Friday, August 29, 2008

Parasha Ponderings (Re'eh - "See")

This week's parasha (see my Hebrew Dictionary on the sidebar) is Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17, and is called Re'eh ("See" in English). It begins with a frequently quoted passage,

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse - the blessing, if you listen to the mitzvot [commandments] of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; and the curse, if you don't listen to the mitzvot of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way I am ordering you today and follow gods that you have not known. (CJB)

Seems like an easy choice, right? I mean, who is going to say, "Well, God, I think I'd rather have the curse." But here's the thing: We do it all the time. I do it, you do it, we all do it. We all do things, at times, that end up bringing not-so-good consequences into our lives. That's the bad news.

The good news is that God is very forgiving - VERY, VERY forgiving. Just read the Torah and the Prophets through one time, and you'll see how many times He forgave His people time and again for some pretty bad stuff (bowing down to idols, child sacrifice to other gods, etc.). It's funny to me when I hear preachers read from the Scriptures, and contrast themselves with the children of Israel. Basically saying, "Look at how bad THEY were, but look at how good I am!" Come again? I'm pretty sure it says, "ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

Ok, so God promises amazing blessings for those who follow His Word. But, the thing is, not everyone who lives according to God's teachings drives a Mercedes or has a Coach purse. Actually, and I have seen this myself when I traveled to China and Israel, some of the people that live their lives totally for God, end up having the most trouble and are, by this world's standards, quite impoverished. How is that fair???

I love this story about the Chofetz Chaim, a Polish rabbi from the 19th century:

There was once a man traveling through Europe in the 1800’s. He came to the town where the Chofetz Chaim had lived. The traveler stopped in to meet the great Talmid Chacham. When he arrived at the house, he saw that the Chofetz Chaim lived in a tiny home. He knocked on the door and when he looked inside he saw a nearly empty one-bedroom apartment. The traveler asked the Chofetz Chaim, “aren’t you the great Chofetz Chaim? How can you live like this? Where are all of your possessions?” The Chofetz Chaim turned to the traveler and posed the same question. “Where are all of your possessions? All you have with you is a suitcase.” The traveler answered, “Well, I am just passing through,” to which the Chofetz Chaim responded, “I too am just passing through.”

I think this story is a beautiful way to explain this enigma. As my father always says, "We live in an upside down world." That is to say, the people in this life that are called "poor" are many times very "rich." However, there is good news. And that, I believe is summed up in an awesome way by the words of Yeshua in the following parable (Matthew 25:31-46):

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

(Copyright New International Version)

Therefore, we have two choices: blessing (obedience) or curse (disobedience). The blessing may or may not come in this life, but rest assured that God will reward the righteous in the end.

(Picture from Flickr)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I LOVE LOVE LOVE Frugal Shopping!

This is why I love what I have learned from all my frugal bloggy friends!
Guess how much I paid for all this stuff? $25.61!!!!
That's a total savings of $71.94!
It's been a little over a year since I started reading MoneySavingMom, and boy, have I learned a thing or two about saving, spending wisely, etc.
This haul is a combination of my shopping at CVS and Publix today. The biggest excuse I hear against shopping frugally is that it takes to long to plan and print/clip coupons. Ok, so to blow away that excuse I spent less than an hour planning/printing coupons on this trip. So how many of those people that give me that excuse get paid $71.94 an hour???
Another excuse I hear a lot is that coupons make people buy things they don't need. Ok, out of all that stuff up in the picture (wish you could see it in person!), maybe the only thing I don't need is the fizzy energy drink stuff from CVS (which is free after ECB's this week, by the way)!
The most annoying excuse I hear is that coupons are for poor people or "needy" people. First of all, who in this world does not need anything??? Secondly, look at the stuff I bought. ALL name brand stuff (except for my Publix water, hehe). ALL good quality stuff. I don't feel "poor" or "needy" at all. In fact, I feel very blessed!
The Bible says to "give credit to whom credit is due." So I have to thank Money Saving Mom for all she's taught me, along with The Centsible Sawyer and Sarah at Fiddledeedee.* These ladies are the ones that do all the hard work, so we don't have to!
Thank God for good friends and for always providing MORE than enough!
*For some reason, Blogger is not allowing me to add links at the moment, but all of the links to these sites are on my sidebar - just scroll down a little!
For more Frugal Friday ideas, head over to Biblical Womanhood!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Publix: $1 Sabra Hummus this week!

Since Sabra brand hummus is my very favorite store-bought kind of hummus, I wanted to share this great deal at Publix this week:

10 oz. Sabra Hummus on sale for 2/$5

Use $1.50 coupon here

Get hummus for $1!

For more Publix deals, see Fiddledeedee.

Shabbat Shalom!

Frugal Friday: I'm a Frugal Misfit...

Ok, I have to admit something on this beautiful Frugal Friday. I feel really weird sometimes as I am reading all these wonderful frugal blogs that talk about using the Dave Ramsey cash envelope system. For those that don't know what I’m talking about, check out Dave Ramsey’s site here. The basic premise of the cash envelope system is that when you set your budget for the month (or week or whatever), you are to put that amount of cash for each category into an envelope. The idea is that when the cash is gone for that particular category, it’s over. No more until next month (or whatever time period you budget for).
Logically, this method of budgeting makes a lot of sense and works for a lot of people. Actually, from what I read on the frugal blogosphere, it seems that the majority follows this method (please correct me if I am wrong!).
However, what I want to tell you today is that the cash envelope system does NOT work for me personally. It does make me feel like an oddity, but I’m fairly used to that; as if being a 5’10” female doesn’t make me stick out enough, then I have this Messianic Jewish thing going on too. So let’s just add this one to the list of my quirks!
I find that when I have cash anywhere around me, it always has this sneaky way of finding itself in someone else’s pocket very quickly. I know, I know…I need more self-control. That’s why this frugal lifestyle and couponing has done wonders for me. But, honestly, I have found that I have to do what works for me, which is not the cash envelope system.
What does work for me is using a credit card for all my purchases and then, and this is MUCHO IMPORTANT, paying it off at the end of the month. I can see how dangerous this is, but we really do pay it off EVERY month. I know all the financial statistics about how terrible and bad credit cards are, but really this is what works for my family.
Here’s the factor that makes this system work for us: accountability, which is a powerful and wonderful part of marriage. I know that when that credit card bill becomes available, my husband will see every penny that I spent. And where. And when. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I’m not being sarcastic; I really do love it.
But the key is that this is what works for US. It might not work for you in your situation. The important thing about frugality/budgeting is that you have to know what works for you and then do it.
So my three criteria, in order of importance, for any budgeting strategy are these:
1) The Bible. Does your budget include a portion for charity/others in a way that glorifies God? To be honest, I’m not a big fan of using the word “tithing” (another quirk) because the tithe related to the temple. However, that being said, I still think that the same principle applies today that a “firstfruits” of what we have should be shared with those in need.
2) Your authority. Does your husband or parent (or whoever your authority figure is) approve? Maybe you don’t like that word authority. In our society, that word most of the time has a bad connotation. Even if you don’t like it, it’s always good to run your budget by someone that is knowledgeable in this area.
3) What works for you. No matter what everyone else is doing…you have to do what makes your particular situation work. And mine is not cash envelopes, no matter how much they make sense.

What works for you? Do you use the envelope system or something different? Leave a comment...I'd love to hear!

There’s my Frugal Friday tip for the day. See more great ideas at Biblical Womanhood.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In Review: Mudhouse Sabbath

Despite my initial misgivings about this book ("Is this just going to be a treatise on why Christianity is better than Judaism?"), the more I read Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner the more I enjoyed it. Ms. Winner is "an Orthodox Jew who converted to Christianity", and yet finds herself longing for the traditional/Biblical heritage she left behind. In the book, she picks a few of the "highlights" of the Hebraic lifestyle (Sabbath, mezuzot, mourning, etc.) and tries to reconfigure them for her new-found faith (or is it?).
What I particularly liked about this book was that is it not only highly anecdotal, but also very informative. Even I, who has been studying Jewish/Hebraic life for over 15 years, learned a few things! For example, in all my 15 years in this "Jewish stuff", I have never (that I can recall) learned that the shin (a Hebrew letter) that is on the mezuzah can also stand for the phrase "Shomer daltot Yisrael" - Guardian of the doors of Israel.
It is interesting to see Christianity from Ms. Winner's perspective, how someone who has lived their life (or at least part of it) based on the Torah and all the traditions surrounding it can go into a very different lifestyle, and yet still keep some of who they were before. As Ms. Winner points out a few times in her book, I do believe that Christianity does have a few things (if not a lot more) to learn from traditional Judaism, especially the joy of the Sabbath. I highly recommend this delightful, quick-read to anyone of any faith. As R. Ben Zoma is often quoted, "Who is wise? One who learns from everyone."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Giveaway Winner!

That's congratulations to those that don't read Hebrew yet. My hubby helped me out with our random drawing tonight and (drumroll, please)...a big MAZEL TOV to Robyn for winning the giveaway from last week! The consensus was that I leave Tavita's Purse one big hodge-podge, instead of splitting it into two blogs, and being that with work and everything I don't have a lot of extra time to devote to that project, I think I'm going to take her advice. So for now, Tavita's Purse is where you can find everything from great deals to spiritual thoughts. It's kind of an eclectic mix, but I like it for now, and apparently a few others do too!
Robyn: Send me an e-mail with your address, so I can send the book!
Again, I thank everyone for their comments and be sure to check back as I continue working on Tavita's Purse!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Shabbat Nachamu

This week (tomorrow actually) we observe Shabbat Nachamu ("Sabbath of Comfort"). The name comes from Isaiah 40:1 - 26, beginning with the double entreaty to nachamu:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins.
Thus, we end the period of mourning and fasting dealing with the destruction of the two Temples (and many other heinous crimes committed against the Jewish people throughout history) and begin the ascent toward the High Holy Days.
This Shabbat, let us remember the people of Israel in our prayers and remind ourselves to "be watchmen on the walls." Shabbat Shalom ~ May your Sabbath be filled with peace!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Penny for Your Thoughts...

Actually, your thoughts are worth more than a penny to me! They are worth a copy of A Sacred Foundation: The Importance of Strength in the Home School Marriage by Michael Farris. That's can win it by giving your comments below.
Here's the question:
Do you think I should split up my blogs into two - one about saving money and leaving everything else (Bible studies, random thoughts, stuff about Israel) on Tavita's Purse OR should I leave it the way it is now (one big hodge-podge blog!)?
Leave a comment with your opinion by SUNDAY, August 17th at midnight. I will announce the winner on Monday!

Why I Buy Things I Don't "Need"

This week I noticed there was a moneymaker at CVS with the Alavert deal (between the ECB's and the printable coupon). So I decided that although I was not in "need" of some great allergy medicine at the moment, I would get it so I could get something I DID need instead, and try to grow my ECB stash as well.
So on Monday here's what I bought:
1 - Alavert (on sale for $5.99, giving $3 ECB's back)
1 - CVS Brand Tampons 80 ct. (on sale for $2.99, usually $9.49!)
1 - CVS Brand Advanced Healing Flight-Sized Lotion ($1.49)
Coupons used: $2/$10 (only available now if you SAVED a copy), $2 CVS Skin Care Coupon, and $4 off Alavert coupon.
Paid with: $2 ECB's and 47 cents OOP.
Made: $3 ECB's (from Alavert)
Head over to Keeping the Kingdom First for more on the CVS Challenge!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Today's Dose of Wisdom: Proverb 11

This past weekend I went to a women's conference led by my Rebbetzin and another Rebbetzin called "Daughters of Righteousness" (Banot Tzedek). It was such a refreshing time of fellowship and refocusing our lives on what is most important. One of the things that my Rebbetzin encouraged us to do is to make it a priority to read one chapter of Proverbs a day. Now, this was not a new idea to me, as it was actually something that my husband taught me to do when we first met. But recently, I have gotten out of the habit, and I have noticed that in many situations I could have used more wisdom and discretion, both of which Proverbs is filled with!

In today's Proverb, is one that I have always thought kind of funny, but it is so true.

"Like a gold ring in the snout of a pig
is a beautiful woman who lacks good sense." Proverb 11:22 (CJB)

To me, this is saying that although outward beauty is nice to have (like a gold ring), the substance of a person is who we are in the inside. If we go around living our lives without giving thought to our ways, we might as well be compared to an animal (and not a pretty one at that!).

I am so grateful to HaShem for the G-dly women in my life who, this past weekend, spent so much time teaching us and encouraging us. Thank you! May we all be called "daughters of righteousness"!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Knight Rider and the book of Numbers

Last week, we finished the book of Numbers for our yearly cycle of Torah portions. As we heard the Torah reader say the traditional "chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek!" ("Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened") this past Shabbat, I know there were at least a few thoughts of relief that we are now headed for the exciting book of Deuteronomy.
Sunday morning I was reflecting on all that I've learned from studying the "boring books" of the Bible. My absolute favorite Torah portion, Pinchas, is found in Numbers, and I am still awed every time I study Leviticus. But then I had another thought...I didn't always like studying the books of Moses. When I was young, Psalms and Proverbs were my favorites. What happened?
Then I started thinking about how I used to sit down and watch TV with my dad. One of the shows he regularly watched was Knight Rider. When I was young, I thought this was such a boring show. I had no idea what was going on; the only thing that excited me was when Kit, the car, would talk. The only reason I would sit and watch it was because I wanted to be with my dad.
Little did I know that one day I would marry a man that has loved Knight Rider since he was a little boy. What a surprise it was when he pulled out his collection of Knight Rider DVD's and this time, I actually didn't think the show was so boring. I finally "got it"!
And so it is with the G-d's Word. The books that are above our level are "boring" to us at the time. But one thing we have to remember is that not even a yod or a tittle is wasted in the Bible. Every little word is there for a reason. There are so many parts that still seem "boring" to me, but I know that's only because I don't understand them. There's still so much more to learn...and that's the exciting part!
If you haven't begun reading the Torah portions with us yet, now's a great time to start! This week, we begin the final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy (D'varim).
This week's portion: Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22