This is a special review for Mitzvot Unplugged because I asked my 11 year old daughter to contribute to it. In large part, because as soon as I got Pirkei Hallel she stole it to read. Additionally, the book has themes that have been of great interest to her in the past few months. She agreed to write and agreed to write in English. She does not want to be identified by name but I am including her review below. We decided to do this jointly, one review from the almost Bat Mitzvah and one review from the mother.
פרקי הלל מסע משותף לאם ולבת המצווה Pirkei Hallel A Joint Journey For the Mother and the Bat Mitzvah (Hebrew), 2018
Rina Ariel and Tziporah Piltz
Comics Author: Orit Sisu Stories: Ori Hadassah Kalush
Comics illustrator: Rivka Atara Cinmon
Bat Mitzvah’s Review:
I really like the book, Pirkei Hallel, because I learned all kinds of stuff that I never knew before. It was an interesting book, it gave me more emunah (faith) in Hashem. For example, in one of the chapters, it talks about Shabbat and it said something very nice about Shabbat, in Hebrew (by the way the book is in Hebrew.) It went like this:
שבת היא היום שנותן כוח לכל ימות השבוע. בעת כניסת השבת מרגישים את האווירה המיוחדת ואת הקדושה שאופפת את הבית. שבת היא המזון לנשמתינו. לתפילות, הארוחות, השירים, האווירה המשפחתית, והניתוק מכל ענייני חול. כל אלה עושים את השבת ליום מיוחד כל כך.
That is what was written and I liked it. It means (in a loose translation) that Shabbat is the day that gives spiritual and physical power for the rest of the week until the following Shabbat. When Shabbat comes in you feel how it is so special and holy. A lot of what makes Shabbat special, is that all the family is together, you can talk to each other and not stare at screens. More of what makes Shabbat special are singing, eating, maybe even learning together as a family. Also not doing what you do during the week and not thinking about the things that you usually think about during the week. That is what makes Shabbat special and there is even more of those things. It feeds the soul.
I am thinking about my Bat Mitzvah and the book helped me a lot even though I am going to learn something else for my Bat Mitzvah. To finish, I am saying that this book was meaningful and I hope you will read it too.
Pirkei Halel was written/organized by the mother and aunt of Hallel Ariel a”h. Hallel was murdered in her home in 2016 at age 13 by a terrorist. The two women decided to put together a book in her memory related to Bat Mitzvah. They felt that given that there really isn’t any set ritual/learning for bnot mitzvah, they would write something methodical and interactive for mothers and daughters.
The book is divided into a comics section as well as well as 12 chapters on different topics. The comics chapter was written by a teacher of Hallel’s. She interweaves elements of Hallel’s personality, story and middot/positive qualities with a magical story of a contemporary girl who is about to become bat mitzvah. Her story is used to teach various concepts like being happy with what you have, loving people who are not like you and others. My daughter devoured this section very quickly.
When I read the comic, I saw how useful it was, saw it as a tribute but at the same time had a bitter feeling, an ache. Clearly Hallel was a girl who made an impact on her family and friends and comparing her story to the hopes and dreams of the bnot mitzvah reading these stories, really emphasizes the tragedy of her loss. At least to this mom. I admit I thought about this quite a bit over Yom HaZikaron.
The other chapters in Pirkei Hallel are built around a topic to learn. There are learning points with leading questions and excerpts from a range of traditional sources. They are not difficult learning topics, but do provide starting points as well as points of discussion for deeper thinking. My daughter chose one at random (Emet/Truth) and the pulled me over to show me something she liked in the text and to talk through the discussion sections.
Each topic has an interactive element. It could be situations, as in what would you do in this situation, it could be research. Each topic is different. There are also stories interspersed as well as talking points related to Halel’s life.
Some of the topics are traditional topics you would expect in a book geared towards young Jewish women- foremothers , speech, and tzniut. But there are a variety. Accepting Mitzvot, Tefilla, the land of Israel, Beit Hamikdash among others. There is one activity to do with fathers, which is going to visit a rabbinical authority. I believe this was done so fathers feel included. The authors additionally suggest this can be done mother and daughter together.
I personally will not be using this for studying towards my daughter’s bat mitzvah. As she pointed out above, we already have a bunch of things we are working on together. However, I can see it being useful for joint learning and being meaningful for mother and daughter.
Pirkei Hallel is useful in programs in schools or communities. In fact, recently I was reading a discussion on the Lookstein Center’s list about the spiritual state of Orthodox teens today. Rabbi Bieler in the discussion suggested:
“On the one hand, when Torah is either studied or presented, insufficient emphasis is placed upon seeking Ta’amei HaMitzvot (reasons for the Commandments) in general, and those dealing with personal improvement vis-à-vis God, one’s fellow man, and oneself. “
When I read that I immediately thought about how useful Pirkei Hallel is for teaching this and discussions for spiritual growth. I know that my daughter has recently hit that point where she greatly wants to understand the philosophical underpinnings of accepting mitzvot and her goal in life and we spend a great deal of time talking about them. Pirkei Hallel provides a fresh way to approach these questions, or another tool to help with them. I could see it being used with boys too.
It is not necessary to use the entire book in a methodical way. Some themes may speak more to your daughter, and together you may choose to go in new directions. However, it is certainly a useful framework with much thought. For my daughter the questions and discussions are just right.
Note: The book we reviewed is in Hebrew. However, this book is now also available in English! You can order it through the Pirkei Hallel Facebook Page or by calling (whatsapp-ing)
Tziporah Piltz 972 525866384 or Rina Ariel 972 547543051
tziporah10 at gmail.com yekev.arielbyehuda at gmail.com
Photos copyright Pirkei Hallel, Rina Ariel and Tziporah Piltz