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WEEKLY STORY: Yellow Presents
Yellow Presents
Adar I 4, 5774 · February 4, 2014

The small house at the end of the street teemed with people. Someone threw open the creaky old shutters to let light into the room, but even the sunlight did not manage to chase away the dark.

It was a darkness you could almost feel. The woman of the house, who had lived there for 60 years and more, had suddenly died two days before. The door’s hinges seemed to squeak, protesting: “Our mistress isn’t here anymore!”

Well-fed spiders bobbed playfully from their webs on the high ceilings, as though to say, “It’s been years since we became the masters here!”

It was five years since Mrs. Arzi stopped living in the house. Five years before, she had moved into an old-age home, and since then the house had remained dark and empty. At first her neighbors had gazed sadly at the closed shutters. They felt drawn to the house as though with invisible, enchanted ropes, just as in the good old days when Mrs. Arzi herself was there, smiling, good-natured and always ready to help. How hard it was to see the place closed up, when it had always been open to everyone, just like its owner’s heart—a big, warm heart open to young and old, the great and the downtrodden. She’d had a big container of candies that never ran out. A pretty glass bowl on the table, filled with candies, sat in wait for any child who might cross her threshold.

She welcomed them all. It didn’t matter if the child had come to borrow a cup of sugar, or wanted to return a book he’d borrowed the day before. Whatever it was, you couldn’t leave the Arzi house without making a blessing over some food. For the adults, Mrs. Arzi had a more sophisticated kind of treat, made up of heartfelt words that sweetened their lives far more than any candy ever could.

Now that the bad news had arrived, it was almost as though she were back. Once again the house hummed with life. You could imagine that it was she who was orchestrating it all, welcoming, listening, offering her good wishes, encouraging . . .

People came and went, as in the good old days when there had been someone to come see and someone to listen. But inside the house, they were sitting shivah.

Her sons and daughters looked around, trying to remember the sights of the old street and to attach names to the faces of those who had taken the trouble to come and offer comfort. But so many people came. It was hard to know each one.

Dina and Malka tried to follow in their good mother’s footsteps, and made an attempt not to leave out a single person. Dina turned to a woman in her fifties, sitting in a corner. She had no idea who the woman might be.

“Did you know Mother from the neighborhood?” Dina asked carefully.

“I . . .” the woman began. “I lived here as a child. Here, on this very street. Today I live far away, in another city . . .” All eyes turned to the woman.

“Have you had any contact with our family since those days?” Dina queried.

“No, no,” the woman answered. “We moved when I was 17. I’ve never seen your mother since then . . .”

A stunned silence filled the room. Everyone was thinking the same thing: This woman, as a child, had known Mrs. Arzi. They had never met in all the years since then, and yet she had traveled a long distance to come here today. What had brought her? What was the link that tied her to this house?

As though she’d been waiting for the question, the woman began to tell her story:

“We lived here,” she said, pointing through the open window at the house directly across the street. “Mrs. Arzi was so nice that all the neighborhood children loved to meet her in the street—not to mention visiting her at home . . . But it always seemed to me that she had a special relationship with the children of our family.”

“Everyone felt that way,” someone murmured.

“When I was about three years old, in 1948, the war broke out. I don’t remember much about the war itself, but the period after that is etched firmly in my memory. I was too young to know why things were so hard, but old enough to know that the house was empty and that every egg and every piece of fruit was a real treasure.

“Time passed, the hard years were over, but their impression lasted. No one wasted anything. Certainly not our family. There were twelve of us, and we were very hard-pressed financially.

“My mother used to buy fruit in limited amounts. Naturally, expensive fruit never appeared on our table, but even fruit in season was bought carefully and with a measured eye. Bananas, for example, were considered a luxury in any season. My mother would buy them only for the two youngest children in our family. They, and only they, got a banana. All the rest of us kids could only enjoy looking at the bananas and hoping that the seven-month-old baby or his two-year-old brother would leave a bit over. But that didn’t often happen . . .

“Your mother, Mrs. Arzi, had a special eye—an eye that saw everything that needed to be seen. She saw that we were a family of children who were always a little hungry for ‘luxuries’ like bananas . . . But she didn’t only see, she also acted. She didn’t have very much herself. She too had children at home, though only four of them. She was never considered a rich woman. Nevertheless, she did what she did.

“From the other end of the street I saw her carrying two big shopping baskets filled with all kinds of good things: potatoes, onions, beets, big round oranges, lovely clementines, grapefruits, red peppers . . . and on top, perched above all those goodies, was a bunch of big, beautiful bananas! Mrs. Arzi carried those heavy baskets down the block toward her house.

“Suddenly she caught sight of me. In her usual friendly way she greeted me: ‘Hello, Batya! How are you?’ She behaved as though I were a friend her own age . . . and I was still so small. Then, with a broad smile, she put down the basket and pulled out the best treat I could dream of: a banana. A beautiful, yellow banana. A whole banana! She placed it in my hesitant hand, saying, ‘Please, Batya, take it. It’s for you . . .’ With her fine intuition, she understood that there was no chance of my getting a banana at home.

“I was not too embarrassed to take it. She did it so naturally and simply, as though she were handing something to her own child.

“After that first occasion came a second one, and then a third and a fourth. Each time she saw me, she would put down her basket and pull out a banana for me.”

The woman paused. “How many bananas do I owe her? I don’t know. Twenty, perhaps, or thirty. Certainly no more than that. But over and above the bananas themselves, I owe her the important lesson she taught me: how to give. And even more, I learned from her that in order to be a generous person, you don’t have to be wealthy or live in prosperous times. Every time I remember that basket and the yellow presents she pulled out of it for me, I get the feeling that it’s the generosity itself that is the true wealth . . .”

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By Devorah Tzuf    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Reprinted from the Zarkor-Spotlight eStory series.

Letting Go
Adar I 4, 5774 · February 4, 2014

©Raiza Malka Gilbert

In the hours after giving birth, due to the mixture of emotions and hormones, I didn’t know if I was dreaming or awake. I held my precious baby in my arms. What a miracle! How could it be that this human being had been inside of me? And now that he was out, why was it that my hands instinctively rubbed my belly as though he was still inside? When it was time to hand him over to the nurse, I felt like I was handing over a part of me. And with each child, I felt that same connection, and the same question popped into my mind: How is it that they were inside of me, and now they are not? How is it that they were a part of me, but now they are separate?

How is it that they were inside of me, and now they are not?


When you look at your children, you search for similarities. You can’t help it. “He has my nose, my eyes, my laughter and love of life.” Some of these similarities you love, and some of them you don’t. “He’s so stubborn, she’s strong-willed . . . why does she have to take that quality after me!”

As a mother, you worry. “What is he eating?” “Is she sleeping?” “How is he doing in school?” “Does she get along with her classmates?” They succeed, you feel you succeed. They make a mistake, you feel that it’s your mistake. It’s confusing. Are your children a part of you, or are they separate?

The other day, my daughter and I were braiding challah dough. I pinched the three ropes together, and quickly braided one challah after another. My daughter took her three ropes, braided them, and then flattened the dough down with her hand. Don’t judge me, but my first thought was, “What are you doing? We’re not making pitas, we’re making challahs!” I kept quiet. At least, I tried to. I finally asked her, “What are you making?”


“I never saw anyone flatten the dough like that before.”

“This is how I do it.”


This is just one example out of a thousand interactions that transpire in the course of a day. And as I watched her flatten and make pancakes out of herchallahs, I realized this is what King Solomon was speaking about when he taught, “Educate the child according to his way.”1 In the past, when I had heard this teaching, I understood it to mean that if children are artistic, they should learn with art; if musical, teach them with song. I understood that King Solomon was instructing me how to teach my child. But I think that there is more to this teaching from the wisest man in history.

Let children learn according to their way, not your way! Let children learn from their own trials and errors, from their own successes and failures (obviously, while establishing boundaries and rules, and instilling Torah values). My grandfather used to say, “Life is the best college education.” This means that I don’t have to interrupt and interject when they are trying to do something new. This means that I don’t have to direct them as they clean their room or draw a picture. This means that I can let them learn

I don’t have to interrupt and interject when they are trying to do something new

that if you put your jacket on inside-out, it won’t button, and if you put the key in upside-down, it won’t turn the lock. This means that I can spare a few minutes of my precious time to wait while I let my children figure out how to do something on their own. 

The parent-child connection is beautiful, and yes, there are so many similarities (and differences) between us and our children, but we are not the same. G‑d didn’t create us to have children through osmosis. The baby growing inside of you is not part of you in any way. It’s attached to you, it’s protected by you and it receives its nourishment and oxygen from you, but even as an unfertilized egg, it’s not you. As we love and worry, as we educate and nourish, we have to remember that our children are their own separate beings, have their own special mission, and will ultimately learn according to their own way.

1. Proverbs 22:6.
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By Elana Mizrahi    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Originally from Northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist and writer. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
Artwork by Raiza Malka Gilbert. Raiza Malka graduated from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 2010 and has since changed the focus of her work to Judaism. Raiza Malka is inspired by whimsical illustrations, paintings and sculptures that largely inform her work, she is also touched by anything having to do with light. Raiza Malka currently works primarily in water color on paper.

VOICES: What I Saw: An Open Letter to Rose
What I Saw: An Open Letter to Rose
Adar I 4, 5774 · February 4, 2014

Dear Rose,

Last week I went to visit a new friend. When I parked my car in front of her house, I thought, Should I turn around and go back home? No, I’m not going to back out now. I really do want to meet with her, I determined.

And so, with a deep breath, I texted her, “I’m here.”

Her front door opened, and I saw her gingerly make her way down the walkway. To announce my position, I thanked her for coming outside to greet me, and I followed her back toward the house.

“Uh oh,” I was about to caution her, as she almost walked off the path into the bushes, but she agilely redirected herself, and up the steps we went, into the house. There I met Izzy, her German shepherd, who checked me out and followed us to the table, where we sat down to schmooze.

We talked, we shared and we laughed. I had a wonderful time. And as her watch announced the hour, I reluctantly realized that it was time for me to leave.

She walked me out the door, and as we lingered on the front steps, continuing our conversation, I looked up at her. Her personal appearance was meticulous, and emanating from her eyes I saw—a soul!

There she was, standing tall under the grandiose archway, looking nowhere, but majestically leaning on her white cane.

Yes, Rose, my friend is blind.

This was the first time I met her in person. And the first time I met anyone who was blind.

The experience, for me, was deeply profound.

Rose, you mentioned that you’ve been thinking lately a lot about true belief and faith, about trying not to let go of G‑d.

Let’s talk about faith.

Here is a young woman who quite recently lost her eyesight, yet has a better attitude than most of us do. She admits that finding things can get frustrating for her. She confesses how much she yearns to see her children, their antics and all. She sorely misses her eyesight. But Rose, you’ve got to see her faith.

How does she do it? And how is she still connected to G‑d?

I don’t know. I have not interviewed her. But I do know that when I saw her, I saw something G‑dly.

She’s upbeat. She likes to laugh. She’s sensitive. She’s giving. She’s a loving spirit. She observes G‑d’s Torah and commandments to the best of her ability. And she is making a difference in the world. .

And every day, she prays to G‑d. Her prayers are said by heart, prayers that are memorized from bygone years.

When we pray, we create a bond between ourselves and our Creator. Like a ladder, prayer reaches from earth to heaven. It is the link between lower and higher, and between body and soul. It is the means for every one of us to connect with G‑d.

Every Jew has a soul that is G‑dly, a part of G‑d within the Jew. This is our essence and our core. Our belief in G‑d is a trait that every Jew inherited from our forefathers. But since we are unfortunately not always in touch with our G‑dly essence, we need to patiently and consistently nurture our faith by doing mitzvahs and connecting to G‑d.

Rose, I think it’s safe to say that eyes that have no vision yet can possess such spirit are a good sign that there is a G‑d.

And I also think that it’s safe to say that if you are thinking about G‑d, it’s a good sign that your faith is not slipping away.

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By Devorah Leah Mishulovin    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Devorah Leah Mishulovin is a Domestic Engineer living in Los Angeles, CA.

RWB alumni retreat, first 24 hours, in gerunds

RWB alumni retreat, first 24 hours, in gerunds

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 06:23 PM PST

12278089923_16b7820e76_nSeeing friends from my RWB cohort again.

Meeting people from the other rabbinic cohorts.

Putting faces with Twitter handles and email addresses.

At an icebreaker, “outing” myself as a reader of speculative fiction.

(Also as a congregational rabbi and a writer.)

Watching the Superbowl with a room full of rabbis.

Hooting and hollering at the football and the commercials alike.

Sipping whiskey with a friend from far away.

Davening shacharit (morning prayer) b’tzibbur (in community).

Remembering, all in a flash, davening in that same room four years ago.

Meeting people whose work I have long admired.

12297025174_2d2bba1757_nHearing from heads of the Republican and Democratic Jewish organizations.

Talking, in small groups, about political pluralism and whether / how it’s possible.

Chatting about poetry with a fellow-poet rabbinic school friend.

Studying Hasidic texts of passionate pluralism.

Being amazed by their radical welcome and openness.

Studying texts on how blessings turn the forbidden into the permitted.

Tweeting back and forth with RWB fellows who are here, and RWB fellows who aren’t here (and tagging it all #rwbclal).

Enjoying dinner conversation about growing up as geeks who love Judaism.

Being with other rabbis who are thoughtful about our rabbinates.

Sitting by the fireside surrounded by quiet conversations and laptops.

Thinking about finding the partial truth in things with which I disagree.

Making midrashic message-driven trash art out of broken cell phones, paint, beads, and clay.

Returning to my room, exhausted from a long day but grateful to be here.

Taking Nyquil and heading for bed.

COMMENT: A Long Pole
A Long Pole
Adar I 4, 5774 · February 4, 2014

Here’s the problem: you’re here, and you want to be there (“there” being someplace better, loftier, more spiritual than “here”). But you’re not there, and won’t be there for a good while, perhaps ever.

So, do you act as if you’re already there? Or do you tell yourself that here’s just fine, and who needs there anyway?

You can become a hypocrite, or you can come to terms with your limitations. But there’s also a third way—the way of the Long Pole.

In the outer chamber of the heichal (sanctuary) in the Holy Temple stood the menorah—a five-foot-tall, seven-branched candelabra of pure gold. Every morning, a priest filled the menorah’s seven lamps with the purest olive oil; in the afternoon, he would climb a three-step staircase to kindle the menorah’s lamps. The seven flames burned through the night, symbolizing the divine light which radiated from the Holy Temple to the world.

Actually, it did not have to be a priest (kohen) who lit the menorah—the law states that an ordinary layman can also perform this mitzvah. But there is also a law that restricts entry into the sanctuary to priests only: ordinary Israelites could venture no further than the azarah, the Temple courtyard.

These two laws create a legal paradox: a layman can light the menorah; but the menorah’s designated place is inside the sanctuary, and a layman cannot enter the sanctuary.

Technically, there are solutions: a layman can light the menorah by means of a long pole, or the menorah can be carried out to him by a kohen and then replaced in the sanctuary. But the inconsistency remains: if the Torah believes that an ordinary person should be able to light the menorah, why doesn’t it place the menorah in a part of the Temple accessible to ordinary people? And if the sanctity of the menorah is such that it requires the higher holiness of the sanctuary, why does the Torah permit someone who cannot attain this level to light it?

This paradox, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, is intentionally set up by the Torah in order to convey to us a most profound lesson: the lesson of the long pole.

The lesson of the long pole says that we should aspire to spiritual heights that lie beyond our reach. Not that we should presume to be what we are not—that would be like an ordinary person entering the sanctuary—but neither should we desist from our efforts to reach that place. Even when we know that we ourselves will never be “there,” we can still act upon that place, influence it, even illuminate it.

At times, this means that someone from that higher place reaches down to us. At times, it means that we contrive a way to reach beyond what we are at the present time. In either case, we are what Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch calls a “lamplighter”: a person who carries a long pole with a flame at its end and goes from lamp to lamp to ignite them. No lamp is too lowly, and no lamp is too lofty, for the lamplighter and his pole.

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By Yanki Tauber    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.

Michael Wex – Born to Kvetch


Author of the bestselling book on Yiddish ever – Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods – novelist, playwright, lecturer, performer and authority on language and literature, Michael Wex has been called “a Yiddish National Treasure” and “the finest translator around.” Michael Wex has helped to bring Yiddish back into the North American mainstream.

This video is brought to you by Speaker’s Spotlight – – North America’s leading speakers’ bureau.

Book Michael Wex as a keynote speaker for your next event by contacting:

The Sholem Aleichem Exchange, Part 1: What the Great Yiddish Author Meant to 
The Jewish Journal of Greater L.A.
Jeremy Dauber is the Atran Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture at Columbia University, where he also serves as director of its Institute for Israel and JewishStudies and teaches in the American Studies program. He received his 
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Broadway World
Michael Wex (Narrator) columnist, bon vivant and raconteur, has been called “a Yiddish national treasure.” He is author of Born to Kvetch, the bestselling book ever written aboutYiddish, and was hailed by The New York Times as “wise, witty and 
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You Never Forget your First

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Is it superficial or is my daughter dating a real jerk?

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Millet is the world’s sixth most important grain. And it’s delicious. A short primer on how to cook with it.

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Chocoholics Unite!

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If chocolate wasn’t heaven-sent, why else would the first three letters of Godiva spell G-O-D?

Jewish Celebrity Secrets Uncovered by the NSA

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Barbara Streisand is working on a top secret follow up to “Yentl,” in which Yentl becomes a militant vegan. It’s called “Lentil.”

The Great Jewlarious Joke Competition

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Jewlarious is holding a competition to find the best Jewish joke and we want you to tell it.

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