Sunday, August 30, 2009

Please Tell Me...

why kids are so fascinated by this, why they are so gung-ho to eat hard-boiled eggs...when this object is on the table?
Think about it: it's a knife of sorts. As Wikipedia explains: An egg slicer is a food preparation utensil used to slice peeled, hard-boiled eggs quickly and evenly. An egg slicer consists of a slotted dish for holding the egg and a hinged plate of wires or blades that can be closed to slice.
My kids -- and their friends -- get very excited when I offer them hard boiled eggs. The "oohs & ahhs" are audible when the egg slicer accompanies the bowl of cooked eggs to the table. They argue about who will be the first to use the slicer, which way they should position the egg in the slicer, if they should double-slice the eggs to make them really small pieces, ie. messy crumbs aka prelude to egg salad.
I haven't yet shared a secret about the egg slicer with my kids and their friends: it can also be used for mushrooms! Shh...don't spill the beans, um, I mean the egg, um I mean the mushrooms.

A Mother's D'var Torah

Yesterday was my daughter's bat mitzvah. She gave a d'var Torah at shul after davening, and we had a kiddush for the congregation. Then our family and some of my daughter's friends came back to our house for lunch.

I gave a d'var Torah; I didn't realize that I would get choked up and would falter, having to stop a few times to reel in my emotions and gather myself. A simcha isn't 100% a simcha when some very important people in your life are missing. Memories and feelings surface even from the deep subconscious and control one's thoughts and emotions.

My daughter is twelve. Sadly enough, her Savta and Zaidy were not there in person to share her special day.

August 29, 2009.
Parshat Ki-Tetze
Speech at Adina’s bat mitzvah lunch at home:

Good Shabbos, family and friends, and thank you for joining us today.

Sixteen years ago, in 1993, I spent Shabbos Nachamu, which fell on the last day of July, at the home of who was to become my future mother-in-law, Liora, z”l. When I called home after Shabbos, my parents asked me, “Any news?” They were hinting at whether or not I’d gotten engaged over Shabbat. The answer was “No.”

Four years later, I spent Shabbos Nachamu at home, and the last 45 minutes of that Shabbos were spent at North York General Hospital, on the Maternity floor, with 20 of those 45 minutes being given over to giving birth to my second child.

When told, “It’s a girl!” my immediate reply was “I fished my wish!” And when Shabbos was out some twenty minutes later, we were able to call my parents and my mother-in-law and answer the “Any news?” question with a resounding “Yes” and “Mazel tov!”

From the time that I was a young girl, growing up with brothers, I’d always hoped that a daughter would be in my future. I’d wanted to be able to name a daughter after my father’s, z”l, cherished youngest sister, Meriam, who perished in the Holocaust.

Our own Meriam – Adina Meriam, to be exact – is equally cherished.

Finding herself between an older and a younger brother, Adina has grown up learning to be a little tough and defend herself, while at the same time, showing her delicate, sensitive, all-caring side, a true reflection of her first name. Yes, there may be bickering and hormone-related arguments regularly ensuing in our home between Adina and her brothers, but a camaraderie definitely exists and I’m hopeful this kinship will develop strongly over the years.

My daughter has the same blue eyes & freckles I have. But for the most part, our similarities are mainly physical. Growing up, I was quiet, an introvert, insecure in my surroundings. Adina, on the other hand, has proven herself to be -- from a young age -- very social. Always happy among others, laughing, sharing secrets, making others feel secure in their surroundings, and instantly becoming friends with strangers.

Her helpful, nurturing, caring side are evident in her interaction with adults, friends, young children and animals, and clearly were there in her interaction with her late Savta and Zaidy, as they are with her Bubby.

Adina loves to draw and read. It doesn’t matter how many times she’s read the same book from cover to cover, but if she’s enjoyed it, she’ll read it yet again. The Harry Potter series is just one example.

Her creativity comes through in her artwork, in her flare for fashion, and in her very detailed conversations, stories and image-filled poetry. Ah, a girl after my own heart…

We recently returned from a family trip to Israel. After so many years of not being in that wonderful country, Ron and I got to experience Israel not only from our own points of view, but from that of our children, as well, who were experiencing Israel for the first time. It is evident from Adina’s photos and conversations in Israel that she took it all in, observing fine details with her “Adina viewfinder.”

This week’s parsha, Ki Tetzei, teaches numerous mitzvot, such as: returning lost items to their rightful owners; loaning money to one's fellow Jew free from interest; what one is permitted to or prohibited from taking from another Jew as loan security, shatnez (wool and linen together); tzitzit; and dealing fairly and truthfully with one's fellow Jews in business. The Maftir aliyah of our parsha tells us collectively to remember, for all time the actions of Amalek, who attacked B'nai Yisrael when they were weak, while blotting the remembrance of Amalek from the earth. We remember the Amalek without, as well as the Amalek within; lo nishcach v'lo nislach - we won't forgive and we won't forget.

The parsha speaks about other mitzvot, such as sending a mother bird away before taking the young or the eggs, helping one's fellow Jew load and unload a burden, fencing in a roof area, and not harnessing together different species of animals on the same yoke.

In short, our parsha emphasizes the unity that evolves from collective responsibility, kindness, caring and fairness for and with each other. Among many of the taught mitzvot, compassion and protection are common themes.

Our wish -- mine, Abba’s, Avi’s, and Noam’s -- for you, Adina, is that you will continue to be, as well as, further develop the compassionate person you are, who is also passionate about certain interests and ideals…including shmirat halashon. You often make us aware of our words to you and our words about others, and for that we’re grateful. May you continue to be protective of your own words, protective of the people around you and protective of your Jewish values and ideals.

Mazel tov, Adina, on becoming a Bat Mitzvah. We love you!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Coincidences of the Wonderful Kind

When I first visited and spent time in Israel all those years ago, I had several coincidences happen to me, mainly with running into people in special circumstances. I thought then "Only in Israel."

We had a couple incidents happen this time 'round too. And it made me once again think "Only in Israel" and "the world is very small...and seems to be getting smaller and smaller all the time!"

Between early January and mid-March 1984, I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Lavi. Not only was I a volunteer, I was the ONLY North American volunteer at the time. When I'd gone to the Mizrachi office in Israel to try and organize a volunteer stint on a religious/Kosher kibbutz, the shaliach suggested I go to her kibbutz. As long as it was close enough to a main city, I was game.

As well, the kibbutz was deemed an Anglo kibbutz, having been founded by Americans and English olim.

So on the kibbutz, I lived with the "garin." These are religious soldiers who have placement on kibbutzim and also learn in Jerusalem. I was given a host family, and became an adoptive daughter to Moshe and Tova (Toby ) Winter, former New Yorkers.

Over the years upon my return to Toronto, I did maintain some contact with the Winter family, but that dwindled and disappeared about 12 years ago or more.

On this trip, our family took a side trip with friends to the north for a couple of days: Tiberias, Tzfat, Rosh Pina, the Golan. As we were traveling on the familiar highway that passes Kibbutz Lavi, I said that if we'd have time, it would be nice to stop in there, let my kids see what a kibbutz looks like -- especially the kibbutz their mom worked on -- and maybe look up the Winter family.

We drove around the perimeters of the kibbutz and I pointed out the well-known kibbutz hotel where I worked for a time in the dining room, and then our friend pointed out a woman and said, "She looks like she's been on the kibbutz a while; let's ask her if she knows your kibbutz family and where to find them."

My husband stopped the van and our friend addressed the woman in Hebrew asking if she knows where to find "Mishpachat Winter." She replied, "Eyzeh?" (which one?) Our friend said, "Moshe." The woman then calls out to a man who's walking nearby and in Hebrew says, "Moshe, someone is looking for you!"

The man came to the car, and there stood my "adoptive" dad! I called out from the back seat , saying who I was, and that I hadn't been there in 25 years. He immediately invited us to come visit at the house with his wife.

Can you imagine that this man was davka RIGHT THERE when we were seeking him out!?

We did have a lovely reunion with his wife and I saw a couple of his sons, who were just children at the time I was there before.

Kibbutz Lavi has a hotel and also has a factory where they build synagogue furniture. A couple of the Winter sons, who still live on the kibbutz, are involved with that. And wouldn't you know it-- back in April/May, one of those sons was in Toronto to oversee the installation of some of the furniture in an addition to a Chabad shul that is a mere 7 minute walk from my house. That son stayed at a private home a street away from us!?

The reunion and the fact that Moshe Winter was right there when we asked about him certainly put a smile on my face and on the faces of our family and friends.

Only in Israel....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Something I Copied from a Display in Yad Vashem (the photo is an image off Google, though)

"Not the bridge, not the barbed wire,
Not even the gate is the symbol of the ghetto...

The symbol of the ghetto is the pot..."

--from the notes of Yosef Zelkowicz in the Lodz Ghetto


We landed in Toronto about 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, got into our house by 8:00 a.m., and at 11 a.m. my husband and I were already back in the opposite direction suburbs (very close to the airport, as a matter of fact), to attend an unveiling of a family friend.

Following the unveiling, everyone was invited back to the house of one of the children, to drink a l'chaim and partake in some food. I asked one of the children what the house number was, and thought I remembered it.

By the time we got back to the family member's street some time later, the house number had completely left my mind. My husband and I started to drive down the not-too-long street, and look for any house that had several vehicles parked nearby, and hopefully familiar ones. We parked and began to walk.

We passed a house and a man came out. I said to my husband, "That man was at the unveiling. This must be the house." But just to be sure, as he walked down the driveway, I asked if this was the F----berg home, and he said yes.

On the balcony outside was a basin of water to wash hands after the cemetery (we'd already done so outside our car), so we assumed this was the house. We walked in....

I began to look for members of the family or friends I recognized. Not a one in sight. No family photos on the wall either to indicate thiswas indeed the F------berg home.

My husband and I decided then and there we were no doubt in the wrong house! OY, with a capital O and Y !

How does one walk in and walk out within seconds without seeming obvious? Well, my husband ended up speaking to a person who looked like a homeowner, seemingly because we had "lost puppy" and bewildered expressions on our faces, and explained the situation. She smiled, my husband expressed his condolences to her, and she gave us directions to the correct house.

When we got to the correct house, we told our story. Someone topped it by telling a story of someone who went to the wrong banquet hall for a bar mitzvah, ate appetizers there, wished the bar mitzvah kid mazel tov on camera...and then discovered that they were at a bat mitzvah, not a bar mitzvah, and at the wrong hall.

I guess the moral of the story is: May we only share simchas!!

Glimpses into the Holy Land

I just returned with my family from a two-week trip to Israel.

I haven't been to Israel in years...25 to be exact! So much has changed, so much has remained the same.

The physical landscape has changed, with new buildings and development throughout the country.

But the heart of Israel -- the Jewish nation -- remains. Every visible stripe of Jew can be found throughout. Every type of kippah and head covering adorn the heads of men and women. Tzitzit fringes flutter freely on men and boys of every size.

Jerusalem. The city of gold...and pink...and white...and blue. Magnificent, beautiful, striking and enveloping. Coddling us, as we coddle it.

People tell me that when they travel UP to Jerusalem, they are encaptured by an overwhelming rush of emotion, a pure happiness meant to sustain. I understand that myself now. A deflation of sorts happens as you drive down, out of Jerusalem, its scenery reflected in the rearview mirror.

To attend a wedding, with the backdrop of Jerusalem as the tableau, the bride and groom under the open-aired chupah, the glass being broken followed by a beautiful cantorial rendition of "Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim (If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem)" takes one's breath away. As does the country. As do the sunsets. As do the Welcome signs.

Israel...IS Real.