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.

Every Picture Tells a Story – Book Review!

20141119_083508We reviewed the book, “Every Picture Tells a Story,” Volume 1, Bereishis, by Chaim Natan Firszt, along with the corresponding coloring book. Here is my review.

The book is an illustrated, hard cover book on the weekly parsha with Torah verses and commentaries geared for every age. There are beautiful, hand drawn, full colored pictures on the left side of the page while the right side has a20141119_083527 verse/verses from the Torah as well as a short commentary below it, both in Hebrew and then in English.  The pictures and texts go in order of the weekly parshiyos and include the source of the verses. Above the picture is the name of the parsha as well as a short phrase describing the picture, again both in Hebrew and English. The corresponding coloring book is the outline of the pictures found in the main book.

When I opened it up, I found it to be a very simple and clean layout. It is a very nice book to look at (and I would like to say that the text had almost a majestic feel,) and was very easy to read. The author took a few select main points from each parsha to highlight. I liked the fact that there was one idea per page with the selected verse(s) containing one thought, a commentary underneath to go with it and a nice color picture for 20141119_083546 (1)reinforcement. The only thing that I found a little annoying, was the fact that the Hebrew verses had nekudos (vowels,) but the commentary underneath did not. The English translation was very nice. One nice thing about it is that for words that are commonly used by their Hebrew name in English (i.e. the names of people), the first occurrence of the word includes the English word in brackets. For the rest of the of the time, just the Hebrew is used. However, all Hebrew words are found in the glossary at the back of the book.

The book can be enjoyed by everyone (I enjoyed reading it,) for the language was not watered down and the text is short enough to keep the attention of the younger children. I have been reading it to my 5 year old son, going over the weekly parsha several times a week, and he enjoys looking at the pictures, even after I read the selected pages for the parsha. My 11 and 12 year old also looked at it and20141119_083538 enjoyed it but found it was good as a once or twice reading book only. What I really enjoyed, and it will be something that we all will be using often, are the pages at the end of the book. There are various wonderful family trees with the Hebrew dates, as well as a beautiful chart about the Shevatim (the 12 tribes) and their zodiac places.

20141119_083615I think that younger children will benefit the most from the book for it takes just a few main ideas from the parsha using short passages and commentaries, however the charts at the back are wonderful and extremely useful for all of us. When I am learning parsha with my 5 year old son, I do not use this as his only source of learning because it it limiting as a summary of the 20141119_083711parsha but we read from “Every Picture Tells a Story” afterwards because it focuses on a few main points and then goes into some detail and explanations so he learns a little bit more but is not overwhelmed. All in all, I really like the book and do recommend it.

Keeping Our Children

I am sitting here remembering that last night I thought of a good idea to write about but did not have the time.  Tonight, I have the time but do not have the idea.  My sister suggested talking about how my 3 year old vacuumed the area rug in our living room for 30 minutes (which normally does not get more than a minute or so of TLC time,) and how we should take those mundane tasks that we do and use those times wisely to clean ourselves spiritually and emotionally.  I guess that idea will also work with the kitchen and dining room floor that he insisted he mop after an older brother did his share.  There was so much opportunity to sit down and cleanse my soul while I waited for the inch of water on the floor to dry.  If we would to look around and snag a little time here and there to re-Jew-venate, we would be so much further ahead.  Alas, unfortunately I was busy trying to get all the BBB’s (beautiful bouncing boys) into bed!

The only thing I remember about the wonderful idea last night is that it was all about Emuna (faith/belief).  Over the past several weeks it seems to be a recurring theme, at least in my mind, and I know it has not been any coincidence! It is like when you get a new car, all of a sudden everyone has the exact same car, though they were always on the road, it is just that your eyes were closed to seeing them.  Only when we get that car do our eyes open.  Too often we (or should I say, I?) go through the day and do not think.  Life gets busy – teaching, coordinating children with schoolwork on computers, supper, nap time, house cleaning, etc. and before you know it, the day is done.  What happened to it?  Life can get meaningless and one  can start to wonder “why”?  When my children grow up and move out of the house, it will be harder to help them with these obstacles.  We all want our children to not only remain faithful to the Torah and its teachings, but to WANT to remain faithful.  I know that I want to remain, but will my children?  Now is the time to ingrain within them the answers before the questions arise.  The million dollar question – How?  How can I instill in my children a connection with Hashem that is strong enough to remain?

I am not sure I have all the answers, but I lately I have sure gotten a lot closer.  I have been trying to open up my children’s eyes by asking them what they are thankful for.  I enjoy listening to their answers.  Unfortunately I often forget, or should I say the day goes by and I remember too late to ask, but when I do it is nice to just listen.  This is one time I always smile and say, “Ok!” and never try to change or “correct” an answer.  After all, there is no right or wrong answer, and how can it be their answer if I butt in?  A few times I have asked, “Did you mean this, or that?” just to clarify in my mind, but never to change their answer. Every time they have to think, it helps create a slightly stronger bond with their Creator.

Our community was given the honor of having Rabbi Lazer Brody come and speak last week.  Rabbi Brody translated Rabbi Arush’s book, “Garden of Emuna”, among many other of Rabbi Arush’s works.  There was one thing he said that struck me.  Happiness.  Judaism IS happiness.  If you are not happy then something is wrong.  Judaism is not wrong, Hashem is not wrong, there is something with you that needs to be fixed.  Of course!  It was like a light bulb turned on in my head.  How many times have we heard of people who have gone astray because of all the arguing about minhagim (customs) or the strictness (with lack of happiness and love) in doing mitzvos?  Someone who grows up (or just sees) fighting about who is right and who is wrong, or feeling that we do the mitzvos because we have to and we better-do-it-right-or-else attitude, why should they remain?  There is a mitzvah in the Torah to be happy.  If we are happy to do a mitzvah or happy that we have Hashem, then we want to continue.  Yes, this is something that I knew, but it never dawned on me that this was the answer or was at least a huge part of the answer I was looking for for my children.  The next step is knowing how to be happy.  That answer is Emuna.  If we have emuna in Hashem in all that He does, we will be happy.  If not, we just need to have more emuna. (Now is the time for me to say that to help with emuna read, “The Garden of Emuna”!)

I need to ingrain into my children that Judaism is suppose to be happy and if one is not happy, they need to become happy, it is not Judaism that needs to be changed, chas v’shalom.  Also, I need to give them the tools needed to create emuna so that when tough times do happen, and yes they occasionally will, they will know with their heart that it is them that needs to change and they will have the knowledge and ability how to make that happen.

We can try the best we can and we should, but like the concept we are trying to teach our children, we have to practice what we preach.  We have to have emuna and daven ourselves that Hashem will help us all out in succeeding in this area.  We have to work on ourselves.  Not only will our children learn for it’s “Monkey See Monkey Do,” there is an added bonus that we ourselves will be more happy as well and what child does not want a happy parent!

With that said, tonight I am thankful that my rug is clean, my kitchen floor is now clean (and dry!) and the boys like coming to stores with me still. 🙂 What are you thankful for?