Tag Archives: torah

Baby Naming

This past Shabbat was the first time I attended a baby naming in shul. It wasn’t intentional – I just happened to be there as we went to shul with my in-laws. I love this shul – Modern Orthodox, the women get to see everything, they carry the sefer torah through the women’s side at the appropriate time, etc. I am not saying MO is better just different, and it is refreshing to experience “different” from time to time, so long as one’s principles are not compromised.

One of the congregants had given birth in the past week to a baby girl. It’s actually a lovely story. Two people, with children from first marriages, had met and married, and now had a baby girl together. (Yes, that was a tear I wiped away just now.) So the mom and the baby were there in shul, as were their other six assorted children.

The father was called up to the Torah, and on his way he was handed the newborn. There was a collective sigh as the baby snuggled up to her Abba. The rabbi said a few words before the father named her, and everyone present truly felt the joy this baby’s birth had brought. Her parents gave her a name that was longer than she is – but was beautiful nevertheless. In the mix of the names was Batsheva – I thought that was lovely touch. (Bat means daughter, sheva means seven).

Once she was named the father handed the baby over to the Rabbi who gave her a bracha (a blessing) and a kiss on the forehead. Everybody sang Mazel Tov veSiman Tov and the baby was passed back to her mother. The baby was quiet through this whole thing.

In the shuls that I have attended in the past the baby girl naming has not been a big deal. The father was called up to the Torah, gave the baby her name and got some mazel tovs. This was awesome – naming a baby who was actually present. What a concept!! I feel blessed to have been a part of this, even as a bystander.

How did you name your baby girl? How were you named? Do you think there should be just as much pomp and circumstance around the birth of a girl baby, as there is with the birth of a boy baby?

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Leil Limmud

What the heck is with people? ARGH!!

Next week is Shavuot, and the male folk of our community traditionally stay up all night learning Torah. My boys are all planning to be at their yeshiva learning. Well, except for the ChatterBox, he is way too young. I think it’s great – if they can do it, more power to them. A lot of men find it extremely difficult to learn all night, and forego this all night learning marathon session. I believe they know their limits and are respecting them. There are some programs for women too, and as emancipated as I am – I shall be sleeping, thank you very much. I am too old to stay awake all night by choice.

I was asked if I am “letting” the KoD stay up all night to learn. Who on earth gave any woman / man the power to allow their spouse to do something, especially something religious??!! If the KoD wants to stay up all night and learn, good luck to him, better him than me. If he doesn’t – that is his choice. Not my choice. Does he have to ask me permission to daven in the morning? To make brachot? To go to shul? Do I have to ask him if I am allowed to go to a shiur or go to the mikvah?

So, apparently, I was unaware of this, there are a bunch of women who forbid their husbands from Leil Limmud (all night learning) because they feel their husband’s place is to be home with them, able to help out with the kids in the morning, take a couple to shul with him, instead of snoring away until noon or later. They feel it is unfair for them to have to deal with a cranky and tired husband over the rest of the holiday. So they don’t allow their men to go learn. I am flabbergasted. I would never stand in the way of my husband wanting to learn Torah, or my kids – I just don’t get it. I really don’t.

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Squiggy’s Barmitzvah

I am sitting here at the computer, the day after Squiggy’s barmitzvah, the house is quiet for the first time in a while.

How does one encapsulate 25 hours of awesomeness into a few lines of prose? No clue, but I will try.

Before Shabbat we got all dressed up, I had my makeup professionally done, and we trooped out to pose for professional pictures at Pratt Park. Perfect! The boys had a blast while I worried about them ruining their spiffy new suits and shoes. We have worked with this photographer before – which added a level of comfort to the whole proceedings, Usually Squiggy gives me a hard time with photographs, so I gave him a choice this time, whether to do professional ones or not. His barmitzvah, his choice. Initially he said no. then he changed his mind – Ok, Ima, I know it will make you happy, so let’s do them. It was great doing family shots – with the KoD!! What a difference a year can make….

We came home, relaxed for a little bit, and then headed out for the barmitzvah Shabbat. We dropped the boys off at their father’s house and headed close by to where we were staying, the Green Hotel (lol).

We got to the shul and greeted our guests and family, introduced the KoD to everyone (gosh, I was so proud to do this) and us womenfolk went to light Shabbat candles. I love it when a whole bunch of women get together and light Shabbat candles. The glow seems to be extra special.

Looking out over the shul at Kaballat Shabbat services, my heart swelled with pride. This shul was a modern shul, which had separate ladies seating, but with no curtains or view obstructions. This I liked. I got to observe my boys davening alongside their father and stepfather, cousins and friends, and it was very touching indeed.

After services we adjourned to the hall for Friday night dinner. This was a small family affair, low key – just perfect. Squiggy made kiddush for the first time ever, and did a phenomenal job, and I must admit to wiping a tear or two from my eye. The food was good, the wine was flowing, conversation was animated – everyone had a good time. For my boys, they were so surrounded with love – what a bracha for a child to feel so much love from so many people.

We went back to our lodgings to have a peaceful sleep…well, that was the intent. I couldn’t sleep a wink. I was nervous for my boy. Wondering how he was sleeping. Wondering if he might have an attack of the nerves. Hoping he was fine and snoring away.

Morning came, and it was time to get back to the shul. (yes, I did have my coffee before I left for shul, priorities you know!!) By this time the butterflies in my tummy had multiplied and I just needed to see Squiggy to make sure he was ok. I saw him sitting next to his father in the front row, with his brothers and step brothers and step father all sitting together in the same row. Squiggy was told I had arrived so he turned around, and walked up to the ladies section to say hello. He shook my hand, I blew him a kiss, caressed his face, and let him go. As the service progressed he got paler and paler, and my hands shook more and more.

Soon it was time for the Torah reading and the shul had filled up considerably. By this time, my mouth was dry and my girlfriend was sitting next to me holding my hand. On the other side was my aunt being equally encouraging. Squiggy appeared outwardly calm, but a mother knows when her child is nervous.

Torah reading started – he was to read the maftir and the haftarah. His stepfather and his father were both called up to the Torah – a big honour. Then it was time. Just prior to this little Prince ChatterBox had been going around the shul with a huge basket full of candy handing a couple out to everyone, to throw at the barmitzvah boy at the appropriate time. 7 lbs of candy! The chazzan called Squiggy up with such wonderful pomp and circumstance. His father had already helped him put on his tallit, and he mounted the stairs to the Bima with confidence. At this point for me the tears started to flow and didn’t stop for a while.

He made the requisite brachot, his sweet clear voice filling all corners of the shul. The rabbi asked for quiet so that the barmitzvah boy could read the maftir without disruption. He read it perfectly. His voice strong and sure, his pace steady. He did a couple more brachot, and then the men started to sing “Siman Tov uMazel Tov” – our cue to throw candies (so he should enjoy the sweetness of Torah). The little kids ran around collecting the sweets, stuffing pockets and mouths. All the men tried to squeeze up on the Bima to dance with Squiggy – they couldn’t move there were so many people up there. It was so heart warming.

Eventually the dancing stopped and the men returned to their places. Squiggy made the brachot for the Haftara, and read it out loud, clear as a bell. He has been blessed with such a beautiful voice BH! When he made the final bracha, his voice was so musical, his concentration so strong – it was the most awesome thing I have ever heard.

He finished and I was surrounded by family and friends wishing me mazel tov, he was surrounded too. There was so much love and affection for us in that shul. It was truly touching. I got to glance at his face right after he was done reading and the relief on it was huge!!

The rabbi gave a speech, and presented the barmitzvah boy with a lovely siddur, and a bracha that he should grow up to be a fine man, a mensch, who will have an honourable place amongst the Children of Israel.

After services we adjourned to the hall for a kiddush – there was cholent and cookies and all of that kind of stuff. Lots of socializing and mazel tovs. My face started to hurt from the smiling.

Soon it was the celebratory lunch for close friends and family. Some of Squiggy’s friends had walked in from our area – a walk of an hour and a quarter. We were so touched that they made the effort.

I gave a short speech – nothing fancy. Welcoming everyone and just telling everyone what an awesome kid Squiggy is, that I hope he grows up well, and uses his awesome talents, that he can be anything he wants to be. I tried not to embarrass him too much. His father spoke, remembering that when I was pregnant with Squiggy so soon after Lenny was born (they are 13 months apart) we wondered how we would ever love another child, as we loved Lenny so much. He spoke about how awesome it was that our love for Squiggy was immediately there, was just as huge as our love for all the kids. He also extolled Squiggy’s virtues. Squiggy’s paternal grandmother spoke too, briefly, but touchingly. Squiggy chose not to speak which was fine with us – he did an awesome job in shul that morning – that was enough in my book.

We got to make a few l’chaims – on single malt too!! After much eating and drinking and celebrating, it was time to bensch and conclude the meal. Lots of “we’ll see you at the next barmitzvah” – only 17 months, not that we are counting!!

This was a lovely barmitzvah Shabbat. It couldn’t have been better. When you consider the whole familial situation – divorced parents, adding in two step parents and various other additions etc there was the potential for interesting happenings. But everyone was welcoming and friendly to all – it was truly about giving our son the best barmitzvah he could possibly have had. That we did.

May we all merit to celebrate many many simchas with each other. Amen.

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A Piercing Rant

Way back in the day of the Torah women wore a lot of jewellery. They wore earrings and nose rings (and possibly belly rings and chains), anklets and bracelets and necklaces. They were adorned.

In parshat Chayyei Sarah (24:20) we read that Eliezer gave Rivka a nose ring and bracelets when he met her by the well, and knew she was the ideal wife for Yitzchak. Rivka Imenu, Rivka our foremother, wore a nose ring! (she probably didn’t wear stockings but that’s a conversation for a different time). If I walked into any RW yeshiva or Beis Yaakov with a nose ring, they would throw me out.

When did piercing noses and navels start to have such negative connotations? There is nothing in the Torah that prohibits women from piercing their ears and noses, there is no commandment of Thou shalt not pierce thy navel.

From what I have read, I understand that we are not to deface our body or render it so drastically different from the Tzelem Elokim that we were created in. (Image of God). Our bodies are a gift to us from God, and we need to respect that. We are forbidden from cutting the flesh – elective surgery might fall under this category. Tattoos are expressly forbidden min haTorah. I don’t believe this applies to piercings when they are done in moderation. I believe my earrings add to my personal beauty, in a similar way that make-up does. Make up isn’t banned because it might interfere with the way God created us. We use it to enhance what we have been blessed with.

My opinion? So long as one isn’t piercing just to thumb one’s nose at religion and to attract attention there is no aveirah. If you are doing it so you can wear short belly shirts and show off the navel ring – well, that contravenes the laws of tzniut.

I have several religious friends who have a belly ring. They keep it covered all of the time because of the laws of modesty. Does it make them any less of a person? Does it call their morals into question because they have a jewel in their navel? Maybe it opens the door to people’s curiosity IF they find out, but it doesn’t mean they are scum of the earth. When did people start labeling those with nose rings and body piercings as second class citizens?

As usual, I am curious what you, dear reader, think about the subject.

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Of Torahs and Tallitot

I am sure that there are plenty of occasions in a child’s life where their parents are proud, be it a school play, a random act of kindness, or just simply being themselves.

 

Lately I find myself filled with awe, wonder and pride, as I watch all my kids grow and evolve. The recent holiday of Simchat Torah just added to these tremendous heartwarming feelings.

 

Pigeon had been talking non stop for the past few days about how this was his first year being able to dance with the Sefer Torah as he was now barmitzvah. Last year the rabbi promised him that this year he could, and he intended to remind the rabbi just in case he forgot. He hadn’t.

 

Simchat Torah night he came over to the gap in the mechitzah, beckoning me to him, with a shy grin on his face. ”Ima watch me, I am going to dance with the Torah”. I think he floated back to the men’s side. Sure enough, one of the men in the shul helped him heft the Torah into his arms, and showed him how to hold it safely. Once all the Sifrei Torah were given out, the men started to circle the Bima. For a split second I lost sight of my son in the sea of men with suits and hats – he is as big as some of them, he totally blended in. But as far as I could see there was only one “man” with an otherworldly glow to him, and that was my son. He felt the honour of holding the sacred Torah scroll, he felt the awe and responsibility, and he felt blessed to have had the chance to participate physically in this mitzvah.

 

The other boys were also enjoying the Simcha of the day – with gorging on candies, being thrown up in the air for “Moshe Emes” (I still cringe when I see little kids flying up – even though I know their daddies will catch them).  At one point Puffin came to me, and it was so hard not to laugh – he had been thrown up in the air by a couple of the guys and his knee bumped into his nose – It takes a special kind of talent to be able to do that! A kiss from Ima and he ran back to dance with his little friends.

 

Simchat Torah day this Mama got to shepp even more yiddishe nachas. After the dancing was done, they did the Torah reading, and as is tradition everyone (every male) gets called up to the Torah. When they are calling up the teen boys they tend to go in order of age (oldest to youngest), and when they get to the really young ‘uns, they bundle them all onto the Bima, hold a few tallitot over their heads, and include them together in the bracha. This aliyah is usually auctioned off, and is called Kol HaNeorim – the voice of the young. I was expecting my oldest three to each have an aliyah. They called me to come to the hall where they were reading the Torah (sometimes they read multiple torahs in order that they have opportunity to call everyone up for an aliyah). I pulled up a chair, the only woman around, as the other women stayed in the main sanctuary. I was later joined by another lady, as intent on shepping nachas from her boys as I was.

 

So first Pigeon had his turn – he knows the brachot inside out, having done them a gazillion times, but knowing I was watching, he gave me a shy little smile, and sang his bracha loud and clear. Once he was done, he shook hands with the men around him, and came over to me with a huge grin on his face. So proud of himself. Then came a few kids, then it was Duckie’s turn. He wrapped himself in the tallit and tossed off the bracha like he had been doing it all his life. Didn’t look at me, nor acknowledge me – so not cool to do that. But I think he was glad that I watched and heard him. His barmitzvah is in 11 months, so it was good practice. Soon it was Woodie’s turn, and he looked tiny wrapped in a man size tallit. But I have to say, he did me proud too – sang the brachot without a problem. He glanced back once or twice to check that I was there. Once he was done, he shook my hand. (Kissing your mom is so passé when you are 10).

 

So I figured my little Puffin would go on the Bima with all the other little kids. But he was asked if he wanted to have his own aliyah. Being six years old, with 3 older brothers, he always wants to do what they do; basically, he wants to just be them. So when offered the chance to have an aliyah he said yes. His brothers wrapped him in the tallit, and my heart swelled to see the look on his face. He was nervous because he hadn’t ever done it before, but here was his chance to prove he is one of the big boys. I asked the father of one of his friends to help him with the bracha, but it turned out to be unnecessary as all the men were so encouraging as they all helped him say his bracha. He stood there, as tall as he could stand, tallit floating around him, an aura of joy and wonder around him. Once he had finished his aliyah he came running to me “did you see, did you see? I had an aliyah just like a man!!” I hadn’t realized I was crying, but my face was wet. I had been blessed to watch all my boys participate in the same mitzvah in their own particular way. I watched as my youngest child entered into some kind of inner sanctum with his brothers, into a place that I would never be part of. And in that moment, it is no wonder that I cried, for my little guy is no longer a baby, but a little man who made a bracha on the Torah. I know the years will fly by and soon enough it will be his barmitzvah. But I want to always remember this moment, the joyous rapture on his face when he was asked if he wanted to be part of this mitzvah. It had not even occurred to him that he could be part of it.

 

While sometimes I get upset and sad that as a woman there are parts of my sons’ lives that I cannot partake in, sometimes just getting to watch them do their thing is enough. The pride I feel that they are continuing tradition, that I have been able to imbue in them the love and respect for their religion – that is reward enough.

 

May we all continue to derive nachas and joy from our children, from our families and from all of Israel. Amen!

High on Torah

Inspired by treppenwitz.

 

At the elementary school graduation last year, the rebbe got up to speak. He complimented the children on a successful year, and went on a tirade about how children waste time with video games and the like. He used the phrase “our boys need to learn there is more to life than Gameboys and PCP”

 

Whats even funnier, is that most of the parents were unaware of the Rebbe’s gaffe. (PSP is a PlayStationPortable, PCP a hallucinogenic drug)