The Blog

Pirkei Avos is Jewish wisdom from the time that Moses received it from Sinai. As we read the words, and discuss them, we join the conversation, becoming part of an ongoing ‘commentary’ on the timeless words of our Sages.

The premise of the Green Bubbie’s PIrkei Avos- is that you are never too young or too old to learn ethics and values and to continue to grow, becoming your best self!

“Ben Zoma says, ‘Who is rich? The one who is happy with what he has.’ As it says in Tehillim, (Psalms 128:2)When you eat of the work of your hands, you are happy, and all is well with you.’ Pirkei Avos 4:1

Let’s look at the image above. Anyone who has ever distributed lollipops or crayons to young children has probably heard the words- “I don’t want that one” or, “I want the one she has!”
Children are not always happy with what they get.

A popular mantra that adults use in response to children who are disappointed with what they get is, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”

Ask yourself-How are the words of Pirkei Avos different from this response? Are these two statements the same?

‘Don’t get upset’ denies children their feelings, and teaches a level of complacency and acceptance with ‘what you get.’ Ben Zoma is challenging us, how can we become happy? We can learn to be happy with our lot, we can recognize what is from Hashem, and at the same time- learn to put in effort and to benefit from the work of our hands, and to do something with what we have been given.

Children for sure ( and adults too) are not intuitively happy with what we have, or what we get! - High expectations for gifts, or desired outcomes, can lead to real disappointment. We can learn how to recognize the good, even when disappointed (with the green lollipop, or a rejection letter) We can learn how to re-frame a situation, and consider alternatives.

For example, “Do you know someone who really likes green lollipops? Can you make a trade?" or ‘What can you draw with a purple crayon even though you really wanted the blue?”
These may seem silly or inconsequential in the world of moral and ethical behavior, but it teaches children to have an exit ramp for their disappointments, develop the ability to re-frame a situation, consider what they can do with what they have, and search for alternative points of view- clearly a much needed strategy for communication and ethical relationships!

You have to put in effort, and simultaneously recognize it’s not all about you! When you plant- and do all the work in your garden. You could take total credit for the bounty of your crop- or you could recognize that while you may have ‘labored in the field’ - the seeds and the soil, the sun and the rains, all come from Hashem- quite a dose of humility and a lesson in gratitude. Of course, if you don’t put in the effort, nothing happens,When we teach Gratitude to HaShem for all that we have, we teach children ( and ourselves) to recognize the good (HaKaros HaTov) in every situation, we experience the profound happiness that comes from feelings of gratitude . Learning to see the good takes effort.

Positive psychology is gaining more popularity each day, but ''happiness' is not a new. The ancient teachings in Pirkei Avos- based on the words of Hashem direct us toward happiness. This teaching says directly, ‘the person who is HAPPY with what s/he has’ not the person who is content, or who has ‘settled’ or who is monetarily secure. “Happiness” is an important state of mind, it matters, it is the standard by which our real wealth is measured, and a lens through which we see our lives.

It may take years- it certainly took me years not to just teach my own children, but to teach myself, and to live MY life as one who sees the good. Now my grandchildren see me as a person who is demonstrably grateful to Hashem for all that I have.

As a grandparent, of ‘pension age’ I can revisit this teaching-and ask myself, what do the words of Ben Zoma mean to me now? My understandings of each Mishna change over time- it’s humbling!

It’s a whole new challenge to appreciate retirement - It’s all too easy to count how many homes, cruises, or even grandchildren friends do - or do not have. It’s time for us to re-evaluate what it means to be ‘happy with your lot’ materially, spiritually, physically and socially. We can redefine our ‘assets’ and focus on what we have.

Learn to be grateful to HaShem for all that you have, and you will be happy and become “rich” beyond what you ever imagined.


הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי. וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי. וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי

פרק א משנה יד

WELCOME! I'd like invite you to learn with me the timeless teachings from the Jewish text, Pirkei Avos- particularly as I now see them now, from my 70-year-old perspective. Maybe you too are a grandparent, parent, or even a Green Bubbie* and also want to explore how to support the spiritual and ethical development of the next generation.

I doubt that at the time of the Mishna, when Hillel uttered the above teaching, there were any egg beaters like the one in the photograph above. However, the Mishna (teaching) begins, "Hillel says, 'If I am not for myself...." In other words, Hillel didn't just say it once or say it just for the times in which he lived. To learn this Mishna, in Pirkei Avos, is to learn that the teachings are timeless. It is as though the words of Hillel speak directly to us, even in our day. As these words become a part of us, we too, can say them, and apply them - like a special lens we can use to see what is going on around us. Indeed, it is by recognizing real experiences as expressions of the meaning of this teaching, that we literally 'apply' the teaching, which is how we transmit it. By uttering the words, in the name of Hillel, or by saying, "Pirkei Avos says..." we align ourselves with the strength of timeless wisdom, and situate ourselves in the Jewish tradition of received wisdom from the time that "Moses received the Torah from Sinai" (Pirkei Avos 1:1)

I've spent my life involved in the education of young children. Children as young as two want to do things 'by themselves.' Autonomy is a goal and a process. Recognizing young children's attempts to meet physical challenges, achieve personal self-help skills (like getting dressed) or participate in 'grown up' activities (like cooking) all contribute to children's growing self awareness. As adults, when we witness young children asserting themselves, meeting challenges- even beating eggs! we can validate them, show our pride in them. The words of the Mishna can be applied to children- they are words to live by, not only to be read in a house of study- We can make those words come alive in our own house. Children want to do things by themselves (If I am not for myself!) we need to give them those opportunities. Young children are trying each day to become themselves, to become competent young people; we need to recognize those moments and encourage them - If not now, when?

"The premise of this blog is twofold. First, children are never too young to be engaged in the learning of ethics and values, and second, adults are never too old to be the best examples of conveying ethics and values. So, as Hillel says, "If not now, when?"

Let the words of the Mishna penetrate your heart, and become your eyes, and live through them. When you see examples of the meaning of the mishna, speak it out! Your children and grandchildren and all your 'sprouts' will be validated, and will become participants in a holy conversation that has been going on across continents, and throughout the generations.

In preparation for Tu B'Shvat, now t-14 days, I'm forwarding to you this list of books for young children in English and Hebrew.
Trees, seeds, weeds, are you reading carefully? You've probably already started, but it's never too late to plant new seeds and to nurture the "sprouts" growing right in front of you. Thank you to Risa from the Israel Book Store in Brookline, MA for these beautiful resources.

Order from Israel Book Shop here:

Tu Bishvat Resources:
Children's Books: English
Aleph-Bet Israel by Galia Armeland (EKS) $10.95 less 10% SC


Artscroll Children's Book of Berachos by Shmuel Blitz
(Artscroll)  $15.99 less 20%


Behold the Trees by Sue Alexander (Arthur Levine Books)  $16.95 less 20%


Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss (HarperTrophy)  $6.99 less 20% SC


Dear Tree by Doba Rivka Weber (Hachai)  $10.95 less 10% HC


Gavriel and the Golden Garden by Menucha Fuchs (Judaica Press)  $11.95 less 10%  HC
Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins) $16.99 less 20% HC


God's World by Sylvia Rouss ((Pitspopany) $9.95 less 20%
Grandpa and Me on Tu B'Shevat by Marji E. Gold-Yukson (Kar-Ben) $6.95 less 20% SC
Green Bible Stories for Children by Tami Lehman-Wilzing (Kar-Ben)
$17.95 less 20%  HC         $7.95 less 20%  SC


Growing with the Tree by Rachel Stein (Feldheim)  $12.99 less 10%  HC
It's Too Crowded in Here! And Other Jewish Folktales retold for young childrenby Vicki L. Weber(Behrman House) $8.95 less 10% SCIncludes a story titled: Why Trees Don't Talk

It's Tu B'Shevat by Edie Stoltz Zolkower (Kar-Ben)  $5.95 less 20%  BOARD
NEW:Jewish Big Book: Tu B'Shvat  (Torah Aura)  $29.95
Lag Ba'Omer and Tu Bishvat with Bina, Benny and Chaggai Hayonah
     (Artscroll Children's Holiday Series) $10.99 less 10%
Thank you, Trees by Gail Langer Karwoski and Marilyn E. Gootman
(Kar-Ben) $5.95 less 20%
The Little Leaf by Chana Sharfstein (Hachai) $10.95 less 10% HC

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (Random House) $14.95 less 20% HC

Mayer Aaron Levi and His Lemon Tree by Tami Lehman-Wilzig (Gefen)
$12.95 less 10% HCThe Mitzvah That Landed on Our Windowsill: A Shiluach Ha-Kan Story Captured in Photographs (Feldheim)  $11.99 less 10%  HC

My First Brachos Board Book by B.C. Edelman (Judaica Press)
$13.95 less 10%  BOARD


Naamah, Noah's Wife by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso (Skylight Paths) $7.95 less 20% BOARD


NEW: Netta and Her Plant by Ellie B. Gellman (Kar-Ben)
 $17.95 less 20% HC    $7.95 less 20% SC


Noah's Wife: The Story of Naamah by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso (Jewish Lights)
     $16.95 less 20% HC
     " The story may be the starting point of a conversation about our responsibility for
       caring for the earth."
 Rabbi Rocketpower in a Tooty-Fruity Tale for Tu Bishvat
 by Rabbi Susan Abramson  (Oak Leaf Systems)  $9.95 less 10%
Sammy Spider's First Tu B'Shevat by Sylvia A. Rouss (Kar-Ben) $7.95 less 20% SC
Solomon and the Trees by Matt Biers-Ariel (URJ Press) $13.95 less 20%
Talia and the Rude Vegetables by Linda Elovitz Marshall (Kar-Ben)  $6.95 less 20% SC
Tiny Seed by Eric Carle (Aladdin) $7.99 less 20%

Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry (Harper) $6.99 less 20%

Children's Books: Hebrew

 Aggadat Choni HaMiagel (Gesher Kal Series/Jewish Agency) $9  SC

Chanan HaGanan by Rinat Hoffer (Zmora-Betan) $18.95 less 10%   HC
Charuzim Tiimimim by Datya Ben-Dor (Modan) $13.95 less 10%   HC or BOARD
Eliezer VihaGezer by Levin Kipnis (Zimzun) $20.95 less 10%  HC

Etz B'Tzarah ("Leaf Trouble") by Jonathan Emmett (Kineret) $21.95 less 10% HC
HaAryeh SheAhav Tut by Tirza Atar (HaKibbutz HaMiuchad) $17.95 less 10%  HC

HaEtz HaNadiv by Shel Silverstein (Modan) $17.95 less 10%   HC

HaEtz Shel Yair by Rena Shlein (Tzabar) $7.95 less 10%   HC

HaEtz SheRatza Yom Huledet by Tomer Sarig (Tzabar) $10.50 less 10%  HC
HaShafan ViHagezer by Tzvia Wilensky (Sefer Lakol) $11.95 less 10%  HC
HaShatil Shel Mor by Sarah Zluf (Zimzun) $12.95 less 10%  HC
 Kadur HaAretz Sheli ("The Earth Book") by Todd Parr (Kineret)  $21.99 less 10%  HC



Lamah Etz HaOren Lo Miushar by Mira Owen and Esther Bruner
     (Nitzanim Series: CET/Melton)  $4.95  SC
Lihatzil Et Kochav Hayam : Sefer HaSippurim HaYarok (Agur)

by Shlomo Abas $17.95 less 10%  HC

Mahi Eretz Yisrael? by Margalit Kvenshtock $18  SC

Perach, Perach Al Tivkeh! (Flower, Flower, Don't Cry)  by Paul Kor $18.95 less 10% HC


Tu Bishvat BaSheleg (Nitzanim Series)  by Mira Owen and Esther Bruner (Matach)  $4.95 SC


Tu Bishvat Hegia! by Sharon Levi  (Ofarim) $12.95 less 10%  HC



Yom Huledet LaGina by Rena Shlein (Sefer Lakol)  $17.95 less 10% HC
Zaroni by Dani Nachalieli (Korim) $12.95 less 10%  HC
Tu Bishvat Resources:

Celebrating the Jewish Year : The Winter Holidays
by Paul Steinberg (JPS)  $22 less 20%
     "Bursting with primary sources, prayers, rituals and stories, Celebrating the Jewish Year includes contributions from some of the greatest Jewish thinkers in history, as well as original essays by acclaimed writers of today."



 Get Out!

150 Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a GreenerFuture by Judy Molland (Free Spirit Publishing) $10.99  SC

Greening Book: Being a Friend to Planet Earth

by Ellen Sabin

(Watering Can Press)  $24.95 less 10%  HC
"The Greening Book grows kids with character. It's an activity book...and an educational tool that engages children in learning about environmental issues and discovering their power to make a difference in the world bu understanding, nurturing and protecting Planet Earth."


Kids' Catalog of Animals and the Earth

by Chaya M. Burstein (JPS)

 $16.95 less 20%  SC
(... all the information , eco-activities adn ideas you'll need to make a difference in the earth's future. Written from a Jewish perspective...teaches us how to be partners with God in caring for our world."

A Kids' Guide to Climate Change and Global Warming: How to Take Action!

by Cathryn Berger Kaye (Free Spirit Publishing)  $6.95  SC
"...Here are the facts, tools and inspiration you need to get out there and make a difference in the world."   Grades 6 and up

Listen to the Trees: Jews and the Earth

by Molly Cone

"Using Torah texts and traditional Jewish stories as a basis, this book for intermediate grades presents an exploration of ecology and the interconnectedness of all life on earth."

Includes stories, cartoons and full-color illustrations.   $14.95 less 10%  SC
A Person Is Like A Tree: A Sourcebook for Tu Bishvat by Yitzhak Buxbaum
 (Jason Aronson)  $28.95 less 10%

Seder Tu Bishvat: The Festival of Trees by Adam Fisher (CCAR)

Simple Actions for Jews to Help Green the Planet
Jews, Judaism and the Environment
by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins    $17.99 less 10%  SC

Spirit in Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail

by Matt Biers-Ariel, Deborah Newbrun and Michal Fox Smart  (Behrman House)

$15.95 less 10%  SC
Torah of the Earth: Exploring 4,000 Years of Ecology in Jewish Thoughtedited by Arthur Waskow (Jewish Lights Publishing)
     Volume I:Biblical/Rabbinic
     Volume II: Zionism/Eco-Judaism
Each volume $14.95 less 20%
Way into Judaism and the Environment by Jeremy Bernstein (Jewish Lights)
     "Explores the ways in which Judaism contributes to contemporary social-environmental issues."  $18.99 less 20%  SC
Whole School Holiday Curriculum: Tu B'Shvat (Torah Aura)
Each Whole-School Holiday lesson contains 12 student folders and a teacher's guide
I.  Tu B'Shvat Celebrations          $12.95
2. The Four High Holidays          $12.95
3. Honi the Circle Maker             $12.95
4. Tree Blessings                        $12.95
5. Tu B'Shvat Food                     $12.95
6. Tu B'Shvat Seder                    $12.95
7. A Day in the Life of a Verse    $12.95
Whole School Holiday Curriculum: Environment  (Torah Aura)
$12.95/packet of 12 student folders plus a teacher's guide
1. In Our Image
2. Guarding the Planet
3. Caring for Animals
4. Birkhot Ha-Nehanim
5. Beyond Bal-Tash'hit
6. Exploring Modern Jewish Food Ethics
7. Exploring a Jewish Response to Climate Change
The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others to Create Social Change
     by Barbara A. Lewis  (Free Spirit Publishing) $12.95  SC
" Features hundreds of local and global actions in:
human rights; hunger and homelessness; health and safety; education;
environment and conservation; youth representation; peace and friendship
Trees, Earth and Torah: A Tu B'Shvat Anthology edited by Ari Elon, Naomi Hyman and Arthur Waskow  (JPS) $23.95 less 20%
" This anthology draws upon biblical, rabbinical, medieva, and modern sources- from art, music, recipes, and crafts, as well as fiction, poetry and essays - about the significance and historical development of Tu B'Shvat..."
A Wild Faith: Jewish Ways into Wilderness, Wilderness Ways Into Judaism
by Rabbi Mike Comins  (Jewish Lights) $16.99 less 20%  SC
Eliezer V'HaGezer                       $24.95 less 10%
Based on the classic Israeli children's book
Other stories included on the DVD:
 HaEfroach Shehalach Lichapes Acheret;
 HaMitriya HaGedola Shel Abba; Maaseh B'Kovah
Grandpa's Tree (Ergo Media)
A Jewish American student comes to Israel to locate his grandfather's tree, planted a half century earlier in a Jewish National Fund grove.  In the course of his search, we learn about contemporary Israel, its emphasis on land reclamation and afforestation, and about Tu B'Shevat, Arbor Day. Directed by Telma Steklov. Starring Jonathan Miller.
24 minutes  $34.95 less 10%

Shirim Tiimim (Matan Ariel)  "Food Songs in Hebrew" $19.95 less 10%

Shalom Sesame: Grover Plants a Tree
$14.95 less 10%
     "It's Tu Bishvat! Grover, Brosh and Avigail get back to nature
 as they learn how to plant trees and make the world a betterplace."
Tu Bishvat CDs:
Earth Worm Disco (Shira Kline) $16.95 less 10%
"...celebrating the wonders of growing up green."
Tu Bishvat Hegea with Ariella Savir  $15.95 less 10%
HaShekdia Porachat: Mivchar Shirim L'Tu Bishvat   $15.95 less 10%
Shirim Tiimimim  (Matan Ariel) $10.95
Songs about different foods and the garden.
Tu Bishvat Crafts: 

Tulip Magnet  (Benny's)

Wooden tulips to decorate with markers, paint, glitter glue, and stickers.
$6.99/10 in bag
Tu B'Shvat Sponges (Benny's)
 Sponge painting activity. $14.95
Tu Bishvat Stickers/Foam Shapes/Stencils



Fruit stickers  $3/10 sheets 

Shkedia (almond tree) $3.50/pkg. of 200
Shkedia foam shapes   $5.95/8 sets

Vegetable Stickers (script)  $3/10 sheets
Vegetable Stickers  $3/10 sheets
Shivat HaMinim (Seven Species) Stickers  $3/10 sheets
Citrus Fruit  $2.95/pkg. of 200
Gardening  $3.50/pkg. of 200
Shivat HaMinim (Seven Species) $9.50/18 sets of 8
Shivat HaMinim foam shapes   $5.95/10 sets
7 HaMinim stencils  $5.95/package of 7
Tu Bishvat Posters:

Interactive Tu Bishvat Poster with velcro (Zerach) $10.50

Interactive Tu Bishvat Poster with velcro (Zerach)  $12.50


Colorful poster in Hebrew and English of symbols, customs and activities associated with Tu Bishvat. Laminated  (Benny's) $10.95


Tu B'Shvat Cut-Out Poster (Benny's)  $12.95


Seven Species poster   laminated  (Zerach)  $8


Seven Species poster  laminated  (Zerach)  $6


Tu B'Shvat Poster Set

Includes 9 pictures  12.5 in. x 8.5 in.   $16.95/set
Tu Bishvat 3 Children Planting Bulletin Board Set (Benny's) $22.95
Tu Bishvat Project Pages $6/pkg. of 40
Trees, Fruit and Vegetables Classification Kit
Inlcudes velcro board and 59 flashcards. (Benny's) $19.95
Four Seasons Trees (Carson-Dellosa) $9.99
Bulletin board display
Big-Tree/ Kid- Drawn (Carson-Dellosa) $11.99
Bulletin board display
Shivat HaMinim Poster Set
Includes 7 pictures 13 in. x 9.5 in   $16.95
Tu Bishvat Resources in Hebrew:
Chagim B'Ivrit: Ramah I, II,  (URJ Press) $9.35 each


Each level of this new series contains a section on Tu Bishvat featuring

stories, activities, songs.

Particulary useful resource for stories told in easy Hebrew relating to each holiday of the year.
Tchanim U'fiilyot L'Chag HaChanukah V'Tu Bishvat by Miriam Tzarfati
     (David Rechgold Publishing) $20
 Discussion ideas, craft suggestions, clip art,poems and more...
 Geared for Kindergarten and Lower Elementary.
Miyatzeg: Tchanim U'fiiluyot L'Tu Bishvat
Background on the holiday, uses for trees, poems, worksheets, stories, clip art and more.
NEW: Zman L'Sasson U'Lizikaron : Kerech Alef (Keren Tali)
Wonderful sourcebook for all the Chagim, for upper grades.  $12 each volume
NEW: Maagal Hachagim (Keren Tali)
Lovely resource on the entire holiday cycle, for elementary grades.

Front Cover

What do people and plants have in common? How does growing a garden resemble building relationships with others? Must you have your own grandchildren to be a bubbie? Internationally recognized early-childhood educator and recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award, Dr. Ruth Pinkenson Feldman answers these questions and many more in her newly published book of wisdom and inspiration, The Green Bubbie.

“Bubbie” is the Yiddish word for grandmother, but Dr. Feldman reveals that all women can be bubbies--to their own grandchildren, to other children, and to other adults as well. Just as a grandmother connotes acceptance and unconditional love, we can offer those gifts to people--children, women, and men--we meet in our daily lives. A master gardener, Feldman uses the metaphor of the garden to explain how propagating and nurturing plants is similar to feeding and tending the souls of others as well as ourselves.

Dr. Feldman founded an infant/toddler program at the Germantown Jewish Center in Philadelphia and was a consultant for early childhood education for the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education in Greater Philadelphia. For more than ten years, she served as the director of early childhood education services at JCC Association, the continental network for Jewish community centers in North America. While there, she introduced An Ethical Start, an innovative values curriculum for JCC preschools based on teachings in Pirke Avot, as well as This New Month, a Web-based program for JCC early-childhood educators, which provides teaching ideas for the Jewish calendar. Dr. Feldman has taught at Gratz College, Arcadia University, and Temple University.

Incorporating ancient Jewish wisdom and values into contemporary life, The Green Bubbie crosses the boundaries of denomination and even religious traditions. Everyone can benefit from Dr. Feldman’s insights into friendship, loss, love, and fear, and how powerful human connections can make our lives more meaningful and as beautiful as the flowers blooming in the garden.

The Green Bubbie on

In the chorus to the song entitled, "Stop, Think, and Control" (words and music by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek) children learn not only to sing the words, but to internalize the message that that we all  get angry, but that there are ways of dealing with those feelings. The words go like this:
 "STOP, THINK, TAKE CONTROL of yourself, 
 You've got to STOP, THINK AND CONTROL. 
Find another solution to the anger pollution.
 Gotta Stop Think and Control"

Very young children know about feelings. They want and need the tools to express those feelings. They need the words, they need the role models.  They know very well that we ALL get angry. They- as well as all of the adults in their midst need to  learn to USE WORDS. But to be really effective, they need to learn this in a society where the adults are also learning to find other  solutions to the ANGER POLLUTION in our culture, and in the world.

It is only too easy to point fingers to "mental illness" and "gun control" very big, 'macro issues' Yes, certainly  more gun laws need to be enacted, and understanding, treatment, and legislation of mental illness need to change.

Words like "EVIL"  are hard to grasp. Using words like "Sick" or "Bad" should be used very cautiously with young children because all kids get sick, and a situation like mass murder is well beyond 'bad.'  Think about how terrible things can happen when people lose control and stop thinking.  Help children talk about what to do when they get angry.  This is a conversation that should be part of our every day conversations not just in response to tragedy. 

How to help change a culture? Culture is the language we use every day. Culture is  the ways we relate to each other. It is the lyrics of our songs. It is what we believe in and how we work and play. It is what we eat and how we share meals together. Our culture is the little things that we do everyday. Those little things become the culture which defines us.

Keep it simple. While we call for changes in the entertainment industry, turn off the TV- the news as well as the 'drama' and the eliminate violent video games. 

While we call for gun control legislation on the national level, on a  personal level, let's think about some non-violent solutions to the 'anger pollution'  we all confront each day.

Don’t be a chicken!

But be sure to come meet ours in March!
Don’t miss out on an inspirational Shabbaton filled with learning, celebration, and groundbreaking Jewish thought.
Join an intergenerational, pluralistic community of Jewish farmers, rabbis, educators, scholars and consumers from across the country. Register now before it is too late!

A spontaneous act: a 17 month old reaches his little hand onto the lap of a 1oo year old woman and pulls on her fingers to wish her a Good Shabbos. And then, satisfied with the enthusiastic response he goes from person to person, across the women's section, at the end of the Shabbos service at the Assisted Living Center.
I watched with tears in my eyes as these elderly ladies, many dressed beautifully in their Shabbos finery, caught this little tiny hand as they greeted him with smiles, "Good Shabbos, Good Shabbos." While he doesn't speak yet, he certainly communicates, and has internalized the social interactions of eye contact, handshaking, the importance of touching and interpersonal connection. That these gestures were familiar was confirmed by his 4 year old brother, proudly remarking that 'this is the first time he has gone around to wish everybody a Good Shabbos!" Both little boys know that this is what is done at the end of the Shabbos davening; this is how we grow together, and become a community.

In the Men's section, the little toddler walked between the wheel chairs, waiting patiently until each man returned his handshake. Even though he uses just a few fingers, and alternates hands, the littlest member of this 'congregation/community' is a participant, a member of the tribe!
While I stood in the background, I knew I was the acknowledged (relatively young) grandmother- I have not felt this 'young'-- and I mean, really felt 'young' as I did while watching these beautiful elderly ladies in their 80's, 90's and 100's I found myself looking up to them as role models to me- yes I hope I look that good! I hope I have such a sense of style. I hope I can still daven and read or remember the prayers. And yet, when one of the women told me she has 25 great-grand children, I cringed when she told me she hardly sees any of them. I asked her to 'keep an eye on mine.' I hope I will always feel like I see my kids very frequently.

I don't live near my own grand children, although we are within driving distance- while I do see them often, and talk to them almost daily, I am grateful that they can be a source of nachas and joy to the many 'bubbies' and zaydes' they meet where they live.

It's a sort of "reverse green bubbie" phenomenon- reaching out wherever you are. Connecting across the generations is good for all of us at every age. It's life well lived, appreciated for what we have in common. Our humanity. Our capacity to reach out and connect, hands across the generations is a good prescription for a healthy heart.

So whether you are about to embark on a Thanksgiving celebration, and/or you are thinking about your Shabbos table- expand your age span - and love the ones you're with!

Many of us are familiar with the Pray, Eat, Pray, pattern of Jewish practice. Well, in this Harvest Season- which is also the spiritual season of birth and renewal- a New Year brings us many opportunities for reflection, renewal and redemption. Today is Hoshana Rabbah, bringing us to the end of Sukkos, and time to put away our Lulav and Estrog- Let's take action and put into practice our words to connect mind, body and spirit, to live in a way that our life is our thoughts, deeds and actions. We jsut read in Koheles, that there is a time to plant and a time to sow- well if you want a harvest for next Sukkos, get ready to plant now!
It is a time to begin the cycle of a new year- not only in our minds and hearts, but in the very real gardens and grounds that we live on.
So here it is - a call to action: GROW YOUR OWN (Aravos- willows.)
Keep your Aravos in water and they will sprout roots. Plant the rooted willows into the ground, some sun, shade is good.
Become part of the pray, plant and grow cycle yourself.
The 'aravos' willows will grow here in the Northest, and almost anywhere- we live in the Philadelphia area and the Aravos I planted almost 20 years ago are now big bushes, whose branches are shared each year with many friends and neighbors and visiting family. In years past we have backed up several institutions even Penn Hillel! Our Aravos harvest seems to grow as it is used, the more you cut, the more it grows!
Each year my husband (the green zayda) cuts back the growth on Tammuz 17- (which as you may recall, is a Fast day) Once again breaking with the "pray eat pray" syndrome, it proves that even on days when you are fasting and don't eat, well, you can still foster new growth in the garden, as you cut, pray, cut!
If you are reading this after Sukkos, and or you don't have any Aravos this year to root- stop by some time and we will share our Aravos with you. The good thing about Aravos, just like 'bubbies' if they are 'green' they are still alive, ready and willing to grow.

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Will you still need me when I'm 64? Today is actually the 64th birthday of 'the green zaydee.' I realized today how much the operative word in the Beatles'song was always the "I" as in "when I am 64"
It's one thing to imagine oneself growing older- it always seems so far away. It is quite another thing to think of family and friends growing older. As a boomer, I was always struck by how many people were my age, no matter how old I was. I remember when I thought everybody was a 'pre-teen' Of course the advertising business has reinforced my
ego=centrism at every stage. I have always told my children that I have never had a new idea or interest, or reached a new milestone in what I thought of as my own development, without having some version of my newest stage or interest appear as a cover story in the NYTimes magazine.
Life catches up to the lyrics of the songs we sang before we were 3o. Now that we are in cutting edge Boomer age range, it's good to reflect and re-group.
YES I thank G-d I still love the 'green zayda' in my life, and that our life is so much more than I could have imagined at 30. I do have to say that the stanza about weeding the garden and doing the chores- who could ask for more??? That still resonates.
It is not always so simple to have a life filled with the simple things. Knowing what the basics are, and being grateful for what we do have is a blessing everyday.
'64' doesn't seem bad,it's much better than I thought it could be (no, I am not 64)- it's slightly over half the way I see things. And the best is being with, and around people of all ages- not every one is 64!
It's not about letting yourself 'go' as we get older, it's more about letting yourself "become" not only what we imagined, but so much more.

Happy Birthday, to all the green bubbies and zaydees!

I recently returned from the West Coast. Of course it is not uncommon for people to go to the LA area to see the homes of stars, or to hope to catch a glimpse of a star trying to hide behind those big sunglasses. I really don't think I could recognize a Hollywood star if I bumped into one who was wearing a large print name tag.
But for me, I had an incredible thrill- seeing timeless stars. I looked UP. and what did I see? I SAW MARS no kidding. There it was in the dark night sky- just where it is supposed to be! As well as the smaller flashing star right next to it. And when I turned around and looked up again- there is was- THE BIG DIPPER! Unlike many things in life that appear smaller as we grow older or taller- the stars in the sky retain their enormity, while we shrink in humility at their enormity.

Truth be told, there was a telescope. But, it was so complicated, I couldn't figure out how to use it. My host had used it the night before so I was told where in the sky to look. We turned out all the lights in this home in the Valley, and against this beautiful night sky, the stars and planets appeared just as clearly albeit a bit smaller than when viewed through the fancy scope.
But it just proves, that if you really want to "see stars " turn out the lights- don't fear the dark, just look up and be amazed.
You can only imagine the stories I told my grandchildren when I returned...we've been looking up ever since.