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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Haggadah’

Passover Seder is Jewish Life, Charoset, Marror and All Four Sons

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

So much has been and will be written about the Passover Seder. It’s an amazing home-based (when it isn’t in a hotel or some public hall) required religious ritual in Judaism.

It’s a ceremony involving contrasts, opposites. We starve (during the sometimes seeming unending recitations and discussions) and we also feast, not only on the festive meal but a number of ritual foods.

Contrasts start with the “four questions” traditionally recited/sung by the youngest capable attendee at the seder:

1. On all other nights we eat bread or matza, while on this night we eat only matza.2. On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables and herbs, but on this night we have to eat bitter herbs.3. On all other nights we don’t dip our vegetables in salt water, but on this night we dip them twice.4. On all other nights we eat while sitting upright, but on this night we eat reclining. (about.com)

I understand that this is to get the child involved, but the answers aren’t very clear and relevant to a child’s understanding. I’m a former remedial teacher, and I can’t see how “because we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt…” would make much sense as an answer to why we dip our vegetables in salt water.

Of course the children may and should insist on better answers if dissatisfied with the Seder’s text. The next big contrast are the supposed questions of four different types of children. The compilers of the Passover Hagadah recognize that we’re all different and so are our children. Also it’s important to welcome all Jews to the seder no matter what their level of observance. That is important and very different from many other Jewish rituals which quickly become rejected and forgotten by those who aren’t Torah observant. The Passover Seder is one ritual that many people make an effort to observe, even partially, no matter how far they are from Torah living.

Dry Bones

“The four sons,” or daughters if you wish, all ask the same basic question but each from his/her perspective.

Four Blessings, Four Children Blessed is the omnipresent one, blessed be He!Blessed is He who gave the Torah to His people Israel,blessed be He!The Torah speaks of four children: one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not know how to ask. (Chabad)

What does the wise one say?“What are the testimonies, the statutes, and the laws that G‑d, our G‑d, has commanded to you?” (deut. 6:20)What does the wicked one say?“What is this service of yours?!”12 The Simple One—what does he say?“What is this celebration about?”As for The One Who Knows Not How To Ask—you must open up [the conversation] for him.

Judaism is an open religion in many ways.  We communicate directly with G-d, and we were given Free Will. G-d did not create us to be robots or angels, who can be described as G-d’s robots. Human beings were gifted with the abilities to make mistakes, yes, even bad ones, and to repent, do teshuva. Many families contain all versions of these four children.

The ritual meal at the seder opens with a food combination that symbolizes our families, the Jewish People, when we combine the sweet charoset* with the sharp, burning bitter herbs**. First they are eaten together, just the two contrasting foods. And then we (most Jews, at least those who do not have the minhag, custom forbidding matzah to touch any other food) make a sandwich of it between two pieces of matzah.

Pesach In Exile: Why The Haggadah Was Compiled

Monday, April 14th, 2014

The story of the Exodus from Egypt has been read by Jews for millennia, but the Haggadah as we know it was compiled during the Gaonic period (8th-9th century CE) in Babylon, with additional songs written by Jews probably during the Middle Ages.

The Haggadah’s editors, leaders of the Jewish community in the Diaspora, provided a compact guide for Jewish survival. With few precious handwritten texts available, Jews, often running for their lives and unable to carry volumes, needed a portable way to teach their children the basics of the holiday and Judaism.

Using stories and songs, focused on family units, the Haggadah provides concise educational tools needed to instill Jewish historical awareness and identity. And, built on a prophetic vision of Redemption, it is focused on the Jewish homeland, Eretz Yisrael.

The Haggadah is not chronological; it jumps from one episode to another without a clear line of development. Full of metaphors and historical events, it’s strange that the critical figure in the Exodus, Moses, is missing, along with Aaron and Miriam. Instead, the Haggadah focuses on rabbis from the second and third centuries and parables about committed and alienated children, insiders and outsiders.

The historic center of Aramean civilization was Babylon, where Jews had built a vibrant and cohesive Torah-based community that provided critical leadership. Toward the end of the Gaonic period, however, plagued by assimilation and threatened with destruction, Babylonian rabbis assembled a codebook for Jewish survival in immanent and future exiles.

The Haggadah reminds us that Jewish history begins in Mesopotamian idol worship, exile, and Egyptian slavery. The Exodus from Egypt, however, not only expresses God’s power and human freedom, but His Will: Jews are a nation and a people.

The paradigm of Exile and Redemption provides a context for understanding how Jewish history works: nationhood is determined by geography, the occupation of space; peoplehood is spiritual/cultural existence in time. Nationhood is building a civilization – political, judicial and economic institutions as well as civic organizations; peoplehood is transcendent, founded on history, language, memory and a sense of destiny.

An instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands, the Haggadah focuses on the centrality of Eretz Yisrael and an understanding of Judaism and Jewish history. Its reference points are rabbis who led the Jewish people following the destruction of the Second Temple to Yavneh and through the Bar Kochba rebellion and exile: Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Tarfon, Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Elazar. Quoted throughout the Talmud, their prominence in the Haggadah indicates an emphasis on the basics of Jewish education and surviving the trauma of exile/dispersion.

Children’s stories and songs in Haggadah are parables that illuminate dark paths of suffering with rays of hope. As individuals and as a people, we are all of the Four Sons: simple, curious, rebellious and faithful – but involved. What unites us is the belief in One God expressed in the Shema, a simple way of attachment. A lifeline.

Reciting the Haggadah with his colleagues, Rabbi Akiva is called upon by his students: “It’s time to say the Shema!”

This affirmation of faith is the Jewish beginning and end, in prayer, in life, and at death. The Shema, however, is not only about monotheism – God is One – but also about community: “Hear O Israel,” a unifying connection as a people. For Jews in exile, oppressed and suffering and often with limited Jewish resources, this one phrase contained identity and purpose.

The editors of the Haggadah understood that for Jewish communities in exile, under pressure and isolated, things had to be reduced to essentials. Eating matzah requires no belief, but the reason we eat matzah (and refuse to eat bread) could become an inquiry that leads to study and commitment.

Haggadah Manuscript Found in a Garage May Fetch $1.5 million

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

The auction sale of an illustrated Haggadah manuscript dating back to 1726 is expected to bring in as much as $1.5 million, the London Independent reported Tuesday. An auctioneer discovered it in an Osem soup carton in the garage at a house in Manchester where he was carrying out a routine evaluation for the relatives of the owner of the property.

The manuscript contains more than 50 colored scenes from the Torah. Experts think that it was commissioned in Vienna to mark the first child of a member of the Oppenheimer baking family.

The latest owners of the Haggadah smuggled it out of Belgium in 1940 before the Nazis invaded the country.

Dr. Yaakov Wise, of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester, told the British newspaper, “It is very, very lucky that it survived from that period. It is a miracle that it was not thrown out, that it was found and someone realized what it was. I would call it divine providence….

“This was probably in use for 200 years. There are wine and food stains on it which is exactly what you would expect when it was at the table.”

Passover 5773-2013 Is Around the Corner

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Following is the essential Passover set of reminders, if you will. We strongly recommend that you consult a rabbi or a friend or a friendly rabbi for any one of these items which may cause you anxiety. Obviously, one can spend all the time starting after Hanukah in preparation for Passover, but most of us don’t.

Passover—Pesach, the Jewish festival celebrating our redemption from slavery in Egypt in the 1250s BCE, begins on the 14th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar, which is in spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and this year begins at sunset, Monday, March 25.

Passover  is celebrated for seven days in Israel, eight days everywhere else. It is one of the top four Jewish holidays celebrated in America, alongside Hanukah, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur.

Passover-Pesach is unique among the holidays on the Jewish calendar in its prohibition against chametz, which is defined as five types of grains that have been combined with water and left to stand for more than eighteen minutes—the renowned “leavening” or fermentation. This includes bread and cake, but also a very long list of products, not all of them foodstuff.

The consumption, keeping, and owning of chametz is forbidden during Passover.

A typical observant Jewish home combines several means of dealing with this prohibition (you’ll be amazed how much of your physical space is mired in chametz):

1. A thorough scrubbing of all the areas in the home where food will be produced or consumed. The ground rule here is that the chametz should be removed in a manner similar to the way it was introduced—if it was through heat, then the particular utensil should be cleaned and heated for a period of up to one hour, and so on.

2. Covering all the areas where food is produced or consumed with paper, plastic, or aluminum foil sheets.

3. Storing all the chametz products of value (think single malt whiskey) in designated areas which are sealed until after Passover. Those areas are then sold through a special broker to a gentile for the duration of the holiday. You can also do it over the Internet, check out any one of these chametz sale websites.

4. On the eve of Passover, the head of the family checks the entire domicile for chametz, after which they recite an announcement that any chametz stuff that has not been discovered and eliminated no longer belongs to them (see it in the early pages of your Passover Haggadah).

After sunset, Monday, March 25, we all sit down around the seder table, to read the Haggadah, drink 4 cups of wine and eat our first bite of Matzah. This should take us well into the night, when we eat the Afikoman.

If you’re in the diaspora, you get to do the whole thing a second time on Tuesday evening. In Israel you enter the Chol Hamoed-intermediary days of Passover a day early. The holiday will be over in Israel on Monday night, April 1, and elsewhere on Tuesday night, April 2.

Please use the comments to add anything we may have skipped – remember, we were shooting for the essentials.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/passover-5773-2013-is-around-the-corner/2013/03/10/

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