Archive for the ‘Jewish Resources’ Category

Take me out to the water!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Tashlich must be one of my favorite (I know…I have lots of favorites) things to do between Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur.  Not only the kids get super excited to go to the lake/rive/ or in this year’s case the reservoir, but also I get to get rid of all the steal bread!

 

At the reservoir...such a beautiful and peaceful place...until you bring 5 boys along!

Fine, the real reason I love Tashlich is because after I do it I feel like I lost about 5 pounds…here we go again! However, this time I didn’t have to eat clean at all! All kidding aside, nothing feels better than charging a piece of bread with all the not-so-nice stuff (yep, sins) I have done during the year and literally detach myself from all that darkness while tossing it into the water for the fish to eat away…sounds kind of weird now that I think about it…I wonder what the other people standing next to us at the reservoir were thinking about us…oh well…

 

Here is my son reading the prayer before tossing the bread into the water

The truth is that Tashlich is the perfect time to think about those nasty things we have done and to “divorce” ourselves from them. We toss them in the water, in the form of bread, and hope the fish eat them. Fish do not have eyelids; hence they never close their eyes. I know this is going to sound even weirder, but this symbolizes how G-d is always in the look out for us; protecting us all the time.  Fish are also incredibly susceptible to fall pray of the net of the fisherman…just as we are susceptible to be caught in the net of judgment.  Tashlich makes us aware of our mistakes and rethink our deeds. Tahslich recharges my “be a good girl” batteries and gives me hope that I can always repent for the things that I have done wrong.

 

Hey! I caught this boy eating the bread!

Wishing you all a Gemar Chatima Tova and an easy and meaningful fast of Yom Kipppur!

 

Love!

 

Reyna

 

For more info on Tashlich visit HERE and HERE

 

Eatable Parsha creations! – Korach

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

One of my boys loves making Parsha (week’s Torah portion) related creations that you can also eat…I know, who needs a piece of paper that will go to the garbage anyways…let’s make it eatable! We often serve these clever productions on our Shabbat table for dessert and the guests go nuts on them.

Here are the proud boys! We made Alef Bet cookies with the remaining dough spelling their names!

I don’t always have time to make these projects, but this week the nagging was such that I had to make time for it…so I guess nagging Mommy really works [just don’t let my kids and husband know]. This week’s parsha is Korach.  There is lots of cool bloody and graphic stuff my boys would have loved to depicted in this week’s parsha…like the earth swallowing Korach and his followers…they wanted to make a bunt cake with Lego mini figures being swallowed in the hole of the cake…boys will be boys. Somehow I persuaded them to make cookies! Of course I promissed them they could have some cookie dough…that certainly helped to convince them.

Here it is, before placing it in the over to bake.

I decided to make Aaron’s rod out of cookie dough. In this week’s parsha his staff (rod) sprouted flowers and almonds. I got the idea from this wonderful Blog called Parsha Projects. We colored cookie dough to make the flowers, leaves and staff. We also added real almonds to complete the look. To make the cookie dough look like a wooden rod simply add the coloring but do not blend all the way.

Here is a closeup for you to see the details

I hope this inspires you to make something special with you kids this Shabbat!

Here is the finished product...looks a little flat but it still works!

Shabbat shalom!

Reyna

Two Persian Weddings and one GORGEOUS gown!

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

There is a saying… when it rains, it pours! Well, in my case that happened with wedding invitations. And these weddings were a “must-go-or-bust” kind of weddings. One was family and the other was a very close friend. Both on the same night; both at the same time…all the way to LA LA land!

So, staying true to my vain Venezuelan upbringing, I set out to look for a gown that could really do something special…a Kidush Hashem.  Now, for those of you that don’t know what that means (in this context) a gown that does a Kidush Hashem is something really hard to find. It has to be modest, it has to be stunning, it has to make other women think: Holy Moly! She is not showing cleavage yet she looks amazing!  (If you read carefully you will realize the ultimate irony –which you have always known if you are a woman: women, in general, don’t dress up for men, they dress up for other women! After all, we all know that most men –unless metro or gay- could care less if your dress is embedded with diamonds or made of burlap wrap.)

Here is the dress! You cannot see it very well, but the details are so amazing! It was so well made you could wear it inside-out!

 

I went to every single store you can imagine; from little boutiques to large expensive chain stores…I could not find my Tznius (modest) dress anywhere (you guessed it, I don’t live in Brooklyn.)  You are probably wondering, why does it have to be a modest dress? Well ladies, as you read before, I was raised in Venezuela. If you are familiar at all with Latin American culture, you know by now, that in the Latin world clothing is just an option. I grew up showing more than I left to the imagination. Ladies, do you know what feels great? When you are talking to a man and he is actually looking at your eyes and not anywhere else (yes, I know you get what I mean). Covering up certain parts of my body has transformed my life and changed the way I look at my self-worth and certainly the way other men see me as well. The only guy that’s getting the privileged is my husband, and ladies that is the ultimate aphrodisiac if you ask me (I know I am going to get in huge trouble with this Post…I know).

Here is my Persian Prince!

To be honest, covering up is not easy at all. I use to love the negative attention I would get, not to mention how beautiful the non-modest gowns are nowadays. However, every single day I struggle with tzniut (modesty) I wake up to a new meaning of why I am doing this and how much it means to my marriage and my spiritual growth.  I know it works; I just need to stick with it. I take steps back, I take steps forward, I hesitate but ultimately it is not about perfection, it is all about direction.

Rabbi Ba'alhaness married our friends last Sunday night and almost 15 years ago married us too! It was so wonderful to see him at the wedding. He is such a special man.

Now please, don’t even start thinking I am judging anyone here. I am only focusing on my personal quest. The beauty of Judaism is that nobody is forcing this on anyone (If that is not the way you feel, you need to get help) and there is room for all us in the wagon whether we are showing or not. To me, venturing into the laws of modesty should be a personal and private choice and it ranges from the length of a skirt to the even the way we talk.

Here is the groom (Chatan) looking under his bride's (Kallah) veil to make sure he does not get cheated like Yaakov got cheated when his father-in-law switched Rachel for Leah . This is a beautiful Jewish custom and makes for a great picture of this happy couple!

Just like Cinderella, I was sent a fairy godmother, only she came from…. Italy! Well, kind of. Do you know how Facebook lets you know absolutely everything everyone is doing? Well, one of my friends clicked on a Facebook page with the name of Lev Collection. So, naturally, I clicked on it as well.  I could not believe it! The website was filled with gorgeous tznius gowns. I called the owner immediately and the sweetest most irresistible young lady came on the other line: Carolina Yaghoubzadeh. She was from Milan; yes, her Italian accent is absolutely adorable, and boy did she know fashion and modesty! I was in heaven. Carolina was incredibly patient with me and made me the most stunning dress I have worn to this day. I was so lucky because the dress arrived on Friday and the wedding was on Sunday! I have no words to thank Carolina for making me feel really like royalty and for doing such a Kidush Hashem with her lovely collection of modest gowns and dresses.  There is no question I will be coming back to her over and over again! Carolina Herrera, you might be Venezuelan and super famous, but you better watch out!

The groom is placing the wedding band on the index finger of the right hand after reciting the blessing: "Behold you are sanctified unto me with this ring according to the law of Moses and the people of Israel". According to Jewish law, weddings must not utilize a double ring ceremony in which rings are exchanged. The bride can gift the groom a ring after the formal ceremony.

Persian Jewish weddings are just incredibly amazing events. First, the amount of food is overwhelming. As guests arrive they are greeted with Sushi stations, Mexican stations, fruit station, Kebab stations, Chinese station…you name it! The Ketuba (marriage contract) is signed with two witnesses and often involves only close family members. The wedding ceremony is very different than that of our Ashkenazy brothers. There is no bedeken (although this is one of my favorite parts) where the bride greets the guests. She is actually first seen as she walks down the isle and is met by her husband to be. He lifts her veil (to make sure he is not played a trick like it happened with Yaakov marrying Leah instead of Rachel) and then escorts her to the Chuppa (wedding canopy).  Under the Chuppa the Rabbi makes all the blessings. The ring is placed in the index finger, the Ketuba (marriage contract) is read and the seven blessings are recited.  The wedding ends with the groom smashing a glass to remember there can be no complete happiness as long as we have no temple in Jerusalem.

Persians have the custom to serve wedding guests fresh fruits, sweets and tea between the ceremony and dinner.

After the ceremony a lavish meal takes place and dancing with the bride and groom are a priority. Every night, during the first week after the wedding, the bride and groom are invited to dinners to celebrate their union. These dinners are called Sheva Brachot. A Jewish wedding is filled with emotion, beauty, meaning and commitment. There is nothing more sacred that a bride and groom becoming one under the wedding canopy! Mazel Tov to the lovely couples and may Hashem always bless you with much health, happiness, livelihood and pride from each other!

 

This wedding's colors were "white on white" and it was truly spectacular!

If you want to see more pics, visit my facebook page and “like” me, thanks!

With love!

Reyna

I love fruit carvings...how about you?

 

 

 

 

Dip the Challah in the honey!

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Women are very fortunate to have an integral role in Jewish life. We have been blessed with a unique wisdom (called bina in Hebrew). This is the wisdom that enables us to have that “extra” sense and sensibility. It is also the wisdom that enables us to multitask! Just trust me on this—for a mother, multitasking is crucial, specially the last few days before Rosh Hashana!

As I make my Rosh Hashana menu this year, I can’t stop thinking about one of the most anticipated moments of the night…the moment when we dip our apple in honey?…Well, not really! I know, apples and honey are the staple, but when you like bread as much as me, you are looking forward to dipping your challah into honey! We exercise this marvelous custom until Sukkot and that is how long that pleasure will last you (unless like me you often make great excuses on how we should dip our challah into honey all year round)

I absolutely love shaping my round Challot for this special holiday! Unfortunately, a lot of people have trouble with the shaping and even with the recipe. Hence, I wanted to share with you a foolproof recipe for Challah along with various ways of shaping it. I find that water challah makes the best for honey dipping because it is not overly sweet on its own.

The following recipe can be made by hand or by using an electric mixer large enough to hold 15 cups of flour. You might be thinking, “That is so much dough!” Well, you can either freeze some of it for next week or give a few challot away…what a way to put a smile on someone’s face! The reason I am giving you a recipe for 15 cups is so that you are able to make the brachaL’hafrish challah teruma…[Who commanded us] to separate the challah [the portion consecrated for the Kohanim]….” Also, it is customary to give tzedaka (charity)…a few coins in a pushka will do…I just love that Yiddish word! Then, proceed to wash your hands three times each, using a washing cup, previous to making this special dough. Trust me, if I can make this, you can too!!

In Rosh Hashana it is customary to shape round challot.  I teach you in the video below how to shape the round challot and many other shapes I am sure you will all enjoy.

Shana Tova! Happy New Year!

CHALLAH VIDEO PART I

CHALLAH VIDEO PAR II

 

Don’t be fooled by the name! Challah is not the fluffy cloud, the magical and satisfying edible sponge we savor Shabbat day. Challah is actually the piece of dough we burn because we don’t have a Temple or Kohanim to take their part of it. The challah we eat should simply be called bread…or perhaps absolutely delicious and enticing bread, that is!

Tricks of the trade

There is one gadget that I could not do without when making challah: my beloved Bosch mixer. It can handle huge amounts of dough and, while I agree that making challah by hand can be therapeutic, I find that my keeping my sanity can be therapeutic too. I definitely recommend a mixer to busy moms or anyone in need of sanity. In terms of yeast, I like using dry active yeast because it is very easy to find and store. I keep it in the freezer to make it last longer.

This dough freezes really well. Since it is a lot of dough, you can use a large clean plastic bag sprayed with oil to store it and then freeze it. You can make this dough as early as 3 days in advance and keep it in the fridge (punching it down as it grows) until you are ready to bake.

If the yeast doesn’t bubble after about 10 minutes, it’s not going to get the dough to rise. Either the yeast is too old or the water was too hot! Try again with another 3 tablespoons of fresh yeast and lukewarm water (about 110°F).

Note: The bracha provided below is said in the Sephardic community. It differs slightly from the bracha said by Ashkenazim. If you are Ashkenaz, please check in your Siddur for the proper bracha.

The separated challah must be burned, but not while the challot are baking. Some people save their bits of challah to burn with the chametz; before Pesach; follow your local minhag.

For the yeast

3 tablespoons active dry yeast (do not let yeast scare you, it just bubbles…it doesn’t bite!)

¼ cup sugar

1½ cups warm water (¾ cup boiling water mixed with ¾ cup cold water)

For the dough

1½ cups sugar

1 cup canola oil, plus additional for spraying on the dough

1 tablespoon salt

3 cups warm water, divided

1 (5–lb.) bag flour (approximately 15 to 15¼ cups flour)

For the glaze

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon oil

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the yeast mixture. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a large mixer, place the sugar, oil, salt, 2 cups water, and 7 cups flour. Mix until a smooth paste forms.
  3. Add the yeast mixture, which should be bubbling, to the dough. Then, add the remaining 1 cup water and 8 cups flour until a consistency like that of play dough is reached.
  4. Pinch off a piece the size of a lime and say this bracha: “Baruch Ata Ado-nay Elo-heinu Melech ha-olam, asher keedshanu be-mitzvotav vetzeevanu lehafrish challah teruma.” this means: “Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.” Then lift up the piece and proclaim “Hariv Zu’Challah” which means: “This is challah.” Wrap the dough in a piece of foil; it must be burned , but not while the challot are baking! Keep in mind that the doors of heaven open up at this point and you can pray for anything your heart desires.
  5. Spray the dough with canola oil and cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Let dough rise 1 hour and then punch down. Then shape the challah. You can make braids or just big balls of dough. Several small balls of dough placed together in a round baking pan that has been sprayed with oil make a pretty “pull-apart” challah. Remember that challah grows; so don’t make the balls too big. I shape 12 balls the size of limes and place them next to each other in a 9-inch baking pan.
  7. Place the challah on baking sheets that have been covered with parchment paper or sprayed with oil. Mix the egg and the oil and paint challot with the glaze. Let it rise another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Place into oven preheated to 350 °F for approximately 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the size. The challot should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Wait until the challot cool before putting into plastic bags. At this point you can use them, freeze them, or give them away. You can also wrap them in foil and warm them in the oven right before “Hamotzi.”