Of Interest – January 2016

Let’s start off the year (the Gregorian year, whatever, you know what I mean) with some interesting links, a review, and a giveaway! Not in that order, though.

Is this my Zusha? No, it’s everyone’s Zusha

It had been snowing for at least two straight days. I was channeling my hygge, buckling down for, I don’t know, another three months of endless snow. But then yesterday afternoon, the snow stopped, and in this respite from precipitation, I was able to drive to the Zusha concert without worrying too much about the weather. But even if it had been a blizzard, I would’ve gone to see them. They are that worth it.

I was introduced to Zusha though Hevria, where Shlomo Gaisin wrote a few pieces. As usual, I procrastinated listening to any of their work, but after a few more friends mentioned the band, I finally checked them out on Soundcloud, and was not disappointed.

Their blend of soulful reggae and world music, moving vocal harmonization and excellent instrumentals transports me to a place of spiritual connection, and indeed, that is what they conveyed when they played the Beachland Tavern last night on their tour to promote their new album, Kavana.

I had the feeling that they were sanctifying the space, a space which probably had no expectations of being sanctified. Each of the members, Shlomo, Zachariah, and Elisha gave divrei Torah in between the songs, heaping blessings on the crowd and speaking of finding the connections between us all.

And I did feel connected, I felt the desire for achdus, for peace, for peace through music and niggunim and singing. I also felt more connected spiritually, and while this may be a totally weird and TMI example, I made an asher yotzar bracha there with more kavana than I have in a while. Hahaha, what can I say? Their music made me want to be better, more plugged in, more connected.

After the show, they were all approachable and generous with their time, and I was moved by their gratitude and by the thoughtful and deep brachos they freely gave out. I hope they come back to Cleveland.

And now you can also listen to Zusha, because I am giving away not one, but TWO of their albums! Both Zusha (their debut EP) and Kavana are potentially yours! That is right my friends, simply leave comment below telling me your favorite Jewish artist (or artist in general if you don’t have a fave Jewish one). You can get another entry to win if you share this post on Twitter (and leave me a comment telling me that you did so), and yet another entry to win if you share this post on Facebook (and leave a comment about that, too).

So that’s up to three entries to win. It’s almost like the Powerball, but you have a much better chance of winning this one! And also it won’t make you rich, but whatever, you should still enter. You have until next Wednesday (that’s January 27th) at midnight to enter. Make sure to leave a valid email address where I can reach you and let you know when you win.

Tap Tap Tap Along

I was contacted to review some of Rebbetzin Tap’s DVDs. When the package from Israel arrived, I saw that I was sent three (!!!) DVDs and also a handwritten letter from Rebbetzin Tap herself. What a delight! I’ve seen Rebbetzin Tap (a/k/a Kerry Bar-Cohn) around online, and love her infusion of simcha and dance and song, and love how she’s made videos that gives children something nice to watch where I know they’re getting only good middos and nice content full of Jewish goodness.

Her newest DVD, “You Can Dance: a sing & dance along” has the goal of getting children up and moving around, which, obviously, is great! It helps teach body awareness, loving to move/exercise, loves one’s body, building personal simcha and self-esteem, which are all things that I want my kids to have.

I wasn’t sure if my children were the right demographic exactly, what with all my boys (bli ayin hara poo poo poo), and also that fact that they’re usually much more into watching Netflix than any DVDs. My oldest did put up a big resistance at first, but lo and behold, after the DVD had been playing for a little while he exclaimed,

“Mommy, I love it!”

I loved watching them dance around and follow what moves they could.


They were just watching “Jewish Holiday Celebration” yesterday, where Rebbetzin Tap finds a magical “holiday apartment” where every new door that’s opened reveals a different holiday, including, of course, a song and dance. My kids are convinced that this magical apartment really exists. This may be their favorite DVD.

I was also sent “Get Ready for Shabbos,” which is full of getting-ready-for-Shabbos activities, like shopping and baking challah and cleaning, among other things. It was also a hit, though my kids preferred the other two.

My children really enjoyed these DVDs, and I really enjoyed their enjoyment, and feel good about the wholesomeness of this screen time.

Go check out her site, www.rebbetzintap.com, for more information, video streaming options, and also her online tap classes.

Some Interesting Posts

Hevria is doing a series where different writers answer questions readers have sent in, or fulfill assignments, so to speak, on topics people have sent in. I’m loving it. It’s fabulous. Go check it out.

This piece was a thoughtful and difficult read about the repercussions of assimilation, written by an assimilated man.

Gershom Gorenberg expresses his feelings on what it means to not text (or answer the phone, or email, etc) on Shabbos, and a lot of what he said resonated with me.

Games to Play With Your Child In Which You Barely Have to Move Or Talk. This one is pretty self-explanatory.

A Torah Thought

I was just discussing with my therapist some ways to re-invigorate my religious life, which has gotten a little rote (okay, a lot rote). I used to post more Torah stuff on this blog, but then I moved away from that, for various reasons. I miss it, so I’m going to leave you with this little nugget of goodness:

Tu B’Shevat this year is Sunday night/Monday day, the 24th and 25th of January. As if you haven’t had enough of New Years, what with Rosh Hashanah and then the Gregorian New Year, here’s another one for you. Well, for trees, really. You might wonder why the New Year’s for the trees is celebrated in the winter, when the trees are mostly bare and desolate-looking. Doesn’t spring seem like a much more logical time to schedule it?

During this time of hibernation, when it looks like nothing is happening, when no outer change is visible, deep below the ground, the trees are regenerating their own resources. Their sap is rising.

So what does this have to do with me, you, or any non-tree being?

Many times in life we might find ourselves in situations where nothing is changing, where things seem dead and bleak and brittle and stuck. During situations like that, situations of difficult relationships, of financial stress, of pain and confusion and frustration, we can be like the trees, drawing on our inner reserves and emerging stronger from the hibernation we’ve been stuck in.

According to Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, these trials and difficulties are the basis of our success. It takes our growth through these challenges (which can be considered like the rain for a tree), to allow our potential to blossom.

“Interestingly, the Hebrew word for winter itself, choref, illustrates this exact point. Rav Hirsch notes that choref is related to the word charfi, a word which means dormant vigor. As I was in the days of my winter (I.e. dormant vigor) (Job 29:4). Winter here alludes to the days of a persons youth, a time in which his vast talents are waiting to emerge. It is a persons’ “spring” that helps to bring those latent talents to the forefront.” (from Torah.org)

Here’s to dormant vigor!

(and to entering the giveaway to get a copy of one of Zusha’s albums!)



17 thoughts on “Of Interest – January 2016

  1. I love the Torah thought about Tu Bishvat. Thank you for sharing that! (And the other cool info…)

    One of my favorite singers is Avraham Fried because of his beautiful voice and heartfelt music.

    Your offer of the zusha getaway sounds fun!

    1. Hahahaha, thank you. Thank Gd, I have a lot on my plate musically right now, so writing is a little backburnered, but I do hope to write more for them sometime in the future!!

  2. I’m feeling a little traumatized by that Jim Sollisch article you linked to about assimilation. It’s not just how assimilated he is (for example, his kids are halachically not even Jewish and he doesn’t seem to understand this), but that it sounds like he doesn’t care. It made me want to cry.

    That’s scary stuff for me.

    But at the same time, I’m kinda glad I read it, because it shows so clearly how tiny choices over time make a big long-term change.

  3. My favorite Jewish artist is you. :) No seriously, because to me you represent the balance between creation and maintenance of a bayit ne’eman b’Yisroel (no small task) and being a musician – and I can relate to that a whole lot better than some yeshiva boys’ choir. ;) Sharing on FB now!

  4. My favorite Jewish artist has to be Debbie Friedman. She’s sadly no longer with us, and I feel a little uncomfortable with some of her stuff now as I’ve gotten more religious (mainly because of her use of shem Ha-Shem) but it will always be the Jewish music of my childhood.

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