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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘pesach’

Finding Food for Needy Settlers for Passover

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council is preparing Passover food packages for families in their region who are finding it difficult to make ends meet. According to Anat Tzafrir, head of the Charity and Volunteer Unit at the Council, “We encounter difficult situations such as families, some victims of terror attacks, who are at the verge of starvation.”

At least 100 basic food packages are prepared monthly, according to Tzafrir. The need grows exponentially with the unique demands of the Passover holiday.

Some 34 Jewish communities are included in the Shomron Regional Council catchment area, most nestled among the soaring hills that separate Jerusalem from the Mediterranean coast and the Galilee. Those who live in such communities – which are part of Israel’s defense line in holding the territory won in the 1967 Six Day War — tend to be self-sufficient and strong-minded individuals able to survive on bare essentials. But even with those points in their favor, certain basics are necessary for a reasonable life, especially one with a family.

Security and defense of the perimeter is provided by each community’s own civil defense team, as well as by the IDF. But making sure there is enough food on the table has become for some a cause for tears and frustration in a region tension is already a fact of life.

Food packages are not the real answer to the problem – but it is certainly one way of relieving at least some of the pressure so everyone can have a joyous holiday of freedom.

A Literary Analysis of Shir Ha-shirim

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

I. The Need for a Literary Approach

Each year, as we read the magnificent love story of Shir Ha-shirim, we encounter the sacred flames of passion between the Jewish people and the Almighty expressed in the work. Whose heart wouldn’t be stirred by the depiction of the Dod (male lover), symbolizing God, knocking at his beloved’s door, begging her to let him in, or by the riveting drama of the Re’aya (female lover) – the Jewish people – returning to her beloved as the mutual bonds of affection are restored?

The gripping emotional experience of reading Shir Ha-shirim each Pesach leaves little time for a systematic study of the literary and poetic detail of the work, particularly the plethora of imagery contained therein. A deeper understanding of the poetic style, language and form allows us to more fully appreciate how the words and images blend with the emotional development of the drama and contribute to the narrative flow.

It is therefore worthwhile to undertake this study now, prior to the reading of the Megilla, so that the stylistic techniques can work their literary magic and intensify our emotional participation in the reading of Shir Ha-shirim. This Megilla is, after all, the “Poem of Poems,” and, given its poetic nature, we must approach the text accordingly, from the perspective of poetic analysis.

In his introduction to “Moreh Nevuchim,” the Rambam already noted the relationship between human aesthetic sensitivity and the Scriptures, thus encouraging the implementation of literary techniques in the study of Tanakh:

The key to understanding all that the prophets said, and to the knowledge of its truth, is the understanding of the parables, of their import, and of the meaning of their expressions. You already know that which God said, “I spoke parables through the prophets” (Hoshea 12:11) and “Propound a riddle and relate an allegory” (Yechezkel 17:2). Furthermore, because of the frequent use made of parables by the prophets, one prophet says, “They say of me, Is he not a maker of parables?” (ibid. 21:5). You know how Shlomo began his book, “For understanding proverb and epigram, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Mishlei 1:6).

II. The Re’aya’s Impulsiveness and the Dod’s Restraint From the moment the curtain rises, the Re’aya finds herself struggling to reach the long-awaited reunion with her lover (the Dod). She passionately yearns for him, and she runs after him through the hills and valleys. The only pursuit occupying her at this time is meeting her Dod and capturing his love.

However, he is less than quick to respond. He stands behind the fence, peering in from beyond the window and through the cracks in the wall, but refuses to appear. She cries, “Tell me, you whom I love so well; where do you pasture your sheep? Where do you rest them at noon?” But all he can reply is, “Go follow the tracks of the sheep.” She wants to locate him immediately, but all he tells her is to follow his tracks he left behind. She is confused and frustrated: why won’t her Dod come to greet her and take her into his arms?

As readers, we, too, cannot understand this game of hide-and-seek. Why does her Dod retreat, slip away, resist her pressure and deny her advances? Why does he seem to appear and then hide, begin to approach and then flee?

The answer lies in the unique character of the Re’aya. She is infused head to toe with unbridled passion; she is bursting with boundless emotional energy. She does not calculate her steps – she simply charges forward in a stream of uncontrolled love. The text describes not a gradual process of emotional development, nor a systematic progression of a relationship and its internalization for the long-term. Rather, she drives headlong straight towards the most intense levels of affection. This passion drives her relentless pursuit of her Dod, but also creates a stumbling block before the realization of her fantasies. So physically and emotionally drained is she from her frustrating pursuit of her Dod, from her races through the hills and valleys in the scorching sun (1:7), from the late, nighttime hours (3:2) of impassioned, premature yearning, that when the long-awaited moment finally arrives, she cannot get out of bed to let her Dod inside.

Jews Petition Police to Offer Passover Sacrifice on Temple Mount

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Two Jews have petitioned Jerusalem police in the name of dozens of others for permission to carry out the mitzvah of the Passover sacrifice on the Temple Mount this year, for the first time in nearly 2,000 years.

The petitioners claim that police authorization is the only obstacle to ascending the Temple Mount, praying and offering their sacrifice of a lamb, as commanded in the Torah.

They said 100 Jews will be present and will bring with them a portable sacrificial altar and other equipment as described in the Torah.

Rabbi Menachem Boorstein, who is involved with studies of the Holy Temples, said that the mitzvah of the Passover sacrificial offering can be carried out without violating Jewish law. The Chief Rabbinate forbids Jews from ascending the Temple Mount, while a growing number of national religious rabbis permit it under certain conditions and in certain places.

Even the idea of public asking for permission to offer the sacrifice, let along the act itself. could be enough to set off Arabs to wage an all-out war.

Every time a Jews dares to mumble a prayer on the Temple Mount, Muslim officials and police immediately drag them away.

Hundreds of yeshiva students ascended the Temple Mount on Tuesday, the first day of the Hebrew month of Nissan and two weeks before Passover, to hear a lecture on the holy site and on Passover.

Muslims reportedly clashed with the crowd and beat up one of the Jews, but there has been no official confirmation of the claim that there was no provocation besides the actual presence of Jews, which by itself is enough to send the Arabs into a frenzy.

Below is a video of the peaceful moments the crowed of Jews enjoyed on the Temple Mount.

PM Netanyahu Visits Kfar Chabad Matza Bakery

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the matza bakery in Kfar Chabad on Tuesday, two weeks before the beginning of Passover.

“At home, I have eaten this matza for years.” he said. “Today, for the first time, I am also preparing it myself. I am very excited. I wish the entire Jewish People a Happy Passover.”

Reciting a passage from the Haggadah read on the night of the Seder, (two nights outside Israel), the Prime Minister stated, “In every generation enemies rise up to destroy us, but God saves us from them. The Haggadah mentions four sons – wise, wicked, simple and the one who does not know how to ask – but each one has a Jewish spark and you watch over this Jewish spark.”

Local Chabad leaders and rabbis briefed Prime Minister Netanyahu on the preparations to hold Passover seders at the approximately 250 Chabad houses throughout Israel and the approximately 3,000 Chabad houses around the world.

More Kosher Snack Foods Coming Up for Passover

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Snack food manufacturers are increasingly turning to the Orthodox Union for kosher certification to expand their markets during the Passover holiday.

Classic Foods announced last week that the company and its branded snack products will be kosher for Passover, under the certification of the OU, which will put Kettle Classics, California Classics, and Baked Classics on the shelves in the growing category of Passover snacks.

One reason for the increased demand for kosher for Passover snacks is that a  significant segment of the kosher market is younger or made up of large families with many children.

One distributor estimated that sales of snack foods on Passover have grown by more than 30 percent in the last three years. Even brands like PepsiCo’s Lays produces a Passover chip in Israel which makes its way to the American market. Some stores that in years past had only a small section for snacks now feature entire aisles and said one retailer, “I could probably fill another.” But one retailer complained, “My problem is that I can’t do anything with what is leftover since I have few takers after the Yom Tov ends.”

Rosh Hashanah 2013 – Pain or pleasure?

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The Torah tells us very little about Rosh Hashanah, not even its name. The three harvest and pilgrim festivals are named, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukot. These were the main focal points of national Jewish life in Biblical times, when as many as possible gathered in Jerusalem and attended Temple ceremonies. The Torah keeps on reiterating how they are supposed to be happy occasions, time to eat, drink, be merry, and share. Yom Kipur is the single Biblical holiday devoted to personal introspection, a serious and painful experience, physically and spiritually.

But when it comes to Rosh Hashanah, all we have to describe it is, “The first day of the seventh month is a Sabbath of remembering and blowing (the shofar)”! (Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29) It is up to the Oral Law to tell us more. The name we use universally nowadays, the New or rather the Head of the Year, came into Judaism much later than the Bible.

So I wonder, where does Rosh Hashanah fit in on the scale of pain and pleasure? Is it a happy, joyful festival like the other three, or is it painful and serious like Yom Kipur? Is it a self- analytical moment in which our very existence is examined and justified, or is it a mystical occasion when we should try, through ecstasy and experience, to get as close to Heaven as we can? Is it a case of “turn from evil and do good” or “do good and turn from evil”?

There is an alternative option, that it is a mixture of both. Just like good chocolate, it has salt as well as sugar. Throughout the history of human intellectual civilization we have always been expected to choose, to decide which one is right. Should we be happy or sad? Should we be enjoying life or suppressing and disciplining? Should we be rational or emotional? Should we be individuals or a community? Perhaps they are both right.

The Western philosophical tradition likes to be precise. It has no time for fuzzy combinations. Either you are Stoic or an Epicurean, an Aristotelian or Platonist, a Greek or a Roman, a Christian or a Muslim, a rationalist or a mystic, a capitalist or a socialist, a Freudian or a Jungian, a person who wants to have fun or a killjoy.

But surely we are a mixture of different ideas, opinions, experiences and feelings. So is Judaism. That’s why we can never agree on anything. Do we have to be scholars or populists, legalists or fabulists, have analytical minds or great memories, prefer gemarah or midrash, be Chasidim or Mitnagdim, Sefardi or a Ashkenazi, strict or lenient? Why can’t we combine lots of different elements and move in and out of different moods and situations?

History plays a part, of course. Zechariah was ready to scrap all the sad fast days and turn them into joyful celebrations. But then came years of oppression and suffering and exile and the number of sad days increased. Once we were exiled from Jerusalem, our liturgy overflowed with sadness, alienation, loss, and woe. Now we have penthouses overlooking the Old City, with swimming pools and saunas. Once Ashkenazi and Sefardi prayed in different worlds; now we are next-door and often visit each other, pray with each other and dance with each other, let alone marry each other. Once Lithuanians placed bans on Chasidim, now they imitate them. Rav Ovadia Yosef once implored his followers to stop dressing in black Ashkenazi gear, now his sons looks like nineteenth century Viennese doctors. Blurring the lines can be good. We should embrace it.

So historically we refer to the first ten days of the month of Tishrei as Yamim Noraim, Awesome Days, serious days, or the Ten Days of Repentance. Heavy days with much longer services than normal, lots of additional poems, much breast-beating and tears of contrition, and the expectation that being found unworthy we will be condemned in ten days to Heavenly punishment. Yet there is another side. We sit down to huge banquets. Our tables are laden with goodies. We dip apples into honey and wish each other a sweet year. We get hold of as many exotic fruits as we can to symbolize good things, and to be able to thank God “who has kept us alive and enabled us to enjoy this moment.” We buy new things and wear our best clothes. We are treated to the sounds of the shofar, and we go down to the water to remark on our never stepping into the same river twice (I bet you never thought of that association with Tashlich).

We can be happy one moment and reflective the next. That, according to the Talmud, is why we break glasses at weddings. It is why we thank God for the bad as well as the good, and vice versa. It is why we celebrate life and we record death. It is why we work but also rest, why we eat but also refrain. The more we do, the richer our lives. But the more we overindulge the less rewarding and enjoyable they become. Unless you add salt, the chocolate cloys. Unless you enjoy life and look on its bright side and remember your good fortune, however modest, the less significant each moment becomes.

Rosh Hashana has no Biblical name because it is sandwiched between the extremes of the delightful pleasures of harvests and the self-denial of Yom Kipur. It stands for the golden mean between them, the best of both harvest festivals and serious self-analysis.

Pain or pleasure? Yes. We all experience it when we look back at our lives, let alone the past year. There are things we did that give us a sense of success and satisfaction. And there are things we did that we regret, wish we had done differently or better, that cause us pain. It’s precisely that combination of the two that Rosh Hashanah reminds us of.

May we all have a sweet year.

From Joy to Sorrow and Back Again

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

I close my eyes and am transported back to Israel, where I spent the past six weeks.

For me, Israel always feels like home, and even six weeks is not enough time to do all I would like and to see family and old friends as often as I wish.

Pesach is a beautiful time in Israel. It’s springtime and everything is in bloom. During the weeks leading up to the holiday people are busy selling their chametz, kashering their pots and pans, etc. This year things were a little more complicated for us Jerusalemites as President Obama picked an inconvenient time to visit, necessitating the closing of main thoroughfares for hours on end. But finally the holiday arrived, bringing a feeling of joyous thanksgiving.

I was privileged to hear the Priestly blessing on the second day of Chol HaMoed at the Kotel and felt enveloped in holiness. I was delighted to see the signs on buses wishing all a Chag Pesach Sameach. But one of my best “Only in Israel” stories was told to me by my friend Tzviya.

Supermarkets all over Israel sell their chametz and cover over all the shelves that have chametz on them. My friend was in a supermarket on Chol HaMoed when a woman somehow reached behind the covering and took out a box of chametz. The cashier made several attempts to enter the item on her cash register, but each time the words “Chametz – Not For Sale” came up. Finally the cashier told the customer she was unable to sell this to her this week and to please put it back.

The holiday passed all too quickly and then wherever one looked, the beautiful blue and white flag of Israel could be seen blowing in the wind. The country was getting ready to celebrate 65 years of independence. I bought a flag and proudly hung it on my car window.

The most moving experience of all for me took place on Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s memorial day for its fallen soldiers. It takes place a day before Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s independence day. For those of us who grew up and live in the U.S., memorial day in Israel is vastly different from what we are used to. It is sad and solemn; theaters are closed, as are many restaurants and stores. A siren sounds in the evening to usher in the day and again in the morning for two minutes of silence.

Aside from the public ceremonies, many people visit the cemeteries. Every year my son Dovid drives from his home in Ginot Shomron to the military cemetery on Har Herzl to visit the grave of his teacher Shlomo Aumann, Hy”d, who was killed defending Israel in the 1982 Lebanon war.

The year the war broke out Dovid was a young boy of 14, about to graduate 8th grade in the Chorev School. Shlomo Aumann , the eldest son of Nobel Laureate Professor Robert (Yisrael) Aumann, was the students’ favorite teacher. His death was a major blow to the entire class but Dovid took it particularly hard. He has never forgotten him and now, so many years later, he brings his children with him.

It is hard to describe the feeling one gets walking past thousands of graves of young men and women – 18, 19, 20 years old. We finally came to Shlomo’s grave. He was 25 when he was killed, leaving behind a two-year-old son and a pregnant wife ( a girl was born a few months after his death). Some family members were already there. Dovid spoke about his teacher and then my granddaughter Elisheva began to play her violin. There is something about the violin that touches the soul as no other instrument can. She played “V’Zakaynee L’Gadel Banim” and Shlomo’s sister told us her brother’s two children are a wonderful credit to his memory. At the sound of the violin, people visiting other graves came over sing with us.

From there we went to the section in memory of Chana Senesh, the heroine who rescued Jews in Europe during World War II before being caught and tortured to death. A group of schoolchildren and their teacher were there and when Elisheva played “Kayli Kayli,” one of the songs Chana Senesh wrote, the entire class sang along. Once again, at the sound of the violin people came from all over to stand alongside us.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/from-joy-to-sorrow-and-back-again/2013/04/24/

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