64 posts categorized "Jewish Customs and Practice"

A Pre-Passover Message from Rabbi Shalom Arush

Message RSA
Cherished friends,

As the Passover holiday approaches, many worthy but needy families in Jerusalem have added worries: Barely able to feed their families, much less clothe them, they have no idea how they'll provide for the quickly approaching Passover. The heavy holiday expenses create hardships for many families who simply can't manage to purchase all their holiday needs; no one's at all talking about "enjoying" the holiday. They can barely afford to put wine and matza on the Passover table, so who can think about new shoes for the children? These are families who don't know if they'll have food on the table this coming Passover, and I wish I were exaggerating.
As the Rosh Yeshiva of Chut Shel Chesed and Director of Emuna Outreach, I feel that chesed - loving-kindness - is one of the most important mitzvoth there is; I'm sure that you agree with me. That's why I included the word chesed in the name of our yeshiva, to emphasize that helping our fellow human is a highest priority. The Torah says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." "Flour for Passover" means to help the less fortunate of our Jewish brethren have a joyous Passover holiday by enabling them to have the necessary staples.
Rebbetzen Arush and I do our utmost to identify the needy families who are too embarrassed to request assistance, and to give them the needed foodstuffs and financial support. I am privileged and honored to offer you a share in this mitzva. This is a wonderful opportunity to join us in our annual Kimcha d'Piskha, or "Flour for Passover" Project.
Your donation to our "Emuna Outreach Kimcha d'Piskha Fund" will provide needy families in Israel with all their needs for Passover, including meat and poultry, wine, matzot, dry goods, fruit and vegetables. Donate to Emuna Outreach to make sure that these worthy families of sorely limited means will also be able to enjoy their Passover holiday. Your donation is US tax deductable.

May we all have a truly joyous holiday, amen!

Holy Hamantashen, Batman! It's PURIM!!

Photo from Racheli Reckles (31)

Check out my cute little Natan, a.k.a. BATYAM! 

This is a BIG week for me - and not just because my kids are going to be home until Sunday (G-d help me.)

Today, the 12th of Adar, is my Nachman's 6th birthday! HOORAY! And then, of course, it's Purim! HOORAY!! And then, on the 18th of Adar, it's my little Batyam's 4th birthday! HOOOOO to the RAYYYY!!

I can't say for sure that I'm going to be sick of eating birthday cake and hamantashen (those little triangular cookies that are supposed to resemble Haman's ears.) 

You know the story, right? Haman was famous for his triangle-looking pointy ears that were so full of wax, they were oozing out globs and globs of wax. Seriously. It's a shame q-tips weren't invented back then. Maybe he wouldn't have been so bitter. But then again, would his ears be so famous if they had been clean? And shaped like human ears? 

Was Haman really an elf?

Such deep questions stem from a lack of sleep and depleted of brain power due to having spent the last 8 hours wrapping 150 professional-looking Purim baskets. 

Okay, I'll try to be serious for a second. But do you really want me to??

Obviously one of the most funnest, awesomest parts of Purim is that we get to put on costumes. I mean kids. And men. Unfortunately I don't see too many women around here dressing up. But that ain't gonna stop me! I'm getting dressed up as something - just not sure what.

After thinking about costumes for half a second, I suddenly realized that every day is Purim. 

Not that we get drunk every day, hopefully... But that we each wear costumes and masks every single day.

You know what? 

We're a bunch of fakes. 

Fake smiles, fake hello's, fake concern, fake attention, fake friends on Facebook, fake friends in real life, OMG the entire world is just one big ball of FAKE.

Interestingly, the fake reality of Facebook is probably where most people get real. They feel safe behind a screen, knowing that most of the people don't know who they are, so they take off the mask and let the nasty, self-righteous, resentful person that's hiding underneath all the fakeness come out in all his glory. Hence, the incredible amounts of insults and all that good stuff.

Now there's a lot to be said for being fake. Sometimes politeness and common courtesy are preferable to getting a piece of someone's mind. It's good to have a filter. Wish I had one of those. But they don't sell them here in the Middle East, because everyone here just says what they want with ZERO filter. 

It's part of the charm of the locals, I guess. LOLOLOLOL

Even this beautiful world that Hashem created for us to enjoy, as real as it feels, is fake. It's on the lowest level of reality. The spiritual world is the real world, but we can't experience it, so we can't really know it. And that's okay! Just the awareness that this world is not the Ultimate should be enough to help keep us from getting too involved in the fakeness. 

So what's the answer to dealing with the fakeness (and globs of wax-filled ears)? 


Rebbe Nachman says life is like a narrow bridge. It's not easy to find balance in life. But again, that's okay! It's one of the main things we're supposed to work on - how to balance the spiritual and physical worlds. Not easy!

Purim is a good reminder that the world really is a stage and everyone's an actor. Good call, Shakespeare. Hope he wasn't anti-Semitic. 

Remember: sometimes fake is good, and sometimes it's not. 

How ridiculously profound. 

Have a wonderful, safe, and delicious Purim! 

And for G-d's sake, don't drink and drive! Let your poor wife who isn't allowed to dress in costume or drink be the designated driver. I'm sure she'll really appreciate that.


Oh, and a very important p.s. from Rav Brody! 

Important Notice: Rabbi Shalom Arush can be your shaliach (representative) in fulfilling the mitzvoth of Zecher Machtzit Hashekel (commemoration of the mitzva of giving the half shekel) and Matanot L'evyonim (gifts to the poor) on the day of Purim. Simply Donate to Emuna Outreach during the coming days before Purim and Rabbi Arush will make sure that the money will be distributed on the day of Purim. 

The Mitzva of the Half Shekel

Holy Temple Jerusalem
During the time of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, every year during the month of Adar, each adult male from age 20 up would give a half shekel. This was for the purpose of buying sacrificial animals for the Holy Temple for the coming year. That way, every single household in Israel had a share in the holy sacrifices, the avoda of the Holy Temple. The Torah specifically commands that the rich man shall not give more and the poor man shall not give less. This mitzva, called the machtzit hashekel, the mitzva of giving the half shekel, obligated everyone. In the list of the 613 Torah mitzvoth, this is positive mitzva #105 according to the Sefer HaChinuch.

Like the other mitzvoth that are dependent on the Holy Temple, we cannot fulfill this obligation properly until the full redemption of our people when we rebuild the Holy Temple. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that exile and Diaspora are prolonged and the Redemption is delayed because of the lack of emuna in the world.

We show Hashem how we yearn for His mitzvoth and for the Holy Temple by giving charity during the week of Purim to commemorate our giving of the Half Shekel.
Everyone can participate in the mitzva of giving the half shekel. There's something special here too: when a person donates the Half Shekel donation to spread emuna, he or she not only fulfills in commemorating this wonderful mitzva but also hastens the Geula - the full Redemption of our people - and therefore expedites the rebuilding of our Holy Temple. Donate to Emuna Outreach and help Rabbi Arush spread emuna around the globe.

A Practical Guide to Purim, 2018/5778

Guide to Purim
Here's everything you need to know about properly preparing for, observing and celebrating Purim this year, in a nutshell:

"Shabbat Zachor" ("Shabbat of Remembering") 9 Adar(Feb. 24, 2018)

This is the only Shabbat each year that every man and woman is obligated(according to most authorities) by Torah law to go to the synagogue. On this day, a section of the Torah, called "Zachor" (in Hebrew, "Remember") is appended to the weekly Torah reading. By hearing it read publicly on the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim, we fulfill the Torah commandment in it: "Remember what Amalek [the ancestor and inspiration of Haman, the villain of Purim] did to you". (Deut. 25:17-19)

Fast of Esther 13 Adar, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018

The fast starts before dawn and ends after dark, and entails no eating or drinking. There are special services at synagogue both morning and afternoon. The money saved by not eating should go to charity; the time, to Torah-study and mitzva-performance.

Purim 14 Adar (Wednesday Night - Thursday, Feb. 28 - March 1, 2018)

1. Megilla - Hear a public reading of the Scroll of Esther in the evening and again during the day.

2. Matanot L’evyonim - "Gifts for the Poor": Give money to at least two needy individuals. (If you don't encounter anyone that qualifies, you can click here and Donate to Emuna Outreach and Rav Shalom Arush will perform the mitzvah in your behalf on Purim day.)

3. Mishloach ManotSend (via a third party) a gift of two or more kinds of ready-to-eat foods and/or drink to at least one friend (not a relative).

4. Se’udat PurimCelebrate at a festive day-time meal with bread, good food, and plenty of red wine. The Talmud and Codes of Law instruct us to drink until we can no longer differentiate between "Blessed is Mordechai" and "Cursed is Haman"! (A few authorities opine that the minimum obligation is to drink only "a bit more than what one is used to". Looking ahead to Passover night, perhaps the quantity implied is 4 cups plus!).

5. Add "Al HaNissim" to the daily Standing Prayers and to the Blessings-After-Meals. (See daily prayerbook in the Thanksgiving/Modim section of the Standing Prayer.)

Shushan Purim 15 Adar (Friday, March 2, 2018)

Inhabitants of cities that were important enough to be surrounded by walls at the time of the Jews' entrance into the Holy Land at the time of Joshua celebrate Purim one day later than everyone else (see Esther 9:17-19). The prime example is that of Jerusalem. Be careful this year to complete all the mitzvoth of Purim, including the festive meal, well before sundown and the beginning of Shabbat.

Be sure to pass this post on to whoever needs it! Happy Purim preparations!



OMGGGGGGGG it's really here!

TODAY is my oldest son's 13th birthday! Yay!!

I mean, NOOOOOO!!

How can it be that 13 years have already passed since he was born? I can't even imagine what happens to a parent when his kid gets engaged.... YIKES!!

On one hand, I'm super excited because tonight we're gonna tear the house down at his bar mitzvah partayyyyy!! RIGHT, TZIPPY??!!

On the other hand, I'm feeling like I should go get some dentures or orthotics made. 

Well I certainly ain't wearing no orthopedic shoes to this party! I'm gettin' all glamified, glamorized, glitterized, and gluttonized.

What does that even mean??

My mind is so distracted with this disaster of a house, so I'd just like to say the following:

Life. Is. Short.  

Seriously. Appreciate every minute. Live every minute. Even during painful times, thank Hashem that you're alive and can spend time with those you love and care about. You can even thank Him for being able to spend time with those you love and hate, because, hey, we all have a spiritual correction to do, right?

Before you know it, poof! Life will be over before we know it and we'll all go back to Never Never Land. G-d what a depressing thought. I'm sorry, I can't help it.

It's a bittersweet moment for me, my son's bar mitzvah. 

I can't thank Hashem emough for this tremendously special soul He brought into my life, at a healthy 9.1 pounds and 10 days late 13 years ago. With no epidural. Thank You for the traumatic great birth. At least I didn't have a c-section or suffer any complications, B"H.

I hope the fledgling little Good Inclination that just entered him will be able to sprout and help him turn into a kind, considerate, confident, wicked smart, tzaddik who manages to get through teenagerhood without having driven his mother into one of those fancy hotels reserved for mothers of teenagers who manage to drive them to special hotels that only serve people who have lost their minds.

Because their teenagers drove them crazy.

Yehuda, I love you so much and hope Hashem gives you every blessing in this world and the Next, Amen!!


Your Iraqi Mama whose bark is much louder than her bite. Except when she's hungry.

Oh, and one more thing! Today is a super important day, where we read Parashat HaMann for sustenance! Scroll down for Rav Brody's full explanation and links! 

Today! Say "Parshat HaMan" to Insure a Good Income

Parshat Ha'man

Don't forget to say "Parshat HaMan" today: Segula (spiritual invoking ploy) for a good income - on the Tuesday of the Parshat Beshalach week, our sages tell us that it's an opportune time to recite "Parshat HaMan", the story of the manna, the Heaven-sent bread that sustained the Children of Israel for forty years in the desert. One should read it in Hebrew if possible, twice mikra and once targum. For your convenience, here is a clearly presented Parshat HaMan which you are more than welcome to download. If you read English only, then I've translated it for you, here: Download Parshat HaMan - English. May Hashem send a wonderful income to everyone, amen! 

Fat Bellies and Fixed Bumpers


I was chillin' on the couch and one of my kids took this picture when I had dozed off. I'm not amused by the little penguin on my nose. Kids have a strange sense of humor, don't they?

Chanukah is almost over and I feel as big as this elephant. I'm fed up with the donuts and fed up with my kids being home on break. Yesterday I took the kids to IKEA because it's an easy drive and less than half hour away. We all love going from section to section, pretending that we live in each living room and cook in those gorgeous kitchens. And of course, we love the food! 

I'm still amazed that everything's kosher, because you can't believe how many restaurants in Israel are not! Very disappointing. But there's nothing better than those dairy-free ice cream cones! I don't know what they put in those things, but you can hold one for at least 45 minutes and not a drop will melt! It's a little freaky, if you ask me.

What makes matters worse is that I haven't been able to get to the gym most mornings. David wants me to stay home so he can go pray, and I be like, "Watchin' kids?! Ain't nobody got no time for that!" Go pray for me, tzaddik. 

And of course, the house is a total disaster. Moms, don't you find that so frustrating? No matter how much we clean up, do dishes, laundry, and everything else, we can still look around the house and wonder how it's possible that nothing looks like it got done. 

David doesn't understand why I complain to him, so I gave him this analogy (which he still didn't understand.) If he were to work all day long and all he had to show for it at the end of the day was a piece of paper with scribble scrabble, wouldn't that make him a little bit upset? I mean, just a tiny bit??

Getting back to IKEA. I have a big yetzer when I go there, and it's called "candles." I'm crazy for their candles! I love it when the house smells like pumpkin pie (their latest flavor!) or apple. It's almost like I'm eating the smell. If only that would actually work. If they had jelly donut-smelling candles, I'd fill my entire house with them and people would think I'm in the middle of an exorcism. 

And I would say YES! I am! I'm trying to rid myself of the evil spirit of the jelly donut! It has possessed me and taken over my life, and now I've turned into a big giant slobbering elephant named Elefantee. The accent's on the last syllable, as I explained to David. It's not El-e-fan-te, which is the way you say it in Spanish. It's El-e-fan-tayyyy. 


Check it:

IMG_20171217_150825925_HDR (1)

I finally got my car back!! 

And just in time! I couldn't even fit into my mechanic's tiny wind-up car anymore. I mean, did you see my picture above? How is a mama elephant supposed to drive a small car? She needs a high roof! She needs some leg room! She needs some chocolate and a new pair of shoes, AMEN!!

Here's what makes getting my car back even more amazing: I'm a little slow sometimes, and only a few days ago I realized that I wouldn't be able to take the kids on an outing because we don't all fit in the Flintstone-mobile. Hashem knew that if I were to be stuck at home with five kids for the entire break, I'd go insane. So He made sure that my car would be ready for me exactly when I needed it. (Plus I think He realized that if I got any heavier the mechanic's car's suspension would collapse under my weight.)

Oh, and you want to hear something crazy? The mechanic gave me my car back with zero gas. I mean ZERO. The gas light was on and I was actually worried if I would make it to my beloved gas station. Luckily I did. I filled up the tank and was just about to close the side door, when I saw, right in front of my eyes, the other key to my car! 

The guy who washed the car forgot that he had put it on the roof. But seriously, what a dumb place to put a key. It's a real live Chanukah miracle that the key didn't fly off as I was driving. 

It's amazing that if our spiritual eyes are open, we can see how much Hashem is taking care of us. So don't sweat it. Your prayers will be answered, exactly when Hashem decides it's the right time. So do your best not to stresst. Do your best not to stresst. C'mon, say it with me! DO YOUR BESSST,  NOT TO STRESSST. 

OMMMMMGGGGGG!! Hashem just gave me the BEST idea!!

I'm going to celebrate the end of Chanukah and donuts and school break with...



Have an extra special last day of Chanukah!