October’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations SHAYNDEL
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, 2018.

CHICKEN MAN

I wrote Chicken Man after living and working on Kibbutz Mizra. I had a friend who worked in the ‘lul’ [lool] – the chicken coop. His charming stories of the chickens and the fun he had in the lul convinced me to work there, too. It was a horrible place and I hated the chickens. That’s when I learned about the power of stories. [1]

CHICKEN MAN
by Michelle Edwards

~ Review by Cindy

Deep in Israel’s Jezreel Valley there once lived a man known to his mother as Rody and to all the rest of  Kibbutz Hanan as Chicken Man…Chicken man liked the chicken coop. He liked the chickens. He liked all the noisy clucking when he sang…Chicken Man thought that he might like to work in the chicken coop forever.

Rody loves his job in the chicken coop, he loves the chickens as well. And the chickens? Well they love Rody in return – in fact when Rody took care of the chickens they laid more eggs than ever before.

But there was a problem. Rody had a unique attitude toward his work and that attitude caused others to covet his position. You see Rody was a content and happy worker. He even sang as he worked. He made whatever job he was given seem easy and that caused Bracha – who spent long hours in front of a big hot stove – to request to be moved to the chicken coop. So Rody was moved to the laundry.

It was hard for Rody to leave the chickens but he said goodbye and moved to the laundry. Singing as he worked, he once again made his job look easy. And soon Dov – who milked the cows – asked for Rody’s job. And so it goes on and Rody is moved from one position to another.

This is truly a delightful read and without giving the entire story away – all ends well for both Rody and the chickens.

Chicken Man teaches us that there is beauty and value in every job. This book is a sweet introduction for children to a valuable work ethic and an insight into the early years of life on the kibbutzim in Israel.

In conjunction with reading this book with your children or grands, you might like to take advantage of a free online teacher guide written by Barb Stein and Michelle Edwards:

Chicken Man Teacher’s Guide

You can purchase Chicken Man from amazon.com
Chicken Man

1. From a Barbara Bietz interview of Michelle Edwards. You can read the entire review at Jewish Books for Kids

September’s Winner of ‘A Taste of Torah’

Congratulations JULIE RACHOR
and our warmest 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 November 1, 2018.

IF ALL THE SEAS WERE INK

What a healthy relationship to time, viewing it not as a mark of age, but as an opportunity to grow in wisdom. If I learned a page a day, then instead of resigning myself to being one day older, I could aspire to be one day wiser.

if all the seas were ink ~ A Memoir
by Ilana Kursham

~review by Cindy

[The rabbis of the Talmud] they’re not just talking about legal stuff. They’re arguing with their wives, insulting their students, one-upping their colleagues – and when talking about law, they’re not telling you what to do. They’re figuring it all out, invoking not just the Bible but also folk tales, fables, and cultural myths…It is a text for those who are living the questions rather than those who have found the answers.

If All The Seas Were Ink is a moving memoir of Ilana Kurshan. Beginning, at the end of a broken marriage, Ilana is 27 and alone in Jerusalem. At the suggestion of a friend, Ilana takes on the discipline of daf yomi “daily page” – which is studying a page of Talmud a day. With this regimen of taking one page a day, the study of the Talmud is completed in seven and a half years.

…my journal, a record of what happens beneath the surface, in the deep and rocky emotional terrain of my heart, a landscape that sometimes feels so alien and barren that it may as well be on the moon – orbiting the earth, and keeping pace with sublunary reality, but a different thing entirely. Like the moon, my journal entries are merely a product of my own reflections, waxing and waning depending on how much light I shed on to the page.

Immersing herself into this daily study, together with journalling, Ilana weaves together a tapestry that is deeply vulnerable, thoughtful and salted with humor. She brings the reader into her conversation with the Talmud and the inner workings of her heart. Her commitment is deeply inspiring and the way she applies all she is learning of G-d, His Word, and the Talmud to her personal life, intensely challenges me to do the same.

Said Rabbah: Even though our ancestors have left us a scroll of Torah, it is our duty to write one for ourselves.
                                                   – Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 21B

Ilana shares about her habit of writing a limerick or sonnet corresponding to each page she learned, “I was trying to make my learning so much a part of me that I, like Rabbi Eliezer, might someday be able to refer to ‘my two arms, like two wrapped Torah scrolls’ (Sanhedrin 68a).”*

Full of beauty and deeply inspiring, Ilana said that, for herself, her writing became a sort of shofar, [a wake-up call] causing her to live intentionally and reflectively. I would say her words have had the same effect on my heart.

A story of loss, healing, love, living…of just learning to walk spiritually and emotionally – at times simply one foot in front of the other. Deeply engrossing and a read I truly couldn’t put down!

 

Ilana lives in Jerusalem with her husband and four children.

This intimate and passionate read has very deserveably received recognition as the 2018 winner of Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature; the 2018 Sophie Brody Medal; the 2018 Natan Book Award Finalist, and it was also a Finalist for the 2017 National Jewish Book Award in Women’s Studies.

 

You can purchase this wonderful read here: If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

* Beth Kissileff, Bringing ‘Daf Yomi’ to Life. And Vice Versa.

Art of REVELATION by Yoram Raanan

“Few artists in the Jewish world capture the beauty of holiness, and avodah [worship]…than Yoram Raanan.”

~ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Raanan’s paintings add a dimension of renewal, revival and hope. His paintings create a bridge between past and future, the individual and community and between physical and spiritual.

~ Nurit Siris Bank –  Curator, Researcher, Lecturer

Art of REVELATION – A Visual Encounter with the Jewish Bible

Paintings by Yoram Raanan \ Commentary and Explorations by Meira Raanan

Review by Keren Hannah 

 

Yoram Raanan and his wife Meira live on  moshav Beit Meir, a type of communal village, in the Judean hills outside Jerusalem. I remember well the horror of the wave of arson attacks by PLO terrorists during November of 2016. I experienced deep shock and sadness on hearing that the Raanans’ moshav was one of those targeted and part of the destruction suffered was the burning of Yoram’s art studio. Forty years of his life’s work, about 2000 works of art, were consumed in the flames of the enemy’s hatred.
His collection included canvases being saved for their children and grandchildren’s inheritance as well as many intended for a worldwide exhibition and for inclusion in a museum of Jewish Art.

Yoram recalls how, as he and his wife were escaping their still burning village, he had a revelation: “I realized that this was surely the work of G-d, and only good would come of it.”  He understood that what the enemy meant for evil, G-d could turn around for good and for blessing. This book, indeed, as a vessel for sharing much of his art with the world, is a major source of goodness and blessing.

He and Meira had for many years been capturing the inner depths of the weekly Torah portions. Yoram depicted the parasha in a painting and Meira researched and wrote about the biblical understanding and the artistic nuances that these visual representations of the parshiot conveyed. Baruch HaShem – thank G-d, their work was recorded digitally and can now be shared and kept alive in the pages of this book.

Meira describes the spiritual essence of Yoram’s art beautifully when she says:

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said: “Real art does not reproduce the visible, but rather reveals the invisible.” Raanan’s art strives to make… the transcendent moments in Torah visible – to reveal the inner dimension and essence of the events, the people, the laws, and stories of the biblical narrative. …We experience vibrations of light and color, and an energy that affects our hearts and emotions.

~ The Seventh Day of Creation

~ The Banquet of Joseph and his Brothers

~ The Lion of Judah

My personal encounter with Art of REVELATION was like entering the Holy Place of the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple). As I perused the pages, I was aware of many key recent Bible studies and spiritual points of focus somehow converging together in unity. It was as if, suddenly, in the words and pictures before me, layers of meaning were surfacing and blending together in a burst of revelation, beauty and color. Threads of previous inspiration and understanding of G-d’s Word were being pulled together in a glowing tapestry.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacke well expressed in his Introduction: 

Art is supremely the language of the spirit. God wants us to see beauty and create beauty.

This unique book, dear readers, will be an investment for your own continual enjoyment, as well as an opportunity to share its wonder with family and friends.

~ The Peace Offering

~ The Cherubim above the Ark

Available at Pomeranz Bookstore in Jerusalem – www.pomeranzbooks.com  – 011-972-6235559 / 1-800-SFORIM / pomeranz@netmedia.net.il

Or via the Raanan Art website. www.YoramRaanan.com/new-release

THE ROAD TO RESILIENCE From Chaos to Celebration

You have suffered a change that alters the very system that you live by. No wonder you feel like you world is in chaos. You can’t cope or figure life out anymore. You don’t believe that anybody can help you, or even understands you…it is foolish to imagine you would not be changed by grief…You’re not going to bounce back to who you were. Because of your encounter with loss, you are going to bounce forward to become someone you are not yet acquainted with.

THE ROAD TO RESILIENCE
From Chaos to Celebration
by Sherri Mandell

~ review by Cindy

When something aches, we call it tender. The question is: Can we allow our own tenderness, the places of our wounds, to eventually serve ourselves and others so that we cultivate tenderness, the soft, elastic quality of kindness and love?

Sherri Mandell knows well the chaos of grief. When her 13 year old son Koby and his friend Ish-Ran cut school and went hiking in Haritun Canyon near their home in the Judean hills, the two boys were kidnapped and murdered by a group of Palestinian terrorists. The boys were trapped in a cave and bludgeoned to death with rocks. From this tragedy of unimaginable magnitude the Koby Mandell Foundation was birthed – a ministry created by Sherri and her husband, Rabbi Seth. This foundation conducts therapeutic healing programs, overnight camps, and retreats for terror victims – bereaved mothers, fathers, widows, orphans, and siblings.

The Road To Resilience, is based on Sherri’s first hand experience with returning to life after the senseless murder of her son  – of being rebuilt, after being shattered. Vulnerable and authentic, Sherri shares words of kindness and love – of tikkun olam (bringing healing and repair to the world) from the tenderness of her wounds.

In Sherri’s own words, “This book is designed to help you discover resilience in times of sorrow. Although the focus is on bereavement, the book will be helpful for anybody who has suffered a trauma.”

The Jewish concept of resilience does not mean being impermeable. Nor does it mean to bounce back…Jewish philosophy teaches us that resilience is not overcoming. It’s becoming. Becoming more, becoming our fullest and deepest selves as a result of adversity…We don’t leap over troubles as if they don’t exist. We allow them to be our teachers. We experience resilience when we are enlarged rather than diminished by our challenges, when facing adversity causes us to change, grow, and become greater. Moreover, resilience offer us the opportunity to deepen our relationship with the Divine.

The Road To Resilience is a short read, less than 100 pages, but every line is packed with truth and wisdom. Sherri walks the reader through what she calls the seven C’s – the seven spiritual stages of resilience. Each stage is accorded a chapter. Under each of the seven stages I am including a tiny, minuscule glimpse of it’s beauty. In truth I could open this breathtaking book to any of it’s pages and share words of tremendous kindness, hope, beauty, wisdom…healing.

1. Chaos

Grief is like an invisible bag of cement that everyone is carrying on their shoulders. And understandably, most of us would like to flee from the chaos that accompanies trauma and bereavement.

Sherri stresses that entering the chaos is an absolute necessary step in the healing process. She compares this step to a vegetable seed:

Every seed has to disintegrate before it can turn into a vegetable. Every seed has to break apart to sprout; it has to surrender to the darkness of mystery in order to emerge. That process can feel excruciating. But it is only when the seed turns to nothing that it can, in fact, become something.

2. Community

In Jewish thought, creating resilience rests not only on the individual but on the community…No matter how strong our faith, when suffering strikes, we need others to help us unlock the prison of our suffering.

Sherri shares about the necessity of community, about how the community can help those who are grieving loss. She shares a deeply touching memory from the first night after her son Koby was murdered:

On the first night after Koby was killed, when I went upstairs to my room, resting on my pillow was a little bunch of wildflowers from a friend with a card. Just when I thought I would die, I smiled. Because my friend had entered my room to give me love.

3. Choice

Choice can protect us psychologically, especially in times of trauma – even when it cannot save us.

…Faith is achieved when one believes that G-d is compassionate and loving even when it seems the opposite – despite what our eyes witness in this world, that so often terrible things happen to innocent people who deserve better.

Sherri shares about choosing to turn a good eye, a loving eye, toward yourself and others.

4. Creativity

When we feel that part of us is missing, that the world has lost its wholeness, that we suffer from a dissonance that cannot be reconciled, creating can help restore a sense of integrity.

When we create, we enter our disturbance in order to search for meaning, harmony, and wholeness. We struggle to discern order hidden in our own personal chaos, the coherence that waits to be revealed in our suffering. Though we begin in pain, the creative process is one of intense life.

Sherri shares about creating to express, contain and transform the longing and suffering that threatens to overwhelm and destroy.

5. Commemoration

A person can live on when we choose to embody them in their loving ways. We are not bound by the constraints of time. When we leap over the limits of time and create a living memorial, we touch eternity.

…Our choice to integrate our loved one’s kindness and good qualities into our lives allow us to become living memorials.

Sherri talks about the importance of remembering as part of returning to health.

6. Consecration

There are losses in our life that burn forever, yet we can burn without being destroyed. Most people are oblivious to this world of burning. So many bereaved people tell me that others ask them, “You’re over it, right? I mean it’s been a few years now.”

But the burning bush is a symbol of hope…Even when we fear that our personal loss may destroy us, the burning bush tells us that we will not only endure but will discover an impassioned and urgent mission; a sense of destiny.

Sherri talks about how sometimes that which is most feared, most difficult, can be the place from where we build and repair.

7. Celebration

At the close of a radio interview a few months ago, the host asked me, “I understand that after a loss, you have to find a new sense of normal. Is that true?” I thought about it and then answered her, “No, I don’t think so. Normal isn’t enough. One has to find a new extraordinary.”

Sherri never denies the fact that the sadness will always be present. But she adds, “Yet our sense of joy expands…when one has tasted great sadness, the repertoire of one’s emotions may expand. In that expansion, there is celebration and joy.”

As one who loves language, especially Hebrew, I truly appreciate how Sherri weaves into her narrative Hebrew words, their roots and meanings enhancing our understanding of what she is teaching us.

Drawing from the richness of Scripture, Sherri also shares from a font of other Rabbinic as well as Christian sources and ends each chapter with questions to ponder.

An empathetic and compassionate read – truly a gift of tikkun olam.

You can purchase The Road To Resilience at amazon.com at link below:

The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration

THE COMMITTED LIFE

A long life is not good enough,
but a good life is long enough.

THE COMMITTED LIFE
PRINCIPLES FOR GOOD LIVING
FROM OUR TIMELESS PAST
by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

~ review by Cindy

There is a charming story about an exchange that took place between a rabbi and a little boy.
“Tell me, my son,” the rabbi asked, “where is G-d?”
“That’s easy,” came the ready reply. “G-d is everywhere.”
“No, my son,” the rabbi said, “G-d is not everywhere. G-d is only where man allows Him to enter.”

It is for this reason that I have written this book – so that we might open our hearts to G- d, invite Him into our lives and discover the blessings that will enhance our days, the blessings that are our rightful spiritual inheritance. ~ Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

This is one of those truly beautiful reads to have on hand for a quiet Shabbat afternoon – when time stands still and you are tented in the menuha (stillness, quiet, peace, and harmony) of Shabbat.

Extremely personal, this autobiographical read both captivates and inspires the heart to love G-d and to love others. A masterful storyteller, Rebbetzin Jungreis, teaches nuggets of wisdom through her stories of family, her children, her people, and her beloved husband, Rabbi Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis. Drawing from the deep wells of Scripture and rich teachings of the Sages, Rebbetzin Jungreis encourages each and everyone of us to make the choice to participate in tikkun olam (healing of the world).

Rebbetzin Jungreis grew up in a Torah rich home (her father was chief Orthodox Rabbi of Szeged, Hungry, during the Nazi occupation and the family was taken to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp). As a survivor, she carried forward the legacy, passed down through the generations before her, of commitment to kindness, truth, love, and faith; all inspired by a deep of love of G-d and His Word. Passing on this heritage to her children, Rebbetzin Jungreis challenges the reader to do the same – to leave a heritage to our children that has eternal worth.

Rebbetzin Jungreis touches on subjects such as: inviting G-d into your life, responsibility, charity, family life, prayer, forgiveness, compassion, faith, hope gratitude, time, self-control, marriage, and keeping Shabbat.

Deeply affecting, this book encourages one to reach for a deeply personal, visceral relationship with G-d and also to make a commitment to live a life bigger than ourselves. A life permeated with the purpose of Heaven.

Truly one of the most touching books I’ve read, I’m on my second read and drinking deeply. The Committed Life is a read that profoundly touches the heart.

Available from amazon.com The Committed Life: Principles for Good Living from Our Timeless Past

Such a sweet spirit and kind soul – the following is a YouTube clip of the conclusion of her testimony regarding the Shoah.

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
THE CONCEALED LIGHT – NAMES OF MESSIAH IN JEWISH SOURCES

In His love,
Cindy

1. CHANUKAH LIGHTS

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 Amazon.com Chanukah Lights

2. HANUKKAH HA-HAS
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 Amazon.com Hanukkah Ha-Has: Knock-Knock Jokes that Are a Latke Fun (Lift-The-Flap Knock-Knock Book)

3. K’TONTON IN THE CIRCUS – A HANUKKAH ADVENTURE

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 Amazon.com K’Tonton in the Circus: A Hanukkah Adventure

4. THE HANUKKAH MICE

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 Amazon.com The Hanukkah Mice

5. OSKAR AND THE EIGHT BLESSINGS

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 Amazon.com Oskar and the Eight Blessings

6. BEAUTIFUL YETTA’S HANUKKAH KITTEN

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 Amazon.com Beautiful Yetta’s Hanukkah Kitten

7. LATKE, THE LUCKY DOG

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 Amazon.com Latke, the Lucky Dog (Hanukkah)

8. HANUKKAH BEAR

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 Amazon.com Hanukkah Bear

* photo credit – Juniper Books

THE BIBLICAL HERITAGE SERIES

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

THE BIBLICAL HERITAGE SERIES
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 amazon.com 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 

THANK YOU GOD FOR MAKING ME A WOMAN

Women who have the ability to emulate G-d by bringing children into the world and wear multiple hats on any given day are truly unique and beyond measure.

A woman is her husbands’ confidante, the mother of their children, the family psychiatrist, the family doctor, interior decorator, educational director, chef and so on…

Women have so many responsibilities, they emulate G-d more than men in this regard, and are not counted; they are one and unique and truly beyond the limitations of numbers.
~ Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin

THANK YOU GOD
FOR MAKING ME A WOMAN
by Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin

~ review by Cindy ( and endorsed by Keren)

Recently I ran across a very troubling one-sided video that shared Rabbinic quotes about women, negative quotes that were often taken out of context. As presented, there was an implication that these negative teachings were standard in Judaism and shared by the majority of Rabbis. What the creators of the video failed to convey is that there are various and diverse views and midrashim on the perception of women – some good, some bad. Unlike any Christian commentary I’ve read, the Talmud is extremely varigated and includes numerous views on every issue imaginable. In typical Hebraic thinking, it does not always present a cut-and-dried, ‘politically correct’ and acceptable-to-all view. The Talmud presents all sides of any particular subject or argument. It is expected that the reader will question and examine the issue at hand him/herself.

Though this review on Rabbi Raskin’s book in no way ignores the religious chauvinism and discrimination against women that exists in many societies today, we are honest enough to understand that this discrimination is held by some leaders and members among all faiths. This review is being shared with the hopes of balancing out the scales and welcoming honest discussion.

Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin shares a story as told by Rabbi S.B. Avtzon:

One time, the Rebbe Rashab and Rav Yitzchok met with a certain Christian minister to convince him to rescind a certain anti-Semitic decree. In the course of their discussion, the minister said, “We have the right to persecute you Jews. You despise us, and you say it so clearly every day in your morning prayers! Take a look at your prayer book. Every morning you say, ‘Blessed are you G-d…Who has not made me a gentile.’ You Jews hate us!”

Without hesitating a moment Rav Yitzchok replied, “Honored Minister, do you love your wife?” “Do I love my wife?!? I love her more than anything else. I would do anything for her!”

“We also love our wives,” said Rav Yitzchok. “Yet, right after the blessing you just quoted, we say an additional blessing, ‘Blessed are you G-d…for not making me a woman.’ What is the meaning of this blessing?”

Seeing that he had attracted the minister’s curiosity, he continued. “A woman carries a child for nine months, has labor and birthing pains, then the responsibility of raising children in addition to running her household. This requires a great amount of strength, endurance and patience, things most men lack. So we thank G-d for not giving us the responsibility of a woman.

“The same is true regarding gentiles.” Rav Yitzchok concluded, “Every person, Jew or gentile, must serve his Creator. We, however, have it easy. G-d gave us 613 laws that tell us exactly what to do. A gentile was only given seven laws, and he has to figure out the rest on his own. We thank G-d for making our job easier.”

Surprised by Rav Yitzchok’s swift, novel response, the minister burst out laughing. He turned to the Rebbe Rashab. “You’re lucky you have such a clever person with you. I am retracting my decree.”

Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin’s approach, as he informs us in the book’s preface, is based primarily on the teaching of his illustrious teacher and mentor: the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Rabbi Raskin shares that the Rebbe had three monumental teachings:

  1. The Midrash (Tana Dvar Rabbi Eliyahu Ch.9) states that a woman ossah, which can be translated as “fulfills” the will of her husband. The Rebbe translated ossah as “creates,” as in “the woman creates the will of her husband.”
  2. The Rebbe often quoted the Talmud (Tractate Sotah 11B), which states that it was in the merit of the righteous women that our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt. He took this quote to the next level to say that it would be the righteous women who would usher in the coming of Moshiach.
  3. The Rebbe would often quote Proverbs 31:10, “A woman of valor is the crown of her husband.” The Rebbe understood that this did not mean that a wife is an accessory or adornment of her husband, but rather, with the advent of our ultimate redemption, the role of women will ‘crown’ and truly topple and outshine the role of men.

Every word of Rabbi Raskin’s in Thank You God For Making Me A Woman, is based upon the absolute premise that according to Torah, men and women have always been equal and often in Judaic understanding there are areas where women are held superior.

Rabbi Raskin points out that many of the laws concerning prayer, and particularly from the daily Amidah prayer, are derived from the prayer of Chana (Hannah). In addition, that in traditional Judaism a woman’s testimony carries more weight than two men; that women have been endowed with the sacred ability to reveal the G-dliness that is concealed here in the world, and to reveal the potential of all human kind, and that women are born with a greater binah (understanding, intelligence and intuition) than men. Over and over again Rabbi Raskin touches on the fact that in Judaism women are considered not only equal to men but are often endowed with greater spiritual qualities.

Written with the highest respect and great sensitivity, Rabbi Raskin wraps up each chapter with a heartwarming story that illustrates the spirit of what was shared in the preceding pages.

As a woman (and as a branch cut from a wild olive tree and grafted into the olive tree of Israel) I received every word the Rabbi wrote as stemming from his absolute belief that “the potential and capabilities of every man, woman, or child, Jew and gentile alike…were created equal, and with their own distinct, respected role in the world.”

Every human being has as specific role and design that contributes to the grand picture of creation.

As it should be with any excellent book, Thank You God For Making Me A Woman lends itself to honest dialogue and open discussion, never belittling, insulting, or diminishing any person. If you are interested in the layers of meaning behind the birkhot ha-shahar (morning blessings); the job given to women of lighting the Shabbat candles; baking the challah; the mikvah… Rabbi Raskin writes in a way that is not only simple to understand but very engaging!

You can purchase this short read – just 166 pages long – Thank You God For Making Me A Woman from Amazon.comThank You GOD For Making Me A Woman: Empowering Women for the 21st Century

If you are looking for a good study on Biblical womanhood from a Hebraic perspective consider Dr. John Garr’s 3 volume series Feminine and Free also available from Amazon.com –
God and Women: Woman in God’s Image and Likeness
Coequal and Counterbalanced: God’s Blueprint for Women and Men
Feminine by Design: The God-Fashioned Woman

Listen to Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin tell the story behind the writing of his book Thank God For Making Me a Woman:

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE

“Why was it,” she asked herself, “that animals can sometimes subdue their predatory ways in only a few months, while humans, despite centuries of refinement, can quickly grow more savage than any beast?”

– Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife, pg. 239

 

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE

~ review by Cindy

Incredibly moving, and beautifully filmed, The Zookeepers Wife is based on the true story of Jan and Antonia Żabiński, a husband and wife who were keepers of the Warsaw Zoo.

In September 1939 with the invasion of Germany into Poland, the raining of bombs on Warsaw also rained on the zoo. Many animals were killed. Following the bombing, animals that were considered valuable were transported to a reserve close to Berlin to be cared for and protected. Those deemed not valuable were killed – shot as sport by the Nazi soldiers. Though these scenes are heart wrenching to watch – there is added depth of horror as the parallel between the plight of these animals and the plight of the Jews by the Nazi’s is evident.

Jan and Antonia were part of the Polish underground and sheltered 300+ Jews (all, but  two, of whom survived). Some were hidden, in the empty cages and their basement, for a few days, and others for years. In occupied Poland, when even handing a Jew a drink of water was punishable by death, the courage of Jan and Antonia is even more astounding.

For animal lovers, the tender scenes of interaction between Antonia and the animals warm one’s heart and is a touching witness of chesed (kindness) so needed in todays world.

The musical score is especially moving and the “Mah Nishtanah” coupled with the scenes of the burning of the Warsaw Ghetto on Passover Eve 1943 is particularly memorable.

Powerfully capturing the terror of war-torn Warsaw, the makers of this film were extremely sensitive as the majority of the violence is off-screen. But even offscreen, the brutal rape of a young girl, Ursula, by two Nazi soldiers is hard to bear.

Following the film’s theme of chesed, we are given glimpses of another inspiring, heroic man, Dr. Janusz Korczak. Dr. Janusz Korczak was a man who devoted his life to children and was the director of an orphanage in Warsaw. Refusing sanctuary, Dr. Korczak stayed with his children and was deported with them to the death camp of Treblinka.

The Zookeepers Wife tells a story of human kindness amidst unimaginable  evil. Highlighting healing, kindness, and compassion, it is a story that the world needs to hear.

On September 21, 1965, Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem – recognized Jan Żabiński and his wife, Antonina Żabińska, as Righteous Among the Nations.

To purchase or rent via Amazon Videos you can click here: The Zookeeper’s Wife

HEALING OF THE SOUL, HEALING OF THE BODY

The truth is: When you are sinking, when you are totally wrapped in your own fear and pain, it is still possible to break out.

God’s Loving Presence surrounds you at all times; God shares your pain as only an infinite consciousness can. Hashem feels your hurt, kisses your wound compassionately. The divine steadfast love enfolds you even when the longed-for miracle does not come.

Pain can obscure but it cannot degrade your preciousness to Hashem; fear can erode but not cancel the truth of your being loved. You are an image of God, of infinite worth, unique, irreplaceable. God’s face is toward you, God’s eye is on you at all times…

With this truth fixed firmly in your soul, you may yet sing out joyfully the song of existence embraced. But if not rescued, the one who trusts in a Loving God is surrounded by steadfast love. Listen. The voice speaks. “Fear not, for I am with you.”*

 

HEALING OF SOUL,
HEALING OF BODY
Spiritual Leaders Unfold the Strength & Solace in Psalms
Edited by Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, CSW

~ Review by Cindy

Most of us have found ourselves in the position of having no words in response to bad news and suffering of friends and family. Searching for something to say, we may have spoken Scripture only to find our words coming across as empty and hollow comfort. Though most of us want to speak healing too often the words we speak fall like salt on a raw wound and we join the club of Job comforters. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease… emotional and psychological trauma… loss. Sometimes my heart is overwhelmed with the suffering and sorrows of this world. But how can we encourage or be encouraged ourselves on the journey through pain, suffering, and loss?

It was the recent sharing of a friend whose husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease that sent me on a prayerful journey to find something gentle, simple, and yes practical. Something that would encourage and even prompt one to understand, receive and join the psalmists in response to the challenges of suffering and pain in our own lives. My search brought me to Healing Of Soul, Healing Of Body.

Healing Of Soul, Healing Of Body, is an inspiring read that focus’s on Tikkun HaKlali (the Complete Remedy) – the ten Psalms Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (18th century Hasidic master) identified as healing Psalms. Though all the Psalms give solace and strength, Rabbi Nachman identified these ten Psalms as containing ten kinds of song, embodying the concentrated power of the entire book of Psalms.**

From the introduction: “Viewed together, the Ten Psalms reflect an unfolding of many emotions and reactions common to those dealing with illness

Each of the ten Psalms is accompanied by a reflection from one of ten different contributors with hopes of being a bridge of healing, hope, and praise.

Psalm 16 is translated by Rabbi Harlan J. Wechsler; all of the other translations are by Rabbi Simkah Y. Weintraub. All ten Psalms are shared both in Hebrew and English translation.

It is universally accepted that one cannot translate great poetry and expect to achieve similar artistic impact in the second language. Poetry is neither linear nor simple, neither two-dimensional nor generic; it is not just words but about relationships which cannot be replicated. Elements such as cadence, rhyme, imagery, structure, and composition simply cannot be “recycled” from one culture to another, or easily transplanted from one century to the next.

Compounding the basic challenge is the fact that the Hebrew of the Book of Psalms is, to vastly understate the situation, problematic – consider how frequently translations are footnoted with “meaning of Hebrew uncertain.”

…The translations here are offered, then, with a healthy dose of humility and deference to the Author of the psalms. They are meant as a bridge to the text and not as a substitute for the psalms themselves – a reflection and a refraction of the meaning…

 

A valuable resource, from a Hebraic perspective, for those who are suffering, those who are ill, and those who are caretakers. Healing Of Soul, Healing of Body is a short read just 114 pages long. You can purchase Healing Of Soul, Healing of Body here, from Amazon.com

Healing of Soul, Healing of Body: Spiritual Leaders Unfold the Strength & Solace in Psalms

* Rabbi Irving Greenberg, Afraid But Not Alone – Meditation on Psalm 32, Healing Of Soul, Healing of Body
**
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: Through ten expressions of praise the Book of Psalms is composed:
Nitzuah, Niggun, Maskil, Mizomor, Shir, Ashrei, Tehillah, Teffillah, Hoda’ah, and Halleluyah.

‘Winter with Elie Wiesel’ Winner

A big thank you to all who joined us this winter on our learning adventure with Elie Wiesel !

The winner of the complimentary book “Open Heart” by Wiesel is

RENA MONHOLLAND

Mazel Tov Rena, we appreciate your comments and interaction with us at His-Israel!

Open Heart – Part 3 – TOWARDS THE END

Everything exhausts me. To breathe, to open my eyes, to think – everyting brings renewed agony. Am I out of danger? Not yet. …The doctors try to convince me that from now on, for a few days, a few weeks, I must be patient, that the feeling of being cut into pieces will disappear. But when? …The oppression lasts thirty-six hours, perhaps two days. An eternity during which I can do nothing without help. …On the third day, I am at last able to leave my bed. Then my room, to walk a few steps in the hallway.

One day at the begining of my convalescence, little Elijah, five years old, comes to pay me a visit. I hug him and tell him, “Every time I see you, my life becomes a gift.” He observes me closely as I speak and then, with a serious mien, responds: “Grandpa, you know that I love you, and I see you are in pain. Tell me: If I loved you more, would you be in less pain?” I am convinced that God at that moment is smiling as He contemplates His creation.

 

Open Heart – Part 3 – TOWARDS THE END – 9.14 mins

Open Heart – Part 2 – POST-SURGERY REFLECTIONS

“Elisha,” I say very quietly. My son hears me: “What can I do for you?” … I motion him to approach. Now he is very close to my bed. He takes my hand in his and caresses it gently. I try to squeeze his hand but I don’t succeed. I know that he wishes to transmit to me his strength, his faith in my recovery.

Is one ever ready? Some of the ancient Greek philosophers, as well as some Hassidic masters, claimed to have spent their lifetimes preparing for death. Well. the Jewish tradition counsels another way: We sanctify life, not death. ‘Ubakharta bakhaim,’ says Scripture: “You shall choose life” and the living. With the promise to live a better, more moral, more humane life. This is what man’s efforts should be directed to.

 

Open Heart – Part 2 – POST-SURGERY REFLECTIONS – 9.21 mins