Slowing Down to The Speed of Life – Disconnect to Reconnect
Sunday, February 1, 2015 10:00 AM EST – 11:15 AM EST
Meet in private online to practice a short and simple mindfulness exercise (with other single Jewish moms around the world).
While you are online, you will -+ have some fun!
+ feel what it’s like to be drawn into the present moment, and stay there
+ realize how focused you are
+ learn how to easily release negative chatter
+ have an experience of self-compassion (even if it’s only for a moment, it’s sweet)
+ have an epiphany about criticism – and become less critical of yourself and others
+ be able to manage stressful and upsetting situations with greater composure
Purim might be over, but Pesach is not for a while yet.
Let’s celebrate life this week with lots of cocoa and a touch of summer berries.
Shoshi’s Molten Lava Cake
1 cup unsalted butter or margarine
8oz semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
5 large eggs
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
4 teaspoons flour
8 extra large paper muffin cups (or 12 regular)
1 (6oz) container raspberries
and rolled in about ½ cup sugar right before serving.
1. Melt butter and chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; remove from heat. Beat eggs, sugar and salt with a hand mixer in a medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Beat egg mixture into chocolate until smooth, beat in flour or matzo meal until just combined. (The batter can be made a day ahead; return to room temperature an hour or so before baking.
2. Before serving dinner, adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a standard size muffin tin with muffin papers. Spray muffin papers with cooking spray. Divide batter among muffin cups.
3. Bake until batter puffs but center is not set, 8 to 10 minutes. Carefully lift cakes from tim and set on a qork surface. Pull papers away from cakes and transfer cakes to dessert plates.
4. Top each cake with sugared raspberries and serve immediately.
Do you ever look at your life and not recognize it at all?
Do you catch yourself wondering why you live in Minnesota when you always envisioned living in Jerusalem? Who is this little boy I gave birth to? How did I end up with her as my neighbor?
What is this weird stuff, this mask, these unfamiliar surprises, and why are they interfering with my life?
Three weeks before Purim, at the most recent BC retreat, I attended a class about Esther. You know, Esther from the Purim story. After all these years I thought I knew her but boy did I learn a thing or two!
Did you know Esther was married to Mordechai at that time?
Did you know that in the end, after the battles were won and the celebration died down Esther remained behind those walls for the rest of her life?
How did a nice Jewish girl from an observant family deal with all that? The woman with a perfect life, married to a Rabbi, an inspiration to her peers… how did she give it all up to live with Achashveirosh; a vile, temperamental lowlife?
What helped Esther keep her sanity?
When Esther was taken to the king’s palace against her will there was nothing she could do to avoid her predicament. The commentaries teach us that during those years, Esther would regularly go back to be with her husband Mordechai. According to Jewish law she was allowed to do this because she never went willingly to Achashveirosh. She was forced.
In fact there is an interesting Zohar explaining that Esther was never actually intimate with Achashveirosh at all. Because of her vast knowledge of Kabbalah, when the king called her she would summon a look-alike spirit to be with him instead of her.
Whether she was actually with the king or sent a spirit in her place, the important thing is that during those long years of isolation in Achaveirosh’s palace, she always had one thing. She had her relationship with her beloved Mordechai.
And suddenly there was a moment when all of that changed forever.
In the ninth year of Esther’s stay at the palace Haman decided he’d had enough of Mordechai the Jew. Killing Mordechai alone would not satisfy him though. Haman wanted all the Jews to go down with him.
Now, in an attempt to save the Jewish people Mordechai turned to Esther. “Go to the king, Esther. Please plead on our behalf and save your people!” (Megillah 4: 14)
Esther’s response was not as expected. After explaining the dangers of approaching the king uninvited Esther added, “But I have not been called to the king for thirty days.” (Megilla 4:11)
What was she trying to say?
With these few words Esther was implying that Achashveirosh would call for her any day now. She’ll be summoned to the king shortly and maybe she should wait and talk to him then. In this way she could maintain her halachik status as a helpless victim and nothing would be lost as far as her personal relationship with Mordechai.
If Esther listened to Mordechai, it would be the first time she approached the king on her own initiative. Her status would instantly change to that of ‘willing participant’ and she would never be allowed to return to Mordechai again. That was simply too painful to imagine.
Mordechai heard her. He knew what she meant. Yet with all of these implications Mordechai responded that “The lives of your people are at stake.” This is not the time to make calculations.
Fully aware that she might bring capital punishment upon herself, both according to halacha and according to Persian law, Esther chose to go. In her own words she responded, “…and if I am lost, I am lost.” (Megillah 4:16)Just as I will be lost from my people, so too I recognize that I will be lost from you, Mordechai.
It was at that moment that Esther gave up everything. She gave up her clean slate, gave up her reputation, went against halacha, and did everything she could possibly do to save her Jewish brothers and sisters. She did it for us.
When Esther went to the king voluntarily it was the first time in nine years that she was a willing and active participant in her own life. She was neither forced nor did she send a replacement. Esther threw herself wholeheartedly into her mission and sacrificed everything for one reason: to save the lives of her people – to make sure that you and I would be here today.
How did Esther have the strength?
The last words Mordechai said to Esther before she went to the king were, “Who knows whether it wasn’t for a time like this that you were brought to royalty?” (Megilla 4:14)
To Esther, hearing these words from Mordechai – her Rebbe – was like hearing, “Who knows whether it wasn’t for a time like this that you were brought to the world? Maybe this is your life mission, your purpose.”
So here was Esther, also known as Hadassah – meaning hidden, whose whole life in the palace was a mask. She looked in the mirror and couldn’t recognize herself. What is that crown? What are these garments? What are these walls I wear around myself? For years she fought against the mask, fought against the foreign circumstances wrapped around her.
Yet when it came time to save her people Esther surrendered fully to her mission. The very circumstances she saw as wrong and ill fitting up until now, she finally embraced as her life’s purpose. What she previously saw as a mask, she chose to wear with confidence.
Certain events in our lives are “masked” – we tend think of them as interfering with the lives that we were meant to live. Painful, difficult moments are like that; their true purpose is so masked that they actually feel foreign. “This shouldn’t be happening to me!”
Embracing these masked moments as ours, as intricately tied up with our unique purpose, puts us more in touch with our true selves.
Do you ever look at your life and not recognize it at all?
Do you catch yourself wondering why you live in Brooklyn when you always envisioned living in Hawaii?
The baby spits up on your sheets, and the doorbell rings at the wrong time of day, your nephew is in the hospital and it seems like life is interfering with the life you envision in your head. But today, can you hear that added little voice?
“I might not have (m)asked for this, but can it be that for this very moment…?”
Entry coauthored by Chayale Udkoff and the BC blogger
The results are kind of hill-airy-ice. Take a peek at whoots been flying:
…and on THAT note, this little pair was made in the kitchen 3 minutes ago with the dough left over from these:
(Please enjoy the recipe and see what your leftovers add to the punversation 😉
BC Blogger favorite Hamentash recipe:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup (two sticks) margarine
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup orange juice
A pinch of salt.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl (adding flour if necessary).
Form little balls of the dough in the palm of your hand and flatten.
Put a small scoop of jam in the center and fold the dough in from three sides.
Pinch the three sides together over the jelly.
Bake on 350 degrees until they look ready.
A bit vague, I know, but you’ll be ok!
Now, to address the penguin in the room, I haven’t put up a single Purim post yet this week. Oops! As they say – it’s been a flying week – cut her some flock. They’ll be up real soon!
In the meanwhile; here’s a beak at what’s coming up:
Shoshi’s Corner #3: From the Pan to the Party
Our all time favorite chef’s all time favorite dessert recipe; Hot Lava Cakes!!!
I Didn’t Mask for This:
Learn from Queen Esther how to react to unexpected circumstances!
I hope everyone is still on a high!
You have been on my mind and in my heart in a really HUGE way!
Wishing you a restful Shabbos, and a very hoppy Purim!!
<3 the BC blogger
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Help us share the Bais Chana love right now and tell all your friends and family about our campaign!
Little secret about Challa baking in Minnesota on Friday, February the 14th –
It was a total improv success story.
Our Challa instructor whom we had planned and booked well in advance – a week to be exact, was stuck in traffic. With under an hour to go it didn’t look like she would make it in time.
What to do? What to do?!?!
Not to worry!
In classic Bais Chana style, someone jumped in to save the day.
With less than a moment’s notice, the adorable, the lovely, the inspirational, the sensational and most splendid Londoner Devorie jumped right in and whipped up a batch of dough before I could say “WHO?”.
From whence to procure a Challa Recipe whilst in the midst of Minnesota?
Thanks to Devorie, some quick thinking and a screen shot from Hinda Leah’s phone, we hereby present you with
The World’s Best Challa You Ever Did See.
4(.25 ounce) packages quick rise dry yeast
4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons salt
3/4 cups white sugar
3/4 cup oil
12 cups bread flour, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sesame seeds divided
In a large bowl combine the yeast, water and a few spoons full of sugar.
Once the yeast bubbles, add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix.
Add the dry ingredients and knead for 10 – 15 minutes.
Once the dough is ready:
Step #1: Scoop up a handful into your hands*. Recite the Bracha for separating Challa:
ברוך אתה “ אלהינו הלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להפריש חלה
“Boruch Atoh Ado-nay Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kidshanu B’mitzvosav V’tzivanu L’hafrish Challah”
“Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with his Commandments and commanded us to separate challah (from the dough).”
Set aside that piece to be burned.
Step #2: Braid the Challa!!
Once braided, allow the dough to rise about 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the egg and vanilla.
Brush the Challas.
Then sprinkle with the sesame seeds or the topping of your choice.
Previously attempted in Bais Chana; cinnamon sugar, colorful sprinkles, chocolate chips, fried onion, zaatar seasonings…
The possibilities are endless!!
Send us a photo of your favorite one!
When making your Challa this week remember to keep in mind blessings for all!
I wish you all the health, joy, strength and clarity imaginable. Just kidding – I wish you more than imaginable!
May Hashem bless each of you and all of our brethren and sisters all over the world with immediate and lasting peace, and may our true oneness be revealed once and for all.
Hugs and Happy Shabbos!
<3 the BC Blogger
III. The Procedure
After kneading, while standing, one should hold with the right hand a k’zayis (30g) of the dough (without detaching it) and recite the bracha: “…Asher kidshanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu l’hafrish Challah” (some add the words min ha’eesa14). One should then pull off the dough.15 At this point, some recite the words “harei zu Challah” (one may not say this until the piece has been pulled off).
The Challah should then be burned17 as soon as possible until it is completely charred. One should not store the Challah for future burning (e.g. freeze it for burning at biur chametz on Erev Pesach), as this undermines one of the reasons we burn the dough, shelo yavo leydai takala, that one will not accidentally mix this dough (which is Challah) with regular dough and inadvertently bake and eat it.
It’s that time of week again – Shoshi’s Corner!!
Let’s talk about the Granola.
I mean – How good was this stuff?!
Can’t wait to try it at home.
Shoshi’s Almond Fruit and Nut Granola
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup crasins
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup molasses
1 cup honey
1 cup oil
Preheated oven to 400.
In a large bowl combine oats and nuts. Set aside.
In a sauce pan combine molasses, honey, and oil. Heat to boiling.
Take off of flame and mix in to the bowl of nuts and oats until well combined.
Line 3 jelly roll pans with tin foil and spray. Divide the mixture equally between the pans and place in oven. Cook about 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes.
Let cool 2 hours, pour in to large bowl.
Add the dried fruit and enjoy.
As you enjoy your fruit and nut granola don’t forget to go N.U.T.S. As Chaya’le Gurary would say – Never Underestimate True Simcha! A handful of true joy can’t hurt.
Wishing you a truly
nutty – I mean – neat Shabbos.
<3 the BC Blogger
PS – Personal message from Hinda Leah: “Skip the cooking stage. One less pot to clean.”
PPS – If you do not (like Shoshi does) have 30 hungry people to feed, you know how to split this recipe by a third or a quarter, right?
PPPS – Can we get together for breakfast again sometime soon??
“As I wiped my hands on the kitchen towel and recited the Bracha (blessing), I caught a glimpse of my nephew standing nearby.
He was staring up at me in shock. He looked stunned.
When I was done he asked (as if talking about one of his buddies), “You know Hashem?!”
I laughed when my friend told me this story. Then I started thinking.
This kid is onto something. It’s what Rabbi Friedman was talking about all along.
To David, saying a Bracha, a blessing over food, is talking to Hashem; His G-d. The G-d he know and talks to, to thank for his food, or when he needs a favor, or just to get a second opinion.
When he talks Hashem hears him. Hashem is his. Hashem is personal. “You mean, you know Hashem too? Wow. Cool.” It’s still personal. It’s my Hashem and you know him too.
Having that kind of relationship with G-d is really where it all begins.
How can one say “Elokai, Hamelech” “My G-d, the king” and not get chills?
My G-d, He is a pretty important dude. I mean, He only runs the whole world and like – four other worlds on the side.
And that king, the king of the whole world, He’s mine. I have an in with Him. When I come over and tell Him about my day, that’s it – It’s Him and me. The king of the entire universe and everything in it in an intimate conversation with one of his favorite people in the world, me.
That’s why I love doing the things He loves. Because He is mine.
How can I not stop the whole world in this moment and light that Shabbos Candle for Him? That’s all He wants. My G-d wants my candle lighting. How can I resist him?
Baruch Ata Hashem Elukeinu.. My G-d.
You know Him too?
Dedicated to a beautiful mom and daughter duo we got to witness in action 🙂
As a person with an extremely critical nature I’ve spent most of my life finding things that aren’t right, criticizing those in charge, complaining, pointing out how it should be done and trying to come up with ways to fix things or do them better.
Of course that means that I’ve also been feeding MYSELF a steady diet of judgment and self criticism over the years. I need to be better at this, I need to be better at that and I need to be better at the other thing too. I need to be less judgmental. I need to be more positive. I need to…
None of this lead to more positivity. The more I tried to change and become a better person, the more of a constant issue it was in my life and the more I notice all the judgments I make against myself and others.
This past summer at a Bais Chana retreat I learned a really important lesson that helped me totally change my approach. The teacher was Malka Tauger from Israel and she was teaching a verse from Eishes Chayil “A Woman of Valor” a beautiful song that King Shlomo wrote for his mother.
We were learning the third verse “Gmalas’hu tov v’lo ra…” “She does for him good and not bad all the days of her life”. When analyzing the reason for the repetition (good/not bad) we got into a discussion about whether loving good and hating evil are the same thing.
We concluded that every situation (including your mothering, including a class you attend, including a parking ticket) has good and bad.
YOU choose which parts you’ll take home.
Are you going to see the bad and hate it, try to fix it, constantly focus on it?
Or, are you going to find the good, love it, and focus on it until it strengthens, spreads and ultimately completely takes over?
I teach in a local high school. There are challenges. One day a substitute walked into the teachers’ room. She seemed like a gentle, somewhat young and inexperienced woman and I was wondering how she was coping with our “energetic” bunch, especially being in the position of a sub!
Next thing I know, the principal walked in and asked her how it went. I kid you not, her entire face lit up and she started gushing about how much she loves it and the girls are so wonderful and she finds them so inspiring!
Between all of you and me, I know the crowd. I know it wasn’t a picnic for her in that classroom. Only someone who goes through their day loving good can feel (sincerely and truly) a reaction like that.
Practical suggestions based on my experiences:
1. At the end of a long day when putting my child to sleep I do a little review with him.
Ex: ” Today we had yummy soup for dinner, we had fun playing with the puzzle and you brought a beautiful drawing home from school. What else did you love today? ” (by talking about the good I feel like I’m actively shaping his memory to capture and store the bright moments. No need to even think about the yelling match that happened, the hours I was away or whatever other expectations I had that didn’t happen. Those are not relevant and should take up no space at this point.)
2. When I feel a self criticism pop into my head like “I don’t do enough,” I try to replace it immediately with thinking about something positive like, “Itty, you teach, you take care of a child, you said a Bracha before eating food.”
I have found over time that being kind to myself helps me feel stronger and focus on the things I DO right and then I get to do them more.
Do you want your child to be kind and generous, or constantly criticizing him/herself? Although each child has their own journey, our modeling makes a greater impact than anything we say. To raise happy children be a model.
Chasidus teaches us that we need to know our make-up, strengths and weaknesses included. BUT – focusing on self-evaluation in this way is not a full day activity. For introspection, set aside 15 minutes a day tops. Fifteen minutes where you get in there, think about your day, think about what went right, what didn’t work, and what you want to do differently tomorrow. That needs to be a focused activity done mindfully.
The rest of the day we can afford to add a lot more simcha (joy), kindness and compassion toward ourselves and the beautiful, human work we do, every part of which, struggles included, gives Hashem so much pleasure.
You, struggles and all, give Hashem so much pleasure. Thank you for being an inspiration.
<3 the BC blogger
PS Malka (pictured above), thank you for being a beautiful, graceful model of love and positivity. The joy and spirit bursiting from Eliana says it all! 🙂