Olam Shel Emet – Book Review

20141230_154137I hope that everyone is doing well. We are here, taking a little needed break with Grandpa and a cousin. Well, the cousin just went home but Grandpa is here for another day. Yesterday we went to the Children’s Aquarium and the boys got to touch some water animals. I am just finishing up 2 hours of quiet time with no one else in the house. It was not really enough time to do everything that needed to be done, and I hope that somehow I get an extra hour and a half somehow in the next 24 hours. I have found myself being really busy but not really accomplishing much – I just need to get a schedule going and I am needing the time to do it.

In the meantime, with the few remaining minutes left, I had the wonderful opportunity to review another book and am posting my review below.image4 The author kindly allowed me to take her pictures and post them here.  Tzivia Macleod has started a new series – Olam Shel Emet (The world of truth); it is the start of a science book series all within the scope of the Torah.

One of the most difficult subjects to find resources that are Jewish friendly is biology; largely animals and their lives. Either one finds resources that go out of their way to exclude Hashem totally, or they are Christian based and therefore include thoughts and ideas that are not Jewish. There is a new series that came out that uses Torah to talk about various kinds of animals – “Olam Shel Emet” by Jennifer Tzivia Macleod.

The first book in the series is called, “Spineless Wonders, 10 incredible animals without bones.” For now, it is available only by e-book. In it is found some basic, and not so basic facts about 10 various animals. The Hebrew word(s) for each animal is included as well. Mrs. Macleod has taken the opportunity to tie science in with the Torah. She includes various quotes from Jewish sources to teach us more about various animals or to help us learn from them.

I was really excited to be able to read such a book. As I grow and learn myself, I keep trying to find books that my boys can learn from that have a Torah perspective to help guide them along the path I think they should go. I have found story books that have Torah values as well as Jewish learning books, but to find a science book that combines Torah is more than just limited. This series is intended to help fill that gap.

image20Our family likes books. I have a Kindle, and have used it in my homeschooling in the past, mainly as a backup, but we have not used it in a long time. I buy printed books or print them out (I do that for out of copyright books that we use.)  So, the main downfall was that the book is only available as an e-book at the moment. (Note: The author has told me she is looking into printed books.) On the other hand, it is so much cheaper to purchase an e-book, which is great for the wallet!

One of the nice and important parts are the pictures. Children (and we are all children,) love pictures. I have found they are more likely to stay on the page and read if there are pictures. There are many beautiful pictures throughout.

In this book, you get a very nice look at 10 different invertebrates such as corals, squid, crabs, earthworms and germs. For each of the animalsimage23 you learn about things such as how they live, their habitat, some Latin words, how they are born, life spans, as well as fun facts such as how many different species there are. You cannot write a book report on an individual animal based solely on this book, however you learn more than just the average basic information. I certainly learned quite a bit and found it to be a very interesting book to read. The book can be enjoyed by all ages, however, it speaks the most to children around the ages of 6-11.

The wonderful bonus to this book is how Torah is intertwined. Torah thoughts and quotes from the Torah, Tehillim (Psalms) and even the Gemara are included to teach us a little bit more how to act as well as to remind us Who created everything and how everything really does tie back to Hashem.

Around The World In 80 Minus 75 Days

My sister, mother and I on our trip down.
My sister, mother and I on our trip down.

I am writing this on the plane back from a three day trip to the Holy Land. I would normally not feel like a post like one should be published for a homeschool blog, however, I think it is just as relevant as a homeschool post as it is a therapeutic one. I am hoping that by posting this, there will be those who read this and get some relief that even when life dishes out challenges, that those are just part of living and it is okay when your homeschooling world does not seem to be happening very well, or even at all.

After at least 19 hours we made it!

Two months ago we started our journey across the continent to a new place and a new home. Spending the first 4 weeks in a hotel was definitely a challenge, not only for homeschooling, but in general. Baruch Hashem we found an apartment and that really did help. It really means something to be living in your own place and to arrive in our new city Erev Sukkos, the holiday where we come out of our comfortable homes and spend it outside in temporary dwellings, really did mean something this year. Since our belongings are still in storage, in a different state (and not the one where we came from even!) we had to purchase many new things – most of which we already have but have no access to at the moment. To me, that was the hardest part. However, we managed and made it all work. There are bedrooms with beds for everyone, a nice kitchen, our school work, a second vehicle that we are now needing and even a few extras (just a few, not many!) It took about 2 weeks in the apartment to start to feel like things were settling down. I was getting overwhelmed with all the extra things that needed to be done because of the move and not being able to get into a schedule with our learning. Things were looking up and I had big plans.

Hashem has His plans as well, and no matter how it looks, if we look really hard we see that everything is for the good. The day before we were to go to family for Thanksgiving, something which we try to do every year, my sister sent me a text saying that Saba (grandfather) passed away.

Me, my mother, sister, brother and cousins in Tel Aviv
Me, my mother, sister, brother and cousins in Tel Aviv

It was not a surprise, he had been sick for a while, and 5 weeks before when my father went to visit him, he decided that he was going to stay down there until the end. There had been a few close calls over the last few weeks and so it had been more of playing the waiting game. My father had talked to me before a few times to try to get me to come to the levaya (funeral), whenever that would happen, but I kept telling him that unfortunately I don’t think I would be able to come. We are in a new place, it has been just a few weeks, and we do not really know anyone yet, and I cannot leave my boys by themselves. Their father now works an hour from home and cannot just take time off for he has not been able to work long enough to do it. My father kept insisting though, and even though I wanted to say yes, I could not see myself doing it. The big stumbling block was that my grandfather wanted to be buried next to my grandmother in Israel – hard to take an afternoon flight one day and come back the next afternoon (which was something we could have finagled).

But, as I said, if we look hard, Hashem’s plans are always good. Just after his 94th birthday, Hashem could not wait for him any longer and took him back. I remember talking to him for his 90th birthday. He never dreamed he would live until 90. It was almost unheard of in his time.

Fruits are huge in Israel - hard to tell but these were at least 1.5 times larger than we get in the US.
Fruits are huge in Israel – hard to tell but these were at least 1.5 times larger than we get in the US.

There were so many good things about his last 5 weeks. My father was able to go visit him. Saba was still living at home, though he did have care by this time. My father was able to be with him the remainder of his life so he was not alone. There was no family close by. And, almost as important was the fact that they were able to control the pain so he was comfortable. We could not have asked for anything more.

As soon as I got the message from my sister, I sent a message to my husband. When he got back to his desk he asked if I wanted to go (to the levaya). It took me a few seconds for of course I wanted to go, but we begrudgingly agreed before that unfortunately it was not going to be possible. As I sat there I realized that he was asking a very serious question – of all the days that could be chosen, to leave the day before Thanksgiving was one of the only days that I would be able to go (the week at the end of December would be the other time.) He was planning on taking Wednesday off anyways (he actually worked enough to have one day off,) and his boss let him take Monday and make up the hours. I felt guilty about wanting to go and leaving the rest of the family “fend for themselves” and almost declined the offer since the news had not really set in with me yet, but we know that to do a mitzvah for someone who has passed away is one of the greatest mitzvahs there is for not only is this the last mitzvah you can do for the deceased, you are doing it for the mitzvah and not to get anything in return. You can’t. A deceased person cannot repay you back in any way. “Yes.”

We made it. (My sister's photo, my phone died. Will post the one with me in it when she sends it to me!)
We made it. (My sister’s photo, my phone died. Will post the one with me in it when she sends it to me!)

After much quick thinking, phone calls and texts between my sister and father, we finally got it all figured out. My father had a feeling a few days before and had mother and one brother already on a plane in hopes of still being able to get there in time. Unfortunately they were a few hours too late. We found tickets for all of us to meet in Dallas and fly to Israel. The flight was fairly uneventful, faily, not totally, but it all worked out in the end, and at the anticipated time, we landed in Tel Aviv and were greeted by my aunt, uncle and cousin. We arrived on Thursday evening and the levaya was on Sunday morning. In Judaism, usually the person is buried within 24 hours, and inside Israel, by sunset on the same day. However, the Los Angeles chevra kadisha had an unfortunate incident one time and now has a policy of only sending bodies on direct flights to Israel. The next direct flight from Los Angeles arrived in Tel Aviv 2 hours before Shabbos – not enough time for a Friday levaya.

We packed as much as we could in the three days (one being Shabbos) that I had in the Holy Land. We spent time with all the cousins, visited Tel Aviv and of course Jerusalem and the Kotel. Last time I was there was 18 years ago, and for my parents, even longer – almost thirty years ago for my grandmother’s levaya. It was a trip mixed with joy and happiness and some sadness. We countered the later with the thought that Saba waited almost thirty years to see his dearly missed wife again and he was now going to fulfill that wish.

It was a mixed emotion trip for all. We all shared stories and realized that none of us really knew Saba. Yes, he talked, we all knew about some of

Going into the Jewish Quarter.
Going into the Jewish Quarter.

his life as a child, his life in the Russian army during WWII, and that he was able to speak 7 different languages. But there was much that we did not know. Over the last few years some of us were able to learn a little bit more about this amazing person and there is so much we will never know. Being with family and being able to share our various stories was so good, and so was having alone time.

As much as I know that Hashem’s plans are always good, I just hope that now that His plans are to let me get back to our learning for a bit before dishing out some more excitement.  After all, the boys (and I) do need to learn something this year! This is life, and it is something that I want my boys to understand as well. Things do not always go as planned, and sometimes often times do not go as planned, but we have to be able to adjust ourselves and know that when things go upside down, Hashem has already given us the tools to be able to get through it.

The Sefer Torah (middle one) Saba has commissioned. He watched the party via Skype, just 5 days before his passing.
The Sefer Torah (middle one) Saba has commissioned. He watched the party via Skype, just 5 days before his passing.

It was strange coming by myself, without any children nor my husband, even though I was with lots of family the entire time. I took the opportunity to soak as much up of the Holy Land as I could (thanks to the jet lag that did not let me sleep and made me exhausted by the time I had to take the trip home!) Even though I really enjoyed being there, and was so thankful to have the opportunity to do something I did not think I would be able to do, I miss my family and hopefully it won’t take me 18 years to go back, and we can all go, but for a happier occasion. My computer clock says it is 6:22 pm back home. I am hoping that means that we already flew 9 hours

My father, after 28 years he was finally able to return to visit his mother's resting place, who is now kept company by his father.
My father, after 28 years he was finally able to return to visit his mother’s resting place, who is now kept company by his father.

from London and I have only 2 hours to go.  It’s been a long flight, I had to check in my carry on that had my books for it was too heavy and it’s been a challenge to keep myself busy for the last 9 hours.

I am going to finish my supper and then I think I will try to go to sleep for the last little bit. This was not goodbye Saba, we will see each other again. Until then, keep Savta company for us.