Friday, April 25, 2014

Driving Lesson

The goal of this blog is to add rhythm to your Shabbat table. Please print and share.

Student DriverYESTERDAY I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I gave our oldest child his first driving lesson.

Someone asked me if I have any more gray hairs.

(As an aside, many of my gray hairs first appeared during my first year as a classroom teacher. Not making this up.)

Quite frankly, it was a delicious, wonderful experience and I savored every moment.

It says in Pirkei Avot (the Jewish book of ethics) that a wise person "learns from everyone".

Question for your table: What can you learn from your child during his first driving lesson?

In my opinion, the above sign says it all.

Think about how driving is different from most every other skill you teach a kid.

Chances are, the parent has a high degree of skill (or sees himself as having a high degree of skill). And the car is a potential lethal weapon. The stakes are high. 

If that doesn't help you cultivate patience, I don't know what would.

Some things take time. Patience helps. A wise person sees time as an opportunity to prepare.

Take matza for instance. We're supposed to eat it for a whole week. 

Some people savor every day of matza. Some count down the days until they can eat chametz again.

What kind of person are you?

For some people reading this, Passover is already a week-old memory.

One way we keep the message of the matza alive for the next six weeks is to look at a selection from Pirkei Avot every Shabbat afternoon.

Here's this week's selection:

Yehoshua ben Perachyah said: Make for yourself a teacher, get yourself a friend, and judge everyone towards merit.

The question for you and your table is: Are these just three random ideas, or is there a connection between them?

Shabbat Shalom

Friday, April 11, 2014

Yes, but is it awe-spicious?

The goal of this blog is to add color to your Friday night dinner table. Please print and share.

lunar3SOMETHING cool is going to happen next Monday night.

Maybe even while you are eating your Afikomen.

At midnight, the moon might turn blood-red.

(Lunar eclipses are rare but not that rare. But they are "that rare" on Seder night. There will be one next year - visible only in the Pacific Ocean, and then not again for many years.)

Here's what's cool - we know that the moon will be eclipsed, and we know where the eclipse will be visible.

But the color is unpredictable:

"The umbra may take on a range of colors from light coppery-red to almost total black. The light illuminating an eclipsed moon is coming from thousands of sunsets and sunrises around the Earth. During some eclipses, these sunsets and sunrises are clear, and much light passes through; during others, clouds may block the light, causing a dark eclipse. On rare occasions, the light reaching the moon is exactly the color of blood, but there is no way of predicting this in advance" (

Fascinating, Jim.

So this mini science lesson leads to a question for your table that I'm willing to bet NOBODY reading this can answer:

What's the connection between a lunar eclipse and Pesach?

The answer lies in that obscure line in the Haggada from prophetic book of Yoel (Joel):

"Blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke" (Yoel 3:3).

It's all very nice and on the theme of the 10 Plagues. And you probably read it every year and pay little attention.

Maybe you even skip it?

But what few know is that the very next line of the book of Yoel says:

"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood..."

The prophet is telling us that a solar and lunar eclipse are a good omen for those who say "Next year in Jerusalem".

This Monday night, after you finally find and finish your afikomen, after your four cups of wine, and a fifth for Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet), you'll find yourself at that famous line, "l'shana ha'ba b'Yerushalayim" - next year in Jerusalem.

Perhaps it will be close to true midnight, when the moon will be at full eclipse (1:07 am in Baltimore, 1:10 am in San Francisco and Seattle, 12:53 am in L.A.).

Wherever you are on the globe, take a look at the moon.

And think about it.

Shabbat Shalom

Wishing you and yours a chametz-free, happy Pesach

PS - if you or someone you know does not have a first or second seder to attend, anywhere in the world, please let me know.



PPS - These just in:
a. Dark glasses for Plague of Darkness $5.43 for a 12-pack
b. Lego skeletons for Death of First Born or cheaper skeletons - 12-pack
c. Martha Stewart's interesting idea of a bag of plagues for each person.
d. Whaddya think -  edible plagues?
e. The new 2014 edition of the Art of Amazement Haggada.
f. has even more links to last-minute Pesach books and gifts, even matzah.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Getting in Touch With Your Inner Only Kid

The goal of this email is to lighten up your Friday night dinner table. Please print and share.

IMPORTANT LATE-BREAKING NEWS - the updated Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar for smart phone or tablet is finally out! If your app stopped working, please install this week's update. If you never got the app, as a special promotion it is FREE on iTunes through Sunday. (Google won't let me make it free for Android but here's the link anyway.) Please forward this to anyone you know who might possibly enjoy this app. Nothing to lose, much to gain

beard 2People ask what kinds of new props, toys and gifts I get each year for our Pesach Seder.

(Since my kids don't have internet access, I believe I can safely send this information without them finding out.)

First, inexpensive narrative props from Windy City Novelties:

Egyptian Pharaoh Hat - that's an obvious one.
Bloody Hand Print Window Clings - an interesting alternative to the usual cup of blood
Wild Animal Finger Puppets - guess what plague?
Metallic sun glasses - will bring them out when I mention how "for the children of Israel, there was no thunderstorm or hail, they were just enjoying a nice sunny day"
Death's Dagger - for the Death of Firstborn plague
Droopy Eye Glasses - also for Firstborn
Jumbo Diamond Child Size Rings - for when the Israelites leave town with "much wealth"
Black Beard with Elastic Band - OK, I haven't figured out how to use this one.

And that's my first question for you and your table - What's the best use of that last prop at the Seder?

Second, my Amazon list:

The stunning new book by our favorite Jewish kids book illustrator Gadi Pollock, From Darkness to Light.
The new Suspend game
Juggling Matza Balls (maybe I'll connect to plague of Hail)
Seder Plate Jigsaw Puzzle
For plague of Pestilence - animal magnets
For an adult: Rabbi Wohlberg's Un-Haggada
Gluten Free Hand Dipped Chocolate Coconut Macaroons OK, my parental health-conscience didn't permit me to order these, but if they happened to show up in our mailbox, I'm sure no one would object....

Third, here's an interesting question for your table tonight:

You know how the last song of the Passover Seder is Chad Gadya  - An Only Kid?

Ever stop to wonder what that's all about?

My father bought for 2 zuzim?

Then came the cat that ate the kid??

Hello? What kind of cat was that? A bobcat?

And then a dog bit the cat? Sounds nice but why?

The story is obviously symbolic. Each character (animals, a stick, a fire, the Angel of Death etc.) represents a major event in Jewish history.

Looking forward to your answers.

If you want my answer, you'll have to get the Art of Amazement Haggada (

( Downloadable PDF version available here; full JSL Passover Kit downloadable here.)
Feeling a bit of Pesachphobia, also known as haggadaphobia and sometimes referred to as sederphobia?

Conquer that fear with the new 2014 edition of the Art of Amazement Haggada.

Shabbat Shalom

PS - Our public service site has more links to great Pesach books and gifts, even matzah, believe it or not.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Haggada off the Press

As promised last Friday, here's the update on the new 2014 Art of Amazement Haggada and Passover Kit!

Haggada coverThis innovative haggada turns you into a master story teller. Rather than placing commentary below the text, The Art of Amazement Haggada embeds the midrashic details into the text.
“Haggada” means “telling the story” and this haggada will empower you with the mastery of Midrash to keep your participants glued to their seats.
Completely revised and updated for 2014!
Designed and cross-referenced to be used with the participant “Freedom” edition, but will go well with any other haggados.
  • Almost everything is transliterated and translated. Very little Hebrew.
  • Suggestions of what parts to skip for less-religious or younger audience
  • Midrashim and questions are embedded in the text so instead of looking down at footnotes or at a different book, it’s all there for you.
  • Different suggested questions for 2nd Seder
  • 12 Tips on how to prepare for and run a successful, engaging Seder.
To learn more about the Art of Amazement Haggada, including how to get a print-it-yourself PDF, click here.
To learn about the JSL Passover Kit click here.

Or cut to the chase and order your hard copies here:

1. Leader’s Edition — Paperback binding (
2. Leader’s Edition — Spiral binding (longer delivery time)
3. Participant’s Edition — Paperback binding (

Feeling a bit of Pesachphobia, also known as haggadaphobia and sometimes referred to as sederphobia?

You can conquer that fear with the new 2014 edition of the Art of Amazement Haggada.

PS - Our public service site has been stocked with links to great Pesach books and gifts, even matzah, believe it or not.