Fresh and relatable reflections on the parshah and Yamim Tovim, filled with personal anecdotes
Book: Up to G–d
Author: D'vorah Miller
The book in two lines
Fresh and relatable reflections on the parshah and Yamim Tovim, filled with personal anecdotes that capture the insight of a dynamic Jewish mother and educator.
The author in three lines
D’vorah Miller has been teaching Jewish Studies, relationships, self-esteem, and spirituality for over 30 years. She designs Jewish Studies curricula and mentors educators and parents. D’vorah and her husband, Rabbi Shmuel Miller, are the blessed parents of eight children. They live in St Louis, MO.
The story behind the book
In 2009, we lived in Boston and worked for NCSY. I started to write letters to NCSY alumni, parents, and investors, including personal updates and thoughtful ideas on the weekly parshah. My husband sent a few of those letters to Rabbi Doron Kornbluth (copublisher of Mosaica Press with Rabbi Yaakov Haber). Rabbi Kornbluth responded enthusiastically, encouraging me to write more of the same and to send a full manuscript. It would be 12(!) years until I finally completed that manuscript, which would include articles I’d written while living in Eretz Yisrael, England, Boston, South Africa, Baltimore, and California.
Significance of the title
I chose the title only after the entire manuscript was ready. It has a double meaning: All is up to HaKadosh Baruch Hu; at the same time, we can direct our lives up to Him.
An early experience that taught me the power of writing
In 6th grade, I won an award for writing an essay entitled “Why We Honor the American Flag.” In 10th grade I won an opportunity to meet Anatoly Sharansky, because my poem about the life of a refusenik was chosen as a winning entry in a contest.
I don’t think that either of those writings were especially wonderful. I do, however, think that the experience of winning those awards, as well as having some of my writing featured in the school yearbook, encouraged me to think that I might someday earn the title “author,” “poet,” “playwright,” or “songwriter.”
What motivated me when the going got rough
Coffee (Just kidding. I didn’t even start drinking coffee ‘till 2013.)
Words of encouragement from people who matter to me.
What I left unwritten — and why
In this book, as when I teach, I leave much unsaid regarding specific applications of each lesson. I aim to provide just enough for the reader to glean insight and apply his or her own connections.
The hardest part to write
Acknowledgments. They are never enough.
The author I wish could mentor me
I’d deeply appreciate being mentored by Sara Yoheved Rigler. I have great respect for her masterful style of descriptive storytelling tied into self-effacing learning opportunities. I also like Mitch Albom’s writing style, so it would be cool to receive mentorship from him.
My favorite essays
“Owning My Conscience” (Mikeitz) is about learning from Yosef Hatzaddik — and from my mother — that true chinuch is about creating an environment in which our children are most likely to choose to do the right thing, even when it’s hard and uncomfortable.
“Angels Don’t Eat” (Shavuos) ties in Midrash, hashkafah, and personal anecdotes to come to a valuable understanding of why Shtei Halechem is the offering on the day we fully accept Torah as our guide to life.
“Assassination and Reward” (Ki Sisa) is especially enlightening in a world where people are sometimes shouting that which is undoubtedly true, yet the delivery is too harsh to be heard.
The most challenging parshah to cover
Acharei Mos was the one parshah left after all the rest were accounted for. I was tempted to make it a light piece, so I could just submit the manuscript already, but I decided to spend time understanding Nadav and Avihu’s behavior beyond pshat. I’m glad I challenged myself. I hope the reader is, too.
My writing space
More like writing spaces, in plural. That would be bedroom floors, kitchen counters, picnic benches, coffee shops, dining room tables, living room couches, camp bungalows, and airplanes. When I knew I had about 15 hours of finalizing left, my husband booked me three days in a local hotel, so I could wrap it up and send it to Mosaica.
Book currently on my night table
I usually have two books on my night table and not a good novel, because then I’ll stay up all night reading it (which is only okay if I don’t need to interact with any human beings the following day).
The last two books I had on my night table were The Seven Colors of the Rainbow by Yirmiyahu Bindman and Brenĕ Brown’s Rising Strong.
Always in my purse
I don’t carry a purse. I just hang around people who have the stuff I might need.
I’d title my autobiography
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 760)
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