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Miriam
March 25, 2010 – 10:03 am
Miriam

From a young age, the Biblical Miriam was noted for her prophetic voice, declaring that her mother would bear a son who would redeem the Children of Israel (Talmud Megillah 14a). In fact, the Midrash tells us that, after Pharaoh decreed that all male babies be thrown into the Nile, Miriam s parents, Amram and Yocheved, divorced, leading other Israelites to divorce as well…

The Talmud And The Popes
March 24, 2010 – 10:03 am
The Talmud And The Popes

If the Torah is the heart of the Jewish people, then the Talmud is the spine–without either one, the Jewish people could not survive. But while the Talmud is essential for Jewish life, it is a work that became the foremost fascination for one historic dynasty –the Popes of the Middle Ages…

Setting The Seder Table
March 23, 2010 – 10:03 am
Setting The Seder Table

Before beginning the Seder, it is important to make certain that everything necessary is available. No Seder table is complete without the following…

Karinne and Amos
March 23, 2010 – 9:15 am | 2 Comments
Karinne and Amos

“Due to your site and your efforts in bringing Jewish singles together, I have met my husband, the love of my life, my best friend, and the father of my daughter.”

Development of the Haggadah
March 22, 2010 – 10:00 am
Development of the Haggadah

On Passover night we are commanded v’hee’ga’d’ta and you shall tell, the story of the Exodus. (Notice the shared root of hee’ga’d’ta and Haggadah.) The Passover Haggadah serves as a step-by-step guidebook for telling the story of Passover.

Before the destruction of the Holy Temple, most Jews traveled to Jerusalem to offer the Pascal lamb. Because the lamb had to be eaten before midnight, it was the common practice for several families to purchase a lamb and partake of the festive meal together while retelling the Exodus story, discussing the Midrashim (legendary commentary on the Torah) describing the Exodus, and reciting the ten plagues. These early Seders also incorporated the other basic mitzvot of the Seder: eating matzah and maror (bitter herbs) and drinking four cups of wine.

After the Second Temple was destroyed (70 C.E.) and the Jews dispersed, the oral law was written down (Mishna and Talmud) in order not to be lost to future generations. By the year 200 C.E., the basic outline of the Passover Haggadah had been set, including the order of questions and discussion (Mah Nishtana – the Four Questions).

The oldest existing Haggadah that we have today is from 8th or 9th century Palestine. While there have been modifications and additions over time (as people have added prayers of devotion and songs of praise), the basic form of the Haggadah has not changed. With the advent of the printing press in the Middle Ages, the Haggadah text was set, based on the prayer book of Rav Amram Gaon, who headed the Babylonian Yeshiva of Sura between 856-876 C.E. While certain parts of the Haggadah, such as Chahd Gad ya ( One Kid ), were not added until much later, the basic text of the Haggadah has remained the same to this day.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Don’t Let Love Pass Over YOU
March 19, 2010 – 9:30 am | One Comment
Don’t Let Love Pass Over YOU

Another year, another Seder. Bring on the kreplach, maybe a holishke or two and don’t dare skip the tzimmes or your mother will go mad! Even if you’re a devout weight watcher, you’ll be so compressed with matzah by the end of the fress fest, you’ll vow to swear off JDate until the “I swallowed cement” feeling subsides.  Before you do, I am here to remind all that redemption is only one component of the Passover story.

Kosher and Delicious for Passover and Every Other Day
March 18, 2010 – 5:27 pm | One Comment
Kosher and Delicious for Passover and Every Other Day

One sure sign that Spring has sprung is the plethora of Passover products that start appearing on grocery store shelves. Each year, I look forward to checking out what new foodstuffs were invented. Usually these products are meant to counterfeit their non-Passover counterparts. Each year, I hold my own personal contest to see what the strangest and most Pesadich-y thing will be…

How Pharaoh Enslaved The Israelites
March 18, 2010 – 10:03 am
How Pharaoh Enslaved The Israelites

While reading the Book of Exodus, one might wonder at the swift descent of the Jewish nation from being the privileged family of the Viceroy, Joseph, to becoming downtrodden and abused slaves. Xenophobia, the fear of foreigners, is a common historical phenomenon. But, one would think that transforming a nation into slaves would take generations or result in rebellion.

The sages, however, explain in the Midrash that the Egyptians were cunning and enslaved the Jews through artifice. This is understood from Pharaoh, whose name can be broken up to mean peh rah, which means evil speech, and can be understood as well to relate to peh rach, soft speech.

Language is a powerful tool, and even Pharaoh understood this. When he decided to enslave the Jews, he declared a national week of labor during which all good citizens of the realm were to come and help in the building of the great store cities of Pithom and Ramses, with Pharaoh himself in the lead. The Jews, wanting to show their great loyalty to their host country, joined in enthusiastically. The next day, however, when the Jews arrived at the building sites, the Egyptians did not return. Shortly thereafter, the Jews found themselves surrounded by taskmasters who demanded that they perform the same amount of work that they had done on their own volition the day before. It was through soft and cunning words that Pharaoh lured the Jewish nation into slavery.

Not only is this Midrash itself interesting, but it is reflective of the importance that Jewish thought and Jewish law place on the use of words. Obviously, what Pharaoh did was wrong. In fact, Jewish law even forbids the use of words to manipulate another person into paying for lunch (let alone to enslave them).

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Oh My Gosh…Passover is Coming
March 17, 2010 – 10:03 am
Oh My Gosh…Passover is Coming

The intensive physical and emotional preparations for Passover come from one seemingly simple commandment: “Seven days you will eat only matzah, but on the first day you shall have put away chametz from your houses…” (Exodus 12:15). Therefore, by the beginning of the holiday of Passover, no chametz whatsoever may be in one’s possession.

What is chametz? Chametz is defined as leaven, any product in which wheat, oat, barley, spelt or rye come in contact with water for 18 minutes or longer (without kneading or manipulating). To be considered chametz, the food must be edible (defined as something that a dog would eat).

To eliminate chametz, it is necessary to clean one s home, office and even one s car. It is especially important to be particularly thorough when cleaning the kitchen and dining room areas, where food is generally found.

Once the house has been cleaned, it may be “turned over “–the kitchen converted from chametz status to “ready-for-Passover” use. “Turning over the kitchen” includes changing dishes and cookware to those reserved for Passover use and covering counters and table tops, which come in direct contact with chametz.

All food items that are actually chametz must be consumed before Passover, given away, thrown out or sold. In instances of significant monetary loss, it is customary to sell chametz through a rabbi to a non-Jew (e.g. unopened economy size boxes of cereal or bottles of scotch). For more details, please consult your local rabbi.

Any item that does not contain chametz, but is not specifically labeled Kosher for Passover, should be stored in a cabinet for the duration of the Passover holiday, and the cabinet taped closed.

Please note that this is a very brief overview. For more detailed information on Passover preparations, including the search for and burning of chametz, please visit NJOP s Passover Preparations page.

*This Treat was originally published on March 26, 2009. It is being re-Treated to help us better understand the month of Nisan and Passover.

For a look at the deeper meaning of chametz, please read Demystifying…Bedikat Chametz (The Search for Chametz), an article on NJOP’s Passover Writings page.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

Teach The Girls
March 16, 2010 – 10:03 am | One Comment
Teach The Girls

In the late 19th century, European Jewish communities began to notice that the younger generation of women were focused on the outside world and were no longer interested in maintaining the traditions of their foremothers.

While most people did little to change anything, one young Polish seamstress, Sarah Schenirer (1884 – 1935) not only transformed the world in which she lived, but her legacy continues to have a profound impact on Jewish life even today.

While her formal education ended at age 13, Sarah Schenirer’s father provided her with Hebrew/Yiddish texts, which she studied intently. Looking around at Jewish society, she was dismayed not only at the lack of piety that she witnessed but, most critically, at the lack of knowledge. While boys were sent to yeshiva, the girls were often uneducated, even in the basic tenets of Jewish life.

Realizing that the young women were already hardened against spiritual growth, Sarah Schenirer rented a small room and began a school with 25 girls. She faced great opposition. Even her brother thought her ambitions were foolish…until the Belzer Rebbe (of whom he was a chassid) blessed her endeavor. When her school gained the endorsement of Agudath Israel, Sarah Schenirer began receiving requests from other communities to help them start schools too. These new schools, known as Bais Yaakov (House of Jacob), were staffed by her first graduates.

Sarah Schenirer dedicated herself to convincing communities of the importance of educating their daughters, traveling extensively to seek the endorsements of the great rabbis of the era. Most importantly, she had the support of the leader of the generation, the Chofetz Chaim.

At the time of Sarah Schenirer’s death in 1935, Bais Yaakov had become a full-fledged movement. Today, around the world, there are hundreds of Bais Yaakov Schools dedicated to teaching Jewish girls and women.

-March is Women’s History Month

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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