Archive | Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Shmirat haguf: Keep those self-improvement resolutions

Posted on 05 January 2017 by admin

Dear Friends ,
It is the new year — the secular new year. We have already had the new Jewish year when we reflected and repented and made a “return” (teshuvah) to being the person we should be. The secular new year has a tradition called “making resolutions” which is followed by the tradition called “breaking those resolutions made.” What is one of the biggest resolutions made each year? Taking care of your body — diet, exercise, meditation, yoga and more — is usually at the top of the list, especially after holidays filled with eating and drinking.
Is there a Jewish value on taking care of your body? Of course — shmirat haguf, which means guarding the body, is a key responsibility for all of us. The 12th-century sage Maimonides (who was a physician) wrote a whole section of his Mishneh Torah about caring for your body. In the opening of this section, the Rambam (acronym for Maimonides) wrote: “Since it is God’s will that a (person’s) body be kept healthy and strong, because it is impossible for a (person) to have any knowledge of his Creator when ill, it is, therefore, his duty to shun anything which may waste his body, and to strive to acquire habits that will help him preserve his health.”
There are additional rules found in the Talmud and medieval Jewish law which talk about washing hands and keeping a clean body. Washing hands before eating for ritual purposes actually kept the Jews from diseases such as the plague in past times. The interesting historical twist was that because the Jews weren’t getting sick and dying, they were blamed for the plague rather than people realizing that simply washing your hands keeps disease away.
As we move into the new year, make a resolution to help both your body and your soul — take care of your body, which will open you to spirit.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Hanukkah stamps chance to display Jewish pride

Posted on 28 December 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
On Nov. 1, the U.S. Postal Service dedicated the Hanukkah Forever Stamp. You can buy these stamps and use them “forever” — a great service of the U.S. Postal Service.
Here is the information from their website about the stamp and the dedication ceremony (I never knew there was a dedication ceremony for first-day-of-issue stamps):
“BOCA RATON, Florida — The U.S. Postal Service’s new Hanukkah Forever stamp — available nationwide today — features a warm, elegant illustration of a holiday menorah in the window of a home. The eight nights and days of Hanukkah begin on the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, a date that falls in late November or December. In 2016, Hanukkah begins at sundown Dec. 24.
“The first-day-of-issue stamp dedication ceremony took place at the Temple Beth El of Boca Raton. The public is asked to share the news of the stamp using the hashtag #HanukkahStamps.
“ ‘The Hanukkah stamp we’re dedicating today honors a religious observance that is more than 2,000 years old — and how appropriate that the word itself — Hanukkah — means “dedication” in Hebrew,’ said U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President David Williams. ‘This beautiful stamp depicts a warm, elegant illustration of a holiday menorah in the window of a home. The white window trim is visible through the branches of the menorah, which echo a tangle of snow-covered tree branches beyond the glass. Artist William Low added visual interest to the scene by highlighting the contrast between the hot candle flames and the cool snow, the vertical candles and the horizontal window frame, and the dark menorah with the brightly lit candles. Starting today, this beautiful image of remembrance, light and love will travel on letters and packages to millions of households and businesses throughout America and around the world.’
“Low, of Huntington, New York, worked under art director Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Maryland, who designed the stamp.
“Joining Williams in dedicating the stamp were Temple Beth El of Boca Raton Rabbi Jessica Brockman, Senior Rabbi Dan Levin and Rabbi Greg Weisman. U.S. Postal Service South Florida District Manager Jeffery Taylor served as master of ceremonies.
“ ‘We are deeply honored to host the Postal Service in unveiling this year’s Chanukah stamp,’ said Levin. ‘The holiday of Chanukah is a celebration of the triumph of the spirit over oppression so deeply reflected in the story of America. All of us in the Jewish community are proud to see our heritage woven into the philatelic tradition of America.’ ”
Every Jewish website and blog today talks about growing anti-Semitism and this time of year we are particularly sensitive to it. The tradition for Hanukkah is to put your hanukkiah in the window so that you are publicizing the miracle of the oil. Should we be “Maccabees” today and not be afraid? The answer is a definite yes! This beautiful government-issued reminder that we can and should shine our light!  Happy Hanukkah.
Shalom from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

8 values exemplified by biblical Jewish women

Posted on 22 December 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
Every year and every holiday gives us an opportunity to enhance our experience and learning.
I check so many wonderful websites and wish I could pass everything on. This one is from www.reformjudaism.org and it is a keeper. There are so many lessons to be talked about with our children and the adults with whom we celebrate.
So enjoy Amy Soule’s candle lighting dedicated each night to a different value exemplified by a biblical Jewish woman.

  • 1. Justice: Deborah was a great judge respected for her sage and hopeful counsel. (Judges 4:1-5:31)
  • 2. Peace: Serach bat Asher brought peace and comfort to Jacob by telling him gently, through song, that his son Joseph had not been killed, as reported by Joseph’s brothers. (Midrash Ha-Gadol, Genesis 46:25)
  • 3. Sisterhood: It was Rachel, not her father, who ensured that her sister Leah would have the honor of being Jacob’s first spouse. Rachel taught Leah how to imitate her so Jacob had no idea it was Leah under the chuppah. In this way, Rachel saw to it that no shame came to Leah. (BT: Bava Batra 123a)
  • 4. Loving kindness: Rivka showed exceptional kindness at the well to Isaac’s servant Eliezer and to his camels by drawing enough water to satisfy the thirst of both man and animal. Thus did Eliezer find a kind and loving wife for Isaac. (Genesis 24:16-22)
  • 5. Compassion: Miriam had a vision that her mother would give birth to a child destined to become a great leader. She shared this vision with her parents, giving them the courage to have another child despite Pharaoh’s decree to kill all male infants. Miriam’s brother Moses grew up to be that great leader, shepherding our people from bondage to freedom. (Exodus Rabbah 1:22)
  • 6. Understanding: Pharaoh’s daughter rescued Moses from the water, then raised him under her father’s nose and let his biological mother nurse him. God renamed her Batya (daughter of God) in recognition of her great understanding of a people who were “supposed to be” her enemies. (Leviticus Rabbah 1:3)
  • 7. Joy: Sarah demonstrated great joy after hearing that she was to have a child at the age of 90. Her happiness at this news reminds us to celebrate everything positive that occurs, even — and perhaps especially — the seemingly impossible. (Genesis 18:10-15)
  • 8. Love: Lot’s wife, Idit, looked back at her children and brethren while escaping Sodom, an act of selfless love that resulted in her being reduced to a pillar of salt, which represented her tears. (Pirkei de Rebbe Eliezer 25:160 a/b)
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Handy blessing for travel

Posted on 15 December 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
As we get closer to winter break, many families will be getting on the road (or in the air) to travel to friends, families and great places to vacation. There is a very special blessing that we say at the start of a journey.
In the past, journeys were often dangerous. Traveling carried a certain amount of risk that could be avoided if you stay home. Our ancestors asked God for protection. The blessing is called Tefilat Haderech and it is a good idea to have it handy this vacation.

T’filet Haderech

Y’hi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu v’Elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu, shetolicheinu l’shalom v’tatzideinu l’shalom,v’tadreichanu l’shalom, v’tagei-aynu limchoz cheftzaynu l’chayim ul’simchah ul’shalom. V’tatzilaynu micaf kol o-yev v’o-rev baderech, umikol minei furaniyot l’chein ulchesed ulrachamim b’einecha uvaynay chol ro-aynu, v’tishma kol tachanuneinu, ki el shomei-a t’filah v’tachanun atah. Baruch atah, Adonai, shomei-a t’filah.

May it be Your will, Adonai our God and God of our fathers and mothers, to lead us to peace, direct our steps to peace, guide us to peace and bring us to our desired destination in life, joy and peace.
Rescue us from any enemy or ambush on the way, and from all afflictions that trouble the world. Send blessing to the work of our hands, and let us find grace, kindness and compassion from You and from all who see us.
Hear our pleas, for You are a God who hears prayer and pleas.
Blessed are You, Adonai, who listens to prayer.

Can you see why this blessing made sense in past times? It was scary and often very dangerous to travel and one never knew what might happen along the way and even when you would arrive or sometimes what the final destination might be like.
Read closer — this blessing asks for peace along the way and on arrival. The plea for rescue is not only from enemies but “afflictions that trouble the world” — that is certainly an amazing request for past ages but also for today.
So this blessing is perfect for all times.
Now whether you are planning on boarding a plane or driving your car, whether you are going across the country or across the town, a blessing is always good to start the journey.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Hanukkah-Christmas dilemma as calendar pairs holidays

Posted on 08 December 2016 by admin

Dear Parents and Children,
Yes, it is time to start thinking about Hanukkah, and this year, because of our strange calendar, Hanukkah and Christmas fall at the same time.
There are positives and negatives about this — for many “The December Dilemma” is rearing its head. The dilemma has to do with Christmas and Hanukkah. How do we handle our children’s questions and desires (while remembering our own)? This “problem” is actually a continuum — we all fit somewhere on a line from “this is serious” to “this isn’t even an issue.” Now as we get ready for the holiday, it is time to plan so here are a variety of thoughts and ideas — all taken from others wiser than I am!

  • 1. Visit Christmas: Enjoy visiting your non-Jewish friends and celebrating holidays with them (but be sure to include them in your holiday events). Help your children understand by explaining, “When we go to play at Bobby’s house, we enjoy his toys but when we leave, we do not take the toys home. Those are Bobby’s toys. When we help decorate Bobby’s Christmas tree, we have a good time, but we don’t bring it home. We do not celebrate Christmas. Let’s invite Bobby and his family for Shabbat (or Passover or Hanukkah).”
  • 2. Don’t Compete, Create Meaning: We do not need to set up Hanukkah as a competition or compensation for Christmas. Create meaningful traditions for all of your holidays. There’s more to Christmas and Hanukkah than just the gifts. Judaism celebrates weekly — make a big deal out of Shabbat!
  • 3. Talk with Friends: The discussion is more important than the solutions! There are no right or wrong answers on how to deal with Santa Claus, lights, songs, etc.
  • 4. From 40 Ways to Save the Jewish People: Educator and author Joel Lurie Grishaver tells the story of a college daughter’s talk to her mother, “Mom, I actually figured out that Hanukkah was one of the major reasons I never got involved with drugs or excessive drinking or promiscuous sex. From having to celebrate Hanukkah when everyone else was doing Christmas, I learned that I could be different — and that was OK!”
  • 5. Hanukkah is a wonderful holiday to create new traditions: Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox, with her family, added new rituals and here are her…Favorite Hanukkah Happenings!
  • Art Night: Cover the tables so the children can paint murals, make figures out of clay, make a new chanukkiah for the season, and more.
  • Music Night: Invite friends who like to play instruments and sing and have a song fest with a little karaoke (and maybe a talent show).
  • Tzedakah Night: Do something for others — buy a gift to donate, go to a home for the elderly, collect food and deliver to a shelter…
  • Book Night: The gift for the night is a book for each person followed by reading and storytelling.
  • Grandparents Night: A big family night or if you live far from family, this is the night to call everyone on the phone.
  • Movie Night: Watch a movie together — pick one that can be a family favorite for years to come (and, of course, make popcorn).
  • Big Ticket Night: The gift for the night is tickets to a cultural event that everyone in the family can attend.
  • Homemade Presents Night: Definitely the favorite — make presents for each member of the family or draw lots to make one for a special person.
    Hanukkah is a holiday with many wonderful rituals. Families continue to create new traditions to teach the special messages which are part of the historical event. What are the messages we want our children to understand?

Despite pressure to conform, Mattathias and his five sons refused to bow down to idols. Being a Maccabee, whether long ago or today, means fighting for the right to be different and being proud of those differences. We also teach our children that being small does not mean being insignificant. The Jewish people have always been small in number, but we have always been strong in spirit.
We know that each of us can make a difference in the world! And this is the legacy of the Maccabees and the celebration of Hanukkah! So let’s teach our children how to appreciate their differences — first, by teaching and modeling Jewish life and all the beauty of it, and second, by learning about others and then going home to what we know and love.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

5 skills from ‘The Adaptable Mind’

Posted on 01 December 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
There are countless articles on the skills that youth need in the 21st century and, as parents and workers with children know, these skills are essential. However, that doesn’t mean that people of all ages should not develop or increase these skills. The list and discussion below from Miriam Chilton and Liz Hirsch was posted on ejewishphilanthropy.com. They add that important “Jewish twist” to a special set of skills.
The skills listed are from filmmaker Tiffany Shlain’s documentary titled The Adaptable Mind. The five skills are: curiosity, creativity, initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking, and empathy. Chilton and Hirsch remind us that each of these teachings exist in the Torah, Talmud, Midrash and our liturgy. Here are a few Jewish connections to the skills:

  • 1. Curiosity — Torah is the gateway to infinite learning and discovery. Learning independently, as well as with, and from, others is considered essential. The Talmudic process of studying with a friend is well known. The chavruta experience enhances our learning — learning alone is good but discussion/argument/challenging interpretation comes from communication with others.
  • 2. Creativity — Hiddur mitzvah, meaning “beautification of the commandment,” stems from the idea that one can perform a commandment… simply… or if we employ creativity, we can make it more meaningful. Approaching any experience or problem with creativity and intention expands the potential.
  • 3. Multi-disciplinary thinking — The Torah was prescient in teaching how strength, beauty and meaning can be achieved through crowdsourcing multiple talents and viewpoints. This is a great idea from the past for today — we need others to bring all the talents to the table for any experience.
  • 4. Empathy — We learn the concept of B’tzelem Elohim, teaching us that humanity is created in the image of God. We must see ourselves in every person to be a part of this world.
  • 5. Initiative — As the Jewish people, our initiative and courage are much of what has helped us survive. Abraham, Moses, Aaron — the list goes on! We must take the first step and encourage others to do the same.

As we continue growing and challenging ourselves to gain new skills, let’s put these five on the list to work on this year.
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is the director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Too late for Thanksgiving; try odd kosher animals

Posted on 24 November 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
When you read this it will be too late for Thanksgiving menu plans but it is never too late to think about eating and eating kosher. Here is something I just had to pass on from www.thejewniverse.com — The Top 10 Surprisingly Kosher Animals — and Delicious Ways to Eat Them by Abby Sher:

  • 10. Canada geese are the second-largest honking waterfowl in North America, and they often take over the cornfields and playgrounds. Yet these birds can be a backyard-to-table coup if you have the right ingredients. Canada goose in Sweet Chili Sauce may be just the delicacy for you.
  • 9. Doves and pigeons (aka “squab”) are lean, plentiful dark meat birds, which you may see hanging out on electric lines or neighborhood trees.
  • 8. While most flying insects are forbidden from consumption, Leviticus 11:21-22 specifies that locusts are available for chomping. Add a little flour and seasoning, fry them up, and you have a crunchy home-grown snack. (Just take off the heads first to avoid shrieking dinner guests.)
  • 7. Often found off the coast of Florida with Bubbe and Zayde, the jewfish is from the grouper family and can grow up to 700 pounds. There are several theories about how it got its name and whether it’s derogatory toward Jews. But whatever you feel about its nomenclature, there’s no denying it makes a scrumptious coconut jewfish entrée.
  • 6. And while you’re looking in the fish-with-scales family, the monkey-faced eel has been called “ugly as sin” with a somber face that looks out soulfully from the rocks of Monterey Bay, but it’s also very tasty in a fish gumbo with a side of kasha varnishkes.
  • 5. And last but not least, the shibuta has made many appearances in the Talmud, and has a unique pork-like taste to it. According to ancient texts, a salted head of shibuta boiled in beer is not only delicious but can possibly cure jaundice.
  • 4. OK’d by Leviticus, Deuteronomy and the Orthodox Union, bison are not only the national mammal of the United States, they also make a very lean, tender brisket roast.
  • 3. As long as you’re in the market for cud-chewers with cloven hooves, there are also tasty recipe ideas for elk (chipotle chocolate chili!).
  • 2. Bighorn sheep (stew!), or
  • 1. Moose (meatballs!)

So now that you have a new list you can try to add a little something to your dinner table! Plus add a new website of interesting Jewish articles to your daily reading — thejewniverse.com is filled with lots of strange and interesting facts!
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady,
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Gratitude scavenger hunt great Thanksgiving fun

Posted on 17 November 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
The month of Cheshvan — no Jewish holidays! However, Thanksgiving is coming!
There is a lot to prepare for from the food to the decorations to the family and friends invitations and more. As we prepare, we need to think about what the holiday is really all about. Yes, it is an American holiday but there are definite Jewish values in this holiday of thankfulness. An important Jewish value is “hakarat hatov” — recognizing benefits afforded us and giving expression to our appreciation.” Note that there are two parts of this value — we must first recognize what we are thankful for and then “give expression.”
Part 1: there is so much to be thankful for if we open our eyes and look around. It helps to make a list. With our children at J Camps and Early Childhood Center, we play a game — “Go on a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt.” Here are some thing to get your list started:

  • Something in nature.
  • Something that makes a beautiful sound.
  • Something that tastes good.
  • Something that smells amazing.
  • Something that is older than you are.
  • Something that you have just learned.
  • Something that makes you laugh.
  • Something that makes you cry.
  • Something that makes you strong.
  • Something that you would like to share with others.

For those of you who love music, download Craig Taubman’s Modeh Ani. This prayer is said every morning on waking up — we are thankful for waking! The song is great but we use it as a “fill in the blank” with the children — “Modeh Ani, I am thankful for … .” It is a simple and easy song to learn — so wake up singing.
Part 2: Giving expression to our appreciation — why is it necessary to see it and then say it? There are many answers to that question that you can talk about but speaking it out loud (or writing it down) makes it real! It is also a way to share with others that you are thankful and that helps us all to hear it!
So get ready for Thanksgiving by making your list and counting your many blessings!!
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady,
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

Become soulful educator

Posted on 10 November 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
Reading is my passion — I can’t be anywhere without a book and I am thankful that now I can read on my smartphone.
Does that mean that I am really a “person of the book?” Yes, Jews are named “People of the Book” because of reading the Torah and also all the millions of commentaries and today, even Jewish fiction. Jews read, Jews study, Jews learn — it is part of who we have always been.
Our people are also teachers — we pass on our learning and our passion for learning. I just reread Becoming a Soulful Educator: How to Bring Jewish Learning from Our Minds, to Our Hearts, to Our Souls — and into Our Lives by Aryeh Ben David. The book begins by telling who the book is for — “A soulful educator is someone who wants to enable students, whether children, adolescents or adults, to discover their better selves through learning.”
There is a story in the Talmud about Rabbi Tarfon and the Elders raising the question, “Is study greater, or practice?”
Here is the response: “Rabbi Tarfon says that practice is greater. Rabbi Akiva says that study is greater. The Elders answered that study is greater, for it leads to action.” (Talmud, Kiddushin 40b) This discussion has been argued and challenged for generations. The answer from the Elders should remind us that we do need both. If we only study or only practice it is not enough — we need both.
The soulful educator teaches so that knowledge is transformative — life changes happen! How do we make sure that our teaching impacts changes in lives? First, we must ask how learning and knowledge can change our lives. There is a story from the Midrash (Talmud, Niddah 30b) that an angel visits the baby before birth and teach it all of Torah, then touches the baby’s lips during birth, causing the baby to forget all of its learning. This loss creates the yearning to learn and remember Torah.
Ben David says that we are “hard-wired to yearn for something after we have lost it.” We are hard-wired to learn and grow — just watch a baby learning to walk.
Here is the challenge: If you are an educator, become a soulful one. Every encounter with your students should guide them to grow and change their lives. If you do not think you are an educator, think again. Each of us is a teacher — embrace the task. We are all teaching and it just depends on where we do that teaching and who our students are. And last thought on being a soulful educator: We are all teaching ourselves!
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

As November arrives, don’t shy away from giving thanks

Posted on 03 November 2016 by admin

Dear Families,
Last week I shared a blessing for voting and perhaps some used it during early voting or are saving it for Nov. 8!
Jewish life has a blessing for everything. Children love the fact that we have to say a different blessing for each food and experience — it is a game. Many of the adults I teach ask why we can’t just have one “catchall” blessing.
Today much is being written on the value of gratitude in helping us to truly see what we have to be thankful for in this world. To say, “I’m thankful for everything I have” is good but to actually point to each and every thing that we have in our lives will take anyone out of feeling bad! Saying a blessing does that — and to say 100 blessings each day (as the rabbis commanded) magnifies how fortunate we are!
Now that I have passed on a blessing for voting, here is another that I found on this website — thejewniverse.com. The book On the Doorposts of Your House is filled with prayers for every occasion and includes some new Jewish blessings. (Have a conversation on adding new blessings and liturgy to your Jewish practice — is that OK? Why? How do you feel about adding something that you or your family have created using the forms of Jewish prayer but with a twist?)
So here is the new blessing that hopefully you will use (although not on a daily basis — it isn’t allowed!). It is a blessing to use before donating blood:
Baruch eloheinu asher natan lanu may-chachmato v’hishpiah aleinu laazor livnay adam b’orach chayeinu v’af motaynu. Praised be our God who gives us wisdom and encourages us to help others by our way of living and in our dying.
The article did not suggest that this be said when you sign on as an organ donor but the thought came to mind as giving blood is done when we are alive and donating organs happens usually after death. Whenever you use this blessing, it is yet another way to make every act a spiritual moment.
We have entered the month of Cheshvan — a month with no Jewish holidays (except, of course, Shabbat). Thanksgiving is not a Jewish holiday but we can definitely make it a Jewish experience for our family. Every family has different traditions — perhaps this year, you can ask each person at the table to create a new blessing and use the traditional format in every Jewish blessing — “Baruch atah …” Being thankful is definitely a Jewish thing so find or create ways to bring the spiritual into your life in many moments.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Comments (0)

View or Subscribe to the
Texas Jewish Post

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here