The Time for Freedom and a Pesach Break

Well, Pesach is in less than a week, and I’d venture to say that even the most diligent procrastinators among us have started at least thinking about it.  Pesach is probably my favorite holiday because of its emphasis on freeing ourselves from the slavery that we sometimes (often?) subject ourselves to.  Also, I like the cleaning.  I need some external motivation to do it, but I love the feeling of satisfaction when my house is clean.

Anyways, back to the freedom idea.  Paralleling the story of our ancestors who went from slavery to freedom in just a short time, we learn that we can also go from a situation of slavery to freedom.  Maybe it’s something like our diet, or the way we interact with our spouse, or our children.  Maybe it’s the way we feel enslaved by our anger, or jealousy, or desire to gossip.

There’s plenty of things to feel chained down by.  But this time of year is uniquely suited to helping us free ourselves from whatever bad habits may be holding us back from being our best selves.  I know, I know, it’s definitely easier said than done to break a bad habit.  But this is the time of year to take one small step toward achieving freedom.  Read a book on the topic, talk to a friend or mentor, sign up for a course, make yourself a chart.  With stickers.  Whatever it takes to make a positive movement toward ridding yourself of that pesky habit, now is the time to start!

Maybe the spring weather also helps get us up and moving around out of the lethargy of winter.  I know I have more energy and drive when the sun is out and I’m not huddling miserably with freezing children running from the house to the car.

I’m going to be off the grid until after Pesach, so I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite posts for the reading pleasure of anyone who happens by here while I’m away from the blog.

On Pesach:

Menu Planning for Pesach!

Crowdsourced Pesach Tips

Let the Pesach Prep Begin!

On Marriage:

Keeping the Peace in My Marriage

Kicking the Habit of Playing the Blame Game

Embracing Imperfection

On Motherhood:

Patience is the New Black, or, Kids in the Kitchen

A Letter to a Mother of Three Small Children

The Truth About Feeding Small Children

On Music:

Does Your Daddy Know You’re Here?

Can A Mommy Foster Her Own Talents?

Putting My Music Degree to Good Use

On Mesorah:

Spiritual Materialism

Don’t Panic, But You’re Representing Your Entire People

Why I’m Indoctrinating my Children (And Why You Are Too)

Have a chag kasher v’sameach!

But That Spouse Looks So Much Better Than Mine!

We’re all familiar with the idea of the grass being greener on the other side.  Someone else’s life is more fabulous, or more exciting, or just simply more desirable.  This definitely happens to marriages.  When I took to Facebook to do some crowd sourcing about spousal behaviors that are easier to compare, I got quite a response!  It confirmed my suspicion of how normal and easy it is to do.  I myself have experienced seeing Facebook statuses about spouses who have done all the dishes/put all the kids to sleep/ended World Hunger, and have experienced that little ping of “hmpf, must be nice.”

Today I’m over at Aish.com talking about how living in a world of disposables and upgrades affects how easily we compare our spouse to others, and what to do about that.  So head on over to read all about it.

Why I’m Not a Fan of Memoirs About Leaving Religious Life

First things first, the winner of the giveaway for a copy of Tamar Ansh’s new Passover cookbook for children is Keshet Star, who has great recipe for toffee bars her friend’s mom handed down to her.  Congrats!  I’ve sent you an email, so please respond within 24 hours so I can send you a copy.  

My friend Nina sent me a thought-provoking email last week.  She was reading a book in the “I left the clutches of Orthodox Judaism” genre, and wasn’t sure how she felt about it.  Should she applaud the author for articulating a painful experience?  Feel ashamed of Orthodox Jews behaving badly?  Do I or my friends ever read these memoirs?

With some regularity, there are books, articles and interviews that follow the path of someone who either didn’t find satisfaction within their religion (for the sake of this post, we’ll just stick to Orthodox Judaism) or were badly mistreated by those found within religious culture.  I see these stories pop up in my news feed from time to time, I hear them on the radio, I see links to them on Twitter.  The ones that I’ve read or heard seem to focus on deriding the seemingly strange or rigid aspects of the culture, focusing on the freedom a person feels by throwing off the shackles of religious fundamentalism.

Considering that I actively chose to become Orthodox, I am obviously looking at religious culture from a different angle.  Clearly, I found value and depth in living an Orthodox life, and so it pains me to hear (or read) it disparaged and mocked.  I always feel vaguely uneasy when another one flares up.  And when my friend sent me this thoughtful email, it gave me the opportunity to articulate why that is.

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On Not Rushing Things, and a Kids’ Passover Cookbook Giveaway!

This morning I thought I locked myself out of the house.  I wanted to warm up the car before the kids got in it, but I had to use the set of car keys that doesn’t have a house key on it, because I needed the set with the house key to, you know, lock up the house when we left.  As usual, it was a little bit of a balagan, and by the time I herded my little ones out the door, I was focused entirely on just getting them in the car and buckled.  Plus, I was trying to maintain as positive of an atmosphere as possible considering my oldest was maintaining a strong not-wanting-to-go-to-school front.  When this happens (which it typically does after a holiday, snow day, or other change in routine), I rack my brains to try to get him psyched to go to school.

It’s not easy.

So this morning I let both of my boys pick any snack they wanted from the Purim loot, in an attempt to cajole my oldest into cooperating.  They picked some grape juice (in the cute 6.3 oz size) and some wafers.  I was very happy with those selections, and optimistic about going off to school with everyone in a good mood.

But it was not meant to be. Continue reading

Making Hashem Proud – A Great Book For Kids

Reading my kids the same books over and over can get tedious, and losing books checking books out from the library can get pricey.  So when I was contacted about doing a review of a kids’ book recently released by Artscroll, I was super excited.  The book is called Making Hashem Proud*, and it’s by Chaviva Krohn Pfeiffer, a daughter of the renowned storyteller, Rabbi Paysach Krohn.  The book is geared toward 4-8 year olds, and when I flipped through it, I noticed that the amount of words on each page was higher than what we usually read.  I was a little nervous. How would this pan out?  

Well, let me tell you.

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Life is Short; Make the Most of It

“…one who runs from honor will have it pursue him.” – Talmud (Eruvin 13b)

This phrase came up a number of times last week as we clung to family following the tragic passing of my sister-in-law, Ahuva*, a”h.  She was a tremendous woman, someone who loved Torah and mitzvos and strived to observe them in the best way possible.  She went about her life quietly, without fanfare, though those who knew her recognized that she was a unique woman of stature.  Through her nine children, one can see the love and attention she poured into them.  In her amazingly organized home, one can see the thought and care she put into creating a warm and nurturing environment for her family to thrive.

She didn’t seek out honor, but after her death it certainly sought her.  Many important people in her community and beyond came to pay their respects.  Some drove for six hours just to express their condolences.  I’ve had people contact me, telling me that even though they never met my sister-in-law, they felt very inspired by her story (which you can hear, in part, here, in the recording of the eulogies at her funeral).

Even though I wasn’t obligated to observe the laws of mourning as dictated by Jewish law, I felt touched by the process and awed by the wisdom in the halacha.  The practice, from the funeral through the shiva was transformative, and listening to so many beautiful memories of Ahuva was healing.

There are so many things that are still swirling around in my head and heart, and I imagine it will take me some time to process, but one thing in particular jumps out at me right now.   Continue reading

Nothing “Forward” About Harassing A Woman

It’s Thursday, and I should be making food for Shabbos right now.  I’ve already posted my post for the week, and normally that’s as much as my schedule allows.  But something upsetting has happened, and I feel compelled to address it.

Pop Chassid brought an alarming interview to my attention a couple days ago, and I wasn’t sure how to respond.

The interview was with a 28-year-old woman, Racheli Ibenboim, who is the executive director of a large established charity, an up-and-coming politician, and an Orthodox Jew from Hasidic lineage.  Sounds like it could be interesting, yes?  Sadly, the interviewer focused almost exclusively on her sex life.  Even though she tried to gracefully move away from that extremely invasive topic, he wouldn’t drop it.  It was uncomfortable and disturbing to read.

The Forward is not a publication I normally read, as its tone is not exactly sensitive to my beliefs and culture as a religious woman.  So that the Forward published a piece which was demeaning and insulting to an Orthodox woman, well, I was sadly not surprised.  I would normally just sigh and move on.

But, still, something about the interview was deeply disturbing to me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  It wasn’t until Elana Szkolman wrote this excellent response in the Times of Israel that I realized what the problem was:

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