  • Roasted beets
  • Salmon loaf
  • Gummy fish "heads"
  • Split pea soup (the leeks were in here)
  • Round sourdough loaf
Second night looked like this:
  • New fruit
  • Apples and honey
  • Pumpkin-Pomegranate Muffins
  • Tzimmes
  • Gummy fish "heads"
  • Split pea soup (leeks)
  • Fish pie (featuring the carrots and the fish)
And now for the recipe! It's gluten free, and the pumpkin made these so incredibly moist I can't even begin to describe to you how light and flavorful they were. I even gave one to a neighbor who raved about the fact that, come on, "They don't even taste gluten free!"

This recipe makes about 15 muffins, which, I know, is weird. Basically I made a dozen regular-sized muffins + two large muffins, but just know that you can double this to make 30 regular-sized muffins or just use the recipe as is for roughly 15. 

  • 1.5 cups Cup4Cup-brand gluten-free flour
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1.25 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 can (7.5 ounces) pure canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup frozen pomegranate seeds 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare your muffin pan. I prefer silicone because it doesn't require greasing and these muffins slide out with ease.
  2. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt in large bowl. 
  3. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil, and orange juice in large stand mixer and beat until just blended. 
  4. Add flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until just moistened. 
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups until each is 3/4 full. Note: You'll have some extra, so save it for a second round or fill larger muffin tins for a few extra. 
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Note: It took me a few additional minutes, but I'm at elevation, so just be conscious and set your timer for 25 minutes and keep checking back in. 
I wouldn't keep these on the counter for too long, but they are DELICIOUS straight out of the fridge. They also freeze really well. As a variation, you could bake this in a loaf pan for a great pumpkin-pomegranate bread, too. 

Do you do the traditional Rosh HaShanah "seder"? Or do you work the simanim into your meal? How do you combine the different foods to streamline your meal?