Friday, October 28, 2011

A few more Succos inspirations for the future

When I was looking for interesting Sukkah decorating ideas, I came across an article here with different  traditional sukkah decorating ideas from Jewish communities from around the world throughout history, definitely something interesting to consider and something that might come in handy in the future sukkah decorating projects.  Also here is another creative sukkah decorating idea from with lots of more decorating and holiday ideas to explore.  Finally, here is a link discussing growing an esrog tree from seeds or cuttings and  here is a  list of links for recipes and ideas of what to do with one's esrog once the holiday is over.

A Very Belated Succos Post

I've always loved fall but fall in Israel is very special.  There are no colorful leaves with few exceptions and the weather until the rains come is often indistinguishable from summer but the holiday season mood prevails and that is what makes it different from the other falls in other parts of the world.  I love how the genral mood changes from Yom Kippur solemness and seriousness to Succos joy.   I love  the post -Yom Kippur bang- banging noise of people putting up their sukkahs and the post- Succos bang bang crash noises of putting them away.  So this year's Succos was very nice.  We did get to do some Succos crafting with the kids, although not as much as  I had originally  hoped for but the pompom garland and the chain out of different patterned wrapping papers came out very nice and the kids did a great job decorating the sukkah with decorations new and old (  hopefully I'll post some pictures once I overcome my various computer issues, sigh).  The weather was beautiful.  We really stayed close to home this Chol Hamoed but the kids did get to do some local things and for most part we just stayed home, enjoyed the down time, dealt with chaos if it developed and enjoyed the holiday.  The menu was pretty simple with pot roast, chicken roast, moroccan style chicken stirfry with lemons from our yard, unstuffed cabbage, salads, cake, parve ice cream and such and that worked out just fine.  Everyone enjoyed shaking the arba minim, esrogim (citrons) smelled divine and made me think how someday when we have a place of our own, how nice it would be to have an esrog tree in our yard as well as an arava (willow) tree and some hadassim(myrtles), some day.  The kids enjoyed the Simchas Torah  excitement, I think something has to be done about the overwhelming amount of candy and other sweets that they consumed in schul for the future but in the end it was nice.  The kids helped take down the Sukkah just as they helped put it up and that was that for this holiday .  Somewhere in between all this we brought up the winter clothes, distributed sleeping bags and winter blankets as the weather slowly began to change towards a colder one.  I think the children got a well needed break from everything over the last month and are now ready to dive in, into the rest of the year and settle down to a routine.  I've been aslo trying to organized us for the coming months of life and learning.  I've been meaning to write sooner but with everything going on it was hard to find the time and energy.  The Shalit deal, has also cast it's difficult shadow over many people's Succos this year.  Of course, we were all very happy to have Gilad Shalit back from Hamas captivity after over 5 years but the hefty ransom that the Israeli government decided to pay left lots of people upset, hurt and apprehensive. There were many reasons why the deal was struck at this junction and lots has been written on the subject both for and against only time will tell how the implications will play out, may G-d protect us all much like the sukkah is meant to remind us that true protection comes from Above even if we are in a rather makeshift shelter, which is not much of a shelter at all.  So this has been weighing heavily on my mind and so this post is very very late.

Friday, October 7, 2011

An Israel update for this Erev Yom Kippur

Here is another post that has been in the pipeline for a while, since the Palestinian hoopla at the UN.  Our PM gave a very strong speech pretty much outlining everything that is wrong with the notion of the fruitless peace process,etc see here.  Alas, his words have fallen on many deaf ears or rather the people who really needed to hear them have since continued to behave in exactly the way he has described in his speech undeterred by truth, history or morality.  Sigh.  Here are a few excellent articles that describe the situation and shed light on what is really going on - Land Without Peace by Charles Krauthammer in Washington Post, UN's Theatre of the Absurd by Melanie Phillips and From Israel,Faith that Sustains by Arlene Kushner.  There were quite a few more  but I think these really encapsulate what I would have liked to say.   Today, we bought some new canvas Sukkah walls, some of them have a beautiful picture of Jerusalem with words from Tehilim (Psalms) - just like mountains surround Jerusalem, so  does Hashem encircle His people.  May Hashem bless us with a sweet, beautiful and peaceful year and continue to guard us from all harm and may He spread his Sukkah (Tabernacle) of Peace over the Jewish Nation and over Jerusalem! Gmar Chatima Tova!

Sukkah decorating ideas - garlands and buntings galore

I've been thinking of trying some of these since last year, when I realized that all sorts of garlands can make wonderful sukkah decorations.  They are for most part fairly easy and fast to make and kids like to make them and it's a type of project that can be done with different ages. This definitely a family friendly kind of a project, just the kind I love. So this year when time and energy are very scarce I found this great link on Squidoo ( one of my favorite places for getting great ideas) with literally hundreds of creative ideas for all sorts of garlands and buntings.  I hope to make at least a few of these to add to our ever growing stash of sukkah decorations.  Very exciting and good for creating sweet memories for years to come.  Enjoy!

Shifting focus

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while but it was one thing after another and it just didn't come together as I kept revising and updating in my mind.  But tonight as I once again faced the prospect of wanting to write and not getting to it, it occured to me that what I was really aiming to say is very relevant to Yom Kippur, which will be upon us shortly.  On one hand, things have really not been going according to plan,my plan that is:) First, the printer broke down, the computer was more dysfunctional than not, then the whole family came down with a virus ( fevers, head aches, flu symptoms, rashes, oy) and more of the same.   So the planned lessons, the holiday baking I was hoping to do, the art projects I was dreaming about, etc, all became an impossibility and had to be either canceled altogether or severely curtailed. But on the other hand, all of the above opened up many opportunities for meaningful discussions, for informal lessons, for creating a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere, for letting us shift focus and concentrate on things that are really important, for allowing us to absorb life lessons that seemed to be raining down in abundance suddenly.  And it made me think that really this message is one of the messages for this introspective time of the Jewish year.  One has to be able to shift focus when necessary in order to change for the better, to concentrate on what has to be done right now rather than what one wishes to be doing, to have faith and let G-d point one in the direction one needs to go, to be patient and flexible  and accept one's limitations for the time being. So often I find myself getting frustrated when I can't get to do what I think needs to be done and yet so often I find that these unintentional detours provide the unparalleled growth opportunities that would've probably never come about or certainly not as naturally or with just the right amount of impact had things gone according to plan.  So on this Yom Kippur Eve I'd like to wish everyone a Gmar Hatima Tova (May you be sealed for a good year)and a year full of blessing and faith and many meaningful detours!