Thursday, February 25, 2010



It is great to have Parshat Tetzaveh the same week as Purim since much of the Parsha is dedicated to the "costume" of the Kohen. I knew right away that I wanted to make some kind of Kohen Gadol costume with the girls this week. I didn't want it to be a full-blown costume since we already have their Purim costume to worry about! Of course, a Kohen Gadol would have made a great Purim costume but there were other plans already in place...

I decided that we would focus on the Choshen Mishpat which is the most colorful part of the Kohen's uniform since it was made up of twelve different jewels to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.

This project could have been made very simply using different color paper and it would have looked great. But, I knew that if we made it out of paper, it would end up in the trash at some point. I was inclined to make something that we could keep and actually use, like the welcome mat. So, instead we made aprons. This was actually an old idea of mine. Years ago, before we were married, I made Andy a Kohen Gadol apron. Andy happens to be a Kohen and a serious cook. So, back then (when I was still making him cute gifts), I decided to buy him a white apron and chef's hat. The two items reminded me of the hat and garb of the Kohen Gadol so I bought some puffy paints and painted a design of the choshen onto the apron. I added the words "BIG KAHUNA" since we have always wondered if this expression relates to the Kohen Gadol. Anyway, I decided that the girls could do basically the same thing for themselves. First, we looked at different illustrations of the Kohen's clothes.

I bought plain child-sized aprons and puffy paints. I drew the outline of the Choshen for them in gold (as you can see from the photo, I accidentally made 9 squares instead of 12 at first which required some fixing later...)

Then, I let the girls start painting. I let them choose whatever colors they wanted for the different squares.

The results were super cute:

We even added jingle bells on to the bottom of the aprons. My hope is that these little aprons will actually get used in dress-up and play.

We had time to do a very fun and easy Parsha snack. Graham crackers, peanut butter, and jelly bellies make a great Choshen...

Sunday, February 21, 2010



Here we go... the Mishkan! The parshiot we have all been dreading, I mean, waiting for!

The truth is that this was actually one of the easier Parshiot to come up with a project since the Mishkan and its vessels are themselves artistic designs.

Before we started our project, we looked at lots of visual examples of the Mishkan and its vessels. First, we did the coloring pages from Aish which had nice illustrations of the mishkan, the menorah, the aron, etc. We also looked at the photos in Olam Hatanach from this week's parsha.

We also watched the g-dcast for this week's parsha which is always enjoyable and educational. It is particularly fun when, like this week, we actually know the narrator!

I basically explained to the girls that the mishkan was a portable kind of shul. I did not mention anything about the altar or the sacrifices since I have no idea how to explain killing animals as a form of worship to a four year old.

I was a little uneasy about doing an actual model of the Mishkan. There are actually tons of (mostly Christian) Model Tabernacle kits out there.

It is amazing how Christian things sounds when you translate them. The "Mishkan" is Jewish; the "Tabernacle" is very Christian. Anyway, even making a model of the "Mishkan" reminded me a little too much of The Temple Institute.

So, I settled on making just an aron. I was giving a "grown-up" shiur on Shabbos about the Keruvim so it was on my mind anyway.

I spent 30 minutes at Michael's and bought everything that was gold, sparkly, and cheap. I came home with gold glitter paint, gold foil candy wrappers, gold pipe cleaners, gold ribbon, and gold sticky beads. I also bought a wooden jewelery box for $1.00 and we were ready to go.

Of course the girls loved painting with the glitter paint but it was messy, looked more yellow than gold, and did not dry quickly (all things that did not phase the children, only the mother).

Then, it was time to decorate. By this point, I had lost Avital. The sticky beads became her earrings, the candy wrappers were stuffed inside her box, and the pipe cleaners were wrapped around her wrists. I guess this was not really a two-year old friendly project. Maya was mostly patient and interested as we used the glue gun to attach the poles and decorations.

During the week, I discovered a website called Naaseh VeNilmad which sells lapfolders (lapbooks are apparently the hot thing in the homeschooling world) for teaching Parshat Hashavuah. In the lapfolder for Parshat Terumah, they included a design for a Mishkan cake that I desperately wanted to make this week. I even bought all of the ingredients but I accidentally thought that candle-lighting was at 5:56 instead of 5:36 and we ran out of time. I had a tantrum (yes, me, not the toddler) but Andy reminded me that there will be many upcoming Parshiot for which a Mishkan cake will work. :)

Ok, on to Purim...

Sunday, February 14, 2010



This week's parsha has ALOT in it.

These were the topics that I ruled out right away:
1) Laws of the Hebrew Slave
2) Punishments for those who kill, injure, steal, etc.
3) Bestiality
4) Seduction of a virgin
5) Driving the Canaanites out of the Land
5) Sprinkling blood on the altar

I did briefly consider doing a project about the laws of the goring ox since there are a number of ox projects online because of the Chinese New Year. But, after rereading this section, I decided I didn't think that they needed to learn about killing oxes that kill people...

I then thought about doing something on the important value expressed in this parsha to take care of the widow, the stranger, and the orphan. Although we did discuss this message, it didn't make for an obvious craft.

So, on Friday morning (yes, this was all very last minute!) I decided that we would make Torah scrolls since the end of the parsha explains that Moshe wrote down all of the commandments (presumably in a scroll?). Then, "he took the Book of the Covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, All that the Lord has said will we do, and obey - Naaseh Venishma."

While the girls watched Dora, I Googled "Torah craft." Two similar projects popped up - one Christian and one Jewish. I got a sense from these sites of what I wanted to do but I thought that I would have to make a special trip with the girls to Michael's to get dowels, paper, washers, etc. It was raining out and I wasn't going anywhere for anything. So, I got resourceful and I am proud to say that everything I used for this project was already in the house.

First, I printed the words "Naaseh Venishma" on a regular piece of white printer paper on the landscape setting. I let the girls cut them out so that they were a long strip.

They used water colors to paint over the words to make the paper look more like klaf (parchment). The fact that Maya's tore down the middle made it look even more authentic :).

I already had a printout of how Hebrew letters look in a Sefer Torah because of my work with the current exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. We discussed which letters had "crowns" and I added them in on the printout.

It dried quickly and I used the glue gun to glue each side to wooden skewers that I broke in half for the "eitzim." The final touch was picking four beads to glue onto each of the sides. Avital spent most of the time just playing with the beads which is by far one of her favorite pastimes, as you can see by her designer necklace.

From the same bead set, we just cut a string to tie up each of the Torahs.

Since we were going away for shabbat, I wanted them to have something to carry the Torahs in. We found a jewelery box and a sachet bag that made perfect cases.

The jewelery box makes for a nice little aron kodesh.

The girls were very proud of their little Torahs and held them throughout the weekend. Some of these projects end up in the trash but this one is a keeper.

I am gearing up for the mishkan...

Thursday, February 4, 2010



When I told Maya that this week's parsha was about Har Sinai, she quickly responded, "but, Imma, we already did Har Sinai!" She was referring to the Har Sinai that we created last Shavuot out of torn grocery bags for the mountain, cotton balls for the clouds, foam stickers for the flowers and dot paints for the sky. I guess that was actually our first Jewish craft project and I was so excited and proud that it has been hanging on the wall in their bedroom ever since.

So, this week, we focused on the Aseret HaDibrot, or Ten Commandments, that were given on Har Sinai. The first thing that I realized was that I was going to have to decide how I was going to translate, both literally and into kids terms, the meaning of the commandments. For example, we have a kids book at home from the PJlibrary called Ten Good Rules that lists the commandments in the following kid-friendly way:

1. I am the one and only God.
There is just one Hashem - fine.
2. Do not pray to other gods.
I also mentioned something about not having idols. Maya remembered that King Antiochus had idols. She needed some reminding about exactly what idols were though. Not an easy concept for someone who has never actually seen an idol.
3. Do not say bad words.
This is really just not what it says or means. One kid-friendly translation I saw online was "Use God's name with respect." At least that's a little closer to "don't take God's name in vain." The two mainstream understandings of this verse are either that it refers to one who swears falsely using God’s name or to one who uses God's name unnecessarily. So, I told her that we shouldn't just say "God, God, God, God." To which she said, but Imma, you just did! Argh.
4. Celebrate Shabbat.
5. Love your mother and father.
Major pet peeve of mine. I was very adamant about translating "kabed" as honor or respect. Very different than love. "Kabed" means that you have to listen to what they tell you to do, whether or not you are feeling the love!
6. Do not hurt anyone.
I did mention the "kill" word which was not a big deal for my overly sensitive and gentle four-year old daughter but I could imagine avoiding this word with a violent four year old boy obsessed with guns and bows and arrows.
7. Married people should love each other.
This one was a bit complicated. Andy overheard me saying that married people should love only each other. He didn't think that sounded quite right. I also thought about saying "you can only marry one person" but then Andy told me that I might have trouble explaining Yaakov, Rachel and Leah.
8. Do not take anything without asking.
I didn't think that this version was clear enough - what if you ask and they say no? I went with the straight-up "don't steal," explaining that you can't take things that aren't yours.
9. Do not tell lies.
I was a bit more specific since the original commandment is to not bear false witness. I said that you should not say things that were not true about another person. The example I gave to Maya was that she shouldn't tell me that Avital pooped on the floor if she really didn't. In retrospect, a weird example, I admit.
10. Be happy with what you have.
At first, I said something like you shouldn't be jealous but I realized that I probably should not be censoring or limiting her emotions. In fact, one of our favorite books "The Way I Feel" validates all emotions including jealousy - "I want to play with you right now - I don't think taking turns is fair - I'd rather have you to myself - I'm jealous when I have to share." So, instead, we said that you shouldn't always be saying "I want, I want, I want, I want." A common phenomenon in the life of small children.

Once we figured out what the ten commandments WERE, we had to figure out how to make a craft out of them. Of course, I turned to google. I found different versions of the same thing and decided to keep it pretty simple by just creating our own cut out luchot pretty much like this one. The girls mostly enjoyed all the cutting and pasting, sticking and coloring.

For some reason, I was determined to make a Har Sinai cake. had instructions on a page called Munching on Mount Sinai that gave me some good ideas and guidelines. Also in googling "Har Sinai Cake," I found the website "Torah4kids: A Multimedia Approach to teaching kids parsha all year long" (hello?!?! Perfect!) so I immediately ordered their book - "Morah Morah Teach Me Torah!" Anyway, I am very proud of how the cake came out but I was most excited because it was EASY and stress-free. The stress-free part came mostly from the fact that I actually made and frosted the cake when the girls were sleeping. I was pretty thrilled by graham cracker luchot (it even has that little perforated line down the middle!) and the lightening cut from a disposable aluminum tin.

I was very worried that Maya would be upset when she saw the cake had been done without her. But, all she said was "Imma, I love your Har Sinai cake! It's beautiful." Score. She was very happy with the job that I left for her. She was in charge of inserting the plastic birthday cake candle holder flower things (that I actually had in a drawer at home!). The finishing touch to the cake came on shabbat itself (thus not shown in photo) when we added dabs of white fluffy cool whip to the top to represent the clouds engulfing the mountain. It looked great!

Once again, the kids' Parsha Project was useful at our grown-up Shabbos dinner table. The "ice-breaker question" that all 18 people had to answer was "Which of the Ten Commandments would you most want to delete?" or "What would you add to the Ten Commandments?" People decided to expand this question to all of the mitzvot - which of the (613) mitzvot would you get rid of or what would you add to the list of mitzvot. Getting rid of the prohibitions against milk and meat, pork and shellfish were very popular...but, that's next week's parsha.