Friday, December 15, 2017

Shabbat Around the Table -- Miketz

Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dream in Miketz, this week's parsha. Pharaoh dreams of seven fat cows swallowing seven skinny cows and seven plump ears of grain swallowing seven lean ears of grain. Joseph sees that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine in the land of Egypt. He advises Pharaoh to store grain in anticipation of the famine and Pharaoh appoints him governor of Egypt.

When my son was little, and still occasionally, I'll say to him when he wakes up, "Good morning! Did you have any dreams last night?" A long time ago, when I was babysitting, I'd heard a mom ask her son that same question and I thought it was the loveliest thing to ask someone when they first wake up. Dreams are sometimes scary but more often they're weird and wacky. I think it's genuinely fun to try to figure out the meaning of your dreams the following morning, and talking about dreams is a great way to get the conversation going on a sleepy morning. Try asking your child, "Did you have any dreams last night," share your own, and enjoy the morning.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Thanksgiving in the Preschool

Since August, I’ve been sharing some of the changes we’ve made or will be making in the preschool this year. Change is necessary for growth, but oftentimes change is hard. There’s a poster hanging in my office that reminds us of this: “Change is Hard at First, Messy in the Middle, and Gorgeous at the End.” But not all things necessarily require big changes, and the preschool’s annual Community Thanksgiving Feast is one of them.

Last year, I was blown away by this event. At first, I didn’t believe we could pull it off, but by the end, I was already looking forward to the next one.

First, we invite all our families, including siblings, grandparents, and caregivers, so it really is a community event. Approximately 200 people attend, and we have to feed them all.

The children do all the cooking, and each class makes a specific dish to share: mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, succotash, corn bread, apple sauce, cranberry sauce, and dessert. Families donate the ingredients, and it takes us a whole day to do all the prep work and baking.

Personally, I found making the mashed sweet potatoes to be the most fun. After roasting the potatoes whole, the skin peels right off. As for the next step, just hand potato mashers to a group of three or four-year-olds and stand back. They’ll figure out what to do without you having to explain much. Add some butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and you have a genuinely delicious dish that received rave reviews from those in attendance last year.

In order to seat 200 people, we have to take over the social hall. It’s filled with every long table the synagogue has, and each of those tables must be decorated. Each class makes table decorations (which each child will take home after the feast to hopefully grace their own Thanksgiving table), ranging from cornucopias to turkeys to pieces that incorporate natural elements such as acorns or autumn leaves. Volunteers come in the night before to set up the room and set the tables. It’d be impossible to get the job done without our amazing parents.

By the time you read this, I will have enjoyed my second Community Thanksgiving Feast as director of the preschool. As comfortable as I am with change, when thinking about this incredible event, I can’t help but remember something my dad often says: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Friday, December 1, 2017

Shabbat Around the Table -- Vayishlach and Shalom Aleichem

Jacob wrestles with one of God's messengers -- an angel -- during the night and gets a new name in the morning in this week's parshaVayishlach. His new name, Israel, means "you have struggled with God."

Angels are mentioned throughout the Torah. Abraham and Sarah welcome three angels to their tent earlier in Breishit (Book of Genesis), in one of my favorite stories. They drop everything they are doing to make sure their guests are welcome.

There is also a custom of welcoming angels to your dinner table on Friday nights. The angels are said to have accompanied you home in order to celebrate Shabbat with you. In many households, a song welcoming the angels in the first song sung around the Shabbat table.

Shalom Aleichem
Greetings to you, Angels!
May peace enter with you,
Bless me for peace,
Go on your way in peace
God is over us all.

Click here to learn the words and the tune. May your Shabbat be filled with peace!

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