Ki Yachol Nuchal!

New olah; mom and wife. In small ways, every day, trying to rectify the error in judgement of my zaydies, the meraglim. "See these big grapes? We can make really big wine!"

Archive for the ‘Pesach’ Category

Reflections on Pesach and Post-Pesach 5769

Posted by rutimizrachi on 20/04/2009

Yom shlishi, 27 Nisan 5769:  Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Day.

It was amazing to have four boys (and one wife of a boy) here for Pesach!  Soldier Boy and his bride, heavily-laden with the next generation…  First time I have had most of them at the table since the wedding.

Upstairs, the Sephardim are loudly and joyously debating, or singing songs that are different from ours, but equally delicious.  They worry:  Are they too loud?  Does their singing and chatter bother us?  I try to explain that I move to certain areas of the house in order to hear them better.  Thank you, Hashem, for allowing us to hear such beauty.

Yeshiva Bochur leads the second Seder for himself and three equally aliyah-retarded guests.  I am proud of my 19-year-old for being comfortable enough in his own skin to lead a Seder.  Some of what these guys say is remarkable in its sweetness.  It is like a photograph and scratchy phonograph record of songs I remember from childhood.

Some of it is wistful, as this quartet really wants to be here, to live here.  I daven, as I photograph them, that next year they will keep one day, as citizens of our Holy Land.


Tonight is Yom Hashoah.  Sports Guy (all of 14-years-old) attended a Bnei Akiva event…  I only hope he didn’t see the video. Of all my children, he is the least able to cope with the Shoah.  Weird.  I remember standing in the library with him as he tried to do research for an assignment for his third grade class.  He was supposed to write something regarding the period between 1930 and 1945.  It was clear that the teacher was gearing up these Jewish kids to do a paper on the Holocaust.  We pulled out a book designed for children.  (It was important to me as a mother to keep my kids from seeing stuff that was more graphic than their ages should be able to bear.)  We were looking at this kids’ book, which dealt with the subject in a very sensitive manner.  And then my Dani looked up at me with eyes frighteningly shining with tears.  “I can’t do this, Ema.”

My eyes filled.  “I know, Honey.  I know.”

After a long quiet hug, we found something else about the Thirties to write about.  I don’t remember what it was.  But we established a clear understanding between us at the time:  Dani doesn’t do Holocaust.  Intuitively, I understand that he “carries” it differently than my other sons do.  Is he “an old soul”?  Does he have dreams like his mother’s?  I don’t know.  But I respect that he handles this differently than his brothers do.  His brothers all want to crush and destroy anyone who would threaten the Jewish people ever again.  Dani agrees.  But something in Dani remembers or just knows how much it hurt to be a Jew then.  He feels it in a way they cannot.

As I type, I glance at the clock.  I know that I am going to ground him for being late getting home, just like normal mothers do in normal times.  Baruch Hashem, he will say that he is sorry, and that he will get better in the future.  Just like normal kids, in normal times.  Thank G-d.


“I’m sorry.  I was hanging out with friends.  I lost track of time.  I know — it’s my fault.”

“Did you see the film?”

“No.  I’m sorry.”  (He thinks I’m disappointed.  Oy, vey.)  “I was talking, and I came too late.  A couple of mothers and a kid talked.  Hebrew.  I didn’t understand much.

“Then, we all sang ‘Gam ki ailech’ and ‘Ani ma’amim’ and ‘Hatikvah.’  That was pretty cool.”

“You know what it was all about?”


“Any questions?”


“You okay?”

“Yeah.  You?”

“Yeah.  Go to bed, okay?”

“Okay, Ema.  G’night.  I love you.”

“You, too, buddy.”


After Sports Guy trundles off to bed, I think of a cherished memory.

Soldier Boy was younger, and was — uh, let’s just say he was “giving me fits.”

But deep down inside him was a kid who wanted Ma & Pa to be proud.  He has a beautiful voice, does Soldier Boy.  He learned all of the words to “Mama Rochel,” a famous Shwekey song.

We don’t speak Yiddish in my house.  Not our cultural upbringing.  But he memorized all of the words, even the Yiddish words.

And while he was singing the Yiddish words at the end, I thought suddenly of my father’s grandmother, Ruth, for whom I am named.  As far as I know, she was the last religious person in my father’s family.  As the story goes, the family was pretty wealthy.  They had gathered at the family farm just outside of Warsaw…  and then the Nazis came.  One of them said to my father’s lookalike cousin, “Here boy — catch!”  And this animal threw to my father’s cousin a hand grenade.  My grandmother saw “her son” blown up — and even though they presented him later (he’d been hiding under a haystack) — Rita was never the same.

There was a mentally-retarded girl in the family.  The Nazis decided to take her into the woods…  Of course she was afraid.  My paternal great-grandmother, Ruth, said, “I’ll go with the child.”  They were taken into the woods, and that is the last anyone in the family knew of them.

So when I heard my son, in his unbelievably sweet tones, singing this Yiddish lyric…  I thought I could hear Ruth, Hy”d, saying:  “I won, Adolf.  I am still here, through this boy.  YOU are gone.  But I am still here.” 

To carry on. To keep singing and telling over…  To let them know that we will never let them down again. And everything that means — even the holy aspects some of them did not know.

That’s what it’s about, isn’t it?

Glossary:  Sammy, just call me on this one, okay baby?


Haveil Havalim #213, the It’s Been A Long Time edition, is live at The Real Shliach.

Posted in Pesach, Yom HaShoah | 8 Comments »

Don’t Forget the Schlissel Challah!

Posted by rutimizrachi on 17/04/2009

Yom shishi, 23 Nisan 5769.

There is a beautiful custom, taught to me by my beloved Rabbi Menachem and Rebbetzin Bracha Goldberger, to put a key into the first challah after Pesach.

There are many explanations given for this custom.  Rabbi Yehuda Prero says, “The ‘schlissel,’ which is the Yiddish word for ‘key,’ should unlock the gates of sustenance for us just as it was for the nation of Israel after their first Pesach in the promised land.”   Others mention the key as a symbol of “opening a small hole, like the eye of a needle,” by keeping Shabbat and taking challah — and these mitzvot will help to “remind” our Father in Heaven to open His storehouse of blessing for us.  Still others mention that the counting of the omer is a time when gates in the Supernal Realm can be unlocked, if we but have the right keys.  I refer you to an excellent post on A Simple Jew‘s blog from 2007, wherein “A Talmid” did detailed research to offer many different explanations.  My friend Sheina bakes her challah in the shape of a key.

The key that has been used as our schlissel challah for more than a decade has been in my mother’s family for several generations.  And so we keep the sense of tradition alive, even within a family building its traditions much as we build our challah — from scratch. 
Today I plan to fulfill the mitzvah of taking challah in the merit of all those who so desperately want to bring new life into the world.  I have not received permission to mention any names, though there are (unfortunately) several on my list, just as there probably are on yours.  I do not know if this is true — but I believe that if we add to our personal lists the desire to add the names on each other’s lists, Hashem will count our brachot as if all of the names were shared.  Please have all of these dear potential-parents in mind for healthy babies, b’sha’ah tova!
May we share a year of abundant blessing, joy and contentment.

Schlissel:  Yiddish for “key”
Challah:  special bread baked for Shabbat
Taking challah:  a mitzvah to remove and destroy a small portion of the challah dough, as a reminder of the portion given to the Priests during Temple times
Counting of the omer:  a larger subject than I can explain here — but a time of spiritual growth between Pesach and Shavu’ot that takes 49 days of counting and introspection
Supernal Realms:  Don’t even ask.
B’sha’ah tova!:  [Lit: at a good hour]  At the right time, and with ease!


Posted in challah, customs, key, minhagim, Pesach | 4 Comments »

Spring Comes to the Gush

Posted by rutimizrachi on 05/04/2009

Yom sheni, 12 Nisan 5769.

Blessed are you, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, for nothing is lacking in His universe, and He created in it good creatures and good trees, to cause mankind pleasure with them.   

In the English translation of the Modim of the Rabbis that is said during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei, we say “[We thank you] for inspiring us to thank You.”  I have always loved that passage.  Many times throughout our day, the prayerbook inspires us to show G-d appreciation for the many gifts He gives us that we might otherwise take for granted.

One of those prayers is said only once each year, upon seeing fruit trees in bloom.

Even though this special prayer was also available to me in Chutz l’Aretz, it feels even more special to say it in this very holy place.  Please let me share some of the local Gush Etzion beauty with you.


 We had a few guests drop by, as the weather started to warm up.  A couple of them even posed for photos.

 And, of course, some of the greatest beauty is the Jewish people and their love for the mitzvot…  such as cleaning every inch of their homes for Pesach.

 Thank you, Borei Olam, for this beautiful Land, and for all of the lovely, colorful flowers and the interesting creatures and the fine and holy people that fill it.

Thank you most of all for friends with whom to share Your wondrous creation.

Chag Pesach sameach v’kasher l’kulam!

Haveil Havalim #211 is posted at Ima’s place.  She calls it “The Preparing for Pesach Edition.”  There is some fun stuff in there to take your mind off of your scrubbing and cleaning…  or to focus you more intently.  Take a break.  You deserve it!

Modim:  acknowledgment, gratitude, admission
Shemoneh Esrei:   prayer with “eighteen blessings (plus)”  said three times daily
Chutz l’Aretz:  everywhere outside of Israel
Mitzvot:  commandments, elevated deeds
Pesach:  Passover
Borei Olam:  Creator of the world
Chag Pesach sameach v’kasher l’kulam!:  Happy and kosher Passover to everyone!


Posted in Gush Etzion, Haveil Havalim, Nisan, Pesach, Spring | 24 Comments »

A little Pesach chizuk

Posted by rutimizrachi on 31/03/2009

Yom shlishi, 6 Nisan 5769.

My friend, Glenna, has a smile and a warm word or a story of encouragement for everyone.  Here is a story she sent to me.  She heard it from her friend, who heard it from her friend, who…

I’d like to share a favorite true story from a special friend of mine, Pearl K.  She uses the following to keep in a happy frame of mind while cleaning for Pesach.

Someone Pearl knows made aliyah.  She tells the following personal story:

“I was glad to be living in Israel, but one thing I really missed – besides family and friends I’d left behind, of course – was my washer and dryer.  I couldn’t afford those items as a new olah, and found doing laundry by hand an arduous physical chore.  I noticed, however, that my next door neighbor seemed not just philosophical about hanging up the wash — she seemed to really enjoy it.  In fact, she acted as if it was her own personal celebration!

“I was so curious, I got up my courage to ask her about it in my broken Hebrew. What was such fun about hanging out laundry?

“My neighbor explained:

‘I’m a holocaust survivor.  The concentration camp I was in was right near an ordinary Polish community.  I was a teenager, not at all sure that I would survive.  I’d look through the barbed wire enviously as Polish women nonchalantly hung out their wash.  I wondered if I would ever be blessed to get out of there, marry, have a family and the need to do large amounts of laundry.  It became my fondest dream.

‘Well, with Hashem’s help, I did survive and was blessed in all those ways.  Is it any wonder that I’m thrilled by the task of hanging out laundry?’

“When I face making Pesach,” continued my friend Pearl, “I think of that story.  It becomes not a personal chore, but a personal celebration.  There are, unfortunately, so many Jews who still have to hide to keep Pesach, and certainly more who had to in previous times.  Here I am, able to make Pesach openly, to go into major national stores and nonchalantly select kosher-for-Pesach items with no fear of a possibly-resurgent KGB or anyone else.  As I go through, cleaning out the junk from my life along with the physical chometz, how can I not – like my friend’s neighbor in Israel — make it a personal celebration of thanks to Hashem?”

In these changing times and times of change, may all of us continue to feel how holy a gift is the freedom simply to live as Jews; and may we remember Whom to thank.

Posted in aliyah, Holocaust, Pesach | 11 Comments »

Posted by rutimizrachi on 29/03/2009

Yom rishon, 4 Nisan 5769.

Haveil Havalim, Issue #210, is available at Jack’s place.  Jack calls it the Locke, Hurley and Starbuck edition.  This means nothing to me.  However, the video clip from Night at the Opera is worth the whole issue.                                             


Remember that great story about the yid in the shtetl who complains to his rabbi that the house is too small and crowded?  “Bring in the cow,” advises the rabbi.  The man brings in the cow; and the house feels even more crowded.  He returns to the rabbi, who says, “Bring in the chickens.”  So the yid brings in the chickens, and the house feels even more crowded.  So he returns to the rabbi, who tells him to “bring in the goat and the watchdog and the rooster.”  The yid brings in all of these creatures; and needless to say, the house feels unbearably crowded and small.  This time when he returns to the rabbi, the rabbi tells him to shoo all of the animals out of the house.  “Ahhhhh!,” says the yid to his now-happy wife, “our rabbi is the wisest of men!  See how he helped us to increase the size of our home?  And the peace!”

The Dearly Beloved and I fell off the chair (only one chair — the apartment’s too small) laughing at the Marx Brothers’ overcrowding shtick.  (Warning: hilchot negiah alert.  Hysterical, nonetheless.)

I hope you’ll read through the various bloggers in the whole issue…  but at least give yourself a good, hearty laugh.

Happy Pesach cleaning!  Of course, consult with your own posek; but this article at Torat HaRav Aviner makes it a more pleasant process for me:  “How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day.”

Yid:  Jew
Shtetl:  small European Jewish village
Hilchot negiah:  the laws detailing boundaries for physical contact between the sexes
Posek:  Advisor regarding Jewish law

Posted in Haveil Havalim, Marx Brothers, Pesach, Rav Shlomo Aviner | 3 Comments »

Hat Party! (Warning: serious chick-flick alert.)

Posted by rutimizrachi on 26/03/2009

Yom chamishi, 1 Nisan 5769, Rosh Chodesh.

Raising only sons, I am endlessly fascinated by the delightful differences between males and females.  For example, none of my sons — even the most flamboyant — would be caught dead at a hat party.

The last hat party I attended was on my first trip to Israel in 1991.  The delight of playing dress-up with a bunch of women, and the cute comments that floated around me, have stayed with me all of these years.
“Ooh, Tessa!  I never knew you had red hair!”

[After a knock at the door]:  “If you’re a man — STAY OUT!!!”   
[In a lovely Cockney accent]:  “Oh, not f’me.  Too frum!”
I found a couple of beautiful snoods, which I still cherish to this day — mostly because they let me hold my first experience of Israel close to me all of these years.
Now that I am privileged to live here, I attended my second hat party the other night.  There were even more hats!
And the comments were just as cute.
“Miriam, it must be very hard to choose a hat, when everything looks so great on you!”
[After a knock at the door]:  “If you’re a man — STAY OUT!!
“[Sigh.]  Some lucky people just have ‘hat heads’.”
One of the very different character traits between men and women is the competition thing.  If men would hold a hat party, the comments would be more aggressive and joking — dare I say “snide”? — then at women’s gatherings.  Something like:  Yankel, that hat makes your face look like a baseball.  Well, thanks, Mordy.  At least I don’t look like I just sprouted feathers out of my ears.  Oh, yeah?  YEAH.
Women tend to encourage and help each other.  Everyone wants to look better than she does; so she empathetically says nice things about her friend, or becomes her “personal shopper.”

 At the end of the experience, a girl feels like everyone is her friend, and she can’t wait to get together with these lovely people again.

For more on the differences between men and women, especially applicable to this time of year, check out Jameel’s Pesach cleaning post:  “Mars & Venus on Erev Pesach Cleaning“.

Posted in hat party, hats, Pesach, women v. men | Leave a Comment »

Family Together

Posted by rutimizrachi on 13/05/2008

Yom shlishi, 8 Iyar 5768/13 May 2008, Tuesday.

I haven’t written in a while. Too busy living, b”H.

What’s news? We had the best Pesach of our lives. One Seder definitely rocks, as the kids say. I used a gimmick suggested by a close friend, in order to bring home the feeling of really getting out of Mitzrayim. When we reached the part of the Hagaddah which begins “Avadim hayinu…” (We were slaves…), I invited the family into a darkened room, lit by candlelight. Each person was asked to tell over his day under our slavemasters, the Egyptians. I started, and spoke of helping another midwife to secretly help a mother bring a new boy child into the world, and then to hide him. Abba told of a recent beating from one of the Mitzri. Aryeh, whom I expected to make a joke of the whole thing, instead spoke very eloquently about finding a toddler who had wandered from the “safe house,” and helping him to find his way back. Dovid spoke of learning a Mishna, b’al peh, with three young slaves and a rabbi/slave, and how they had to be very secretive about their learning. And Dani lamented that a Mitzri had taken away the ball he had made of straw and mud, and how poor rocks were for secret moments of soccer. We have no clue whether or not there was any historic accuracy to our fantasies. But when we left our little stage set, and returned to the Seder, we shared a feeling of escaping from slavery.

Dovid, our yeshiva bochur, was visiting us from the States. As a visitor to Israel, he had to make a second Seder. It was to be his very first, without Abba or another adult at the helm. Several people in Neve Daniel had out-of-country guests, and asked if Dovid would let them attend his Seder. I was proud to hear that he was excited at the prospect. For one reason and another, only one guest was able to attend… and he ended up being an old friend of Dovid’s from one of his yeshivot! They had a really wonderful time together, with lots of ruach and divrei Torah. I took a few photos (because I could), and monitored the brothers, so they wouldn’t crash the party more often than was cute.

We spent the extra-long Chol Ha-Moed traveling to Meron, Tzfat, and to Avnei Eitan in the Golan. We spent time with old friends; and the boys hiked to the Black Falls. It was Dovid’s first time in the north; and it meant a lot to him and to the rest of us to include him. There was much beauty, and many moments to experience the holiness of sacred places. In reality, it should have been an awful trip. It was very hot; the car overheated about a dozen times; we ran out of drinking water for a time. But, due to the amazing attitudes of three teenagers, it was our best vacation ever! They laughed at every hardship, rather than complaining. Dovid sang Breslov songs, with his arms upraised, in his Na Nach Nachman kipa (which he had purchased for the sole purpose of “freaking out” his beloved Rosh Yeshiva, for the fun of it). Aryeh made a documentary of “nearly dying of thirst” on the road. Because it was an Aryeh Eastman Production, it was extremely funny. We took lots of photos of Abba pouring bottles of water into the radiator. We played music together, and enjoyed ourselves, our friends, and each other.

In our last week with Dovid, we visited Ma’arat HaMachpela. This was also a first for Dovid. As with all spiritual experiences we have shared, the moments were made even more precious because he was there. Dovid always finds the deeper meaning, and shares it very articulately.

Yom Ha-Atzma’ut was spent with friends, participating in the holy Israeli ritual known of as “mangal.” While I do remember barbecues as part of Fourth of July celebrations in the States, the nearly frantic urgency of the mangal makes it unique. Also, perhaps because beef seems to be less available in Israel (at least of the quality and variety one finds easily in the US), there seems to be an almost religious fervor surrounding the grilling and consumption of mass quantities of hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks. In an attempt to be “true Israelis,” Dani and Aryeh ate approximately one cow each. Our host wondered how we feed them the rest of the year…

Josh is now in Golani Brigade, and engaged to be married! It was good to have the brothers together again, after nine months. Although their lives and directions seem to be very different, Avi and I are honored by the way they love and respect each other. Avi has always told them that achdut (unity) starts at the Eastman table; and when the Jewish people truly have achdut among ourselves, the world will have true peace.

So now we are planning the big trip back to Baltimore, in July. Soldier Boy will get a few days off from his IDF responsibilities to get married, and then will return to training. (We try to be his cheerleaders, and completely close our minds to what he is training for, and where he will probably be sent.) He and his bride will live in Israel; but as of yet, it is a mystery exactly where in Israel. May Hashem bless them with finding the right apartment, at the right price, in the right location. In the meantime, we have reminded them that family is about being there for each other, and that the spare room can be made into something resembling “comfortable,” at least for a short time.

Enough catching up for now.

Posted in Pesach, Yom Haatzmaut | 1 Comment »