Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains, repeat the sounding joy

On the sixth day of LEGO nativity scenes, Our Lady of the Snows gives to us this sculpture as part of their annual display. BTW, this sculpture was made by a group of AFOLs back in 2003, so it's good to see they still have it. No clue if they still have the other things built in 2003, like the stable made of LEGO and the small scale village of Bethlehem. Also, the Joseph from nine years ago is not in this current display, and this guy seems to be an addition since then. Not sure if he's a replacement Joseph, or if he was originally supposed to be a shepherd (note the shepherd's crook) who got pressed into duty in this year's display.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!

On the fourth day of LEGO nativity scenes, Viktor-persson gave to us, Birth of Christ.

BTW, I really love the graphic logo he created for this MOC:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Let earth receive her king!

On the second day of LEGO nativity scenes, agencyORANGE gave to us, the final combination of his son's advent calendar.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It came upon a midnight clear

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Luke 2:8-10

The Proclamation by Max Pointner.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On the road

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. Luke 2:1-5

Traveling to Bethlehem by PatrickProductions.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Preparing the way

And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:36-37

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:1-3

John the Baptist by M2con McKinney.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent Calendar

AgencyOrange has a great ongoing project - My 11 year old son's advent calendar. An advent calendar is a tradition going back to the mid nineteenth century - you count down the days to Christmas by opening windows on a calendar to reveal pictures, often related to the Christmas story, or to receive a small gift. I'm not sure if this calendar was built by the son, or built as a gift for the son to open each day. In either case, here is the angel Gabriel coming for the Annunciation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Annuntiatio nativitatis Christi

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. - Luke 1:30-33

Max Pointner built the Annunciation.

Please note - on my other blogs I'm running a series of book reviews, but here on GodBricks I want to focus on the Advent season leading up to Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Today is the third Sunday of Advent. This is the period approximately four weeks long leading up to Christmas day. The name comes from the Latin adventus, which means 'coming', as in the coming of the Christ child. Churches traditionally light a series of four candles (or fork 'andles here by Jim Walshe), one each Sunday, often set in an evergreen wreath. A fifth candle, the 'Christ candle' is lit and set in the center on Christmas day to celebrate Christ's birth.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy Hanukkah

Let's round out the Festival of Lights with this house by Tatertots. In addition to the Menorah display out front, when you look inside they're playing the dreidel game.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Interview with Joanna Brichetto of Bible Belt Balabusta

As a little Hanukkah gift, I'm happy to bring to you another interview with someone who has been featured here on GodBricks several times in the past. Joanna Brichetto's blog, Bible Belt Balabusta presents "hands-on, Jewy projects with kids, for parents and teachers." She presents creative ways to use toys, including of course LEGO, in teaching kids about their religious heritage. BTW, on her blog she defines 'balabusta' as "Yiddish for female boss of the home, a praiseworthy Jewish homemaker."

GB: Joanna, thanks for joining us. Let's start out by learning a little bit about you. Could you tell us a little about your personal religious journey. Were you raised in a religious home? Is this something that became more important to you later in life, e.g. after having kids of your own? How has living in the Bible Belt affected you?

JB: I was raised Protestant and didn't knowingly meet a Jewish person until after college. I met Mr. Right—Jewish Person #2 —studied Judaism and became Jewish shortly before our marriage. So, I know what's it's like to be an absolute beginner. And I know that doing, making, creating can go a long way in forming a Jewish identity, whatever that phrase may happen to mean. The Bible Belt: well, I've always lived here, which is the reason for the bizarre delay in my meeting anyone Jewish at all. Now, I am often the one Jewish person that other people meet, which means I end up representing an entire People, which is absurd. In the early days, before the Internet, I had to make my own resources because there were few available locally. Everything was DIY, including the raising of children.

GB: Okay, could you also tell us about your background with LEGO? Did you build with bricks as a kid? Or did this start with you becoming a mom?

JB: I got two big LEGO sets when I was about 7, and I loved them. Back then, they were marketed to children, not necessarily to a specific gender, and the packaging reflects this beautiful egalitarianism. After a few years, they got stowed in the attic. Twenty years later, when I had my daughter, they were ready for round #2. My children and I add to the collection thanks to yard sales, hand-me-downs and generous grandmothers.

GB: What's the basic philosphy behind your blog? Why do you use LEGO (and Playmobil, and pez dispensers, and swim toys, etc) to teach your kids about their heritage?

JB: To show how easy and fun it can be to use everyday stuff—as long as the materials are irresistible—to explore and enrich what it means to be Jewish. My big goal is to support spending time with children making, doing, being together in a meaningful, enjoyable way.

GB: How did this idea start? What was your first inspiration?

JB: By using what materials and objects I had on hand. There were no local sources for Jewish toys. We had to convert or make our own accompaniments to holidays. I probably started by recreating objects with food: edible crafts, like an edible dreidel.

GB: How do your kids respond? Do they like it? Or do they sometimes say 'aw, Mom, we're just trying to play here, don't make us learn things'?

JB: So far, so good. Playing is learning, and vice versa. We don't sit down to "learn," we just play, build, cook, create. And, stories are stories. Random action figures become Odysseus and Telemachus in the bathtub, for example (with LEGO Scylla and Charibdis). We don't necessarily play Jewish stories unless we are approaching a holiday.

GB: What sort of feedback have you gotten from other parents and teachers?

JB: A few people "get" it, and these are the ones I try to think about when I post. I love these people. They understand that a good toolbox contains many, many tools.

GB: What is your favorite LEGO project that you've done?

JB: The lopsided, mishmash of a Temple that became the setting for the Hanukkah story. My preschooler helped build it, and then helped demonstrate the story for his class. We rigged a battery menorah and brought in a stuffed pig and tiny jug of olive oil. It was hideous and it was perfect.

GB: What is one thing you'd really like to build with LEGO?

JB: Gosh. I can't pick one. But I'm intrigued by Technic. I bought the new book, The UnOfficial LEGO Technic Builder's Guide by Pawel Kmiec, and most of it is way over my head at the moment.

GB: Do you have a favorite LEGO creation by someone else that highlights Jewish themes?

JB: I appreciate them all. The Jewish-themed posts you find for GodBricks blow me away, whether or not they are considered "Jewish" by their own makers. The Brick Bible is, of course, spectacular and complex. Val Glaser's cake toppers for bar and bat mitzvahs are great. The group Jewish LEGO projects by Building Blocks Workshops sound promising, education-wise. But, my favorites will always be creations by children.

GB: Do you have any suggestions for parents from all faith traditions on how to use play creatively to teach our kids?

JB: Start with the stories. Interpret your own stories with LEGO or edible components or whatever materials you absolutely love to handle. If you are having fun, chances are, so is your kid.

GB: Thanks so much for answering my questions! I look forward to seeing your next LEGO inspiration.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Joanna's dreidels

A couple of weeks ago I noted Joanna Brichetto's search for the perfect LEGO dreidel. She came to a final decision, which she then used as part of a Hanukkah carnival at her synagogue. Kids were able to build their own LEGO dreidel and take it home with them.

If you want to build your own, either for yourself or for an event for kids in your area, she's made up a set of instructions and rules for the dreidel game that you can print up and use.

She was even kind enough to send me my very own Joanna Brichetto original LEGO dreidel, which is sitting proudly on my desk as I write this. I'm happy to report that it spins really well, also. Thanks, Joanna!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Another Hanukkah tradition is the dreidel game. The dreidel is a small top with four sides (made out of clay, as the song goes). The sides of the dreidel are labeled with the Hebrew letters נ ג ה ש, which are an acronym for the phrase 'A great miracle happened there' - referring to the miraculous burning lamp when the Temple was rededicated. The game associated with the top involves each player having some small playing pieces - pennies, buttons, M&M's, etc. You spin the top, and whichever side it lands on leads you to either add or remove pieces from the central pot.

Luke Chapman made this wonderful Dreidel, that actually incorporates the script in LEGO form.

This version is made of Mebablox, but since they built in the script I had to include it.

Another from Jack S.

Januson made this with the text in english to facilitate game play.

SaraMitts365's LEGO self is playing the dreidel game along with a dragon(?).

As are some of Santa's elves*

*This was a detail in a wonderful Advent calendar window display at 'Out of This World' a shop in Mendocino. For the first night of Hanukkah, they had this little scene. Who knew Santa's elves were Jewish? :) Probably of no relevance to anyone but me and my wife, Mendocino is where we got married - it's a beautiful place a little ways north of San Francisco. If you've seen Murder She Wrote, the town where Jessica Fletcher lives in Maine was actually filmed there. Looking at that shop, I'm quite certain we bought some gifts there. Unfortunately this wonderful LEGO display wasn't up at the time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bigger Menorahs

Large public Menorahs are common displays during Hanukkah. In recent years it has become fairly common to see news stories about these being built out of LEGO (or DUPLO) - often as an interactive activity to involve kids. Here are just a few from recent years. Here are some kids in Naples, Florida, helping build what would become a 12-foot DUPLO Menorah.

A couple of years ago, kids were hard at work in Ann Arbor Michigan.

And here was the result.

Kids at the Golda Och Academy in West Orange New Jersey built this one that's a great riot of color. I'm pretty sure that project involved Stephen Schwartz of Building Blocks Workshops, who I've featured here before.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Oil lamps

Just a quick note - that original Temple Menorah used oil lamps, not candles. Here are some quick LEGO oil lamps:



Official LEGO.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


The Menorah goes back to the Exodus, when God instructed Moses to make a golden lampstand with seven lamps for use in the Tabernacle - the portable tent sanctuary the Israelites carried in the wilderness. The Menorah was then used in the Temple once it was established in Jerusalem. This was the lamp that burned miraculously for eight nights when the Temple was rededicated. In modern usage the Menorah has nine candles. This is in part because the seven-lamp Menorah was reserved by the rabbis for Temple use (impossible since its destruction by the Romans), and also because there are eight candles for the eight nights of Hanukkah, plus one more, the 'servant candle' used to light the others. During the festival of Hanukkah, each night an additional candle is lit as the blessings are recited, so that by the end of the holiday the whole Menorah is lit.

There are just way too many LEGO Menorah's out there for me to do a comprehensive listing, so I'll just show a few. One of my favorites is by Eli and his mom. I really love how serious he looks in that picture as he's 'lighting' his Menorah.

Dave Kaleta built this one as a gift for a friend's son. More on the Hebrew script in my next post. That one also has a slide-out drawer to keep the candles, and the other side has 'Hannukah' spelled out in LEGO.
These don't have to be so elaborate. This one by DrMom is really fun. I like how the yellow bricks are for the lit candles.

This blog post highlights a number of Menorahs, ranging from very simple to elaborate sculptures.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Hanukkah

This evening is the first night of the Festival of Lights. I'd like to wish all of my Jewish readers a very happy Hanukkah. For other readers, perhaps a brief description is in order. Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem, but this was destroyed by Babylonian invaders, who also took a great number of the Israelites into captivity. As described in the biblical book of Ezra, 70 years later Jews returned from exile and rebuilt it as the Second Temple. About three and a half centuries later, Jerusalem was once again under foreign domination, and the Seleucid Empire (a division of the larger Greek empire conquered by Alexander the Great) forbade Jewish religious practices. Judas Maccabee led an army of Jewish resistance. They regained control of Jerusalem and set out to reestablish worship in the Temple. When they went to light the menorah, the oil-burning lamp, they only had enough sacred oil for one day. But miraculously the lamp kept burning for eight days, until they could produce more oil for use in the temple. The holiday of Hanukkah (which is spelled in a variety of different ways in English, btw, due to the lack of a direct transliteration from the Hebrew) celebrates the rededication of the Temple, with the eight nights of candles remembering those eight nights of the burning lamp. For some LEGO celebration, let's see some versions of the Temple (though I believe these are all supposed to depict the original, but grant me some artistic license):

Thomas tbone tbl spent over a year on his version of the Temple.

This version is from Brendan Powell Smith's Brick Testament.

Here's a Temple by Kooberz.

This Temple was a collaborative build by kids at the Harvest Bible Chapel Vacation Bible School a couple of years ago.

Jstrouse made this microscale version of ancient Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sword of the Spirit

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:13-17

Matthew Oh built the Sword of the Spirit.