Thursday, January 28, 2010



This has gotta be one of the best parshiot for kids.

I knew that I wanted to repeat our Passover tradition of creating Kriat Yam Suf in the doorway. The girls love running through the streamers, pretending to split the sea.

I was also excited to make some kind of tambourine with the girls based on Exodus 15:20: "And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines, dancing." Artistic tambourines have become a new Jewish feminist symbol.

Thankfully, I found a simple craft version on Crayola's website. Unfortunately, I accidentally bought cake pans instead of pie pans which would have worked better but we managed.

This parsha is also very food-friendly. The miraculous food of the desert included water, quail, and manna. No lamb last week and no quail this week. But, I was determined to reproduce manna. Andy's suggestion was to use tofu since Rashi writes that the manna "tasted like whatever the person eating it desired." But, I was more interested in the description in the text of the manna which is that it was like "coriander seed, white; and its taste was like wafers made with honey." I found this easy recipe online for "manna cookies":

1/2 c. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 c. flour
2 tsp. honey
Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and mix well. Add honey and vanilla. Add flour slowly. Drop by half teaspoon on cookie sheet then bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes or until done. We rolled the cookies in powdered sugar so that they were white like Manna.

I totally forgot about the end of the parsha in which the Israelites have their first encounter with Amalek. But, Maya asked me about it because in the parsha coloring pages, there was a picture of Moshe with Chur and Aaron on either side of him supporting his arms. I had her get my Tanach so that I could read her the story since I forgot the details of this event. Basically, I explained that when Moshe's hands were lifted, the Israeliltes were able to defeat Amalek with Hashem's help. This description was promptly followed by Maya's question: "How can Hashem help them? He doesn't even talk. He doesn't even have arms or legs!" And I immediately called for Andy to come in from the kitchen. He's the Rabbi; let him answer this one! Andy explained to Maya that there are some times when something seems really hard or even impossible for her to do but then somehow she can do it and that power that helps her to do it is Hashem. Or something like that. It was sketchy. Talking about God does not seem to be getting any easier.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


The Plagues Continued...

I was happy to find out that I was not the only person disturbed by the great variety of toy plagues. Check this out - there are even chocolate plagues!

With just three plagues left, we were ready to finish our parsha book. The locusts page was designed with grasshopper stickers (some other bugs snuck in there too).

For darkness, I stole a pair of Andy's eye masks that he probably got on an airplane. We made a little black foam pocket to stick them into. Maya was pretty intrigued by the idea of not being able to see anything.

Finally, I had to come up with something to do for the "slaying of the Firstborn sons." I searched and searched for some kind of appropriate crafty representation of this one. I came up empty. There was nothing that I felt comfortable with. I did not want to depict the angel of death. I did not want to depict dead babies. So, instead, I left it up to Maya. I asked her how she thought we should illustrate this page. She said that we should make a very sad person and that she would draw the face and that I should draw the tears. I couldn't have come up with a better idea on my own.

This week, I also printed some new coloring pages that I found online of the ten plagues. Of course, my very observant four year old noticed that one of the plagues was depicted differently than we had learned. In the new coloring pages, the fourth plague "arov" was depicted as swarms of flies. We had depicted "arov" as wild animals (or in our case, wild things). Since I had downloaded these new pages from Christian websites, I thought that maybe this was a particularly Christian understanding/translation of the plague. But, I later found out that there is actually a traditional rabbinic machloket (debate) about what the "arov" were. In Shmot Rabbah 11:4: Rabbi Nechemia says that arov denotes flies, and Rabbi Yehudah states that it denotes a mixture of wild animals. Most later commentaries accept the interpretation that arov is wild animals but there are still many sources that interpret arov as flies (specifically dog-flies or blood- scukers, gross!) At least I am learning some new Torah in all of this too!

This parsha presented a very easy food opportunity. In chapter 12, the Israelites (Hebrews? Jews? I know that I am not supposed to call them Jews, but it is so hard to say Israelites to a four year old. I might have to start saying Bnei Yisrael. This will not come naturally either) are commanded to eat a whole roasted lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. On Passover itself, there is a strong custom that prohibits eating roasted lamb or any meats, lest it appear that we are offering the korban pesach, which is forbidden since the destruction of the Temple. But, no such prohibition exists on the week that we read this parsha! So, on Friday morning I called the local kosher story but alas there was no lamb, not even frozen. Next year, there will be lamb, and it will be roasted.

Sunday, January 17, 2010



Every Pesach, I am ambivalent about how (or if) to teach the ten plagues. But, they are always prominently featured in kid-friendly seders. There are songs ("frogs here, from there, frogs were jumping everywhere"), masks, finger puppets, and toys about the plagues. But, I am not comfortable teaching (and especially not trivializing) stories of collective divine punishment. Yet, last week, I heard the words coming out of my mouth, "Hashem sent the plagues to punish Pharoah and the Egyptians for not letting the people go." Who am I, Pat Robertson? Lately, I have to wonder what my kids must be thinking about "Hashem." When I started to tell them the story of the Parsha, Maya kept trying to fill in the blanks. "In this week's parsha, we learn about the ten..." "Commandments!" Maya screams. Close. "In this week's parsha, Hashem sends..." "The flood!" Maya screams. Close. So, so far, Maya knows that Hashem creates terrible disasters in the world to punish and torture bad people. I couldn't help thinking of this story that I read in the most recent edition of Brain.Child:

When I'm rushing around in the morning with my children trying to get to school on time - I say, "The sweet cheerful bus driver will meet you in the car by 7:45 am. The angry, bitter, yelling bus driver will meet you any time after that. On Sunday morning, we extended this line of humor when trying to get to church on time. "The God of the New Testament with meet you in the car at 8:30 am. The God of the Old Testament will be meeting you any time after that."


So, despite my theological struggles about teaching the Biblical God, we make frog cookies.

For our art project, we made a book of the ten plagues, only doing the first seven that appear in this week's parsha. For "Blood," they just colored the page red. For "Frogs," they used LOTS of frog stickers:

For "Lice," they glued on a piece of sandpaper that felt itchy and scratchy. For "Wild Beasts," they cut and pasted pictures of the "Wild Things" from the Sendak
Exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

For pestilence, they stamped cows and sheep upside down. They told everyone that they were "dead cows." For boils, they used circle stickers. They told everyone that they were "boo-boos"

Finally, for hail, we glued on kosher salt. I thought that this was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, there were grains of salt all over the house all weekend. Next time, maybe rock salt would work better.

Well, the good thing about this project is that I already know what we will do next week - locust, darkness, and death of the firstborn, oh my! Of course, I have no idea how these will be depicted, especially not the last one. Wish me luck...

Sunday, January 10, 2010



While we were on vacation in LA, Maya asked "Ima, what happens when we are on vacation. How will we do parsha project?" Whoops. I was kind of hoping that she wouldn't notice that in fact, we missed two parshiot while we were away. But, of course, she did. So, I promised her that we would make them up (and we will). But, in the meantime, we were ready to dive into a new book, Sefer Shmot. At the beginning of the week, I told Maya that we would be making a Baby Moses and she immediately asked "is it Pesach?" I realized that this would continue to be a confusing issue for her. It is difficult to explain why we are doing all of what she considers to be Pesach stories now. But, she was happy to have a chance to revisit these familiar narratives. I knew that I wanted to do a Baby Moses project with them because they loved making a Baby Moses centerpiece (using an Easter basket at Passover time!) for the Seder last year. I found lots of versions online but chose to follow this one that I liked the best. The girls loved playing with the little tiny cake decorator babies and taking them in and out of the egg carton basket.

Maybe because of my guilt for falling behind in parsha projects, I felt compelled to do three different projects this week! Truthfully, there were a number of striking visual images in the parsha that had easy project potential. So, in addition to Baby Moses, we made a burning bush poster. The girls just cut and paste pieces of red, orange, and yellow cellophane and tissue paper.

Finally, I wanted to do something edible. My first thought was to make charoset, to symbolize the mortar. Every year on Pesach, someone says about the charoset, "this is so good, we should eat it during the year." So, this could be the other time of the year that we eat Charoset. But, Andy came up with an idea that was much more fun (and fattening). We made Pithom and Ramses using Hershey's nuggets as the bricks and peanut butter as the mortar. It was fun, messy, and delicious.