The Tent Tsofia Made all By Herself

The Tent Tsofia Made all By Herself

On the weekly review sheet for this past Shabbat, Tsofia’s kindergarten teacher invited the girls to bring in models of Avraham and Sara’s tent which they were allowed to prepare with assistance from their parents or siblings.

By the time Shabbat was over, I had forgotten all about this project. But Tsofia had not. As I washed dishes from seuda shlishit, Tsofia sat down at the living room table carefully crafting something. When she showed me the Avraham and Sara tent she had made, I was impressed. She had taken a disposable bowl and decorated it with cut-out pictures of a cloud and candles. Not only had she remembered to do the project– she had done it all by herself!

ohel tsofia

The following morning Tsofia brought her tent to kindergarten, which she held out in front of her like a basket of first-fruits in Temple times.

And yesterday, at pick-up time, Tsofia’s wonderful teacher, Ganenet Sara, told me how much she loved Tsofia’s tent. “I praised her in front of all the girls, because I was so impressed by the concept, how she had decided to make it out of a simple disposable bowl!” And then she invited me inside the gan to see the exhibit of tents.

Tsofia skipped ahead of me, effervescent with excitement. But when I looked over the tents, I was stunned. The other tents were on a whole different level than Tsofia’s, prepared with a lot of help from mothers or older siblings.

ohel 1

ohel 2

Tears came to my eyes as memories flooded back from 32 years ago.

I was in 7th grade. My French teacher, Mrs. Parker, requested volunteers to prepare a special French Christmas cake–a buche de noel. I was a good baker, I even knew how to make brownies all by myself! So I and another girl raised our hands and Mrs. Parker handed us the recipe.

The next morning I woke up at 5 AM to make the cake. However, it was far more complicated than anything I had ever baked before, with many stages in the preparation. I also didn’t have a mixer to whip up the eggs until they were thick.

But by 7:30 AM the cake was ready to bring to school. It looked much smaller than the cake in the photo, more like a large twinkie than a cake. But I felt really proud that I had managed to do it by myself even though it had been much harder than I had thought it would be.

When I entered French class, I saw the other buche de noel which my classmate had brought in on the teacher’s desk. It looked like, well…It looked like the buche de noel in this photo below. Clearly her mother had made it.

Mrs. Parker took my twinkie cake into her hands. “Oh Jenny, this is wonderful!” she said. “It looks…just delicious!”

“Why does it look sort of…green?” a classmate asked.

“Oh,” Mrs. Parker hesitated, “it’s not green…it’s just very concentrated!”

At that point in my life, I had never heard of Korach and his followers. But boy oh boy, would I have loved for the earth to swallow me up at that moment.

And that is what I remembered as I stood at Tsofia’s side yesterday, my eyes filling up with tears.

But then I noticed that Tsofia was oblivious to just how embarrassing this situation was.

In fact, Tsofia was jumping up and down, begging me, “Eema, take a photo of me with my tent!”

She was SO proud. SO thrilled.

She had done it all by herself!

So I took out my phone and took a few photos.
ohel tsofia whole
And my tears from that moment and as well as the tears of 32 years ago disappeared somewhere within Tsofia’s triumphant smile.


  1. Beautiful. Beyond words.

  2. This is an amazing story with an amazing lesson about chinuch. No matter how much we may be tempted to “help”, it will never be as helpful as letting them stand on their own two feet!

  3. Wonderful post, and it brings back memories for me too. I think teachers and parents should discuss this issue more than they do.

  4. Wonderful anecdote! First of all, no matter how good or how “concentrated” your seventh grade cake might have been, perhaps it’s obvious, but I guess you must especially be celebrating that not only does your daughter have a special teacher and wonderful independent creativity, but above all, your daughter is making holy Torah projects. Nice contrast- this is a big gift you have given your children!!! Also wondering if you read the brilliant and impactful article in Mishpacha Family First a few weeks ago by Faigy Kobre -about how to succeed without “cookie cutter crafts.” In your case – mission accomplished.

    • Your daughter has enough self esteem to feel good about her efforts without comparing them to others. She got the concept right and remembered all the details. The fact that others were more ‘pretty’ or crafty – did not make her feel inferior! Kol Hakavod.
      How amazing that your efforts were directed toward an xmas loaf – your daughter’s to a parsha project! Continued nachas! You can learn much from your daughter. In EMETT classes we learned that comparisons produce ‘temper’.

      • nice point about the xmas loaf vs. the tent tsofia made. true nachas!! Weird I didn’t notice the contrast when I was writing this article!

  5. BH

    very inspiring -loved the idea!
    שבת שלום

  6. tsofia did a really amazing job on this art project.

    she did all the steps by herself, thought about it,

    organized it, put it together, and all

    w/out asking for help! very creative!

    you have so much to be proud about!

    tears of joy!

  7. Tsofia may be one of the only ones in her class that really knows what the tent really looked like – because she used her own imagination and saw it in her mind’s eye. She fashioned it with her own hands and will never forget this tent.

  8. Chana Jenny, you brought back memories for me…
    When my oldest child Shula was about five, she received a similar assignment: to go outside, collect leaves, branches, whatever, and make a succah.
    I did not believe my five-year-old could do this on her own. I “KNEW” I had to help her. I tried to get involved. I still remember the way Shulinke lifted her little hand in a “stop” motion and went back to work. At the end she made something on her own, a little succah made of cardboard and leaves and branches. All on her own. I was shocked. I truly had not known she could. It was a lesson for me. Every time I felt the urge to get involved (read: take over) an assignment for my child, I saw Shula’s little hand going up – “Ma, stop. I can do it.”

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