We find ourselves between Purim and Passover. The two are linked. Both involve a rescue and redemption from calamity. The king in the Purim Book of Esther is said, in rabbinic lore, to have realized, on a sleepless Passover night, that Mordecai was never rewarded! The power of Passover is, therefore, manifest even in the Purim story, for it was the beginning of the end of Haman who, on Passover day, was told to lead Mordecai through the streets!
Nevertheless, the memory of Purim is faded in the face of the excitement and, I dare say, a bit of trepidation that Pesach brings. Tradition tells us that at our Seder, we should have a peh sach–a 'conversing mouth'–and must find ways to convey the impactful story of the release from slavery and God's embracing of the Hebrews as his treasured people. This should be done in ways that can move and inspire the variety of palates and hearts of the family, friends and perhaps even acquaintances that we have invited to our seders.
The cleaning is daunting. The menu preparation is daunting. And the design of the Seder, too, is also a challenge. Some don't worry too much about the latter and just leave it up to Maxwell House to provide the context. But here are some suggestions for those who wish to have a little more. Organizations such as the Holocause Memorial Museum, The American Jewish World Service, Israel Bonds, and Mazon all provide some inserts which are often very relevant. Go on line to find these, and make it a point to include in your readings. Aish.com offers "10 ways to enjoy the seder," offering terrific source material and questions that stimulate conversation. "Haggadahs R Us" offers a beautiful guide book for a small cost, authored by Noam Zion and David Dishon, based around the Haggadah "A Different Night". This Leader's Guide to Family Participation offers advice on the role of the Seder leader, practical advice, shortcuts through the seder, suggestions in how to blend the traditional with the innovative, triggers for discussion, analogies through Jewish history and importantly, Peter Pitzele's ideas for games for young children.
Here are some things that I have done over that years to make the seder more meaningful.
Traditionally, this is an overly active time of the year with multiple Jewish Holidays and celebrations (Purim, Passover, Yom Ha-atzmaut–Israel Independence Day, etc.) and regarding our active Religious School, a multitude of wonderful events and activities.
RELIGIOUS SCHOOL "HAPPENINGS"
We will be celebrating numerous special class Shabbatot for every class, a very special dinner and service in honor of Alef Class Consecration, Family Education programs, children and parents will be baking matzah just prior to Passover and we will have Seders in school as well. A new an exciting Chavurah Committee (PTA) has been initiated, two wonderful class field trips have been orchestrated (for our Alef & Bet classes, a visit to the children's museum at the Y in Commack and I will lead a trip to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York for our three senior grades), a major celebration of Israel's Independence day which will feature Sheer Entertainment, and so much more!
PASSOVER-PESACH IS FAST APPROACHING
I know that I have mentioned previously over the years that Passover is absolutely my favorite Jewish Holiday. The Passover Seder is so very unique in numerous ways with all of its laws, customs, traditions, songs and observances. I still remember with such love and warmth the Seders while I was growing up in South Africa, and the fact that we sang and enjoyed our s'darim until at least one o'clock in the morning, often even later. Quite obviously the Seders are special for many reasons–recounting the story of our exodus from Egypt, those commentaries and discussions that should take place; the singing of the beautiful songs; eating the traditional Passover foods and matzah, etc. I probably have 30 or more different versions of the Haggadah as each and every year, I try to find different and innovative commentaries and ideas that result in our Seders being different and interesting. Now I utilize the internet as well, which is an amazing source of information.
I would like to share one very interesting idea with all of you. Our Seder begins with the special Kiddush, washing of the hands, the eating of the karpas, breaking the middle matzah in half and then we begin what's known as the maggid–the entire story of our miraculous exodus from Egypt. The leader takes a half of the broken piece of matzah and then begins to recite/chant the well known Ha lachma which can be translated as follows:
This is the bread of dependence which our descendants ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let them come and eat; whoever is in need, let them come and celebrate Pesach. This year we are here; next year may we be in the land of Israel.
At a glance, this paragraph is self explanatory right? A question could be asked as to why this particular paragraph was chosen to begin the recounting and story of our miraculous exodus from Egypt. A very famous modern day commentator, Rabbi David Lapin, offers a brief but powerful response to this question. The paragraph begins with the fact that matzah is the bread of dependence that was eaten by our brethren in Egypt. Almost immediately, we are taught the importance of acts of chesed, loving kindness that we must all strive to achieve. Feed those who are hungry, and all people in need should be invited to celebrate Pesach with us! The message is powerful and precise. Prior to us telling the entire story of the Exodus, we are taught the importance of living lives based upon the performance of mitzvot, welcoming all to our seder and taking care of those in need. This is our obligation and should be the focus of our lives. Read More
I wish you all a chag sameiach–a happy, enjoyable, kosher and spiritual Passover
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs– we’ve all been to them. In the past 1 and ¾ years as president, I have attended many of our congregant’s children and grandchildren’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. I must say, every simcha is a joy to witness!
It was nine years ago this month that I became an adult Bat Mitzvah along with five fellow congregants. We were actually a group of twelve that were split into two haftorahs on two Shabbats. It was hard. Learning a second language, as well as a new alphabet, as an adult was hard. Making time for weekly classes and practice time was hard. Learning the trope, or tune, of the haftorah was hard. Standing on the bima in front of family and friends, chanting something new and different from what my daily life required was hard. Asking my family to be tolerant of my practicing at home and frustration with myself was hard. Learning about my Torah portion and how it can affect my personal life was hard. It certainly was a bucket list item that I am proud to have checked off at the age of forty-seven.
When I think that these young adults accomplish such a huge goal at thirteen years of age, with such poise, maturity, confidence and knowledge, I am astounded! The preparation that is involved and the commitment that is made by both the child and the family is cause for celebration.
When Rabbi Silverman came to ENJC 10 years ago he instituted the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Mitzvah Project. Our children would be encouraged to perform an act of loving kindness that in someway touched or connected to their lives. This mitzvah has enhanced the experience for our children and grandchildren. In recent years Cantor Nussbaum and his staff of Religious School teachers have not only taught our Religious School students how to read Hebrew and chant their prayers and haftorah, many students are reading from the Torah as well! Both Rabbi Silverman and Cantor Nussbaum have my sincerest gratitude for preparing our young adults so very well for this life changing life cycle event. Yasher Koach to them!
Every month we highlight the children who have an upcoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah in the Bulletin. Many children advertise their mitzvah project in the Bulletin as well and ask for your donations to their worthy causes. Please consider supporting their charities and attending their Bar or Bat Mitzvah service. The emotion in the sanctuary is contagious. You can feel and see the parents and grandparents kvelling. You can sense the nervous excitement from the child. It is a feel good opportunity that I encourage you to take advantage of.
I am fortunate to have my family with me for Passover. My granddaughters Belle and Lucy will be joining me in shul. Please join me as well on the first and last two days of Pesach. Wishing each and every ENJC member and their families a Zissen Pesach. Read More