December’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations MARY SAYER
and thank you for being a friend to HIS-ISRAEL.

Please remember to post a new comment each month to participate in the draw and for another chance to receive a complimentary copy.

Next selection will be February 1, 2018.

* Please note – Due to increased mailing cost, those living outside of the USA will
receive a coupon from FFOZ to download a complimentary PDF eBook of Keren’s ‘A Taste of Torah.’ Those living within the USA will continue to have the option for a hardcopy or may choose to receive the PDF eBook.

Biblical Month 10 – TEVET – Exploring the FERTILE DARKNESS

May it be Your will, Avinu, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Tevet upon us for goodness and for blessing.

TEVET – a month of winter darkness in Israel and the Northern hemisphere. We are reminded of the balance of judgment and mercy; and how the light and truth of God’s Word shines forever, bringing hope of new life in the darkest of times.


November’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah

and our warm thanks for joining us here at HIS-ISRAEL.

Please remember to post a new comment each month to participate in the draw and for another chance to receive a complimentary copy.

Next selection will be January 1, 2018.

The Lights of Hanukkah – Video and Notes


What makes the lights we light on Hanukkah, and Shabbat and the biblical Festivals different? Can they change the way we see things…God, others. ourselves?

For your convenience, you can download Keren’s notes here – LIGHTS OF HANUKKAH Notes

A Personal Prayer For Hanukkah

Stars do not eliminate the darkness, but rather mitigate it; do not turn the world into a palace full of light, but rather find ways to shed light in places that would otherwise be consumed by absolute darkness. In a similar vein, we ought to be wary, to say the least, of the fantasy that human beings can somehow remove all darkness from human life. Such notions are chimerical at best and unimaginably dangerous at worst. But we can … we must bring light into otherwise abandoned places, to bring flashes of meaning and companionship to places otherwise overrun by heartache and devastation.

What does all of this have to do with Hanukkah? Think for a moment about the central ritual act that marks this holiday. It is winter now: the days are getting shorter and shorter, and attendantly, the nights are getting longer and longer. Pesach and Sukkot begin in the middle of the Jewish month, when the moon is full. But Hanukkah is different: it begins on the 25th of the month, when the moon has all but completely disappeared. We are in one of the darkest periods of one of the darkest months of the year. All around us is darkness. And what do we do? We light a fire. Not a bonfire, but a small fire – now one, now another, and so forth for eight nights. In other words, we do not pretend to be the sun, but only stars. We do not bring an end to darkness, but soften its effects.

“The soul of man is the lamp of G-d,” the Book of Proverbs tell us (20:27). What this means is that ultimately, our task is not to light candles, but to be candles. We have the potential to be the bits of light that help bring G-d back into a world gone dark. As the Sefas Emes puts it in discussing Hanukkah, “A human being is created to light up this world” (Hanukkah, 1874).

~ Rabbi Shai Held

 The soul of man is G-d’s candle.
Proverbs 20:27

May it be Your will, my G-d and G-d of my ancestors, to be gracious to me and to all my family and friends – to give us, and all Israel, a good and long life. Remember us with goodness and blessing, and grant us salvation and mercy. Grant us abundant blessing, and fortify the places we call home. May Your Presence dwell among us and may we be blessed with wise and kind children, lovers of G-d who stand in awe of You, people who speak truth and spread holiness. May those we nurture light the world with truth (emet) and mercy (hesed, rachem, chanan). May Your light, reflected in these candles, surround us always and shine through us into a dark world. B’shem Mashiach Yeshua (in the name of Yeshua the Messiah) Amen.

The fullness of Biblical mercy is revealed in a combination of three Hebrew words:

  1. Rachem – the Hebrew word most often translated as mercy in the Tanakh. Related to the Hebrew word for womb, rachem is a tender, protected place where life springs forth. To live in G-d’s rachem is to live in G-d’s womb.
  2. Hesed – a Hebrew word most often translated as loving-kindness but also at times as mercy. Hesed is relational mercy, covenantal faithfulness and love.
  3. Chanan – the third Hebrew word translated as mercy. It touches on mercy in the context of pity, forgiveness, and grace.

* Note from Cindy – I took the liberty of making modifications to an adaptation by Nurit Shein and Sue Levi Elwell of a traditional Shephardic tekhine** (found in The Sephardi Haggadah, Jonathon Cohen, ed., Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 1988.)

** Tekhines (from Hebrew teḥinnot – “supplications”) are Yiddish prayers from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

Eight Nights of Hanukkah Reads


You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a Mother who read to me.
~  Strickland Gilliland

Reading aloud – together as a family – has been something my husband, daughter, and I have always enjoyed. And this practice of reading together has become a tradition intricately woven into our celebrations.

C.S. Lewis said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally, and often far more, worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” I would push that number even further to the left as we have found that we never outgrow our favorites. Favorite books become family treasures and when we pull them out to enjoy, again and again, it is like welcoming back an old friend who brings into our midst warm and loving memories – memories which are heirlooms we pass down to our children.

The following are just eight of so many wonderful Hanukkah reads available. In past years I have done other reviews and I invite you to visit those posts.

Hanukkah Reads
More Hanukkah Reads

In His love,


verse by Michael J. Rosen
illustrations by Robert Sabuda

I love pop-up books and this book does not disappoint. Pop-up master, Robert Sabuda, and acclaimed poet, Michael J. Rosen, have created a work of art! With eight pages, one for each night, you can follow the Festival of Lights through history. From Herod’s temple, through the heat of the desert, to a shtetl in Russia; from a refugee ship bound for the New World to an Israeli kibbutz, and on to skyscrapers… this book is a treasure! Definitely a book to be explored again and again.

Available from Chanukah Lights

Knock-Knock Jokes That Are A Latke Fun

 by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg
illustrated by Stephen Carpenter

Filled with jokes, flaps to peek under, and two Honey-kah Mack-a-bees – oh how I would have loved to have found this book when my daughter was little! Sweet, innocent humor – I can just imagine the precious laughter as these jokes tickle the funny bone of young and old alike.

Available from Hanukkah Ha-Has: Knock-Knock Jokes that Are a Latke Fun (Lift-The-Flap Knock-Knock Book)


by Sadie Rose Weilerstein
illustrated by Marilyn Hirsh

This is K’tonton, a tiny Jewish boy not bigger than a thumb. Like other thumblings, he was born in answer to his mother’s prayer. “Oh, that I might have a child,” she prayed. “I should not mind if he were no bigger than a thumb.”

When K’tonton was eight days old, his parents named him Isaac Samuel…”Isaac, which means ‘laughter,’ and Samuel, which means ‘God heard.’ But everyday they called him K’tonton – from the Hebrew katan, “small,” k’tonton, “very small.”

K’tonton’s mother added honey from the Land of Israel to the baby’s milk. She sang him Hebrew lullabies. His father taught him Torah…

K’tonton is the Jewish Tom Thumb, raised on milk and honey (honey from Israel). On the first day of Kislev, K’tonton is at synagogue with his father. His father, needing to talk to the rabbi, places K’tonton on the window sill to wait for him. K’tonton, thinking of Mashiach and singing “Elijah the Prophet come soon, soon”, is swept up by a tall bearded man on a white horse. Tucked into the mans sash, K’tonton thinks he is in the company of Elijah.

Arriving at a small tent – K’tonton rejoices, “‘Jerusalem! Elijah has brought me to Jerusalem!’ But of course it wasn’t Jerusalem. It was a circus, a small, one -ring, tent circus that traveled from town to town.”

A wonderful misadventure filled with old fashioned black and white illustrations.

Available used from K’Tonton in the Circus: A Hanukkah Adventure


by Ronne Randall
illustrated by Maggie Kneen

From inside the walls of a cozy house,
young Milly, Molly, and Marty Mouse
heard the tale of the wondrous Hanukkah lights,
and the miracle that kept them aglow for eight nights.

A sweet little Hanukkah read about a family of mice who on each night of Hanukkah find a sparkling, foiled, special treasure hidden behind a foldout on each page.

Both the verse and illustrations are gentle and precious.

Available from The Hanukkah Mice


by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon
illustrated by Mark Siegel

Oskar’s mother and father believed in the power of blessing.
So did Oskar…
…until the Night of Broken Glass.
His parents put him on a ship to America. He has nothing
but an address and a photo of a woman he didn’t know –
“It’s your Aunt Esther.” –
and his father’s last words to him:
“Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.”

Arriving by ship as a refugee on the seventh day of Hanukkah, 1938, Oskar walks over a hundred blocks on Broadway, New York City, to reach his aunt’s home. Along the way Oskar meets kindness after kindness.

Detailed, heartwarming illustrations combined with a simple and poignant story that had me wiping my eyes just to see the pages. This book delivers a beautiful message – one that is so very needed in our world today.

Available from Oskar and the Eight Blessings


by Daniel Pinkwater
illustrated by Jill Pinkwater

Beautiful Yiddish-speaking Yetta escaped from a poultry market and now lives with a flock of Spanish-speaking wild parrots of Brooklyn – to whom she is their Yiddish mama. One cold, snowy Hanukkah night Yetta hears a noise. It’s a cold, hungry, tiny kitten. Yetta and the parrots want to take care of the kitten, but they don’t know how.

A very sweet, multilingual story (English, Yiddish, and Spanish – A translitera­tion of Yiddish and Spanish is included) with lively, brightly colored illustrations.

Available from Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten


by Ellen Fischer
illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

Latke, an adorable newly adopted puppy, is rescued from the animal shelter on the first night of Hanukkah. Happy to join his new family in celebrating Hanukkah, Latke has a bit of trouble learning the house rules.

Latke, The Lucky Dog, with it’s soft colors and expressive illustrations is a sweet Hanukkah read with a message of gratitude and forgiveness.

Available from Latke, the Lucky Dog (Hanukkah)


by Eric A. Kimmel
illustrations by Mike Wohnoutka

Old Bubba Brayna can’t hear or see very well, but o’vey she makes delicious latkes! On the first night of Hanukkah, Bubba Brayna invites her rabbi for dinner, but an old hungry bear – who smells the wonderful aroma of her latkes – is drawn to her door first and Bubba Brayna invites him in, mistaking the bear for her rabbi.

This is a cute re-telling of The Chanukkah Guest with warm and rich illustrations. Truly a Hanukkah delight!

Available from Hanukkah Bear

* photo credit – Juniper Books

Biblical Month 9 – KISLEV – A Month That Shines In The Darkness

May it be Your will, Avinu, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Kislev upon us for goodness and for blessing.

Abba, Father, may You give us long life, a life of peace – Shalom
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of G-d – Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem
a life walked more fully for Your glory in Adoneinu Yeshua, our Messiah and Lord.

Amen. Selah.

KISLEV – Notes

Meditations for KISLEV

B’Ohrchah Nireh Ohr
In Your Light we see Light

It’s like a light going through a prism and being broken out into different colors. If it’s coming through a holiday, a mitzvah, or lighting candles, it’s the same light bouncing into the world and being refracted through a different means. We pick it up and experience it in different ways. But it’s really all the same light.*

Meditations for KISLEV

* Simon Apisdorf, Get A Glow, 12-19-2016 (speaking of the light of G-d)


While the universal messages of the Bible echoes around the world, the text, in all its hundreds of translations, always speaks in a particular idiom – that of Israel’s nature and agriculture.
– Nogah Hareuveni

1. Nature in Our Biblical Heritage
2. Tree and Shrub in Our Biblical Heritage
3. Desert and Shepherd in Our Biblical Heritage
by Nogah Hareuveni

~ review by Cindy

What a small country this land of Israel is – a tiny dot on the world map. Yet how many worlds are encompassed within it’s borders!
– Nogah Hareuveni

Nogah Hareuveni, z”l, was born in Jerusalem in 1924 to Ephraim and Hannah Hareuveni, founders of the Museum of Biblical and Talmudic Botany. He worked beside his parents from childhood. He is the founder of Neot Kedumim* – a Biblical garden and nature reserve located halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

From the website of Neot Kedumim:

Literally with the Bible in one hand and a spade in the other, Neot Kedumim has established a network of natural and agricultural landscapes bearing names that indicate their textual source – the Forest of Milk and Honey, Dale of the Song of Songs, Isaiah’s Vineyard, the Fields of the Seven Species are only some of the areas which we have created which embody the panorama and power of the landscapes reflected in the Bible.

Neot Kedumim draws on a variety of disciplines — Bible scholarship, botany, zoology, geography, history, and archaeology — to bring the Bible and its commentaries to life.

…By reuniting text and context, Neot Kedumim opens up before the visitor Israel’s nature as the idiom of the Bible. The symbols, prayers, and holidays of the Jewish and Christian heritage, observed and preserved for thousands of years, blossom in a new and colorful dimension at Neot Kedumim, the world’s only biblical landscape reserve.

Nogah Hareuveni tells us that the foundations for these books were laid in his childhood.

My parents, the late Dr. Ephraim and Hannah Hareuveni, periodically took their children out of school to join them in the valleys and mountains, fields and deserts of Israel. In all kinds of weather, slogging through mosquito-infested swamps, visiting Bedouin tents and remote villages, my young eyes saw how these early research pioneers worked. I participate in their field trips and witnessed how they slowly pieced together the collected recorded bits of folklore and traditions linked to the plants of the land of Israel.

…The underlying concept of these books germinated during the years of work with my late parents. It reached fruition in the ensuring years…

Originally written in Hebrew, how thankful I am for the work of Helen Frankly who translated these three works into English, making them available for those of us who are still learning Hebrew.

1. Nature in Our Biblical Heritage shows the organic connection of the Bible and the physical land of Israel. It explores “the land of Milk and Honey,” water problems in the land, the “seven species, the Hebrew calendar and the three pilgrimage festivals: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

2. Tree and Shrub in Our Biblical Heritage explores thirty different trees and shrubs. Many of these will be familiar to those who are students of the Word but Nogah Hareuveni does something wonderful. He takes them out of their “G-d forbid” commonplace – given that at times we only give them a glance as we read the text – and raises them up in our understanding and imagination as a metaphor, parable, or symbol.

3. Desert and Shepherd in Our Biblical Heritage continues the theme of Nogah Hareuveni’s first two books – the absolute necessity to understand Israel’s nature and landscape to fully understand the wellspring of the Bible. This fascinating book places an emphasis on Psalm 23 and parts of the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah.

This set of books help us to see the vista of the land of Israel in the Bible and Talmud as understood by Rabbinic tradition. They help us more fully understand how the Land of Israel and the Biblical heritage are indivisible. The author shares from Biblical text, discussions and argument of the Sages, and tales of midrashim.

As one who has always had a deep curiosity and love for nature, these books are by far one of my favorite and most used resources – never more than an arm’s length away from my desk. As one to whom The Land beckons, these books give me an intimacy with The Land and Scripture from my home in Texas.

In addition, the beautiful photographs make these treasures worth purchasing!

The three books are available used via and directly from Neot Kedumim, whose website is listed in the notes below.

* See: Neot Kedumim
If in America see: American Friends of Neot Kedumim 

October’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations IVAN
and our warm thanks for joining us here at HIS-ISRAEL!

Please remember to post a new comment each month to participate in the current month’s name selection and for another chance to receive a complimentary copy.

Next selection will be December 1, 2017.

The Liminal Space of CREATIVITY ~ Cindy Elliott

The power stored up within man is exceedingly great, is all-encompassing, but all too often it slumbers within and does not bestir itself from its deep sleep. The command of creation, beating deep within the consciousness…proclaims: Awake ye slumberers from your sleep. Realize, actualize yourselves, your own potentialities and possibilities, and go forth to meet your G-d. The unfolding of man’s spirit that soars to the very heavens, that is the meaning of creation…Action and creation are the true distinguishing marks of authentic existence.

– Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man, 132

Bereishit barah Elokim
In the beginning, G-d created…

 If the Torah then chose to relate to man the tale of Creation, we may clearly derive one law from this manner of procedure -viz, that man is obliged to engage in creation and the renewal of the cosmos. [1]

Made in the image of a creative G-d, an expression of His ahavat olam, unending love, each of us is a creative being with an immense potential to make an impact on our world. We may not see in our clumsy expressions the creative genius and beauty of G-d, but just as our Creator, we were made to create. But unlike our Creator – we weren’t made to create alone. We were made to create in collaboration with our Abba Father.

Abraham Joshua Heschel notes [2]:

Authentic faith is more than an echo of a tradition. It is a creative situation, an event. For G-d is not always silent, and man is not always blind. In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal.

For those of faith, intentional creativity springs from the heart of G-d, not measured by the values of the world but by the values of Heaven. Inspired not by the fame of the world, but from Heaven’s touch. It is the special work – unique to each of us – to bring into existence that which our Abba intended from the day of our conception.

Watching the dark my spirit rose in flood
On that most dearest Prelude of my delight.
The low-lying mist lifted it hood,
The October stars showed nobly in clear night,

When I return, and to real music making,
And play that Prelude, how will it happen then?
Shall I fear as I felt, a sentry hardly walking.
With a dull sense of No Man’s Land again? [3]

But, too often we ignore that touch, that stir to our hearts. We are stunted by our fears. Fears of comparison, fears of falling short of the reality of our muse, fears that our creation will be devoid of life, ridiculed, or irrelevant…a sentry hardly walking. The liminal space of creativity can be the most exhilarating and yet at times the most intimidating of all liminal spaces. Part of the problem may lie in how we understand what it means to be a creative being.

When most of us hear someone speak of a creative being – one who has left a dent on the universe, we tend to think of creative giants such as Einstein, Edison, Steve Jobs, Wernher von Braun, DaVinci, Picasso, Michelangelo, Mozart, Bach… and think that real creativity must be only on the grandest of scales. “There is no way,” we tell ourselves, “that we could come anywhere close to such artistic and intellectual brilliance.” But our Creator, creating us in His image, has given us beyond measure the potential and the talent necessary to create, to make a difference, to change everything. And we are not only creative beings but artists as well and our very lives are the medium of our art. Meister Eckhard wrote, “An artist isn’t a special kind of person; each person is a special kind of artist.”

When I was learning how to swim,
I’d look down at the water and back at him
He’d say, “Take my hand, we’ll both jump in
I’ll go, too.
That’s what he’d say and what he’d do.
“Don’t go alone I’ll walk with you
I’ll go too.” [4]

Most of our creativity reveals itself in our every day encounters – visits with friends and families, meetings with strangers, serving our families, working in our garden, study, prayer, wonder, daydreaming, reaching out to those in need, encouraging words spoken over another, a hug, a smile, a laugh, just being willing to go through a tough time with a friend, the moment of finding a solution, or even the moment of recognizing a problem. These very acts make a difference. They may be the catalyst to transforming another’s life, and they absolutely have the ability to transform our own. Abraham Heschel reminds us, ““Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power…Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.”

Creativity doesn’t mean being taken out of everyday consciousness and concern but being intimately involved and deeply immersed in the encounters of this world. At times it is the messiest of liminal spaces but it has a huge reward. The liminal space of creativity that springs from Heaven’s heart does not take us out of this world, but it does give us Heaven’s eyes. Rav Kook believed:

Every fleeting moment we create, consciously and unconsciously, multitudes of creations beyond measure. If we would only condition ourselves to feel them, to bring them within the zone of clear comprehension, to introduce them within the framework of appropriate articulation, there would be revealed their glory and their splendor. Their effect would than become visible on all of life. [5]

To create means to step out of your comfort zone. It means to enjoy beginnings and sometimes being willing to struggle to get to the end. At times it means to do the same thing again, and again, and again. At times it means failure. It means exploring the unknown and finding great pleasure in the possibilities of a blank canvas. It means thinking at times out of the box, in the cracks, or at rock bottom. At times it means taking a risk and looking foolish to the world. Creativity means being sensitive, observant, loving, and it requires times of menucha [6].

Many have said that there is a fine line between genius and insanity – a line often walked by the creative being. Without a doubt, those of us who live a life of faith have at times been thought by the world to be touched by madness. But our faith is “the spring of our creative actions.”[7]

Created in the image of our Creator, we are invited to live our days in this immense space of possibility.

For we are G-d’s masterpiece, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which G-d prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

May you more fully understand your unique gifts and importance for the whole of creation. May you know without a doubt that you are valuable beyond measure and that the unique creative expression our Abba has placed in you heart – will not be expressed by anyone other than yourself. May you be strong and courageous to embrace our Creators desire for you as purposed from the beginning of time and may G-d’s glory be made real through you. May you live every moment intentionally for the Eternal.

Made in the image of our Creator, your capacity to create is beyond measure! Surely today, each of us could reach toward the heavens and touch the face of G-d.

~ Cindy

* photo credit:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of G-d.

– John Gillespie Magee, Jr, High Flight


[1]Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man,100-101
[2]Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone, 165
[3] Ivor Gurney, Bach and the Sentry
[4] Carrie Newcomer, I’ll Go Too
[5] Orot HaKodesh – Holy Lights
[6] After the six days of creation – what did the universe still lack? Menucha. Came the Sabbath, came menucha, and the universe was complete. Menucha which we render with “rest” means here much more…Tranquilty, serenity, peace, and repose. To the biblical mind menucha is the same as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony. ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Shabbat
[7] Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Holy Dimension, 337



Biblical Month 8 CHESHVAN – Hidden Holiness

May it be Your will, Avinu, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Cheshvan upon us for goodness and for blessing.

Abba, Father, may You give us long life, a life of peace – Shalom
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of G-d – Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem
a life walked more fully for Your glory in Adoneinu Yeshua, our Messiah and Lord.

Amen. Selah.