Wednesday, March 16, 2011


trying to add a paypal pay button didn't work right

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

introducing Hillel Yitzchak

The fact that we are celebrating together here today is a true miracle. I think that most, if not all of you, are aware of at least some of what we went through to be able to welcome this baby boy, Hillel Yitzchak, into our family. After rounds of failed fertility treatments and an emotional, complicated journey of being approved as a fost/adopt family by Los Angeles county, we were pleasantly shocked when the pregnancy test Marcus has no idea why he insisted I take turned out to be positive. For us, it’s impossible not to see G-d’s hand as the third partner in the creation of this beautiful boy. G-d waited until I had a light semester of schoolwork so that I could handle the demands of school, motherhood, and the fatigue of the first trimester. And G-d waited until Meital was mature enough to be the wonderful big sister she is proving to be – helpful and loving to her little brother.
And it was Meital who first suggested that we name the baby Hillel. As soon as she said it, we knew that we had found the boy’s name. We gave this baby the name Hillel – praise – in praise of G-d’s wisdom in knowing what would really be the right time for us to add a baby to our family, and in thanksgiving and praise for having him in our family and in our lives.
Although he isn’t named after anyone in particular in either of our families, we do hope that Hillel lives up to some of the qualities embodied by the famous sage Hillel. Like the sage Hillel, we hope our Hillel grows up valuing other people’s opinions while still fighting for his own, and we hope he honors and reveres the Torah, Jewish learning, and finds his place in our tradition.
On the day that I found out that I was pregnant, I imagine that my reaction was a bit like our matriarch Sarah’s. I thought I had come to terms with our inability to conceive on our own, and now I was presented with proof otherwise. I was even supposed to attend an optional adoption class that night, but at the last minute, our babysitting fell through. I didn’t quite know what to make of it all, whether to believe I was pregnant and skip the class or rush around trying to find a new sitter in case the test was wrong… But just a couple of weeks ago, as we were sitting in shul on Rosh Hashanah and reading about Sarah’s reaction to the news of Yizchak’s birth, I knew that that was also my reaction, our reaction. Not that people would laugh at us, but that people would laugh with us every time they heard this boy’s remarkable story. So, as is fitting for a boy born during Sukkot, when one of the illustrious guests we invite into our Sukkah is our forefather Yitzchak, a boy whose very existence brings more laughter and wonder into the world, we gave him the middle name Yitzchak.

Hillel Yitzchak, his big sister Meital Ayelet, and his parents, thank you all for coming and celebrating with us, and we invite you all to please eat!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Here are some photos of "Peapod"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

From Rosh Hashanah 2nd day

A holiday, a new year, is a joyous thing a time when we see all the possibility of a clean slate laid out before us. We start a new school year with new clean notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils and pens full of ink. We read about new life with Isaac’s miraculous birth. But, as Jews, and as people, we know that a new beginning comes at the expense of an end. A new classroom or new school means leaving behind the old familiar one. A new activity means the end of time for what you used to do. And new lives often remind us of those no longer with us.

This is the dual personality of Rosh Hashanah that threads its way through our liturgy, our torah reading, our thoughts, and even our foods. In some ways, all of Rosh HaShanah is summed up in the Unetane tokef prayer that we say during musaf. “Who will live and who will die.” There are lots of ways to interpret what this means:
- Literal/physical continue to live or not
- Physical – who will be born and who die
- spiritual life/death
- somewhat metaphoric/causative – who will cause others to live or die (either literal birth death or by spiritually helping or hurting)
The concept of Rosh Hashanah as time when life and death are determined is further popularized in the image of the books of life and death. We teach children about books of life and death early – there’s even a coloring page on Yet, at the same time, we teach children about Rosh HaShanah as the birthday of the world (and they are even having birthday party with cake here at Beth Am this afternoon). Even before that, we teach our children that Rosh Hashanah is about apples and honey and a sweet new year.

But, how can Rosh Hashanah be both about apples and honey and sweetness and looking forward to a bright future and simultaneously a time when we are preoccupied with death and all of the bad things that we do? Even as adults, it’s hard to grapple with death and the problem of why bad things happen. So, the rabbis and others tried to help answer those concerns by saying that bad things/death = punishment for our misdeeds. This way, we take our misdeeds seriously, as we should. If you do something bad, you get written in the book of death. Pretty serious punishment, so you better not do anything bad.

And, if the repetition of the unetane tokef prayer is not enough to get us thinking about death, we have the perplexing story of the Akedah, of Isaac being bound for death by his own father’s hand, as the Torah reading for today. But living always in the shadow of one’s own potential death as punishment for misdeeds is too scary, unsustainable, and condemns people to failure. We can never be perfect, try as we might.

So, as we say in the unetane tokef prayer, repentance, prayer, and charity have the ability to modify the divine decree against us; and as we read in the Torah, G-d sends an angel to stay Avrham’s hand so that he doesn’t actually kill his son. G-d doesn’t want us to “fail”, to be bad. Just as a parent threatens a child with severe punishment to deter the child from doing something naughty, so too G-d threatens us with the book of death; but no parent wants to have to follow through on the threat, nor does G-d. And, as we all know (either from delivering them or being in the receiving end), threats only work so much, and they don’t instill the type of loving relationship that we want to have between children and parents or between us G-d. So we balance the threat of being inscribed in the book of death with the promise of being inscribed in the book of life. We temper the binding of Isaac on the alter with his release. And we teach even our youngest children about both the book of life and the world’s birthday celebration with apples and honey because we know that even they are capable to learning to be ever better people. And we emphasize the hope and expectations we have for the coming year and the way in which we will pursue repentance, prayer, and charity as we eat our apples and honey and focus our energies on being inscribed in the book of life for a bountiful, sweet year.

Shanah tovah u’metukah

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This morning's song

This morning, while playing, she was singing:

"it's raining
it's pouring
the old man was snoring
he went to bed
and brushed his teeth
and couldn't get up in the morning"