Monday, March 31, 2008

My Mother's Birthday

On Friday, my mother had a birthday.

Is it trite and a cliche to say how much I miss her?

My mother and I go way back, really it's like I've known her all my life. We have had difficult times, the two of us. I used to be so angry with her all the time.

But now, being at this point in my life and in this place, I have to say, it was all me. Any words we've ever had were because of me and my lack of appreciation for her sacrifices and for her love.

And I feel terrible about it.

I've mellowed considerably over the past decade. If the anger is still there, it has gone to a place where it rarely comes out.

My mother left her parents when she was all of 22 years old. I know she was extremely close to my grandmother. How she must have missed her. She emigrated to America at a time when there was no skype, no internet, and flying was rare. All she had were those fold-up blue airmail envelopes, where she would scrawl letters to her mother in Spanish. And her handwriting is indelibly etched in my mind. Several weeks ago when I received something from her by mail, just seeing that handwriting sent me to my room for several minutes so I could regain my composure.

I know I am blessed to have her in my life. I have a few close girlfriends who lost their mothers to early and I know they always feel that loss. Even though she is far, I constantly feel her love, and I am so happy that our relationship gets better and better.

May G-d grant me many, many more years of opportunities to repair the damage I did...


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Another carnival, this one about food...

A Mother in Israel will be hosting the next Kosher Cooking Carnival on April 7, so get cooking! Topics will include Pesach recipes, kashruth on Pesach, preparing for Pesach, Purim accomplishments and recipes for getting rid of hametz. And anything else relating to kosher cooking. You can submit your own posts here, as well as any other posts you would like to recommend. Check out the most recent one, KCC #28 over at Frumhouse. Special thanks to Batya, who organizes the whole thing.


I've added some new blogs to my blogroll. I also am deleting some blogs that have not had consistent posts in ages. If you guys start blogging again, (I'll be sure to put you back on the roll.

Enjoy the new blogs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm feeling bleary-eyed this morning

Just an educated guess here, but I'm thinking it's mating season for cats.

Those creatures are really rude. Not only do they do it in public, but they are extremely loud. Ozzy went nuts (probably very jealous).

I'm just curious: who is the one making all that noise, the male or female?

And exactly how long does the season last?

With apologies to Ilana S. and Yael.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wanna Help Sderot?

For those of you in the states, my friend Stuart Katz is organizing a four day solidarity mission to Sderot. The trip departs New York the night of April 6th and returns back the morning of April 10th. The trip costs $999 and includes the flight, hotel accommodations in Ashkelon, meals, transfers, "hizdahut" (solidarity) and a small donation to Sderot.

Stuart has organized many similar missions like this during the intifada and after the Second Lebanon War. If you can get away for a few days, I promise this trip will be well worth it. You may think the trip will help those heroes in Sderot (and it will), but believe me you'll come out of it feeling like you were the one who was helped.

In spite of the army's recent "incursion" into Gaza, Kassam rockets continue to reign down on the city of Sderot and surrounding areas. The people that live down there are true heroes. Don't believe that the only people living there are people who can't leave. Many are staying because they will not cede this land to our enemies. I have even heard of and read about people choosing to move down there now.

But those citizens need to know that their fellow Jews have not abandoned them.

For more information, contact or call (516) 593-1785 ext 1001, or click on the link


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Still no waffles for me--but go read HH

Apparently some bloggers did get their waffles...

Poor Jack has a cold, but still managed to chug out another edition of Haveil Havalim. Read it here.

Feel better, Jack.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An e-mail to my friend CK

I am posting a copy of an e-mail I just sent to my friend C. The reason I decided to put it up on the blog, is that I felt it reflected a bit of some of the hardships of Aliyah.

They told me it wasn't going to be easy, but nobody told me this.


I come to you with this request, because among my friends you are the only one who can truly can understand it.

AOL just informed me that People Magazine has pictures of J Lo and her newborn twins. They are on the cover!

Do you know if I can read People Magazine online? I mean the real articles, not just the cover and a teaser of what's inside. Is there a code I need to get in? Do I have to pay for it?

I MUST see the pictures of J Lo (Jennifer Lopez, for those of you ignorant of these things) and her newborn twins, exclusive, and only in People Magazine, on sale at your local newsstand this Friday. I MUST!!! I don't know why, but I just have to see these pictures, and read the articles about her sleepless nights and all those diaper changes.

Please, I need a fix.

Can you get me a copy of the mag and give it to N. to bring for me when she comes in for Pesach?

Please, these pictures are EXCLUSIVE.

Thank you.

Happy Purim, but don't think this is a Purim Prank, it is totally real.



P. S. When you make Aliyah, make sure that S. understands you will only do it with a continued weekly subscription (its expensive, but still less than tuition). Otherwise, its just to darn hard.

[ed. note: I know caring this much about J Lo makes me totally shallow. I don't care. I love this stuff.]


Oh, and before I forget, Ozzy asked me to wish you all a Chag Purim Sameach:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tali's Bat Mitzvah

It's almost 2 A.M. here in Israel, but I just wanted to quickly tell you about Tali's bat mitzvah.

It was great.

I was nervous about it for a variety of reasons. First of all, no one was able to come from America or Venezuela. I missed my parents so much today, and some of you who I usually would expect to be at my side for an event such as this.

But still, it was a milestone. Tali was beautiful, and it was just amazing to watch the joy she felt. She has made many new friends and I am so grateful that the kids here in Israel have embraced her.

And the Israeli cousins, aunts and uncles were there from both Isaac's and my side of the family. A friend came over to me and asked, "Why is Rav Chaim Sabato at Tali's bat mitzvah?" And I, very ignorantly said, "Who?". I was promptly informed that this man is an acclaimed novelist and author and is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maaleh Adumim. And this Rav is Isaac's cousin (okay by marriage, but still), and therefore he is MY cousin (okay, also through marriage, but still). It was an honor and privilege to have him at Tali's bat mitzvah. He signed a sefer that he has authored as a gift for Tali, and be'ezrat Hashem, some day she will read it and appreciate its significance.

I'm going to print Isaac's and my speeches from the bat mitzvah here. They were very short, as we don't believe in spending an hour and a half on speeches. (Had I known about Rav Sabato, we would have asked him to speak; sheesh, I'm really embarrassed about my ignorance.) If you would have been at the party and listened, these are for you. If you would have been chatting away, feel free to scroll down to the end.

Wish you all were there!

Isaac's speech:

Tali, as I sat down to write this speech this afternoon, I remembered the time of your arrival to this world.

I recalled that just a few months before you were born we moved into our house in Cedarhurst. We were getting used to our new surroundings when one of the worst winters in history hit us. I still feel the pain in my back because of the amounts of snow that I had to shovel while your mother, very pregnant, claimed that she really would help me but she was SO sorry she couldn't.

[ed. note: Not true, I wasn't sorry at all.]

That winter we also had a very long visit from my aunt, who stayed with us for two months. I think it was your mother’s hormones that kept pushing her to ask me every hour when she was going home.

[ed. note: He's exaggerating, it wasn't every hour, it only was once a day. And anyway, I'd do the same thing today, and my hormonal levels are normal on most days.]

When the time came for your arrival, Abuelita and Oma came so they could be with Liat. And then one week before Purim you were born.

Tali, you have been a source of pride to me and mommy. You have an inquisitive mind and are always looking for answers. You always have a question; unfortunately I don’t always have the answer.

As we approach Purim I would like you learn a very important lesson from the Megillah. Purim is about the survival of the Jewish people. It reflects the hazards of life in the Galut. G-d’s name is not mentioned in the Megillah, but even though His Name is not mentioned, His Hand was there then and is here now…guiding us, and showing us the path we should take…

Tali, six months ago we made Aliya to the land of our fathers to let you and your sisters flourish in Jewish life “K’yehudim B’artzeinu”. You can count on us and on your friends to help you sort out this great new country and the new culture you begin to absorb.

To our friends in the old country you will always be missed until the day you decide to join us in Eretz Israel.

[ed. note: You can't imagine how intensely you were missed.]

To our new friends, thank you for being here with us tonight. Please enjoy the celebration of Tali’s becoming a Bat Mitzvah.

And, Tali—yes, you do have to fast tomorrow!!

Have an easy fast and a chag sameach.

Baila's Speech

Tali, you came into this world 12 years ago, exactly one week before Purim. That was a great Purim for me, because Abba took care of all the Mishloach Manot, while I got to stay upstairs in my room with you, claiming you were hungry. I don't think I answered the doorbell once that day.

They say a first child teaches you how to be a parent. So what does a second child teach you? You, Tali, have taught me much. You have taught me how to be a loyal sister. You have taught me how to treat friends. You have taught me, Tali, how to be caring and compassionate, and what it means to sometimes have to give something up so that someone else may benefit.

Abba and I are so proud of you Tali. We know this hasn't been an easy year for you. You had to say good-bye to some special people back in America and to start over again here in Israel. I watch and listen to you every day as you learn a new language, a new culture and a whole new way of doing things. I watch you with your new friends who have welcomed you with open arms, as you have embraced them. I watch your transition and think you have so much to be proud of. You have accomplished so much. You were given a challenge, and you rose to it. We are so fortunate and blessed to have you in our lives.

Tali, you always used to say, "Mommy, I have a question....". I don't know if you even realize this, but lately you've been saying, "Ima Yesh li Sheayla". Keep on asking those questions Tali, and eventually you'll find the answers.

May you continue to seek knowledge and rise to the challenges that life will bring you. We love you very much. Mazal Tov.


Wishing all of you an easy fast, a happy Purim, and the celebration of many, many Smachot in your lives.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bear Stearns Goes Belly-Up


How the mighty have fallen.

It's purely coincidence that six months after my husband left the firm to move to Israel this giant financial company is on the verge of collapsing.

I never understood Economics. Never will. But it seems to me, and my itty-bitty brain, that the reason for the collapse of this great company is nothing less than greed. Maybe you're thinking, I'm oversimplifying this, but I'm telling you this is what it is.

Sub-prime mortgages. Lend money to a borrower with a poor credit history against the security of the value of his house. Six or seven years ago housing values were soaring. But then the bubble burst, home values went down, interest rates went up and many, many have defaulted on their loans. Have this happen, thousands or hundreds of thousands, or what do I know maybe millions of times over, and you have a situation such as Bear Stearns has encountered.

For the past couple of years Bear Stearns has been having record-breaking profits. We're talking billions. You have the head honchos getting bonuses of 30 million dollars. Expense accounts of hundreds of thousands of dollars, use it or lose it.

Need I mention that Isaac never received a 30 million dollar bonus? But Bear was a great place to work. He worked there for 11 years and grew up in that firm. He worked in the "back-office", in computers. He did really well there and there was some regret at having to leave such a great job. But destiny called, and here we are. Out of Hakarat Hatov (appreciation), I will mention that when our daughter was critically ill last year, Isaac had the full support of his office and supervisor and was paid fully and continuously while we were at her bedside. They were human, and I'm sure that is recorded somewhere in the great Judgment book.

I am sad to see this company be swallowed up by JP Morgan Chase. This will have a huge domino effect on the American economy, which is already reeling from the sub-prime mortgage issue and the price of oil. Isaac has many friends at Bear who will be greatly affected by this. But I can't help but feel that it could have been prevented, if not for the greed.

And the really sad thing is we all know it'll happen again in a minute if there is ?*&$-loads of money to be made.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Haveil Havalim, again

Haveil Havalim- The Almost Purim Edition is officially live at Jack's place, and its great. Be sure to check back throughout the day, as Jack is constantly updating it.

A Little Reminder of Home...

Two of my favorite things to do together are read a good book while crunching on a crisp apple. Today I was settling into our comfie chair with both the book and the apple. (Alas, there are no Mcintosh Apples here in the Holy Land...) As I was munching I noticed something strange, something I had not yet seen on an Israeli apple: those little stickers with the number and name of the apple. (In the states I would peel the sticker off the apple and stick it on the cover of the book. Sometimes I returned the book to the library with 5 or 6 stickers on it). I hated those stickers in the states, but I was delighted to find one today. As I peeled this sticker off the apple, I thought of Home.

I struggle with the word "home". Israel is my home now, and I have dreamed of it being my home for a long time. It is my "homeland", the place where it all began for us. And I believe in the return to this homeland of ours so much. I believe in it with all my heart.

But the word "home"....A few weeks ago I was talking to an old friend with whom I am getting reacquainted. She made aliyah about 20 years ago. She said, in casual conversation, "Sometimes, when I go home, I...."

I stopped her. "Wait a minute. You still think of America as home?" I was incredulous.

"Of course", she said. "It's where I grew up. It's where my parents and siblings are".

I was amazed. Until then, I made a conscious effort not to say the word "home" when I referred to America. I live here now, this is my home. But it takes a long time to make a place feel like home. To find your place in a town and become part of a community. The truth is America is in my blood. How could it not be? It is old and familiar to me, while Israel is strange and exciting.

I have two homes now, I think. I love them both, for different reasons. I yearn for them both, for different reasons.

And I guess that's okay.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Little History

I am the kind of person who knows a little about a lot of things. That is to say I have a vague notion of things, but the finer details are missing. Sometimes I come off sounding really smart (if the person I am talking to knows even less than me), but more often than not I sound like a blathering idiot.

Friday was the first day of the month of Adar, a day that we are supposed to increase the joy in our hearts. Of course, this was extremely difficult to do in the aftermath of the brutal murder of eight yeshiva students cut down while learning Torah at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav.

I started to think about this Yeshiva and about the man who founded it in 1924. Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, Z"L is a well-known name in Israel. I knew a little about him. I knew that he was the first Chief Rabbi of what was then called Palestine, and that he stood for "Am Yisrael B'eretz Yisrael Al Pi Torat Yisrael"--The nation of Israel in the Land of Israel, living according to the Torah of Israel. But that's all I knew.

So I resolved to learn a little more about this man, and about why this Yeshiva is such a special place. Some of you who are brilliant and very studied in Torah know all about this great man, and have studied in-depth his Sefarim (books) and his writings. But if any of you are like me, you probably only have a vague sense of the man. I decided to share with you some of what I've read and learned.

Rav Kook was born in Latvia in 1865. From the time he was very young he was known as an ilui--a giant in Torah. At age 18, he studied for a year and a half at the famed Volozhin yeshiva. In 1886 he married Batsheva, the daughter of Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim (known as the Aderet), then rabbi of Ponevezh (later appointed chief rabbi of Jerusalem). Two years later he was appointed rabbi of Zoimel (Zaumel) in Lithuania. During his stay in Zoimel, Rav Kook's first wife died. (Their daughter Fradel was a year and a half at the time.) His father-in-law the Aderet convinced him to marry Raize-Rivka, daughter of the Aderet's twin brother. (Raize-Rivka was the mother of R. Tzvi Yehuda Kook and Batya-Miriam Ra'anan.)

In 1904 Rav Kook arrived in Eretz Yisrael and served as rabbi of Jaffa and the surrounding settlements for the next ten years. During these ten years he became a prolific writer, publishing the first chapters of Orot Hateshuvah, as well as Eder HaYakar and Ikvei Hatzon. He also published the Halachic work, Shabbat Ha'Aretz, in defense of the Heter Mechira.

In 1914, the Rav traveled to Europe for the Agudat Yisrael convention in Berlin. He was unable to return to Israel due to the sudden outbreak of WWI, and spent two years in St. Gallen, Switzerland. He then served as rabbi of the Machzikei HaDat congregation in London for three years during the war, and published the mystical treatise Rosh Milin. In 1919 he returned to Israel, and soon thereafter accepted the position of Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

His son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, edited some of his writings in 1920, publishing them in the book Orot - Rav Kook's most famous work. In 1921, Rav Kook established the Chief Rabbinate in pre-state Israel, becoming Chief Rabbi together with Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yaakov Meir. Rav Kook passed away in 1935, 11 years after establishing Mercaz HaRav.

Rav Kook was known for his ability to reach out across all sectors of Jewish life including secular Jews, Religious Zionists, and more traditional non-Zionist Jews. He felt that Yishuv Ha'aretz, the settlement of Israel was the beginning of the redemption and that all Jews taking part in this were part of a collective "Teshuva" (repentance). He appreciated the sacrifice of the physical labor required to work the land by the chalutzim as the beginning of the spiritual redemption of the Jews from their exile. He said, "The State of Israel--the foundation in which rests the throne of G-d", thus being the first to whom the phrase "Medinat Yisrael" (State of Israel) is attributed to. But he did not hesitate to scold secular Jews for not observing Shabbat or laws of Kashrut. Rav Kook was interested in outreach and cooperation between different groups and types of Jews, and saw both the good and bad in each of them. His willingness to engage in joint-projects (for instance, his participation in the Chief Rabbinate) with the secular Zionist leadership must be seen as differentiating him from many of his traditionalist peers. In terms of practical results, it would not be incorrect to characterize Rav Kook as being a Zionist, believing in the re-establishment of the Jewish people as a nation in their ancestral homeland. Unlike other Zionist leaders, however, Kook's motivations were purely based on Jewish law and Biblical prophecy. His sympathy towards the Zionist movement can be seen as a major stepping-stone to the Religious Zionist movement gaining momentum and legitimacy after his death.

As I mentioned earlier, Rav Kook was a prolific writer. There is even some discussion of his being a vegetarian, as he wrote an essay on the difficult and complicated laws of Shechitah, noting that man was originally intended to be vegetarian, because eating meat is a base instinct of humans. Others claim that although he did write this paper, it was theoretical only and that the Rav himself was not a a practicing vegetarian.

Rav Kook had an unflagging love for the people and the land of Israel. When he established the Mercaz HaRav in 1924 it was unique among the Yeshivot at that time in its religious philosophy, and positive attitude towards Zionism. It was also the first Yeshiva in Israel in which all studies were conducted in Hebrew.

Today the Mercaz is world famous. It's students have served in elite units in the Israel Defense Forces and have gone on to be prominent Rabbi's in their own right throughout Israel, continuing to expound the word of Yishuv Ha'aretz. It is a Yeshiva that accepts some of the best and brightest, but opens its doors to all who wish to study Torah in its corridors.

And on Thursday night, eight of its students were savagely taken from us because they were Jews, learning Torah, who believed with all their hearts in our divine right to live in this land.

Somewhere, the great Rav welcomes his talmidim even as he weeps for his people and his land.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Terror in Jerusalem

I went with my friend to do some finalizing for her daughter's bat-mitzvah. We were in the caterer's office, discussing the music when the TV caught my eye. "Six killed in terror attack at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem".

Oh my G-d.

We all turned to the TV. Well, actually Tammy and I became distracted. The caterer man glanced at the TV, sighed, and continued to talk about the party.

This was at 8:45PM, our time. The attack took place at 8:35 PM. By the time I was watching the event unfold, 50 ambulances were at the scene. We finished talking to the caterer and then walked into the room where the party was being held. Pulsating music, flashing lights, a "candy bar". Joyful Israeli's celebrating a son's bar mitzvah.

We watched the party.

Back in the office, it was now being reported that 8 students were dead.

At the party the mother smiled broadly as her son invited loved ones up to light a candle.

In the office, I watched the news and thought about 8 mothers who will say their final, most wrenching good-byes in the morning.

The pulsating music filtered through, filling the office with its vibrations.

Such is life in Israel.

Monday, March 3, 2008

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed...

Tali's bat-mitzvah is in two weeks,and I've been procrastinating for I-don't-know-how-long, and now I have so many things to do; the kids are finished with ulpan and are supposed to be integrated into the classrooms this week. We must find a car to buy, because the rental is just eating into our bank account; I got a job.

And oh yeah, now Ashkelon, in additon to Sderot, is being bombarded by rockets and missiles from our friendly Hamas neighbors in the South.

It's enough to make a girl scream.

I'll go to sleep first, but not before I say a little prayer for our chayalim.

Good night.