Tag Archive | new year

Parsha: Bo

I have been wanting to start posting notes on the weekly Torah portions (‘parsha’) for ages, and I have been planning to alternate between the Torah portions and the Anglican weekly lectionary readings for Sundays.

I would have liked to start in the Autumn with the beginning of the new Jewish year* and/ or in November at the beginning of the new Church year, but moving house and getting ill got in the way.

I can’t promise to be consistent, but I am at least at home, pretty laid-up and so with plenty of time on my hands for writing.

So instead of waiting for the next appropriate starting point, I thought I would just jump right in and look at the next portion, which is Bo! (Go!) in Exodus.

Torah: Exodus 10:1-13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-26
Brit Chadashah: Luke 22:7-30
1 Corinthians 11:24-34

For those not familiar with the Jewish ‘lectionary’ as it were, the weekly Torah portion is a set passage from the Pentateuch, the Haftarah is a passage from the prophets which in some way recalled the Torah passage to memory, when in times past Jews were forbidden from reading the actual Torah portion itself.

Brit Chadashah means ‘New Covenant’, or what is commonly referred to as the New Testament. Obviously this last selection does not come from Jewish tradition, but is selected to match the Torah and Haftarah portions according to topic. There is no agreed-upon selection from the Brit Chadashah across the board. Individual congregations may select their own passages, or they may use the suggested passages in The Complete Jewish Bible. I am using the selections from the Hebrew for Christians website.

Bo! is the penultimate installment of the Exodus story as the battle with Pharaoh comes to a dramatic end with the last three plagues: Locusts, Darkness, and the Killing of the Firstborn.

Pharaoh is still stubbornly refusing to let the Israelite slaves leave Egypt to go and worship their God in the desert, despite his officials telling him

“Do you not yet realise that Egypt is ruined?”

But, cryptically, we are told that God himself has ‘hardened Pharaoh’s heart’, “that you may know that I am the LORD.” From our modern perspective, this seems wrong, even cruel.  If the story is to be taken literally, it is surely hard to understand. But is it perhaps rather that God allowed him to be hardhearted? Allowed him to be his worst?

After the plague of Darkness, Pharaoh loses his temper with Moses – as though it is Moses stubbornly keeping on asking, as though the plagues were meant to change his mind instead. Pharaoh just doesn’t seem to get it. His stubbornness is greater than his fear of the LORD, even after the awesome plagues.

Then, before the last plague, God tells Moses that this incidence in the month of Nisan is to be marked in the calendar as the beginning of the new year* for the Israelites…

“Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honour the LORD for the generations to come.” Exodus 12:42

…and instructions are given for the Israelites to avoid being struck by the Angel of Death when he ‘passes over’ to kill the firstborn of every household: the slaying of the Lamb, the painting of blood on the doorposts. It’s important to notice that the Lamb is not just selected and killed, it is brought into the house to live with them for four days before being killed. Can you imagine?! Can you see the children loving those little lambs, cuddling up to them, and being heartbroken with they are killed for them to eat?

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven – Jesus in Matthew 18:3

Midnight comes, and the Angel of the LORD strikes down the firstborn of every household not protected, including Pharaoh’s, at which time he tells Moses to Go! Get out of Egypt! So the Israelites leave, but the Egyptians hand over their silver, their gold, their clothing to them as they go! “And thus they plundered the Egyptians.” What are we to make of this? Is it a kind of re-payment for the 400 years of slavery?

The Parsha ends with instructions on the consecration and ‘redemption’ of firstborn males (both of livestock and of their own sons).

“It will be like a sign on your hand a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his might hand.”

The Haftarah passage is a message from God to the prophet Jeremiah about His judgement on Egypt, and specifically the god Amon of Thebes, through the attack of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. Interestingly, each of the ten plagues of Egypt were linked with one specific god of the Egyptians, apparently designed so that everybody would see that the LORD ‘Jehovah’ is supreme over them all. See chart here (opens a pdf file)

Both new testament passages relate to the Last Supper and Jesus’ inauguration  of the eucharist; or, as Messianic Jews understand it, Yeshua’s addition of a fifth cup to the Passover seder. (See a really helpful analysis of the mystery of the fifth cup here.)

It is said that there are 70 aspects to the Torah, like a priceless cut diamond – every time you look at it, you see another facet. Beyond the literal interpretation which is often fraught with difficulty and disturbing scenes our modern sense cannot cope with, there is a rich treasure trove of symbolism that is easily missed if we don’t have our minds open to search for them, and of course I am barely scratching the surface here.

* On the topic of Jewish New Years, the new year at Passover as instructed her is not observed with any notable traditions that I am aware of, although it is called the ‘religious new year’ by some, the traditional new year is in the Autumn at ‘Rosh haShanah’, which is more properly the Feast of Trumpets. For a discussion of how Jewish New Year came to be observed in the Autumn, see here.

Happy New Year to you!



2015 in review

I thought I would share the WordPress 2015 annual report for this blog again, for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s kind of ironically funny. I think I’ve been less consistent and productive than last year, but I will let myself off for having had a really poopy year altogether.

Secondly though, and more seriously, I notice that the report has included photos that I posted of Michaela Garecht, the daughter of an online friend of mine who was taken in a witnessed stranger abduction in California in 1988, so there’s another chance to draw attention to her case. If it feels as though it is just too far away and too long ago to matter to you, please spare a thought and maybe say a prayer for her dear mother Sharon who is still feeling the pain and torture of not knowing where she is.

When I wrote my post on Michaela, I said that I would write some more posts drawing attention to unsolved cases of missing children. I haven’t, partly because it is such an unthinkably painful and difficult subject to tackle. But as I mentioned previously, I came into contact with these grieving families when I was going through a different kind of grief, and I wanted to help them in a small way. I may still go ahead and do that at some point, with the families’ permission.

One such case is Katrice Lee – the family of whom have endured unbelievable torment since her disappearance 34 years ago in Paderborn in Germany – firstly through the mismanagement of the investigating authorities and then more recently through the harassment of a mentally unwell woman who claimed to be Katrice. I would like to write a proper post for her family, but in the meantime, please visit that link and do your part to keep her story in the public awareness if you can (share that link on twitter, facebook, or whatever). Perhaps, even now, it will jog somebody’s memory so her family can get some peace and closure finally.

On a lighter note, I am just so, so glad to put 2015 to bed, and tentatively looking forward to having a good, happy, healthy, prosperous, successful new year 2016 – for all of us. Thank-you to all my readers and followers who have stuck with me through all the anger, grief, misery, and crazy dreams this year. Happy New Year!

Click here to see the complete report.

Birthday Fun


We have a birthday coming up this week, and we’re heading out to a second showing of Star Wars as one of the birthday treats. It’s always a challenge to organise presents and parties for birthdays so close to Christmas, and it’s difficult to make them memorable, as they’re normally quiet, family affairs.

When birthdays fall during the ‘school’ week, though, it is nice as home educators to have the freedom to take time off from academics to go on outings, or just to chill out for the day.


I thought I would share this birthday memory from the Svengelska Hemskolan archive:

We’ve been gearing up for a birthday this week, so we have managed only to get very little formal ‘schooly’ work done. On Tuesday we received a CD of stories and nursery rhymes from a toddler-group we used to go to (produced and recorded by the group and the Library service), which proved to be really popular. It reminded me that we used to sit down everyday and have music-time with nursery rhymes and action songs, but we haven’t done it for a long while.

On Wednesday, the birthday boy got to choose all our activities, so we ended up watching “The Blue Planet” on DVD (one of his presents) most of the morning, and in the afternoon we went for a walk in Salcey Forest with a group of friends. The children particularly enjoyed running and jumping along the tree-top ‘Elephant’ walk and jumping in muddy puddles! (Mummy was slightly less enthusiastic!)


More recently, I have tried to re-introduce music time or circle time as part of our ‘Morning Time‘ (see Cindy Rollins’ lovely Ordo Amoris blog for details.) But right now all our music books (we love the books from A & C Black such as ‘Okki-Toki-Unga’ and ‘The Jolly Herring’ amongst others) are all in storage so I’m not sure what shape our music time will take from now on. Dragon-tamer has discovered that he loves the Beatles, so we may learn some of their songs to sing, just for fun. I remember learning ‘Yellow Submarine’ at school myself. Thank goodness for the internet! I don’t know how we ever coped without it!

2015 in review

Thank-you to all my readers and followers for staying with us in 2015. I know I haven’t been terribly consistent, and it probably doesn’t look very professional because I rarely manage to include photos, but in my defence, we have had a very disrupted year and, really, this blog has never been some kind of business project – there are no affiliate links or whatever (although we do have an Amazon A-Store, which I will try and update with useful books and resources).

What this blog is about really is just a bit of fun to keep a record of what we do for our own enjoyment, and hopefully to help other home educators find their own paths along the way.

Depending on how this year goes for us, I have lots of plans and ideas to include here – more book reviews, more field trip/ outing reports, and lots more. (If there’s anything you would particularly like to see here, just sing out!)

So I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive new year 2016 and look forward to reading your blogs and interacting with the home education community both the UK and further afield.

WordPress prepared a report, which I thought I would share, as it is pretty!

Click here to see the complete report.

Have a great year!

Rounding Up the Year – 2014 – It’s been a weird one.

2014 has not been the greatest year, but it certainly hasn’t been the worst year by a very long mile.

We had only just moved into this house (in November 2013) with mixed feelings – not the home I had hoped for, we’re still renting with no end in sight, but relieved to be out of the hell that was the previous rental. But on the home front I have spent most of the year battling the agents over a long list of problems, not least of which the intermittent hot water, which thankfully was finally fixed in time for Christmas.

At the beginning of the year, I set out meaning to read one book a week for #Read52 but I doubt I have even read one a month. I can’t remember another year when I have read so little in fact. I started off the year with lots of energy and did several courses – an OU course, DD101, an introduction to Social Science, as well as several MOOCS, and I also volunteered with Scouts and Guides AND Boys / Girls Brigade. By the beginning of the summer holidays I had totally overdone it and had a relapse which kept me almost housebound over the entire summer and well into September. I have been getting better since then but I have had to pace myself and I haven’t resumed any of my volunteering again so far.

In the Spring – also when I was feeling healthy and strong and on top of the world – I put myself forward for Ordination. I had two interviews and was informed that, although it was considered that I had a ‘call’, I wasn’t quite Anglican enough yet and needed to do several things before coming back to them. Although I know it was the right decision, I did experience that as a kind of rejection that has made me feel quite miserable and frustrated since. This Spring I will need to decide whether or not I want to pursue it. I have a feeling that it may be an uphill struggle, and it’s a funny kind of mirror of the struggle one has to go through in order to convert to Judaism – you can expect to be sent away and persist several times before your wish to convert is taken seriously.

And then the other big issue of 2014 was the beginning of a possible adoption journey which so far has consisted of a lot of reading (mainly of blogs – see the blog roll to the right for recommendations) and attending information meetings with the Council and an agency, but not much else so far. I have been lucky enough to discover the amazing adoption community on twitter which, since mostly anonymous, is able to be very open and honest about the reality of adoption and they have been kind enough to answer my questions.

Oh and finally, I did successfully complete my second ‘novel’ for NaNoWriMo in November. I haven’t started editing yet…

Overall, 2014 has been something of a weird and unusual year – not good, not bad, but a lot of new stuff and big stuff being contemplated which could possibly lead to big changes.

There seems to be a lot of pressure to make resolutions and have a ‘new start’ for the new year. But ‘New Year’ is an invented non-entity. The winter solstice has already passed and there isn’t even a new or a full moon – there is no astronomical reason to say that the year turns on this day or night and yet somehow we imbue this date with significance that give it a kind of magic. Whatever. Every day can be a new start. I would love to resist it, but I find myself – as I often seem to do – in the position of being very unhappy with where my life is and feel the need to make some decisions about the direction it is taking. In that sense I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to make a new start. but on the other hand, I feel as though there is very little within my control that I can change.

I have realised that I perceive myself as a victim in many areas while often seeing everything as being ‘all my fault’ – all of which results inevitably in misery. in other words, my thinking has become rather negative and unhelpful.

I have made some painful realisations recently, the details of which I won’t go into in any depth but they revolve around needing to rely on myself for what I need. This is nothing new really – when I did the 12 Steps back in 2010 in working through grief and did a ‘life evaluation’, it became clear that my life was very strongly characterised by disappointment. What has taken me a little longer to take on board is the fact that it hasn’t just been ‘bad luck’ or that I just need to wait for hope to be realised around the corner. No, it is that my expectations (of God, of marriage, of family, of friends, of church, of community, of neighbours) were wildly outside what they were prepared to give or be to me. (The book ‘Disappointment with God’ by Philip Yancey, that I read many years ago springs to mind. Worth reading, although it doesn’t resolve anything, and I seem to remember wanting to throw it across the room! But it very eloquently explores the theme and I do recommend it.)

So the crux of the matter, I think, is that I need to change my thinking. I don’t mean that I need to ‘think positively’ – I have had an earful this year about ‘the Secret’ / Law of Attraction from people who have a ridiculously easy life because they’re selfishly and thoughtlessly living at others’ expense but believe they have ‘attracted’ their good fortune by thinking positively while all the dreadful things that have happened to other people were also somehow ‘attracted’ by them. NO, NO, NO! Although that philosophy may be ‘attractive’ (pun intended) it really is the most offensive claptrap when you think about it in any depth. So as my Dad (of blessed memory) used to say, “Take the meat and leave the bones” – if it helps you to think positively, that’s great! Please just don’t let it be a weapon to bash yourself or others when disappointment, failure and disaster happen. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. And if you’re successful while others aren’t, it’s not their fault. Really, people, as a philosophy LoA is severely lacking. It’s not that simple. Life is (and people are) complex, multi-faceted, inter-connected and unpredictable.

What I do mean is that I need to start thinking of myself as capable – capable of providing for my own needs without relying on anybody else to make me happy, capable of making my own decisions, capable of making the life that I want for myself without relying on anybody else to do it for me.

So, 2015…

My main goals are always along the same lines – get healthier, enjoy life more, be a better person, be more disciplined. This year though, I would also like to learn better how to look after myself (knowing now that nobody else is going to do it). That means, in the first instance, forcing myself to go to the hairdresser’s. Its such a small thing but I have developed something of a hairdresserphobia. I have probably only been perhaps three times in the last 15 years or more. I know that, if I manage to get there, I will feel better for it, but I really do have to force myself to do it.

I am intending to sign up for some new courses. My OU account is still apparently having funding problems, so I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll be able to do the course I had intended (I wasn’t able to sign up for anything in September but I was assured it had been sorted in time for the spring term, but it seems not…), but I have signed up for a Ministry Course with the deanery and a free Archaeology MOOC, and I may do some other things, depending on finances.

I have been extremely frustrated with my de-cluttering efforts over the holidays so far. I was hoping to be able to have the house spic and span with a view to finally registering for Stage 1 of the adoption process. (It has been around 8 months now since we first enquired with the Council about adoption). So now I’m not sure whether untidy house is an insurmountable obstacle. I have got rid of nearly 50 books along with old furniture and lots of other junk including 20 years of magazines! But the place seems ten times more untidy that when I started so it’s obviously going to be an ongoing project.

I do know that, for the purpose of adoption, I need to do some work on building up a bigger and better support network, since any that I had before we moved down here is now completely non-existent, and developing a new one down here has not come easily.

I may come back with some more specific goals linked to specific times and dates because I think the deadline aspect is a crucial layer of accountability that causes resolutions to fail when they’re not included.

So finally, wishing all (any?) readers a happy new year and, as ever, I hope to be more consistent 🙂