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Trying to get to a place of feeling enslaved in Egypt so as to feel a fuller freedom
Please remember to fill out your chametz form and get it to the Rabbi by April 7th. We will not able to sell your chametz beyond that point and we will not be receiving the forms the next morning as the firstborn siyyum will happen virtually.
On Pesach, we are obligated to tell the story of the holiday; the exodus, the going out of Egypt. We are so bound by this obligation that even if we are wise and scholars, afilu Hahamim afilu nevonim, etc., we cannot desist from reliving the exodus of the past because for those who “elaborate on the telling of the exodus on Pesach it is praiseworthy." We read, in the Haggadah, of the scholars in Bnai Brak who told of the going out of Egypt until the sun came up. There is even the idea that we should tell the story, not only day and night, but in this world and in the world to come on Pesach, and even in Yemot Meshiah, in Messianic times…think about that a second! In the time when all will be free, all will be left alone to study in security under the shade of their own fig tree–even then, when Pesach comes around, we should recall Egypt and the time of slavery!
Why the obsession with telling the story? Don’t we know the story that we came out fertig; we were happy and joyous as we wandered in the desert? Isn't it just as the joke says, "they tried to enslave us, to kill us, we won, let's eat." Isn’t that enough? And why the obligation only on this holiday? And why isn’t it required to tell the story of the receiving of the Torah on Shavuot (we study Torah all night, but not of the specific event of receiving the Torah). Why isn’t it required on Sukkot to retell and relive how, early in the desert wanderings, we were surrounded by the clouds of providence? Why must this be on Pesach and why the elaboration through the night?
One answer is that while the liberation happened at the moment of midnight, when the firstborn were struck and the Pharaoh realized he had to let the Jews go free, it wasn’t until daybreak that the Israelites started their departure. The moment of freedom is thus extended for these hours through the night. Many years ago, I was a prison chaplain. The prisoners reflected on this– they could relate. The parole board may stamp your card “released,” but until you hear the metal doors close behind you, you don't believe it.
We have to see ourselves as though we too came out of Egypt, and so we speak about it together at the Seder table. Pesach can also mean a “moving mouth.” There are still millions of people, many of them children, in the world that are actually slaves. There is trafficking of people even in the US. We also well know that there are plagues galore in the world. The plague of pollution, of climate change, of dwindling diversity, the plague of income inequality, the plague of discrimination and unequal pay for even the same tasks. And of course, today we are all in the midst of a plague unfolding, not certain if we or a loved one or friend or acquaintance will be a victim.
Perhaps that is the whole point of clearing the home of chametz–the cleaning, the schlepping, the intense preparation. And perhaps that is the purpose of holding off the Pesach meal to really thinking about our past and our present enslavements, whatever they might be. We too were/are enslaved, and we too can be unfettered by the embrace of God and by the affirmation of Torah and Mitzvah. We are a free people but yet still enslaved in so many ways, emotionally and intra-psychically, to false notions, and to exaggerated self-assessments. And maybe, just maybe, we are enslaved by an exaggerated notion of radical freedom, which simply enslaves us to the next fad and the next. May we understand, therefore, that we must never stop thinking about our enslavements personally and as a society, and never stop trying to be open about them, and never shirking to combat them. Because not only are we obligated to feel as if we too came out of Egypt, we are also never free from admitting that freedom is an aspiration never quite achieved.
Beth and I wish all of you, from the bottom of our hearts, a meaningful and healthy Pesach, and in its smaller scale way, a joyous one.
Chag kasher ve sameach Read More
With Pesah coming up, it's never too early to start thinking about seders. So I've been asked to offer up my chicken soup recipe, but the truth is that I can't give it to you–and not because it's top secret–but rather, I don't exactly use a recipe. Sure the ingredients are mostly the same: water, chicken, vegetables, spices, etc. But the truth is it varies: sometimes I use chicken thighs, sometimes I use gizzards. In fact, sometimes I've even used turkey necks for my "chicken" soup. I always try to use celery, carrots, onion and dill, but often I try to add parsley or parsnips, occasionally a turnip. This time, on Mary's suggestion, I added thyme, a lovely addition. But there are still some key tips and tricks I can give you to improve your chicken soup, no matter which recipe you use:
1. Don't cook the soup the same day you serve it. Soup is ALWAYS better a day later, when the ingredients have had an opportunity to mix and mingle. Waiting a day or even two can make all the difference between a good soup and a GREAT soup.
2. Brown the chicken before putting it in the soup. Sure, if you're in a rush, you can toss the chicken in a pot of water, but by browning the chicken in the pot before adding the water, you add an immense amount of aroma and browning flavors that will intensify your soup and bring it to the next level.
3. Sauté the vegetables as well, while you're at it. While not quite as impactful as cooking the chicken, you can make the vegetable flavors stand out more. Often I will do the chicken first, then remove the chicken and cook some of the vegetables in the chicken fat, and then add back in the chicken and the vegetables.
4. Skim the soup to eliminate extra fat, etc. Especially when using chicken wings, you often have to deal with feathers, and those things don't dissolve in the soup but float to the top, so you can skim that off along with any extra fat.
5. Know your audience. Some people prefer clear soups, and so you might want to wrap ingredients in cheesecloth, while others don't mind "stuff" in their soup. Some actually prefer it! Some people like throwing in thin egg noodles, or making kneidels/matzoh balls. But if you want to know about how to make those, you'll have to ask Libby, the Kneidel Maidel herself. She even as a song about it! Read More
Last month was very busy at the ENJC, with numerous activities for all. The turnout at all our events was outstanding, starting off with our second annual SOUPER SHABBAT!
Our Shabbat service was enjoyed by all, and was highlighted by the soups that over 85 congregants tasted while celebrating Shabbat together. A very special thank you to our chef’s – Steve Alberti, Beth Schlesinger, Ilene Glatman, Karen and Jason Tyll, Allan and Donna Berman and Hazzan Walvick. Look for their recipes in this month's Bulletin. I enjoyed all the soups I tried and my only regret was that I did not get a chance to try them all. Thank you as well to Robin Kain, the salad maker. YASHER KOACH to all that helped make it a very special Shabbat.
On Sunday morning, February 2nd, it was time for East Northport’s participation in the World Wide Wrap. The Daled and Hay students made their presence felt with a large turnout. Steve Krantz and the Men’s Club provided hot sliced bagels. Over 40 people got up early on Super Bowl Sunday to attend!
The following Shabbat was another busy weekend! Our Friday night Service was followed by 35 congregants enjoying our annual Tu B’Shevat Seder. It is one of my favorite nights of the year, as my 23-year-old daughter Amanda joins me in participating in the Seder. She was happy to attend and both Rabbi Silverman and Hazzan Walvick made it enjoyable and memorable.
The Engage Program is involving many ENJC members in the many activities offered. Mah Jongg Sundays have started up, and on February 23rd we were treated to some insights from Yossie Mermelstein about the War on Entebbe. Yossie was a pilot with the Israeli Air Force at that time and when he spoke, we all felt that we were there too.
February is ending with our participation in Shabbat Across America, highlighted by a Mexican Dinner. I’m sure it will be MUY BUENO!
Purim is next – SEE YOU IN SHUL! Read More