Archive for February, 2010

For the first four years of Ella’s life, we delivered many mishloach manot baskets, but did not receive a single one. We don’t live in a very observant community, and many of our friends are either not Jewish or non-practicing (or rely on me for all of their Jewish practice.) It didn’t really bother me, but I did worry that if this trend continued, it would start to bother my children.

Fortunately, once Ella started day school last year, we started to develop at least a small community of Jewishly involved friends. And the mishloach manot began to trickle in. It’s not as if we need more hamentashen. (We need them “like a hole in the head,” as my grandmother would say.) But the delivery of handmade treats at your doorstep, especially when the delivery is performed by small hands, is actually an incredibly touching gesture. We probably don’t have more or better friends than we did a few years ago, but  you know what? It feels like we do.

In this spirit, I highly recommend The Purim Surprise, a lovely, lovely Purim book about mishloach manot by Lesley Simpson (author of The Shabbat Box). It came out in 2003, but mysteriously I only read it for the first time on Friday. (i think the cover art might have turned me off – don’t make the same mistake I did….) She captures perfectly how this mitzvah, and perhaps mitzvot in general, connect us to one another.

PS – What did you put in your baskets? We made hamentashen, kettle corn, and oatmeal cookies. And no plastic wrap or baggies!


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A Freilichen Purim

Ella, dressed as “Esther, but not Queen Esther.”

Zoe is Princess Isabella, a character in a computer game she plays on line when I’m ignoring her.

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Overheard in play room

I’m having a baby, I’m having a baby!

Quick, get some scissors!

You know, a mommy doesn’t usually need to get cut open to have a baby. The baby comes out the vagina.

But how does it fit?

It stretches, and stretches, and stretches, until the baby can get out.

Like Elastigirl?

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Scenes from the megilla

Courtesty of Ella, age 6.

evry one in the cassol is yelling at Vashty to Never Come back a servint is dragging Vashty. But evry One is still yelling.

Now That the king dos not have a kween he is bord and he takes a Lot uv naps.

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My four year old, Zoe, invented these bite-size hamentashen in our marathon baking session with bubbe. Aren’t they adorable?That’s a nickel in the middle, for perspective. With all the 100 calorie packaged snacks on the market, I think we could be on to something here. (We used this recipe, of course.)

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V’nahafoch hu

A theme of Purim is v’nahafoch hu, a celebration of things getting turned upside down. Haman builds gallows for Mordechai, and is hung on those same gallows. Haman plans a fantastic reward for himself, and instead has to bestow this reward on Mordechai.

There’s a less celebrated version of  v’nahafoch hu, as well. We buy bags of flour, oats and other baking goods to prepare Purim treats, and almost immediately need to think about ridding our house of chametz for Passover.

In that spirit, I’ll be posting some of my favorite “get rid of your chametz” recipes over the next few weeks.

The first is a delicious and really easy pareve cake, Grandma Mettie’s oatmeal cake. I use Earth Balance original and skip the frosting – it doesn’t need it at all.

The second is a great bread machine challah recipe, courtesy of Minnesota Mamaleh. She found it on Allrecipes, but I think it’s originally from Kosher by Design, a series of cookbooks which I find generally overrated, but not in this case. This is the best bread machine recipe I’ve found so far. (But if you have time to do the whole thing by hand or using a Kitchen Aid with a dough hook, try this one instead. It’s from Smitten Kitchen, one of my very favorite blogs.)

Shabbat Shalom, and welcome to all of my new readers. If you like my blog, please spread the news to your friends, students, and congregants. And don’t foget to tell my mother.

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Telling it like it is…

Recently Ella has begun creating her own megillah, a telling of the book of Esther, which she is hanging on the walls of her and her sister’s bedroom.megilla1

Now That the king dos not have a kween he is bord and he takes a Lot uv naps.

Now That the king dos not have a queen he is bored and he takes a lot of naps.




Everyone in the castle is yelling at Vashti to never come back. A servant is dragging her away but everyone is still yelling.

Consequently, she’s been trying to clarify a lot of details of the story and asking me a lot of questions. And some of these questions are hard to answer, because really, some of the story is just not six-year-old material.

Yesterday, she asked “How did Achashverosh decide which queen to choose?”

“Well,” I said, “he gathered women from around the kingdom. And then he chose the one he liked best.”

“But what was the test,” she persisted.

How do I answer this? I don’t love the message of a beauty contest as a method for choosing a wife. I’m just a wee bit less crazy about the message of a harem as a method for choosing a wife. On the other hand, I want to support her questions and encourage her interest in the story.

Ella’s knowledge of the story of Purim comes from children’s books and my own retelling of the story. I realized that if she is going to start creating her own midrash, filling in the gaps in the story with her own imagined details, I don’t want her basis to be Mordicai Gerstein‘s or Diane Wolkstein‘s version of the megillah, as wonderful as they might be. (And I definitely don’t want to it be the picture book version that she got in Hebrew class, with lots of pictures of a cartoon-y Haman hanging dead on a noose .) I want it to be the megillah’s version of the megillah.

So, when she asked me about Ahashverosh’s test, I said “Let’s go see what the megillah says.”

I opened a really old copy of the Tanach (it has a JNF stamp in it for the “George Washington Palestine Forest Fund”) for dramatic effect, and read to her.

“And the maiden was pleasing in his eyes, and she obtained favor before him………And Esther was taken unto king Achashverosh, unto his royal house…and the king loved Esther above all women, and she obtained grace and favor before him, more than all the virgins. ” (OK, I didn’t actually use the word virgins. Enough questions, already.)

“So what do you think?” I asked her. “How did he choose?”

“Well, it said she was ‘pleasing in his eyes.’ So I think he chose her because she was beautiful. That was the test. He looked at her and saw how beautiful she was.”

I couldn’t resist pointing her that this is not a terribly good way to choose a life partner.

“Mama,” she said. “He really didn’t think too much. Remember? He spent most of his time eating and drinking.” (In other words, duh, mama.)

I sought out a yeshiva education relatively late in life, spending two years engaged in full time study at Drisha Institute in my mid 20’s. I’m delighted to see that Ella is definitely ready at age six to ask, and try to answer, thoughtful, meaningful questions. It’s my job to start giving her (and me) more opportunities to engage in close text study.

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