Posts Tagged ‘pesach’
As the Seder night ebbs away – long after the Four Questions have been asked and answered, after the festive meal has been eaten and the post-feast drowsiness descends, after the evening’s mitzvot have been observed and the fourth cup of wine emptied – we raise our voices in a curious, delightful, seemingly whimsical song at the end of the Haggadah.
The song is Chad Gadya, a lively tune that is one of the most popular of the many Pesach songs as well as one of the strangest.
On the surface, Chad Gadya appears to be nothing so much as a simple folk tune. Perhaps even a nursery rhyme suitable for the youngest among us, the very child who sang the Four Questions early in the Seder.
Like so many nursery rhymes – an egg perched upon a wall? A fork running away with a spoon? A cow jumping over the moon? Two young children tumbling down the hill? – it is filled with odd images and paradoxes.
What are we to make of these curious images? Likewise, what are we to make of a song that seems, on its surface, to be about the purchase of a goat? While it is possible to enjoy the song just in the singing, the paradoxes and troubling images draw us deeper as we search for meaning and significance.
Why have the rabbis placed this strange song in the Haggadah?
Certainly it keeps the children awake so that the end of the Seder is as filled with delight as its beginning. But more than that, the song is part of a sublime and meaningful religious/halachic experience.
A skeptical reader will no doubt ask: A religious experience? About goats? What does Chad Gadya – a song worthy of Dr. Seuss, a song that goes on and on about goats, cats, dogs, sticks and butchers – have to do with the leil shimurim, the night of geulah and redemption?
Is this any way to conclude Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim?
* * * * *
Perhaps Chad Gadya, in its guise of a nursery rhyme, is no different from the afikoman, one more in a series of games and songs and techniques to stimulate and motivate the interest and curiosity of the youngest among us on the Seder night.
By the end of the Seder, after the afikoman has been found and its reward exacted, after the story has been told and the festive meal consumed, the children grow sleepy and want nothing more than to curl up in their mothers’ laps and enjoy a well-deserved schluff.
But no, not yet! It is not yet time to slumber and so we continue the many and seemingly strange things at the Seder to keep the children awake. We arrive at the lively and lebedig songs that culminate in Chad Gadya.
Yes, it is delightful to children. But what is its significance for adults?
Even if the song’s purpose is to keep children awake, the song’s theme and images are depressing and cruel. Despite the melody, this is no amusing little ditty. No character escapes unscathed in Chad Gadya. The kid is innocent and harmless, but the cat consumes him. The dog takes revenge on the cat, but the dog then gets a beating. The stick beats the dog, but then gets consumed by the fire and so on and so on until the song’s climax, the grand finale of the entire Haggadah which comes with a triumphant crescendo:
Then came the Holy One, blessed be He, and smote the angel of death, that slew the slaughterer, that slaughtered the ox, that drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burned the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the kid, that father bought for two zuzim. One only kid, One only kid.
God has entered the scene.
His involvement in the song’s turn of events certainly means that Chad Gadya cannot be understood only as a simple, whimsical rhyme. And so it turns out that this deceptively simple song is filled with insightful lessons. In fact, Chad Gadya incorporates one of the most fundamental elements of emunah. As such, it belongs as the grand finale of the Haggadah.
* * * * *
Over the centuries, differing interpretations have been offered to explain the song. Many see in its dark imagery the history of Israel, the lone, innocent kid. The father, Avinu Shebashamayim, selected the lone kid, when giving two zuzim, two tablets of the covenant.
The animals, objects and people who subsequently destroy and beat one another are the various nations that persecuted, subjugated and oppressed the “one lamb among the seventy wolves” throughout history.
Ultimately the Holy One, blessed be He, comes to bring about the final redemption of His beloved kid, who remained alone and separated front the devouring nations.
Another explanation takes the form of a debate between a Jew and an Egyptian. Framing this interpretation is the understanding that the kid is an animal both deified and worshipped by the Egyptians. Seeing in this deification the essence of idolatry, the Jew wonders how the Egyptian can worship a kid that can be devoured by a cat. When the Egyptian responds that he will then worship the cat, and the Jew retorts that a dog can overpower the cat, the Egyptian quickly transfers his allegiance to the dog. The debate persists until the Jew concludes, “But all powers on earth are subservient to the Holy One Blessed be He. Why don’t you finally realize that only He is to be worshipped?”
Still another understanding views the goat as man’s soul that descends (“sold by the father”) to this earthly existence and suffers through the trials and tribulations of life as it moves (zuz-zazin) about in this world.
Each stanza of the song symbolizes another phase and stage of life as we know it. As life progresses and years pass, man is called to task, “Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya – Unique soul! Unique soul! What have you accomplished on this world? What are you doing here?”
But at each step and every stage, man procrastinates, thinking there will always be time to tend to the spirit and soul. “Later” however, never comes. Finally, man is warned that in due time the soul will have to return to its source and give reckoning for its deeds.
Ultimately, every man must answer to a Higher Source.
The Chatam Sofer brings Chad Gadya closer to Pesach, and finds therefore a parallel between this very last song and the very first Haggadah paragraph, “This is the Bread of Affliction.”
Both are in Aramaic. Both were authored subsequent to the galut and renewed exile from Eretz Yisrael. Both are forms of elegies (kinah) bemoaning the renewed galut, recalling when matzah was eaten not as the bread of affliction but as the bread of freedom and when the Pesach was attended by the pageantry of a Temple sacrifice in Jerusalem. Now we eat matzah, but again as the bread of affliction.
Likewise, we recall the entire service of Pesach, which encompassed the offering of both a Pesach sacrifice and a chagigah korban (chad gadya, chad gadya) that were bought for shtei kesef (two zuzim). And now, chad gadya, chad gadya – woe unto us that we have lost two beautiful gediyim! Who knows when the endless galut will cease, and we will again be able to rejoice in the rebuilding of God’s Holy City, when we can once again partake of the sacrifices and Pesach offerings?
So, too, the Gaon of Vilna traces the theme of Am Yisrael’s trials and tribulations throughout its long sojourn in galut. The two gediyim bought by father are the ones purchased by father Yaakov and brought to Yitzchak on the night of Pesach. These were to become the dual korbanot offered on Pesach, which merited Yaakov the blessing of Yitzchak as well as the bechorah. The cat is jealousy, the dog is Pharaoh, the stick is Moshe’s staff, the ox is the Kingdom of Edom, the slaughterer is Mashiach ben Yosef who will be killed by the angel of death.
“Then came the Holy One, blessed be He” who will redeem His people and nation and “raise the banner to gather our exiles.”
* * * * *
As many interpretations and meanings as interpreters! A review of these various understandings, however, always returns us to the central theme of Chad Gadya, the same theme that makes it clear the song is no child’s ditty. That theme is, quite simply, that God is the Master of the world. No true story begins or ends without God.
Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, whether we deign to recognize it or not, God must enter into every story of our individual and collective life. God is the Master of all. He conducts the affairs of the world in His fashion, and His fashion does not always conform to our own wants or selfish understandings.
As a result, the world often appears chaotic, unfair, inexplicable, and in disarray. We too often forget or ignore that actions have consequences, and that there is no deed that, in the end, does not lead up to God. Each and every action, even one as “simple” and “ordinary” as buying a goat (car! home!) in the marketplace, is part of a chain. Somewhere that chain will lead to God, and then all those involved in the chain that may even drag for thousands of years (galut) must answer before His throne of justice.
Only God can bring together conflicting, seemingly destructive forces into harmony. It is that harmony that is reality. The seeming chaos of life is the mirage.
The final message, then, of the long Seder night is not a silly song about goats or cats or dogs but that there is seder, order, in what may appear to be confusion, chaos and uncertainty.
Reb Avraham Mordechai of Gur taught that a person may look at the saga of our people’s history and conclude that our experience has been a series of random, often cruel, events. However, ultimately Mashiach will come. History has meaning. Life has purpose.
There is seder – order and harmony.Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
Vol. LXVII No. 17 5776
New York City
CANDLE LIGHTING TIME
April 22, 2016 – 14 Nissan 5776
7:25 p.m. NYC E.D.T.
Sabbath Ends: 8:28 p.m. NYC E.D.T.
Sabbath Ends: Rabbenu Tam 8:57 p.m. NYC E.D.T.
Weekly Reading: Pesach Festival (see below)
Weekly Haftara: Pesach Festival (see below)
Daf Yomi: Kidushin 42
Mishna Yomit: Berachos 8:3-4
Halacha Yomit: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 194:11 – 195:3
Rambam Yomi: Hilchos Bias Mikdash chap. 8. Hilchos Issurei Mizbeach chap. 1
Earliest time for tallis and tefillin: 5:13 a.m. NYC E.D.T.
Sunrise: 6:06 a.m. NYC E.D.T.
Latest Kerias Shema: 9:30 a.m. NYC E.D.T.
Sunset: 7:43 p.m. NYC E.D.T.
This Friday Evening is the start of Pesach and the first Seder.
On Thursday evening we searched for chametz – all remaining chametz, including that which might be stuck to utensils, should be sold to a gentile via the rabbi. The sale is to take place no later than the latest time at which one may yet own such chametz before Pesach (at the end of the fifth hour of Erev Pesach – we divide the daylight hours into 12 equal units called sha’ot zemaniyot). This year that time in N.Y.C. is Friday 11:46 a.m. E.D.T. We may not eat chametz beyond one sha’ah zemanit before that: this year in NYC it is 10:38 a.m. E.D.T. The latest time for burning the chametz, which we have gathered in the search the night before (and which we are now forbidden to own), is 11:46 a.m. N.Y.C. E.D.T. After the chametz is fully burned we recite Kol Chami’a and thus we are me’vatel – we nullify – our ownership of any chametz that might remain in our possessionthat we have not sold.
While we are now forbidden to eat chametz, we are also proscribed from eating matza [on Erev Pesach] until the Seder. It is customary for all firstborn to fast on Erev Pesach in commemoration of their deliverance from the decree of death to the firstborn that afflicted all in Egypt. Today the common custom is for the firstborn to attend a siyum of a Gemara tractate, which then allows them to eat.
It is customary for those who need an eruv chatzeros (to allow them to carry in communal and joint driveways and courtyards) to make this eruv, once a year, on Erev Pesach, putting aside a matza for this purpose.
When lighting candles Friday evening, we bless both Lehadlik ner shel Shabbos ve’ Yom Tov and Shehecheyanu (N.Y.C. candle lighting time is 7:43 p.m. E.D.T.).
Friday Evening: Kabbalas Shabbos (Ashkenaz, begin Mizmor Shir l’Yom ha’Shabbos; Sfard, begin at Mizmor l’Dovid, havu La’Shem… first two stanzas L’cha Dodi and last two stanzas and then Mizmor Shir l’yom ha’Shabbos, usual Maariv tefillah followed by Ve Shamru and Vayedabber Moshe followed by the Festival Amida with all mentions of Shabbos, and Vayechulu (we do not say Magen Avos), Kaddish Tiskabbel at the conclusion. (Nusach Sefarad and even certain Ashkenaz congregations include the whole Hallel both evenings – the first night and the second night – with a beracha). Congregations that usually recite the Kiddush in the synagogue on Friday nights do not do so these two evenings; instead, all wait to recite Kiddush at the Seder.
At home on both evenings we recite the Kiddush of Yom Tov (with all references to Shabbos) and Shehecheyanu on the first cup of wine, and we continue with the Seder ceremony, the dippings, matza, maror, Mah Nishtana, the Haggadah, three additional cups of wine, and the Afikoman.
In Kerias Shema at bedtime, these two evenings only, we say only the blessing of Hamappil and the first parasha of the Shema. We delete the other related paragraphs as this night is leil shimurim, when we are subject to special Divine protection.Rabbi Yaakov Klass
By Jesse Lempel/TPS
Haifa (TPS) – Hundreds of bottles of Trump Vodka were seized by Israeli police for bearing phony “Kosher for Passover” labels in advance of the upcoming holiday, a police spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Police raided the storage room of “a known alcohol distributor in downtown Haifa” and found hundreds of Trump Vodka bottles with forged Passover-friendly stickers on them, the spokesperson said. Three people were detained for questioning on suspicion of having pasted the phony labels on the drink.
Vodka is typically made from fermented grain, a product forbidden on the Jewish holiday during which no leavened bread may be eaten. Trump Vodka, by contrast, is made from potatoes.
Wednesday’s raid and arrests were made following a report by the Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post exposing the Passover Trump Vodka scam.
“We discovered that instead of one of the ingredients that was supposed to be kosher for Passover, they used a different one,” the report quoted Rabbi David Silverstone of the OK Kosher certification organization.
Trump Vodka, which bears the brand of US billionaire and presidential candidate Donald Trump, has been out of business for years in most parts of the world. Nevertheless, the beverage has gained unlikely popularity in Israel for one week per year in the niche market of kosher-for-Passover vodkas.
Trump sued the Israeli company producing Trump Vodka in 2011 in a licensing dispute yet eventually settled the case. “Israel’s demand for high quality products and attraction to powerful brand names is a wonderful platform for the Trump brand,” the company said in a press release on Trump.com.
Donald Trump touted the alleged success of Trump Vodka—alongside Trump Steaks and Trump Water—in his victory speech following the Florida Republican primary in March.
“It was a successful product, which continues to be popular abroad,” Trump said of his vodka in a statement to Bloomberg on Wednesday.
With the latest pre-Passover police raid, however, a few hundred bottles of the beverage have been taken off the Israeli market.TPS / Tazpit News Agency
What shall we be free of this Pesach? It is the holiday of Freedom, isn’t it? Most of us today live in democratic countries, with freedom of movement, of expression, of religion – so what other freedoms can we be seeking? What freedom can we suckle from this age-old celebration, this call-to-freedom, which is so fundamental to the Jewish people?
It turns out that Pesach has the capacity to free us, if we wish, from many things that enslave us in our daily lives. Freedom from materialism. Freedom from superficiality. Freedom from the meaningless and the trivial. However, I would like to focus on a specific angle: the freedom to be a better version of ourselves.
What’s wrong with the current version, you may ask. Plenty. We wouldn’t be human otherwise. But the celebration of Pesach is a clarion call to wake up, to discard the fears and habits that hold us back and to improve ourselves.
First we start by eliminating all of the Chametz, all of the leavened products, from our homes, our sight, our possession and our lives. Besides for the practical aspects, it is also a dictate to eliminate the extraneous things from our lives. Our lives quickly get cluttered with extra weight. We need to shed that baggage, existentially become lean and focused, leave the hang-ups of the past, for a meaningful present and a rewarding future.
Then comes the diet of Matza, simple, humble, clean, nothing added, just the basic ingredients of life, flour and water. We need a diet of simple to get back to our personal basics. What are the things that really matter? What is the direction my life is taking? How is my family life? How is my spiritual life? How is my internal life? Does my life have meaning? Or am I stuck in a certain course, a certain behavior and don’t have the strength and the courage to change course? Will I wake up at the end of my life filled with regrets, for those roads I didn’t take?
Then comes the Marror, the bitter herbs. Sometimes, many times, even most times, we need to bite the bullet. We need to take the hard road. Comfort and security are not always the optimal choices. Sometimes we need to leave our comfort zone to grow. Sometimes we need to overcome our fear, our distaste, our placidity, to truly awaken, to truly reach moments of meaning which in turn hold the hope to leading lives of greater meaning.
However, life is not all struggle and discomfort. We have to celebrate! We are the children of Kings and Queens, Prophets and Sages. We have a special relationship with the Creator of the world. And on this day, he took us, our people out of the bondage of Egypt to be his emissaries in this world: To be a light in the darkness; the joy amongst the somber; the serious amongst the frivolous; the revolutionary amongst the complacent; the respectful amongst the unruly; the meaningful amongst the meaningless. We drink. We feast. We dine like kings. We lean on our sides and remember the tribulations of the past and the hopes for the future. We are noble. We cannot forget that either.
But often we do. We get stuck in our own personalities. We have an innate fear of changing who we are. We have a practiced cynicism; a quick dismissal of the pure and the noble. We believe that reality demands a certain harshness, both with ourselves as well as with others. Someone good? It can’t be. They must have ulterior motives. They must have some benefit we don’t see. For us to be so good? We would be branded hypocrites. That is how corrosive and destructive our fear of our better selves has become. We do not allow ourselves or others to reach those heights.Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz
If you’re anything like me, just thinking about Pesach is enough to send shivers down your spine. The “P” word can conjure up images of having to prepare a seemingly endless number of meals in a marathon cooking spree in order to feed a virtual army of hungry friends and family members who are hoping that you will somehow wave your enchanted kitchen wand and make gourmet meals magically appear out of your limited Pesach grocery supply.
Well, never fear, my intrepid readers. Paula Shoyer is here to save the day with an all-new Pesach cookbook, and with 65 gorgeous new recipes, the legendary kosher baking guru might as well be wearing a shiny superhero cape with a big “P” emblazoned on the back as she banishes those Pesach blues forever.
The New Passover Menu is a gorgeous book, loaded with enticing pictures. Almost as exciting as the recipes themselves (and trust me, there are some awesome ones here) is the way the book is laid out, with eight individual menus (updated Ashkenazic Seder, International Seder, Shabbat, Yom Tov, French Dairy, Italian Vegetarian, BBQ Dinner and Easy Chicken) as well as two sections that make short work of both breakfast and dessert. Shoyer also graciously offers up additional lunch menus in the introductory section of the book, allowing you to cross “prepare Pesach menus” off your pre-Yom Tov checklist. A pantry section includes a handy list of Pesach-friendly substitutions for items like corn syrup, cream of tartar and even flour. For those who are less familiar with holiday customs, there is a quick primer on how to prepare for Pesach and a multi-page guide to demystify the Seder. Finally, recipes are clearly marked to let you know how many servings you can expect to get, preparation and cooking time estimates and a list of necessary equipment. Many, but not all, of the recipes let you know right up front if they are suitable for those who don’t eat gebrokts or are on a gluten-free diet.
But as always, it is all about the food and the recipes offer contemporary twists on traditional foods; some look so good you might just be tempted to make them all year round. There are some fun riffs on Pesach classics, with charoses that includes both apples and bananas and an innovative Seder plate salad that incorporates elements of the most memorable night of the year into a novel Chol Hamoed lunch or dinner. The gefilte fish of the alte heim is completely inverted in a unique loaf that has a whole salmon fillet embedded in the center of a stick of frozen gefilte fish. Coconut shnitzel with almond butter sauce, lamb stew with apricots, pears and mint and potato gnocchi with pink sauce all prove that Pesach food need not be boring.
Needless to say, dessert is the best part of every meal and there is no reason to settle for sponge cake when you can indulge in Shoyer’s fabulous linzer tart, which incorporates three different kinds of nuts instead of matzah meal. Need something chocolatey to top off your meal? Whip up a flourless chocolate cake with marshmallow icing and, for those of you who are really adventurous, feel free to pull out your Kosher L’Pesach blowtorch to toast the marshmallow topping and really knock this one out of the park. For a lighter option, check out the lemon cream-laced meringue fruit tarts, a real showstopper that will let you indulge without totally wrecking your diet.
Packed with creativity and fresh ideas, The New Passover Menu, published by Sterling Epicure, may just be the answer to your Pesach dreams.Sandy Eller