August 10, 2016

L803It happened so many years ago. We’re generations away from the Jews who lived during the times of the Churban Beis Hamikdash. How are we, in 2016, supposed to feel the pain of the Churban on a personal level, the way we know we should?

It’s something we all need to work on, of course, and I’m not here to offer words of mussar on the topic. But what I can do is recommend one excellent way of connecting to the Churban: read Chains, an exquisite historical novel written by talented author Leah Gebber. Set in this exact time period, during the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash, this is a book that pulls at your heart and brings you to tears just by virtue of the vivid descriptions of the times—all meticulously researched and accurate—and breathtakingly beautiful writing style.

You’ll immediately feel connected to the characters in the book: the brave Shulamit; her stoic cousin Mariam; Chanan, whose heart lies in one big state of confusion, and the rest of the cast. Your breath will catch in your throat as you follow their suspenseful saga. More importantly, you’ll receive an inkling of how the Jews felt as they were led, in chains, by their hated captors, to Rome, the city that was the antithesis of the kedushah of Eretz Yisrael…

Reading this book will change the way you recite the Kinnos on this year’s Tishah B’Av. It will put new understanding of the pain of the Churban and of galus into your heart. Your connection with Klal Yisrael’s glorious past will be strengthened—as will your prayers of Hashiveinu Hashem eilecha v’nashuvah…

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NEW RELEASE! The Halachos when Tishah B’Av Occurs on Shabbos

August 9, 2016

L807This year, Tishah B’Av is a nidcheh—it falls out on Shabbos, and is therefore pushed off until the next day, Sunday. This makes for some unusual halachos which, in a regular year, would not necessarily apply.

For example, one is not supposed to learn Torah after chatzos on Erev Tishah B’Av. But since Erev Tishah B’Av this year comes out to be Shabbos—well, can one learn Torah on Shabbos afternoon? How about if one always takes a “tzom kal“ pill before a fast day—is he allowed to do so on Shabbos, since that is the day before the fast, or would that be considered hachanah l’chol?

You get the idea. You also get why the book The Halachos when Tishah B’Av Occurs on Shabbos or Sunday, by Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, is such a necessity for this year. In this book, all of the halachos you need to know in order to navigate the do’s and don’t’s of this year’s Shabbos/Tishah B’Av situation are clearly laid out for you. Using this book as your guide, you’ll know exactly what should and should not be done with regard to Tishah B’Av and the weeks leading up to it.

Of course, we all hope for Mashiach to come before Tishah B’Av, and for this book to never need to be used on a practical level… May Hashem answer our prayers, and may we merit to see the fulfillment of His promise to rebuild Yerushalayim, speedily and in our days!

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August 8, 2016

L804I’d heard the name thrown around numerous times: Heleni Hamalkah. Between the Gemara learners in my life (read: father, brothers, husband), and whatever I managed to pick up during Jewish history class in high school (hey, not everyone sleeps during those classes; there are some of us who actually enjoy learning about our past!), her name was certainly not unfamiliar to me. Yet I never knew that this Heleni Hamalkah from the Gemara—or, in the English vernacular, Queen Helene—actually had an incredibly fascinating background and story to her.

Until I read Nezirah. That’s when the name blossomed, took off, became a colorful entity rather than a black-and-white, two-dimensional thing. For Queen Helene of Adiabene was an extraordinary character, and a very real one at that. She was a righteous convert who left the pagan country in which she had reigned, to settle in the Holy Land during the tumultuous days before the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash. And…she became a nazir, or rather, a nezirah, for many years. Not your typical woman, huh?

This meticulously researched and beautifully written book brings Queen Helene’s captivating story to life, as well as providing readers with a vivid picture of Jewish day-to-day existence in Eretz Yisrael under Roman rule. It’s a book that will enthrall, enlighten, and inspire you. Yes, even if you were one of those students who snored their way through Historiah class!

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NEW RELEASE! I Promise You

August 4, 2016

L808While working on Yael Mermelstein’s latest book, I Promise You, we received an interesting email from her. The book tells the riches-to-rags story of unfathomable tragedy and redemption, as experienced by Yael’s grandmother, Mrs. Miriam (Manusia) Adler, with whom Yael is very close.

I feel that I lost my objectivity with this book, because I’m seriously petrified to publish it, she writes. And I’m never like this with my writing, btw—I’m usually very chilled. But this is personal to me and especially to my Safta, who I am in touch with about every word :). 

And just for the record, Yael has had 9 books published previously, and the articles she writes for numerous Jewish magazines and websites number in the thousands by now. So she’s certainly no stranger to the relationship an author has with her writing.

If you’re wondering exactly why Yael feels so connected to this book (well, other than because the book happens to be about her Safta!), you’ll need to read the book yourself. I can try to describe it to you, how exquisite the writing is, what a potent story it tells, but in order to truly understand the power of this book, you need to get the chills from reading a few pages of it yourself.

Written in the present tense, through the eyes of a teenager, this extraordinary true narrative will give you an achingly personal glimpse into the Holocaust experience of young Manusia Adler. If you’ve ever wondered about the roots of acclaimed author Yael Mermelstein, you need to meet her Safta. Read I Promise You—and you’ll feel connected to her, and to the Holocaust itself, in a strong and special way.

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NEW RELEASE! What Are We Waiting For?

August 3, 2016

C430It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, during the Three Weeks.

“Can we go bike-riding?” my kids begged.

No, it’s raining.

“Can we go to the park?”

No, it’s raining.

“Can we do sidewalk chalk?”

Not if you want what you’re drawing to last more than two seconds. Kids, it’s raining!!

Then my daughter jumped up. “I know what we can do! Let’s listen to my camp CD!”

Once again I shook my head. “I’m sorry, sweetie, but we can’t do that either.”

“Why not?” my daughter pouted. “That’s an indoor activity!”

“Because it’s during the Three Weeks now, and we’re not allowed to listen to music.”

That’s when I realized I had the perfect “teaching moment” on my hands. I got down the book What Are We Waiting For? and had the kids sit next to me on the couch.

“Kids,” I told them. “Do you want to know why we’re not allowed to listen to music or go to a chasunah during the Three Weeks? And soon the Nine Days will be starting, and we won’t be allowed to go swimming, either—and then it will be Tishah B’Av, which is the saddest day of the whole year. Do you want to know why we’re so sad at this time? Listen to this story and you’ll understand…”

As I began to read this beautiful new book to my kids, you could hear a pin drop. The vivid and imaginative storyline, the dramatic illustrations, the powerful message…it all combined to form an exquisite picture in their little heads, one that I could almost see developing. And while chinuch is never a quick-fix thing, when I finished reading that book, I could tell that the lesson brought out in it—what Klal Yisrael mourns for on Tishah B’Av, and why we yearn for Mashiach to come—definitely made an impression on my children.

And really, wasn’t that the whole point?

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NEW RELEASE! Without a Trace

July 11, 2016

L795There’s a woman I know who was born missing one hand. She was fitted with a prosthetic, which I’m sure she wore, while she was single, whenever she was in public, and especially while dating. But now she is baruch Hashem happily married and the mother of a lively brood, and I suppose she feels no one is judging her anymore. Add the fact that she finds the prosthetic to be bothersome and uncomfortable (she has taught herself to do everything using just one hand)—and she decided to give up wearing it.

So if you’re walking past her on the street, you’ll see a regular frum lady pushing a baby carriage with one hand, while the sleeve of her other arm dangles loosely past the wrist, at her side. If you’re cringing while reading this, believe me when I tell you that, while talking to the woman, you hardly even notice her birth defect. She’s so normal and natural about it—you just end up focusing on her, as a person, rather than on her missing hand.

Zevi Bloch, on the other hand (pun unintended!), does not operate like that. Although his deformity is much less obvious than this woman’s, entailing missing toes rather than a missing hand, Zevi is so self-conscious about it that his roommates and friends can’t help but be suspicious. What major secret could Zevi be hiding beneath his socks and shoes, both of which seem to never come off his feet?

And it’s not just Zevi who is self-conscious about it. Shoshie, his mother, is consumed with shame about her son’s deformity…and no small amount of guilt, too. She is sure Zevi’s whole accident happened only because of her…

Interest piqued? It certainly should be, because this novel is not your typical story! It’s suspenseful and emotion-laden and humorous and well-written…everything you’re looking for in a great book! So go ahead and treat yourself to Without a Trace—a book that will provide you with a whole lot of reading pleasure!

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July 8, 2016

L797Ever heard a little kid singing a song incorrectly? He’s trying to sing “V’zakeini,” but what’s coming from his vocal chords is sounding something suspiciously like, “U’miri esa oros, ba’Torah u’manisitim…”

Now, it might be cute hearing it this way from a little child, but once that kid gets older, well, somewhere along the way, you hope he learns the correct words to the beautiful song. Otherwise, when he sings it, it really isn’t so “cute” anymore…

And when it comes to facts that a person was misinformed about, back when he was a kid, and that he still remains misinformed about, even years since his kindergarten graduation…that’s a tad more “not so cute.” And when those facts are actual halachos that the person is attempting to keep and to do—well, the problem just becomes exponentially greater. Someone better enlighten that person soon about the correct way of doing things, or else!

That’s where But I Thought comes into the picture. But I Thought is an eye-opening breakthrough in the world of halachah books. In it, more than twenty topics in halachah and Jewish custom are thoroughly explored, with an emphasis on highlighting and clarifying the erroneous assumptions that numerous people have about many of these halachos and customs.

So if, for example, you’ve been saying the pesukim of “Reishis chachmah” and “Torah tzivah” every morning immediately after washing negel vasser…now you’ll see that it seems that should not be done.

And if you’ve always ended your Shemoneh Esrei by bouncing on your heels a few times (after taking your three steps forward)…now you’ll see that there’s no source for doing so.

Surprise yourself while reading this book—and, more importantly, enlighten yourself about many halachos and customs that you thought you knew well…but really, perhaps did not!

A must-have for every halachah-abiding household!

Click here to purchase online.