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Limmud l’Mamma

June 22, 2011 – 12:49 pm27 Comments

By Lior Misrachi

The other day I complained to my husband about my iphone (I find that I often lean on it in such a way that I turn myself on mute) and he told me to stop ‘white whining’. He had just read about a new idiom in the Good Weekend; a ‘white whine’. When people who ostensibly have nothing to complain about, complain about something trivial and materialistic – like an iphone.

So, while I sip my white wine alone tonight, allow me to whine.

I love my husband’s job. Michael is the Education Director of Encounters @ Shalom, part of The Shalom Institute here in Sydney. He gets to direct amazing events such as the Sydney Jewish Writers’ Festival, Limmud-Oz (Sydney) and was responsible for bringing Limmud-Oz Fest to Australia.

The perks I get from his job are amazing. Last year I got to have dinner with Yehuda Bauer. I spent quality time with Ron Ben Yishai. I walked the Bondi to Bronte with Steve Israel.

Since my days at Machon I admired Steve and would have sorely loved to hear more of him. He was one of the primary presenters at last year’s inaugural Limmud-Oz Fest. But, I just happened to be 37 weeks pregnant at the time. I missed out. I spent the weekend at my parents’ place alone and kept looking at the clock wondering what I was missing. Our beautiful son Eitan was born five days later! Lucky I didn’t listen to those who told me first babies never come early!

In 2005 I went to visit my grandparents in Israel. My cousins introduced me to an up-and-coming Israeli artist by the name of Efrat Gosh. I was hooked and have been following her career and her music since then.

In 2008 Michael and I travelled to England to participate in Limmud Conference – the original one. It was an inspirational weekend. And I fell in culinary love. With Israeli celebrity chef, Gil Hovav. Not only is he a wonderful cook, he is such a delightful man. Kind and modest despite his fame and his yichis. I had already read his biography and now went out and purchased his cookbooks.

So for many years now I have been listening to Efrat Gosh and cooking ‘with’ Gil Hovav – sometimes even together. So you can just imagine my excitement when I learnt that BOTH Efrat and Gil were going to be a part of Limmud-Oz! AMAZING!

Did I mention the perks of being Michael’s wife? Last Friday night we had dinner with the international presenters that came to Limmud-Oz. And I just happened to be sitting opposite Gil Hovav. I planned to be witty and charming and ask insightful questions; not the ones that everyone else asks.

Eitan, however, had other plans for me. Our son is usually an amazing sleeper and very transportable. That Friday night however, he just would not settle. And I found myself pacing up and down and singing to him in a dark room while everyone else mingled and chatted. Instead of witty and charming I was flustered and covered in saliva and vomit. At the end of the night I had the feeling of being left behind. I felt deflated and disappointed. That night Eitan did not sleep and on Shabbat I discovered that he was teething. Typical. 6 months and 2 days old and my little yeke has to be bang on time! Couldn’t wait three days for Limmud-Oz to be over.

Today was the first day of Limmud-Oz. Eitan had had his morning sleep, his breakfast and his morning feed.  He was surprisingly calm on our drive to the University of New South Wales. But then, just as we arrived, everything went pear shaped. My chilled little boy whined and whimpered and cried all morning. I didn’t get to the first session and not the second (Gil Hovav’s just by the way).

I left Gil’s session after two minutes, feeling that sense of deflation and went to change Eitan’s nappy. I was supposed to be in a panel during the next session and wanted Eitan to be clean and fed before I passed him over so I could speak with a clear conscience. But again, Eitan had other plans for me. He peed all over me, himself and the bench I was using. He screamed and screamed and I was forced to go home. No Gil Hovav for me. And though Efrat Gosh’s main concert is tonight she is giving an afternoon one tomorrow. And I won’t be there. I own many of Gil’s books and all of Efrat’s CD’s. Most of those in the audience for both of them had never heard of them before.

And thus I find myself  alone at home listening to Efrat (Lerot Et Haor on repeat) and having a white whine.

Except that here’s the thing. My son was not himself today. He was sore and unhappy and clingy. And there was no one who could give him what he needed except me. He clung on to me tightly all day. He grabbed handfuls of my hair and would not let go. He nuzzled into my neck whimpering while I sang to him and soothed him and kissed him. I saw the tension melt away from his body as I gently rubbed ointment into his tender gums. I rocked him as usual while I fed him before bed and held his loving gaze. His big brown seal eyes holding mine. And I haven’t felt so blessed since the first time I locked eyes with my beautiful son six months ago as he entered the world. Truly tonight I am the luckiest woman alive.

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  • Brinn says:

    Wow, this writer is boring. Great name dropping but no one cares. Please find writers who have somewhat of an interesting life or story to share. Yawn….

  • Rachel SD says:

    Hi Brinn,

    Mean, and too cowardly to criticise under your own name?

    Are all the writers who have an “interesting life or story to share” men, or at least childless?

  • Brinn says:

    Sorry Rachel, I didnt quite catch your full name….

    And no, interesting doesnt equal male or childless. But it does require that you have expereienced something, an event, an encounter, a discovery, an accomplishment that is somewhat fascinating or out of the ordinary. Although it is an accomplishment to have a child and be a parent, it is neither uncommon nor fascinating to hear about the mundane activites of cleaning and grooming an infant, whether you be a writer for this website or Angelina Jolie.

    Although a mothers little bundle of joy may be her whole world (and should be), the same is not true for me or others. There is no interest in the mundane endeavours you go through with your little one. Blogging for the sake of blogging is the curse of todays generation because everyone thinks they are a somebody, and that somebody else actually cares about what they are writing.

    So please try and find writers who have somewhat of an intresting tale or viewpoint to share. Perhaps you can start with mothers who have actually done something extraordinary, such as foster care, or adoption from third world countries. Bet you wouldnt hear those women ‘white whining’.

  • frosh says:

    Rachel’s full name is freely available here: http://galusaustralis.com/contributors/

    The idea that every article will appeal to every reader is absurd. A small but significant proportion of the articles on Galus do not appeal to me either as a reader.

    Likewise, I like reading The Australian, but as a West Australian now living in Victoria, articles on South Australian state politics rarely appeal to me. Perhaps I’ll write to the editor of The Oz and the authors of those articles to tell them that.

  • Rachel SD says:

    Hi Brinn,

    I think you’ll find that writing about parenting predates the internet, but publicising ones own opinion about what is interesting in a mean and anonymous way has become much more common on the internet.

  • Leyla T says:

    Eds: Comment removed. Posted from same IP as previous comments with different psuedonym. No genuine email address supplied. Please see our commenting and moderation policy for more information on why we don’t allow people to comment under multiple psuedonmyms on the same post. If you are in fact a different person to the previous commenter, please email us at editorial AT galusaustralis.com

  • Miriam says:

    Yeah, boring – and what’s with all the name dropping? and what’s with the editors of the site abusing people for commenting? don’t have comments if you’re going to tell people to shut up – it’s up to you, after all. It’s just cheap to abuse people for not knowing who Rachel SD is.

  • Rachel SD says:

    Hi Miriam,

    No one is abusing anyone for commenting or for not knowing who I am – Frosh merely pointed out that my information is available. Seeing that there is a link though from my name when I comment, perhaps people should follow it before making a call on anonymity.

    Feedback is always welcome, but if it’s mean-spirited then people (including the editors) have a right to give feedback on the feedback.

  • frosh says:


    I wrote
    “Rachel’s full name is freely available here: http://galusaustralis.com/contributors/

    I’m not sure how this constitutes “abuse”…

  • Brinn says:

    Take it as constructive criticism.

    If you feature something on your homepage as a headline article, you obviously expect people to read it and for it to cater to a vast majority of readers.

    The readers of Galus Australis expect more than a whining mum discussing how difficult it is to be a new mother living in an affluent Jewish community. There are much greater issues and much greater challenges facing the world, facing Israel, facing Australia, and facing the Jewish community. And there are many many more people with much more diverse and interesting stories or points of view than a mother ranting on about raising an infant.

    Just give your readers a little more credit and a little more substance when asking them to read a story you proudly feature on your homepage.

    With love,
    Brinne Errsagrinners

  • Mandi Katz says:

    I like this piece. Sure, for those of us who have kids, there’s more to life than parenthood, and not everybody chooses parenthood or is able to be a parent. But for those of us who are parents, it is great sometimes to read about other people’s experience with specific and relatable cultural context.

    The topic of parenting – and mothering in particular – fills books which fill bookshelves all over the world. Some are about extraordinary experiences; most are more pedestrian because falling in love with a baby is like falling in love with a man or a woman – every story is a love story and if you can write, its good copy. Lior can write.

    And I can tell you this about parenthood, when you think you’ve got it nailed, the universe has a habit of pulling you up and reminding you of the risks of having and loving a child.

    This is an online magazine about Jewish identity – why so much ire about two pieces on the identity of a new mother and a very Jewish challenge she faces?

  • Shimrit says:

    Thank you for the article.
    As a mother myself I related to that general feeling of being unable to be part of or contribute to events that I’ve been part of for many years, until my little one showed up.

    And like the Hebrew saying goes: צרת רבים חצי נחמה
    Others sharing your troubles is at least- half consolation.

    For those of you who’ve never been a parent, perhaps leave your judgment until you become one and realise some topics become more interesting with time.

  • Michelle says:

    I think this is a beautiful piece of personal growth. What this woman achieved in this weekend many take a lifetime ( although I am sure the lessons will need to be repeated…;) .)
    She went from someone thinking about herself, and her own desires and dreams, to thinking about those of someone else, which contradicted her own and left her feeling torn. Finally she reached the stage where tending to someone else’s needs actually became her own desires and dreams. To be able to reach a peace with these conflicts is a lifelong lesson we need in maintaining relationships, both with people and with G-d.
    May the auther grow from strength to strength as should we all. May we all be blessed to look outside ourselves and be at peace with our roles in life. B’hatzlacha raba

  • Miriam says:

    I’m not sure that a site like this is the right place for sharing your troubles – unless it’s a closed shop for a small circle of friends and the like, which, judging from the editorial behaviour, it seems to be. Not especially inviting, I have to say.

    And anyway, I can’t really figure out the point of the piece – it’s an awful lot of name dropping to get to that so often repeated, rather smug point of ‘you don’t know how blessed you are until you have children’. That may well be true, (and often is not, and yes, I have children) but – so? what does this have to do with Jewish identity? or, really, parenting? sharing your troubles indeed, but to what point?

  • Andrew Wirth says:

    I enjoyed the read – its great to have a change of pace and mellow out with a gentle mood piece- not everything has to be adrenalin and heartburn

  • Ittay says:

    Hi Lior,
    Thanks for sharing this. When I heard we wouldn’t be able to on the panel on Progressive Orthodoxy at Limmud together because of Eitan, I thought to myself, Lior must be upset to miss out on sharing all she has researched on this topic.
    Hopefully you will be able to write another article, perhaps for galus about your experiences with Progressive Orthodoxy and maybe even start the ball rolling for a shira style shule in syndey (with free babysitting :)

    I loved your final line “I rocked him as usual while I fed him before bed and held his loving gaze. His big brown seal eyes holding mine.”

    There’s few things on offer at limmud that are as special and engaging as putting a child to sleep who loves you.

    all the best

  • Grandma C says:

    There is a bit of deja vu in all this commentary. I remember when Lior wrote a previous article (also connected to motherhood), and there was similar criticism, and similar comments defending her article and the right of it to be published. The same points were made again in comments: We all choose what we wish to read, as we all have different interests. Being an interested Jewish grandmother (not Eitan’s!!), I have enjoyed reading Lior’s articles; sometimes there have been more cerebral articles written for Galus which hold no interest for me whatsoever; I always read the first paragraph as well as the synopsis, to see if I want to continue. Secondly: Look how many comments this article has generated – that has to be a good thing, right? Not all articles have cause much controversy and communication.
    By the way, I also attended a half day of Limmud Oz, and personally I found the three sessions given by Australian presenters far superior to one given by one of the overseas academic presenters – it was so boring I had to walk out. [It was not the singer or the chef….]

  • Grandma C says:

    And please excuse my grammatical/structural errors in my preceding comment. If you note the time, you’ll understand why.

  • AustIsr says:

    Yeah, I agree with the previous commentators. This article is not up to the usual Galus standards. It does not particularly promote intellectual stimulation nor informed debate on topical issues. Frankly, name dropping, promoting your partner’s workplace, and complaining about a wee-ing baby does nothing other than make the reader want to go elsewhere.

  • letter to the age says:

    Yes but have you met Natalie Portman, THAT is the real question to be asked here?

    Lighten up peeps, i enjoyed it and nice to have a break from the usual debate.


  • Shira Wenig says:

    It’s extremely mean-spirited to accuse this writer of being boring – particularly when she is writing on a topic which is so clearly close to her heart.
    It’s especially insensitive when you consider that for many new parents, the birth of their first child is joyful and fulfilling but also often isolating and alienating; for a new mother with the courage to express these feelings, receiving some of the responses above is a real slap in the face.

    One of the great things about this site is the wide range of articles it publishes. Plenty of people in the community would be interested in this piece and would be able to identify with Lior’s experiences. If you’re not one of them, that’s fine – just don’t read it.

    I distinctly remember the same comments being made about Lior’s earlier piece, and I don’t recall seeing any other articles on this site described as boring…maybe this says more about the commenters than the writer. I guess some people don’t look beyond the image of a baby pooing and vomiting to the issues Lior is discussing.

    This article raises some really important issues – for example:
    – The difficulty of balancing participation in community activities with caring for a child (which in turn raises the issue of how family-friendly and accessible our activities are, and whether they should be)
    – The challenge of selflessness, the changes we have to make to our priorities when we become parents, and finding a balance between your own interests and those of your child
    – The challenge of finding pleasure rather than frustration in the reality of parenting

    I don’t know Lior at all, but I assume that she didn’t post this article simply to inform us all about her baby’s bodily fluids; and the so-called name dropping seemed to me just her way of describing to us how much it means to her to attend a Limmud session and how prominently this kind of thing featured in her pre-baby life.

    I think it was a well written, heartwarming piece that I (and many people I know) can certainly relate to.
    Now please excuse me while I put my baby in the car seat and go pick up my other kids from school.

  • Rachel SD says:

    Hi Shira,

    I don’t have kids but last Rosh HaShana I was with family at a different shul to the one I usually go to. Before the Rabbi gave his drasha, he asked everyone to please take their children outside. This shul did not have any kids program so that basically meant that anyone with young kids was effectively sent outside. Most of these people were women in their 30s and a good proportion of the women in their 30s who were in attendence would have been in this position. I was very suprised that a Rabbi would want to exclude this demographic from listening to his Rosh Hashana drasha. I wondered how often this type of thing happens. In order to have inclusive communities, we need to think about these issues.

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Hi Rachel,
    That’s a really good example. Shul is a hard one – on one hand it’s a shame to exclude a whole sector of the community from being in shul, joining in tefilla and hearing the drasha; on the other hand it is completely appropriate for people to be able to daven and listen to the drasha in an atmosphere of respectful silence rather than a rowdy kindergarten.

    Personally I don’t take the view that every situation MUST be family-friendly – even if it means I am excluded – as some places are just not appropriate for kids; I also think parents have to be more tolerant of others and realise that other people might not think their child’s babbling is cute. But I think the community in general should make an effort to think about parents of young children and be more family-friendly, especially where compromises (like kids’ programs) are possible.

    In a setting like shul, my own view is that each minyan should develop their own culture as to what level of disturbance by kids they are happy to tolerate. Some might prefer to be kid-free, others might be happy to have kids coming in and out quietly, others might not mind kids running around with a minimum of noise – whatever allows that congregation to have a nice and meaningful service (which may well depend on the demographics of the shul). Also, some kids (not necessarily mine!) are capable of sitting quietly, so blanket rules might not be the best way. But I guess it depends on the situation.

    In a setting like Limmud, people have paid good money to hear the speakers, and it’s not fair for them to have crying babies and whinging toddlers spoiling the experience. On the other hand, it’s a shame for parents of young children to have to miss out altogether. Maybe a babysitting facility on the premises could help solve this dilemma. Or maybe there could be selected child-friendly sessions (like at the movies). In any case, recognition of the issue would be a good thing.

  • Michelle says:

    Dear Rachel,
    Rosh Hashana is a great example. To be in shul all day having a spiritual experience is not the role of a mother of small children, and not what G-d expects her to do. Therefore her spirituality is elsewhere, doing what G-d wants, and not necessarily what she wants.
    When G-d is judging on Rosh Hashana, we have no idea what He is judging. eg we might be in shul having an uplifting time, praying with great kavana/ intent and focus and at that very moment, we have a baby screaming in the child minding (that was provided to be inclusive of us in the shul), a 5 year old boy gone wild after eating lollies, not having been fed a proper lunch, running with sticks. What we are meant to be doing at that time is looking after our children. The physical and mundane becomes the spiritual, depending on the attitude. At the moment you are fulfilling the phyiscal needs of others, who need you, you are serving your purpose and doing what is expected of you at the time, submitting your own will. This is spirituality also. There is spiritual growth and spiritual learning to be gained in the seemingly mundane, raising it.

  • Shira Wenig says:

    You have a point, to some extent. I agree with you that there is spirituality to be gained in the mundane, that your own spirituality should not come at the cost of your childrens’ wellbeing, and that God does not expect a mother of small children to be in shul (that’s precisely the basis of womens’ exemption from time-bound mitzvot – which raises questions of its own, but that’s beside the point).

    But I don’t think you can say so definitively that “to be in shul all day having a spiritual experience is not the role of a mother of small children”. No mother should be told that she MUST be in shul all day; but she should equally not be told that her place is NOT in shul.

    Every woman has to find her own balance, with the wellbeing of her children in mind. Some women feel fulfilled never going to shul, some might want to make an extra special effort on Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur, and some might want to attend every Shabbat (and possibly on weekdays too). As long as you know that your kids are happy and being looked after by someone responsible, you can’t be faulted for wanting to be in shul if that’s what’s meaningful to you.

    With regard to Rachel’s example, the women being asked to leave were already in shul, so it was obviously important to them to be there.

    Of course you might find a baby screaming or a child running wild after eating lollies in a childcare setting, but this can happen any time kids are left with a babysitter – so that the parents can go to work or anywhere at all. Most people have no problem with using babysitters to give parents some time to fulfil their own needs. If one of these needs is going to shul, it shouldn’t be discouraged, as long as appropriate childcare can be found.

  • Michelle says:

    Hi Shira,
    I agree that if women with small children have adequate child care then for sure they can be in shul. I meant to say, that they don’t have to be there ( which can take many years to realise). How many of us have struggled to get to shul to last there a short time before being disturbed and it would have been easier not to have tried. I didn’t mean that they can’t go, just that they don’t have to, which is easier to say than to actually internalise and even not being there, they have a meaningful role to play.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Perhaps a video conference facility for members with children so that they can watch the presentation separate from the actual presentation at Limmud? The facility could incorporate family friendly facilities to enable comfortable surroundings for the families.

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