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Last Friday morning, I visited an exhibit called “Jewish Magic through the Ages” at Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum. It was a totally fascinating exhibit, featuring dozens of rare Kabbalistic amulets and parchments from all across the Jewish world.

I absolutely hated, of course, that the museum refers to these objects as “magic” because the word “magic” makes me think of ridiculous trickery like white rabbits popping out of top hats and children being cut and half and magically made whole a minute later. This exhibit, in contrast, featured many objects created over the past 2500 years by Divinely-inspired mystics and rabbis and rebbes well-versed in the secrets of the Kabbalah.

From the exhibit: Kabbalistic blessings for protection of a newborn

The truth is that even though it was totally intriguing, this exhibit was an incredibly deflating and sad one to visit. These objects contain unfathomably holy names of angels and names of Hashem and were treasured so intensely by believing Jewish men and women for so many generations. And now they are stuck behind glass at the secular Bible Lands Museum, like pinned, formaldehyde-d butterflies at a high-school science fair.

But what was even more depressing than seeing these holy objects behind glass was the fact that Tsofia (my baby) and I showed up at the exhibit exactly at the same time that a special guided tour of the exhibit was beginning. The tone of the tour was very academic, and the participants were actually laughing out loud as they looked at these sacred objects, as though these wonders of Jewish mysticism were the most hilarious thing they had seen since Seinfeld went off the air.

On my way out of the museum, I realized that this depressing exhibit reminded me of something equally upsetting that I saw 20 years ago at a performance of the Moscow circus. The circus featured a scrawny, forelorn, declawed, detoothed bear, and as one of the acts in the circus, a clown threw plastic rings around its neck while the bear just stood there hunched over and long-suffering. 2 decades later it is still difficult for me to think of that poor, humiliated bear, transformed from a proud, roaring, invincible king of the forest into the punchline of a bad joke.

On my way home from the museum, I decided to stop by the grave of the Zviller Rebbe zt”l which is located right underneath the Israeli Supreme Court. Up until a few years ago, pretty much the only people who visited this grave were Zviller Chassidim, but over the past 3 years or so, this grave has been transformed into one of the more popular holy sites in Jerusalem. Busloads of visitors read specific psalms at the gravesite on a Monday, Thursday, and then Monday, and the wall of the gravesite is plastered with miracle stories from people who did these Monday-Thursday-Monday prayers and their prayers were answered. (See photos below)

Even though I’ve been hearing for years about this now-famous grave and the miracles surrounding it from friends who prayed there, I’d never actually been there until this past Friday. Once I found the grave, I lit a candle and read a few psalms and prayed for my very ill friend Hagit bat Leah whom I had visited that morning, and for a few other people in need. Next to me, an older Sephardic woman wept as she leaned over the grave. When she left, I touched the grave stone, and I felt a charge, like electricity.

I cannot tell you how happy, how relieved I felt to be in that holy place. A place where the spiritual world feels as close and as real and as clear as looking down and seeing your five figures.

And I remembered, as I stood there, that I spent half my life laughing at that bear. Not because I was bad or mean, just because I didn’t know any better. Thank God, I thought, that I lived to see that bear roaring with all of its might and glory–with my own eyes.

The grave of the Zviller Rebbe zt"l


A few of the letters posted at the gravesite thanking God for miracles that occurred after praying there.


The view of Nachlaot from the gravesite

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All I can say is “WOW”! I never saw a video that made me feel the wonder of God’s majesty like this…The song is El Adon performed by Ehud Banai, and the English translation is below.

GOD IS LORD: GOD IS LORD OVER ALL CREATION

G-d is the Lord of all creation
Blessed and praised is he by every soul
His greatness and goodness fill the universe
knowledge and wisdom surround him
He is exalted above the celestial beings
And adorned in glory above the chariot
Purity and justice stand before his throne
Kindness and mercy are in his glorious presence
Good are the luminaries which our G-d created,
made with knowledge, wisdom and insight
He placed in them energy and power
To have dominion over the world
Full of splendor they radiate brightness;
Beautiful is their brilliance throughout the world
They rejoice in their rising and exult in their setting
performing with reverence the will of their Creator
Glory and honor do they give to his name,
And joyous song to his majestic fame
He called forth the sun, and it shone;
He saw fit to regulate the form of the moon
All the hosts of heaven give him praise;
All the celestial beings attribute glory and grandeur

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SUPERMOM.jpgphoto © 2008 Mike On Maui | more info (via: Wylio)
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This Israeli news report about the Zalmanov family moved me very deeply, even to tears.

I love this report so much because this is the first video I’ve ever seen that provides viewers with a real taste of a bustling Orthodox kidling-filled home.

I so loved watching mother Sima Zalmanov in action, at the epicenter of the 21-member Zalmanov family. In this video, we see Sima Zalmanov dealing with the inevitable personal and financial stresses of raising a large family. We see her attempting to have an adult conversation– and the muddy socks and the falling toddler and the phone call to her husband that interrupt her. We see her in her ongoing struggle to maintain order amongst their 21-plus pairs of shoes and the six daily loads of laundry and the 3 filled-to-the-brim shopping carts. And we ultimately see her hard-earned nachas, and her intense sense of mission equaled only by her intense love for her children.

As a mom who is working like the dickens just to keep her head above water (and the laundry pile, and the diapers, and the playdates, and the “Eema, can you help me!”), I find it absolutely awe-inspiring to see a mother like Sima Zalmanov who manages to keep a smile on her own face and on the faces of her kids and husband even though she is mothering SO MANY more children than me!

Sima Zalmanov is totally my hero! Enjoy!

Click here to watch one of the most beautiful videos I’ve ever seen– the Zalmanov family prepares for Passover. A must-see for every Jewish mom. Enjoy!

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Yesterday I posted something about the Bateses of Tennessee with their 18 children, but I realized that it’s a shame to post only about a Christian family when there are so many JewishMOMs out there blessed with jumbo-sized families.

And then I remembered the legendary Sima Zalmanov of Tsfat and her 19 children. I love this lady. She is such an inspiration.

More than anything else, I love Sima Zalmanov’s clarity about the tough-ness of pregnancy and birth vs. the priceless gift of a new baby. Or, as Sima Zalmanov challenges her interviewer, “Tell me, if someone told you that you would have a difficult month, but that at the end of that hard month you would receive a million dollars, would you agree to it?

I also love when she says, “Whatever the Holy One gives, we are happy. He knows what is best for us.” Simple but infathomably wise advice for all situations in life.

Here is a news report about Sima Zalmanov and her family, with English translation provided below. Enjoy!

An English translation of the video:
Anchorman: Sima Zalmanov is 47 years old, and she already has 19 children and 7 grandchildren.
Are you confused? Eliran Tal is too…

Interviewer in voice over: Anyone who thinks that “full house” is just a term used in poker apparently has never met the Zalmanov family from Tsfat. Father Yosef and mother Sima (who is only 47-years old and is a school principal) have no less than 19 children, and the youngest of the crew was born this past weekend. (CJW: this video is from 2 years ago)

The interviewer asks Sima: My wife is in her eighth month of pregnancy and she complains: “It hurts me! it’s hard for me!” and that’s just a first pregnancy. You’ve been through 19 pregnancies, how did you do it?!”

Sima Zalmanov: Tell me, if someone told you that you would have a difficult month, but that at the end of that hard month you would receive a million dollars, would you agree to it?

Interviewer: But pregnancy is nine months!

Sima Zalmanov: If you had to suffer a bit for 9 months, would you do it for a million dollars?

Interviewer: So you have 19 million dollars?

Sima Zalmanov: At least! More!

Interviewer in voice over: So the question is, how is it possible to raise 19 children and host 7 grandchildren in a 4-room apartment that is not especially spacious. And what do the children do in their
free time in a home without a computer or television? The Zalmanov family proves that this is a difficult mission, but that it’s definitely possible. All you need is 3 refrigerators, a 3-meter long kitchen table, a bit of faith, and, more than anything else, a good memory.
(CJW: If I had been the interviewer, I, of course, would have changed this last sentence to “All you need is…a good memory, and more than anything else, a whole lot of faith.)

Interviewer asks: Do you remember all of your children’s birthdays?

SZ: Of course.

Interviewer: What about Estie?

SZ: Estie’s birthday is on the 16th of Adar

Interviewer: What about Yisrael?

SZ: On the 4th of Adar

SZ (pointing to fridge) We have a rotation system. This chart says who is bringing the younger children to nursery school. And this chart is for the sandwiches for school. So that there won’t be any questions,
each child said what he or she likes and doesn’t like…

Interviewer in voice over: By the way, even though it’s difficult at times, there are definitely plans for the future…

Interviewer asks: Do you have plans for a 20th child?

SZ: Whatever the Holy One gives, we are happy. He knows what is best for us. Whatever He does, we will be overjoyed.

Interviewer: There is room for another one…

SZ (smiling): There’s always room.


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When children become religious, it is a rejection of the lifestyle of their parents to a certain extent. But that shouldn’t mean that they reject their parents as well.

I have witnessed this phenomenon time and time again: religious children and grandchildren who remain incredibly close and loyal to secular grandparents. Even more than the other non-observant children and grandchildren. Because for religious Jews, respecting parents takes TOP PRIORITY.

That was why this cute home video moved me so deeply. To see an Orthodox son and his kids paying a heartfelt tribute to grandpa in honor of his 70th birthday. You can just feel how much they love their Saba.

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Egypt thinks its spate of shark attacks are a Mossad plot. Steven Colbert thinks they just might be right. I saw this on Aish.com and thought it was very, very funny. Enjoy!
Vodpod videos no longer available.


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OK, Chana, this is your America 2010 Awareness Quiz:
1. Name an American movie that came out this year:
Ummmm….
2. Name a current American prime-time television show:
Ummmm…
3. Name a song recorded in 2010 by an American musician:
Ummmm…

You get the idea.

So I nearly fell off my computer chair when I read that we inadvertently gave our newborn daughter 2010’s MOST POPULAR NAME FOR AMERICAN GIRLS.

We named our daughter Tsofia, after my great-grandmother Tsippa. The name Tsofia’s a little unusal in our corner of Israeli society, but our Israeli daughters assured us it wasn’t overly unusual (my mother has always warned me “Just remember that whatever you name you give your child, he or she will have to get through first grade with that name!)

And then this week I saw that Babycenter.com’s most popular names for 2010 this year were:

Girls
1. Sophia
2. Isabella
3. Olivia
4. Emma
5. Chloe
6. Ava
Boys
1. Aiden
2. Jacob
3. Jackson
4. Ethan
5. Jayden
6. Noah

I guess we’re so uncool, we’re cool. Or something like that.

Pretty funny, huh?
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