Purim: Hashem is still with us!

 

 

Tonight begins the festival of Purim, the most powerful day of the year. Most people associate the holiday with the customs of dressing up in costume, the parties, and the L’Chaims. However, behind the physicality and traditions of this holiday there is a spiritually charged lesson and message. A message so relevant for us today in the midst of a world broken, plagued by terror, darkness, and a tangible spiritual heaviness that begs the question, “Is Hashem still with us?”

“According to the Oral Tradition, this holiday – unlike others – will be celebrated even after the final redemption. The Purim story and the message it conveys will not pale in the light of the ultimate truth revealed in the messianic age and the awesome events that will happen then. What could be so important about the book of Ester that it equals the importance and value of the Torah? Purim is a terrific holiday, by why does it hold such great significance for the Jewish people that it seemingly outshines (and will outlast) the other holidays?”

Before answering those questions, let’s look back at parsha Beshalach.

The Torah tells us about Am Yisrael in the midbar:

“The entire Jewish People traveled… they rested on Refidim and there was no water for the nation to drink… the nation thirsted there for water and the nation complained about Moshe, and said, ‘Why did you bring us up from Egypt to kill me and my sons and my cattle with thirst’… And Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Pass before the nation… and you shall strike the rock and water will come out of it’… Moshe did so in front of the Elders of Israel.” (Shemot 17:1-6)

Chazal say that Refidim alludes to rifyon yadayim, the Jews’ weakening in Torah. The Torah is likened to water so when the Jews slackened off in their Torah learning, it was physically manifested by a lack of drinking water. (Or Hachaim).

The Torah’s account of this incident ends with:

“He called the name of the place Masa U’meriva because of the Jews’ fight (riv) and their trying Hashem (nassosam es Hashem), as they said, ‘Is Hashem among us or not?” (Shemot 17:7)

“The Torah specifies that the Jew’s sin was their doubting of Hashem’s presence, their questioning “Is Hashem among us?” In the midbar, the Jews were on a high spiritual level. The ananei hakavod surrounding them didn’t merely offer physical protection from wars and dangerous reptiles – they also represented the Jews’ spiritual standing. The Jews were on a lofty – “heavenly” – level, meriting the constant revelation of the Shechinah. EVEN SO, THERE WERE TIMES THAT THEY ENJOYED GREATER SPIRITUAL HEIGHTS AND TIMES OF SPIRITUAL WEAKNESS. HASHEM DIDN’T CONDEMN THE JEWS FOR THEIR SPIRITUAL DECLINE – AFTER ALL, HE PURPOSELY RUNS THE WORLD IN SUCH A WAY THAT EVERYONE EXPERIENCES UPS AND DOWNS, AND THESE TRIALS HELP US GROW AND DRAW CLOSER TO HIM; RATHER, HE REBUKED THEM FOR QUESTIONING IF HASHEM WAS AMONG THEM. They felt that at times of spiritual weakness, Hashem wasn’t with them, chas veshalom – and for that they were faulted.”

“The next topic in the parshah is Amalek’s battle with the Jew’s in Refidim. As a rule, the Jews’ exhile always takes place within a nation that embodies the spiritual flaw from which they themselves suffer, so as to help them overcome that negative trait.”

“Amalek, who now waged war against the Jews, also characterized a flaw that they had to correct. What was Amalek’s defining character trait?

On Shabbos Zachor, we read in the maftir:

“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you left Mitzrayim, that he met you (karcha) on the way and attacked all the stragglers behind you and you were tired and weary, and he did not fear G-d.” (Ki Seitzei 25:17)

“Amalek struck the Jews’ stragglers, the weaker among them. The tribe of Dan worshipped idols and was therefore excluded from the clouds’ protection – and it was them who Amalek struck. The Clouds of Glory, were a symbol of the Jews’ spiritual heights, but there was a minority among the Jews who were not on that high level, and Amalek “cooled you off on the way (the word karcha is also explained by Chazal as related to kar – cold). They wanted to show the Jews that they weren’t as holy as they thought – look, there was a straggling minority, too!”

Hashem sends us an antagonist from the outside when there is problem on the inside.

The essential yeshuah (salvation) always comes from the very thing that was lacking.

“Hashem set Amalek against the Jews because to some extent, they, too, shared some of this characteristic of Amalek. They had doubts: “Is Hashem among us or not?” Are we truly close to Hashem, or do the times of spiritual decline or the weaker among us distances us from Hashem? It was when the Jewish nation was “tired and weary” – in a low spiritual state – that Amalek, who “did not fear G-d,” attacked them. Since they Jews doubted Hashem’s presence, they were confronted by a nation that did not fear G-d – that claimed that Hashem wasn’t among them.”

“THE TORAH DOESN’T TELL US HISTORY THAT DOESN’T APPLY TO OUR GENERATION. THE TORAH COMMANDS US TO REMEMBER WHAT AMALEK DID TO US BECAUSE VESTIGES OF THAT INCIDENT STILL REMAIN WITHIN US AND HASHEM WANTS US TO IDENTIFY THEM. HASHEM COMMANDS US TO DETECT THE AMALEK WITHIN US.”

“WHATEVER AM YISRAEL AS A WHOLE EXPERIENCED IN THE MIDBAR HAPPENS TO EVERY JEW IN HIS PERSONAL LIFE…. The nisayon of Amalek – the feeling that Hashem is not with us, chas veshalom – is a formidable one.”

Haman HaRasha was a descendent of Agag, the king of Amalek. At the time of the Purim story, too, Hashem brought against the Jews an enemy who embodied the trait they were faulted with, in order to help them correct their failing.

In the Purim story, there are no miraculous divine interventions such as we saw in the Passover story. There are no supernatural plagues and no splitting of any seas. In fact, G-d’s name is not even mentioned once in the entire Megillat Ester. But the miracle of Purim is actually greater than the miracle of Passover because the ultimate revelation of G-d’s oneness happens when He does not have to openly interfere. This is the meaning of Megillat Ester – the revelation of hiddenness. Hidden within the natural world, within the free choice of people, G-d’s plan is being completely fulfilled, step by step.”

“The events of Purim are a higher revelation of G-d’s truth, illustrating how G-d works through humanity and within nature. Within nature we see harmony and cooperation. Rather than crushing all the forces that are against us, G-d uses them toward our future good. Because G-d is one, there is no confrontation between G-d and humanity, between the divine and the natural. Nature and humanity are not violated by G-d’s oneness but included within it and filled with it.”

“The hidden miracles of Purim reveal that His ruling power works through the choices of humanity and that His love for us is hidden within every occurrence and challenge of our lives. Therefore, we can trust that G-d’s love and care is concealed even in the worst times of our lives. On Purim we acknowledge that G-d’s love for us is not only unconditional but also ever-present and eternal. On Purim we celebrate trust in G-d.”

“One of the greatest feelings of joy is to know and experience life in holy harmony with G-d. Because of G-d’s all pervasive oneness and love, we can never really go off course. We are always on target. Our task, however, is to know and feel this in our daily lives.”

How do we accomplish this? How do we KNOW and FEEL this in our daily lives?!?!

The key to our source of strength is this…

“A Jew is a chelek Eloka mima’al, a part of Hashem. We are inherently good and want to do good, and Hashem always has nachat from us. That “good” within us is so basic and intrinsic, so much “us” that we barely notice that it is there.”

“Haman told Achashveirosh, “There is one nation that is dispersed and separated… and they do not keep the king’s laws; it is not worthwhile for the king to let them be.” Haman said this because this reflected the Jews’ feelings at the time. The Purim story happened at the end of the seventy-year exile between the first and second Beit Hamikdash. The Jews were on a low spiritual level and felt that their mitznot were worthless, and that Hashem didn’t desire them or their avodah Hashem, chas veshalom. Haman expressed this feeling when he said, “It is not worthwhile for the king to let them be.”

“Haman boasted to his wife Zeresh and to all his friends of his great wealth and many children, and that Queen Ester had invited only him to the party with King Achashveirosh. Then he said, “And all this is worth nothing to me whenever I see Mordechai.” Haman discounted all the good things in his life, focusing instead on the one negative element. This is Amalek’s middah and the flaw that we correct on Purim. Mordechai stood strong and “would neither kneel nor bow” and “neither rose nor moved because of him.” Mordechai Hatzaddik, like Moshe Rabbeinu in his time, empowered us to stand unflinchingly and not bend to Haman/Amalek.”

“Queen Ester begged King Achashveirosh to annul Haman’s evil plan. She asked, “May my soul be given my request and my nation my appeal.” She intimated that as long as Amalek’s middah is active inside us, we lack the very soul of life – our Jewish identity, the recognition of our inherent holiness, the chelek Eloka mima’al and intrinsic goodness that is our essence. Ester said, “If it pleases the king and if I have found favor before him and the matter is proper before the king, and I am good in his eyes, let it be written to rescind… Haman’s thought.”  WHAT OBLITERATES HAMAN/AMALEK? THE FEELING THAT WE ARE GOOD IN THE EYES OF THE KING OF ALL KINDS, AND THAT WE FIND FAVOR BEFORE HIM.”

“Megillat Ester ends with the words: “For Mordechai Hayehudi was viceroy to King Achashveirosh and great among the Jews… seeking the good of his nation and speaking peace to all their progeny.” The Jews learned to listen to the tsaddik who “seeks good” – who finds and reveals the good within them, creating peace between them and their Father in Heaven by instilling in them the faith that Hashem finds them desirable.”

On a personal level, the custom to dress up on Purim teaches us that when, chas veshalom, we find ourselves behaving incorrectly, it is really only an external “costume,” a momentary “foolish spirit” that overcame us. Our eternally pure soul inside us is “dressed up.” We only have to learn to recognize the “face behind the mask.”

On a larger scale, “On Purim we celebrate that everything in the world goes according to G-d’s plan – whether we see it or not. On Purim we read the Megillat Ester and celebrate the revelation of G-d’s hiddenness within the choices of humanity. To emulate G-d, the Master of Disguise, we too dress up in disguises. G-d’s plan disguises itself and plays out even through the evil people in the world. But on Purim we actually see that it is a disguise! THERE IS ONLY ONE ACTOR, PLAYING A MYRIAD OF ROLES. G-D IS ABSOLUTELY ONE AND ONLY.”

Purim reminds us, “G-d has written a script, and we are the actors in that drama. The question is not whether we are going to pay our parts, but HOW we will play our parts – consciously and willingly or resisting all the way. We can choose to work for G-d’s plan of growth, love, and oneness, or we can choose to work against it. But G-d’s will WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven – always.”

“Mordechai was teaching Ester the great secret of choice when he said, “If you don’t do it, the Jews will be saved anyway, but you’ll lose the starring role.” In terms, of G-d’s great plan, it does not make a difference what you do. But in terms of your own life, it makes all the difference in the world. Do you want to actively, consciously participate in G-d’s plan or not?”

“Purim is a busy day. Melachah is not forbidden, so we find ourselves juggling mishloach manot, costumes, making Purim seudahs, and more. We are occupied with a lot of trivialities – and that is just the message if this Yom Tov. Purim infuses us with the faith that within all the trivialities and pressures, Hashem loves us. Amid this mundane hustle-bustle, our essence is purely good.”

Hashem may we merit to have the koach and clarity to obliterate the middah of Amalek from within. Help us to see the yeshuah (salvation) that comes from the nisayon (trial). Help us to be able to say and fully believe the words, “Ribono shel Olam, You love me any way; You have nachat from me the way I am.” Increase our joy and the clarity that comes from our awareness that You, Hashem, love us and are always with us. AMEN!

Chag Sameach Purim,

Maayan

*The content of this post is mostly loosely paraphrased quotes from two books I studied this week and highly recommend, Inviting G-d In: Celebrating the Soul Meaning of the Jewish Holy Days by Rabbi David Aaron and My Soul Desire by Avraham Tzvi Kluger.

 

“Getting Things in Order” – My thoughts on this weeks middah.

organize

Generally, I am an organized person. I’m not sure how many people daydream of becoming a professional organizer or read Don Aslett’s book, “How To Have A 48-Hour Day” numerous times for fun. 😉 “Obsessed” is an understatement for my love of all things planner and stationary related.  Working at The Container Store would not be lucrative for me.  My paycheck would be history before it cleared my bank account!!!

BUT… THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT!

Our family has doubled in size and my personal responsibilities have mysteriously quadrupled! Not sure how that works!?! Keeping my home organized has proved exponentially more difficult with two toddlers! Keeping things in order (inwardly/spiritually) also takes much more concerted effort.

Similar to Humility, order is a foundational middah because it is essential to developing any discipline. “Without steady, systematic practice, one never emerges from mediocrity into excellence, whether it be as a violinist practicing scales for hours daily to prepare for a great solo performance, or a runner hitting the trail every day, rain or shine, to get ready for a marathon. Likewise, spiritual development requires an ordered life.”

“Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe said in the name of the Alter of Kelm that order can be compared to the clasp on a pearl necklace. The pearls are what make the necklace, and they are definitely more important than the clasp, but without the clasp the pearls will fall off and scatter, and all that will remain of the necklace is the string alone. Similarly, a person contains an abundance of strengths, intellect, character traits, and qualities. But without order, all these virtues will scatter, and he or she will be left with nothing.”

My key observations on this middah were…

1) Order is fragile and requires maintenance. In Gan Eden, Hashem charged Adam and Eve to: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Subdue it, because disorder is ready to break out at all times! Indeed, much of Jewish life is about maintaining order within this dynamic creation.

2) Order is a priority among the middot because its presence or absence will be evident. As Alan Morinis writes, “External disorder may be a reflection of internal disarray.” We might be able to mislead ourselves or our friends about other traits, but disorder will be evident. Order, then, serves as a barometer of our overall progress in Mussar.

3) Practicing order in one’s personal life involves developing and utilizing other middot.

Disorder is often the child of a rebellious ego that resists humbly occupying a rightful space. All that it whispers in your inner ear can be reduced to “I want” or “I don’t want.” I want to have fun, and cleaning up after myself is no fun. I want my leisure, and setting things in order is work. Humility – occupying one’s rightful space – is essential to order. {Ouch!}

Likewise, honor is essential to practicing order. “When you live with other people and you are content to make a mess in shared spaces, you dishonor the people you live with. Honor is due to all human beings not because of the greatness of their achievements but more simply because they embody an inherently holy soul. When you activate this inner sensibility, you want to keep things in order not just for order’s sake, but also for the higher purpose of honoring the people with whom you share relationships. All of us, are after all, are made in the divine image, and so when we honor people we honor G-d.”

I loved this thought… “Instead of fruitlessly yelling at the fire to cool down, you need to ask yourself, “What’s the water in this case? In other words, what’s the corresponding trait that will, if strengthened, cause the obstacles to orderliness to evaporate as if by themselves?”

Reflecting on any area of disorder in one’s life will likely reveal work that should be done with related middot!

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald, was a book I read several years ago. Although the book is written from a secular perspective, the author was unknowingly writing about Mussar. 😉 He made several noteworthy statements which I took the liberty of making sound a little more Jewish:

If my private world is in order, it will be because I am convinced that the inner world of the spiritual must govern the outer world of activity. 

 If my private world is in order, it will be because I have made a daily determination to see time as G-d’s gift and worthy of careful investments.

 If my private world is in order, it will be because I have determined that every day will be for me a day of growth in knowledge and wisdom.

If my private world is in order, it will be because I absorb the words of *Torah* into my attitudes and actions.

 If my private world is in order, it will be because I have begun to pursue the discipline of seeing events and people through the eyes of Hashem so that my prayers reflect my desire to be in alignment with His purposes and promises for them.

 If my private world is in order, it will be because I have chosen to press Sabbath peace into the rush and routine of my daily life in order to find the rest G-d prescribed Himself and all of humanity.

Alan Morinis’s summary is best:

“The essential value of practicing order is that by voluntarily aligning ourselves with an orderly way of living, we draw ourselves closer to the divine way of being. When we are orderly, we emulate one of G-d’s intrinsic characteristics and that draws us closer to G-d.”

In parsha Chayei Sarah, we read in Ch. 23:1 “Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.” At first glance, this pasuk sounds a little redundant. However, the commentary suggests that the phrase “the years of Sarah’s life” means they were all equal for goodness. Our forefather Abraham is described as being “advanced in days” in Ch. 24:1. Commentators explain that every moment of his every day was productive and fulfilling! They were not time wasters! They were history makers! As their progeny, we should follow in their footsteps and emulate our creator.  

Life is chaotic, but our souls don’t need to be. The wisdom of Mussar is that we can increase our inward order through practical action in our outward surroundings.

My Mussar phrases/meditations for this week were:

“All your actions and possessions should be orderly – each and every one in a set place and set time. Let your thoughts always be free to deal with that which lies ahead of you.” – Rabbi M.M. Lefin of Satanov, Cheshbon Hanefesh

Take time, be exact, unclutter the mind. – Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm

I have only hust a minute
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me,
Can’t refuse it,
Didn’t seek it,
Didn’t choose it.
I must suffer if I lose it
Give account if I abuse it
Just a tiny little minute
But eternity is in it!
– Unknown

My Mussar practices for the week were:

Look at your daily routine and see if it is working; if not, change some part of your routine so it is more lifegiving.

Take a room or space that is out of order and make a plan to organize it.

Take an area or your life that needs discipline (health, fitness, prayer) and make a plan to make time for it.

Make a habit of “Eating the Frog First!” There’s an old saying that goes, “If the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is eat a live frog, then nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day!” Whatever the task on your to-do list is that will take the most time or you are least motivated to do… get it done first. You will save time and energy by procrastinating/stressing less!

Reflecting on and accounting for areas in need of improvement in my life was a reminder that I have a lot of work to do. At the same time, I was encouraged to “beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

“The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset, to whiz through our obligations without time for a single mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.” – Wayne Muller

The purpose for cultivating order is not for the quantity of things you can check of a to-do list. Cultivating order is about putting {quality} back into how you use your time!

May Hashem help you and I to avoid “the barrenness of a busy life” and grow in the attribute of orderliness.

Shalom,

Maayan

{Noach’s Nursery Tour + Organization}

 Here is a peak into Noach’s nursery! I’ve had so much fun decorating, organizing, and setting up his room!

Four years ago, when we found out we were expecting our first, Alex and I went to Babies R Us for the first time together. We saw this bedding set (The Carter’s Tree Tops Collection) and fell in love! When we found out we were having a girl we decided to go with a ladybug theme instead but I never forgot about his set. By the time Noach came around it had been discontinued. Fortunately, I was able to score the bedding, valance, basket, lamp, and rug off craigslist for $75! Yes… I did a happy dance!

crib

{Crib View}

We have purchased Graco Lauren Cribs in Espresso for both our babies and love them!

To the left of our crib is our BELOVED glider… I’ve spent many a night rocking my babies in it… I really can’t imagine life without it!

diaperstorage

On the right, we have our cloth diaper storage set up.

I love the versatility of our Kallax shelves! When we are done cloth diapering this will easily convert to toy storage… (I’m envisioning lots of Lego’s)!

I use the little fox basket to collect random clutter that doesn’t belong in the nursery.

The cute little woodland creature canvas prints were painted by moi. I was feeling in touch with my inner Michelangelo one night. (Hehe!)

 

playarea

 {Play Area View}

Noach’s room has a really unique nook that we use as a play area.

The awesome Imaginarium table was as a $20 garage sale find! SCORE!

I painted the wooden letters to spell his name and found the woodland creature details at Hobby Lobby.

bookshelf

We love our Target bookshelves!  We keep all our baby board books in his room. The green basket on the bottom shelf holds his stuffed animals.

One of my favorite decorations in his room is the little plush woodland creatures & tree set  and I found it at a consignment event for $5!

I framed the picture to display his name and the Scripture verses that inspired it.

toystorage

 

To utilize this empty wall space we purchase another Kallax shelf to use as toy storage.

Baby toys are big, bulky, and difficult to store! I love how we can utilize the top of the shelf to store large toys or use as a play table.

The fabric bins are from ClosetMaid in the color kiwi mist!

closet

 {Closet View}

clothes

 We currently have the start of Noach’s fall wardrobe (size 18-2T) hanging in his closet.

To the left, I use large containers to store his outgrown baby clothes.

Diaper supplies are stored on the top shelf. The cute argyle print bins are from Dollar Tree and house our swim diapers and diaper bag essentials.

I love our handy laundry tote. It’s very convenient since we have stairs!

In the future, I may invest in another Kallax shelf to optimize storage space in his closet.

closetstorage

On the right, his closet has handy built-ins for additional storage!

I use this space to store his baby keepsake box, extra blankets/crib sheets, our day trip diaper bag, baby gear, and extra comforters.

dresser

 {Dresser View}

noachpainting

 The Noach’s Ark painting was a gift from my parents. They purchased it in Israel for us before we had kids. It’s special. 😀

drawerone

 The top dresser drawer hold socks, shoes, misc. baby things, and PJ’s! The handy little baskets are from Dollar Tree and are perfect for the space!

drawertwo

 The second dresser drawer hold his summer play clothes.

drawerthree

 The third drawer hold his winter play clothes.

mezuzah

 

Lastly, we found this adorable owl mezuzah that matches his theme perfectly on Etsy! (I could totally go broke on that site!)

Shalom,

Maayan

{Preschool at Our Home}: Math, Logic, and Science!

Shalom,

Preschool planning has been so fun! This school year we are focusing on simple math and delving into science for the first time! I’m excited to share our curriculum selections and favorite learning toys with you all!

{Math & Logic}

I had been looking for a preschool math curriculum when I came across a company called Timberdoodle. Timberdoodle’s curriculum kits include highly rated and reviewed curriculum products and I decided to check out their recommendations for preschool math and logic at our local homeschool store. I loved the layout of the books, the contents, the brightly colored pages, and that they are non-consumable workbooks that I can use again in the future!

 Mathematical Reasoning Beginning 1 

mathreason

Building Thinking Skills Beginning 

thinking skills

{Here is a link to an in-depth review I uploaded to my Youtube Chanel.}

Since I don’t plan to have my daughter write in those books, I decided to pick up a few consumable workbooks for $3 each from Five Below. Of all the preschool workbooks I’ve picked up from places like Target, Costco, or Dollar Tree… I love these the best!

Big Skills for Little Hands – Numbers

numbers

Big Skills for Little Hands – Colors & Shapes

colors

Wipe Clean Workbook

wipeclean

I definitely recommend one of these for writing practice!!! I found ours at Five Below for $2!

{We plan to do 2-3 math lessons a day.}

 It’s important that most of a preschoolers learning comes from hands-on play! Check out some of our favorite math/logic learning toys:

Lauri Toys Number Puzzle Boards and Pegs

Melissa and Doug Classic Wooden Abacus 

Melissa and Doug Bead Sequencing Set 

Melissa and Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards

Melissa and Doug See-Inside Numbers Pegs

Melissa and Doug Shapes – Chunky Puzzle

Melissa and Doug Days of Creation Nesting Blocks

Melissa and Doug Lacing Beads 

Shape O Ball (Shape Sorter)

Lacing Shapes 

Counting Bears

***{Here is a link to an in-depth review of our favorite math learning toys and manipulatives on my Youtube channel.}***

 Lastly, here are links to my favorite printable resources for preschool math.

Color Pattern Cards

Duplo Number Cards

Number Flash Card

{Science}

For science this year, we are doing unit studies on the human body, animals, the environment, and plants.

Bubbles, Rainbows, & Worms

bubble

I am basing our unit studies off the suggested experiments and reading lists in Bubbles, Rainbows, & Worms, a resource recommended by Susan Wise Bauer in The Well-Trained Mind.

Our first unit is all about the human body!

We will be using My Body Lapbook printables from Homeschool Share for our daily work.

science1

Here are links to the books we are using for our unit study:

My First Human Body Book (Dover) – Great human body coloring book for preschoolers!

See Inside Your Body (Usborne)

Flip-Flap Body Book (Usborne)

What Happens to Your Food? (Usborne)

What do you eat? by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food

My Silly Body and Book by P. Hanson

Look What Hashem Gave Me by Sara Ginsburg ( A sweet book that introduces body parts and the five senses!)

For hands-on learning we LOVE this puzzle from Hape!

Your Body – 5 Layer Wooden Puzzle by Hape

puzzel

And this Magnetic Anatomy Set!

magnetsc

And of course, links to more resources!

 Printable Life Size Skeleton Puzzle

Benny Bones iPad App

Human Body Science Experiments (Part 1) & Human Body Science Experiments (Part 2)

Human Body Crafts

Blessings,

Maayan

{Preschool at Our Home}: Art, Music, and Movement! (2014-2015)

HELLO!

{I’m back.}

My life has been busy and BLESSED the last several months. We began house hunting in early spring. We have since moved, unpacked, and found a new normal in our beautiful home! I’m hopeful now that things are less {CRAZY} I will be able to devout more time to blogging!

We are gearing up for preschool at home and I thought a great way to ease back into blogging would be sharing our homeschool curriculum selections for this year in a series of posts. 😀

{Art}

Come Look With Me (Series) by Gladys Blizzard

comelookwithme

The Come Look With Me series is an excellent resource for introducing children to art and artists! We currently own Enjoying Art with Children and Animals in Art. 

Each book reviews 15 different works of art. Under each painting, you can find basic information about the work. On the opposite page, there are great (age appropriate) questions about the painting and your child’s observations as well as a paragraph of background information.

comelook

 I really like that the questions encourage preschoolers to practice their narrative skills! Also, several books in the series include works of art from different eras/time periods. The review questions provide an opportunity to talk to preschoolers about historical facts!

Art for the Very Young by Elizabeth Kelly

artfortheveryyoung

Art for the Very Young introduces preschoolers to various art concepts (lines/shadows/shapes/colors/textures/mediums) through simple crafts. Part two of the book introduces famous artists through crafts that replicate the artist’s style.

Each lesson includes a supply list, simple instructions, and enrichment ideas to supplement the lesson.

artforyoung

Famous Paintings Flashcards (Usborne)

painting

These are amazing! The deck includes 30 of the most well known works of art. My favorite thing about these flashcards is that they are made out of thick chipboard making them preschool friendly!!! On the back of each flashcard you can find information about the painting, a description of the piece, suggestions of things to look for and point out to the kids, and a fact!

painting2

{The idea behind these is simply early exposure to good art NOT memorization of facts.}

I only plan to spend 20-25 minutes a week on art… aside from the daily coloring, cutting, and pasting. 🙂

{Music}

Wee Sing Children’s Songs and Fingerplays by Pamela Con Beall

Ori loves to learn the fingerplays!

M is for Melody: A Music Alphabet by Kathy-jo Wargin

This beautifully illustrated book reviews music terminology, concepts, styles, and composers as you go through the alphabet.

 Composer Flashcards

composers

I found a set of free composer flashcard printables online and laminated them. I plan to put them up on our weekly learning board as we go over each composer.

Ori loves music! As we are learning about different composers we will listen to their music via youtube, do color pages, and check out books from the library! Again, the idea is just early exposer to good music.

{Music is a daily thing for us! We have playlists of our favorite kids songs on youtube and I have included different children’s music CD’s in our daily busy boxes.}

{Movement} 

Aside from playing outside, splashing in our pool, and {occasionally} Zumba…

I found several sets of action flashcards that I printed and laminated. I put each deck in our daily busy boxes. (Thank you, Pinterest!)

movement

Figure Skater Cards

Insect Action Cards

Animal Action Cards

ABC Exercise Cards 

I hope you enjoy this series and find this list of resources useful! Check back for my next post on our math, logic, and science preschool curriculum selections!

Shalom,

Maayan

{Rigshei Lev – A Summary}

My heart is bursting. I just finished reading, Rigshei Lev – Women and Tefillah – Perspectives, Laws, and Customs by Menachem Nissel. I highly recommend it! It’s an excellent overview of the role of women in tefillah and the customs of tefillah pertaining to women.

There is simply too much to try and summarize it all! But I do want to share three concepts that jumped off the page to me. 🙂

 1)   Mirrors, Men, and Merit 

“During the slavery in Egypt, the Egyptians devised a scheme to prevent the continuity of the Jewish people. They forced the men to endure long hours of backbreaking work and then sleep in the fields under the pretense that it would increase their hours of slave labor. They succeeded in wearing down the spirits of the Jewish men. Yet the women were undaunted.”

“As Me’am Loez relates:

The women, however were righteous and pious. They took care of their husbands and cooked them warm food. When they brought it to them, they consoled their husbands with gentle words. They said to them, “Do not be pained. We will not be slaves our whole lives to this lowly people. Hashem has given us a promise that He will have mercy on us.”

“Midrash Tanchuma tells us more:

The daughters of Israel had in their possession mirrors before which they adorned themselves; and even these they did not refrain from bringing as a contribution to the mishkan. But Moshe was disgusted with them because they were made for the yeter hara. HaKadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, Blessed Be He) said to him, “Accept them, for these are more beloved to Me than anything else! Through these mirrors the women have set up a large population in Egypt.” When their husbands were fatigued from the rigorous labor, they would go and bring them food and drink, and feed them, and then they would take the mirrors and each one would look at herself together with her husband in the mirror, and would entice him with words, saying, “I am more beautiful than you.” In this way they would bring their husbands to desire, and they cohabited with them and conceived.”

“The Talmud related the classic statement of Rabbi Akiva: “In the merit of the righteous women of that generation, the Jewish people were redeemed.”

“Ramban teached us that the culmination of the redemption was the building of the mishkan – a tabernacle that embodies the union of Hashem and Kol Yisrael. On a mystical level, the Exodus from Egypt was our courtship, the revelation at Har Sinai our wedding, and the building of the mishkan our home. It is astonishing to reflect that the home where the Divine Presence unified with Kol Yisrael originated from the yearning and sacrifice of women to perpetuate the Jewish home.”

“{We} must once again tell our husbands, “Do not be pained, we do not have to be enslaved to a modern-day Egyptian culture. Hashem has given us a promise that He will have mercy on us. We must also extend ourselves and go the extra mile to protect our children from the “Egyptian cultures” of each generation and build a Jewish home that is a continuation of the mishkan built by the Avos.”

2) Yishmael and a Call to Prayer…

“Ramban explains that Avraham requested, “May Yishmael’s progeny thrive and be sustained throughout the generations.”

“Three thousand years later we are still paying the price, as we watch in amazement the power of prayer and religious fervor of Yishmael’s descendants. In our tefillos we long for the opportunity to resume the tri-annual pilgrimage to the Beis HaMikdash. We contemplate with sadness and frustration how hard it is to get our less commited brethren to come to shul. We cringe with discomfort at the inability of Jewish secular leaders to give thanksgiving to Hashem when they make a public speech. Yet, millions of Muslim faithful make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, often through great sacrifice. In Eretz Yisrael, Arab workers at building sites, without a hint of embarrassment, remove their shoes and prostrate themselves toward Mecca. Their leaders cannot finish a sentence without saying, “with the help of Allah!”

“Chazal reveal to us a crucial point about the koach hatefillah (power of prayer) of Yishmel. It thrives only when the tefillos of Kol Yisrael are weak.

“Our gedolim have urged us that in these difficult times we need to strengthen ourselves in all areas of avodas Hashem (love of Hashem). If we do so in the specific area of tefillah (prayer), we are actively diminishing the power of Yishmael! We can help prevent Arab terror in a real way be denying Yishmael the spiritual underpinning that gives him strength.”

3) Esther HaMalkah

“In order to appreciate the events described in Megillas Esther, it is critical to understand that every reference to “the melech” – “the king,” that is, King Achashverosh – conceals a reference to the King of Kings, HaKadosh Baruch Hu.”

“Chazal teach us that Esther HaMalkah was filled with the Shechinah (Divine Presence) as a result of her intensity of prayer. She put all her energy into tefillos as she approached the palace to plea for the fate of every man, woman, and child in Kol Israel. When she entered the palace, disaster struck. The Shechinah, unable to remain inside an impure palace filled with idols, left her.”

Eli, Eli, lemah  shevaktani! My G-d, My G-d! Why have you forsaken me! She burst out crying.

 It was just {too much} when I read the next paragraph…

(…relating back to the concept that Hashem longs for the prayers of the righteous)

“The king arose from his throne of judgement and his face was filled with lovingkindness. He ran towards Esther and supported her frail body. “My dear Queen Esther, why did you go to all this trouble and endanger your life? But have no fear. My laws apply to my people, not my beloved queen. What is your request? I am prepared to grant you even half of my kingdom.”

“And the King of Kings arose from His Throne of Judgment, and He was filled with the attribute of mercy, as if He was saying, “This is the moment of extreme closeness that I have been waiting for.” Know that as you struggled towards Me, at your moments of greatest darkness, I was with you all the time. But I remained hidden, because I wanted your efforts to be yours. My precious Kol Yisrael! Get up from your praying and fasting, your sackcloth and ashes. Wipe away your tears!…

The moment of geulah (redemption) has arrived…”

Hashem, we are undone before you! Thank you for giving us, in your wisdom, the mitzvah of tefillah. Thank you for creating us for the purpose of giving us the greatest pleasure – closeness to you Hashem! Make us as our Imahos (formothers), that through our merit and tefillah we will bring about the final redemption. Help us to guard our homes, husbands, and children from the influence mitzrayim. Help us to strengthen our avodas Hashem (our devotion and love for you). Give us an unquenchable thirst to be close to you and strengthen our tefillah that we might diminish the power of the enemy. We long for the coming of Moshiach and the olam haba, when You will truly wipe away our tears… when the final redemption of Kol Israel will be complete. Soon and in our days! Amen!

B”H,

Maayan