Category Archives: Passover
How the Maxwell House Haggadah became a passover Tradition – April 7, 2020
The Maxwell House Haggadah is the most goyish part of Passover – April 3, 2020
Wonder why Maxwell House makes Passover Haggadot? You’re not alone. – March 30, 2018
Joseph Jacobs Advertising
One Hundred Years of the Maxwell House Haggadah – The Forward, March 23, 2013
I want to take this opportunity to wish all my friends in Great Falls a most joyous Pesach! I miss seeing you all so much! I hope everyone is doing well, and that we will be able to see each other soon! Love, Rabbi Ruz
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Passover and the Power of Jewish Continuity
By Mark Gerson
March 20, 2021 12:01 am ET
After hundreds of years of slavery, it is the Israelites’ final night in Egypt. They are ready to escape to freedom. Their leader, Moses, imparts a final piece of guidance, one that is also to serve as a lasting edict: He instructs them to tell their children about this Exodus from Egypt. But there are many different ways to tell a story, let alone one as rich, complex and dynamic as the Exodus. Moses didn’t offer precise instructions. So thousands of years ago, Jews created a book known as the Haggadah, which means “telling.”
The Haggadah serves as the script for the Passover Seder, the ritual meal that Jews around the world will celebrate on the night of March 27. As much as any other book, it has been responsible for assuring the continuity of Judaism. The Haggadah does this “horizontally,” by creating an experience that every Jew in the world shares at the same time, as well as “vertically” through history. If a 3rd-century Yemenite or an 18th-century Russian were to walk into a Seder in Miami or Tel Aviv today, they would know exactly what was going on and be able to participate.
If the Haggadah were just a holiday manual or a dinner program, it would have disappeared a long time ago. Instead, it offers a condensed compilation of centuries of wisdom—the Greatest Hits of Jewish Thought. It is one of the greatest guides ever written for living a meaningful, fulfilling and happy life.
Near the beginning of the Seder, for instance, the Haggadah declares: “All who are hungry, let them come and eat; all who are needy, let them come and celebrate Passover.” But why would we issue an invitation when the event has begun and everyone is seated?
The answer is that the invitation is addressed to those already present to bring a certain part of themselves. The Hebrew word for “face” is a plural, suggesting that each of us has many faces, many selves. The self being invited to the Seder isn’t the confident one, which even occasionally feels invulnerable. Rather, it is the self who, as Deuteronomy says, “does not live by bread alone” but needs to alleviate its spiritual and ethical hunger.
Because most Jews attend a Seder every year, it offers an occasion to contemplate our younger selves. We realize how different we are now from who we were in the past and acknowledge that our future self will say the same about our current self. We can create that future self with the guidance of the Haggadah.
One of the mechanisms for doing so is the most familiar food of the holiday—the matzah. When a significant amount of salt is added to yeast, the yeast doesn’t rise, and the result is the flat, crackerlike bread known as matzah. On the night before Passover, Jews purge their homes of bread and introduce the matzah in its place. It is an opportunity to ask: What in my life do I want to discard? What do I want to preserve, and what do I want to last forever—even after I am gone?
Thoughts about preservation and permanence naturally lead to the subject of education. One of the best teaching tools in the Haggadah is the Four Questions, which point out some of the differences between an ordinary meal and the Seder: for example, “On all other nights we eat any vegetables. Why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs?” The Four Questions are traditionally recited by a child and are intended to arouse the curiosity of children. Yet no child has ever leapt from their chair, exclaiming, “Wow! I can’t believe we are eating bitter herbs tonight! Tell me more about the Exodus!” No, because generic instruction does not inspire. As King Solomon advised, each child must be educated “according to his way.”
The Four Questions are in fact meant to invite children to ask more questions of their own. The 13th-century rabbi Zedekiah ben Abraham noted that the Seder plate should contain “toasted grains, types of sweets and fruits to entice the children and drive away their sleepiness so that they will see the change and ask questions.” In my own home, we throw marshmallows to children who ask good questions. Does a child like baseball? Put a pack of trading cards under their plate. Is a child mischievous? Whoopee cushions are kosher for Passover!
Before long, the Seder arrives at the ten plagues, which God used to punish Pharaoh for continuing to enslave the Israelites. The book of Exodus says that the first two plagues, blood and frogs, were “everywhere in Egypt.” But rather than attempt to get rid of the plagues, Pharaoh’s magicians exacerbated them by creating more blood and frogs. Why? Because Jew-haters are often willing to accept increased suffering if it means inflicting greater pain upon Jews. This explains why Hitler used his dwindling military resources in late 1944 to round up and kill the Jews of Hungary.
The Haggadah has enabled the Jews to tell the story of the Exodus to their children for more than 100 generations because it isn’t simply meant to be read. Rather, the Haggadah involves a combination of activities: listening, speaking, being heard and responding anew. It is truly a conversation, in which the participants converse with those at the same table, those at Seders all over the world and those who sat at Seders in the distant past.
It is counterintuitive that a conversation should guarantee continuity. After all, participants in a conversation can’t know where it will end up, let alone how it will change them. Yet it is the unpredictable vehicle of a conversation that has enabled the endurance of the Passover celebration. This is another vital lesson from Passover: The secret to stability is structured dynamism. No wonder Jews celebrate Passover, the Festival of Freedom, at an event called the Seder, which means “order.” That miraculous balance, curated by the Haggadah, has kept the Jewish people on the same page generation after generation.
—This essay is adapted from Mr. Gerson’s new book “The Telling: How Judaism’s Essential Book Reveals the Meaning of Life,” published this month by St. Martin’s Press.
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Appeared in the March 20, 2021, print edition as ‘Passover and The Power of Jewish Continuity.’
Have a zissen Pesach! Jerry Weissman
The shortest Seder you have ever been to, guaranteed. Enjoy!
Next year in Jerusalem, or at least out of the pandemic!
Six13 – The Red Sea Shanty: A Pirate Passover
It’s Passover on the high seas, mates! We couldn’t help but dive right in to the sea shanty craze — especially once we realized how well they work as horas — and we weren’t content to stop at just “The Wellerman.” Come drop anchor and celebrate freedom with us and a hearty round of 19th century sailing songs!
Contributed by Jerry Weissman, who personally prefers boxes of Manischewitz, Streit’s, etc.
There’s so much about Passover to appreciate – the traditions, food, songs, facts, history, sermons, blessings, services, Seders, haggadahs, family, friends. There’s Passover-themed movie and TV shows, and art galore. And, as with many aspects of Judaism, there is also a rich tradition of humor associated with the holiday. After all, once you’ve been liberated by God from slavery in ancient Egypt, you’re no doubt ready to relieve some of the pent-up tension with a laugh or two. And while the consumption, keeping, and owning of chametz is forbidden during Passover, humor is both allowed and appreciated. Okay, granted, the more Manishewitz you drink, the funnier the humor seems. Be that as it may, here are some favorite Passover jokes. And if you enjoy them even half as much as you do your matzo ball soup and tzimmes this Passover, well, dayenu.
Hear about the internet search engine for Passover? It’s called eliYAHOO
How do you drive your mother completely insane on Passover? It’s really a piece of cake
What’s your favorite Passover film? Shawshankbone Redemption
Why did the matzah quit his job? Because he didn’t get a raise
What army base is off limits on Passover? Fort Leavenworth
A little boy once returned home from Hebrew school and his father asked, “What did you learn today?”
He answered, “The Rabbi told us how Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.”
The boy said “Moses was a big strong man and he beat Pharaoh up. Then while he was down, he got all the people together and ran towards the sea. When he got there, he has the Corps of Engineers build a huge pontoon bridge. Once they got on the other side, they blew up the bridge while the Egyptians were trying to cross.”
The father was shocked. “Is that what the Rabbi taught you?”
The boy replied, “No. But you’d never believe the story he DID tell us!”
It seems a group of leading medical people have published data that indicates that Seder participants should NOT partake of both chopped liver and charoses. It is indicated that this combination can lead to Charoses of the Liver.
At our Seder, we had whole wheat and bran matzo, fortified with Metamucil. The brand name, of course, is “Let My People Go”
What do you call steaks ordered by 10 Jews? Filet minyan
If a doctor carries a black bag and a plumber carries a tool box, what does a mohel carry? A Bris-kit!
Why do we have a Haggadah at Passover? So we can Seder right words.
What do you call someone who derives pleasure from the bread of affliction? A matzochist.
A Jewish man took his Passover lunch to eat outside in the park. He sat down on a bench and began eating. Since Jews do not eat leavened bread during the eight-day holiday, he was eating Matzo, flat crunchy unleavened bread that has dozens of perforations. A little later, a blind man came by and sat down next to him. Feeling neighborly, the Jewish man passed a sheet of matzo to the blind man. The blind man handled the matzo for a few minutes, looked puzzled, and finally exclaimed, “Who wrote this nonsense?”
Did you hear about the gefilte fish that went deaf? He had to buy a herring-aid.
When it comes to Karpas, who is the king of Passover? Elvis Parsley
An Egyptian task master fell down a wishing well, The Jewish slave was amazed, “I never knew they worked.”
How does NASA organize their Passover Seders in space? They planet
Moses was sitting in the Egyptian ghetto. Things were terrible. Pharaoh wouldn’t even speak to him. The rest of the Israelites were mad at him and making the overseers even more irritable than usual. He was about ready to give up.
Suddenly a booming, sonorous voice spoke from above:
“You, Moses, heed me! I have good news, and bad news.”
Moses was staggered. The voice continued:
“You, Moses, will lead the People of Israel from bondage. If Pharaoh refuses to release your bonds, I will smite Egypt with a rain of frogs”
“You, Moses, will lead the People of Israel to the Promised Land. If Pharaoh blocks your way, I will smite Egypt with a plague of Locust.”
“You, Moses, will lead the People of Israel to freedom and safety. If Pharaoh’s army pursues you, I will part the waters of the Sea of Reeds to open your path to the Promised Land.”
Moses was stunned. He stammered, “That’s…. that’s fantastic. I can’t believe it! – But what’s the bad news?”
“You, Moses, must write the Environmental Impact Statement.”
What did one Seder plate say to the other? “Dinner is on me!”
What kind of shoes did the Egyptians wear during the plague of Frogs? Open-toad!
Who is behind Pharaoh’s Evil Empire? Darth Seder
What was the name of the Secret Spy for the Jews in Egypt? Bondage, James Bondage
What did the Teddy Bear say when he was offered the afikomen? No thanks, I’m stuffed
How many Pharaohs does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, but he won’t let it go.
I want to wish everyone a safe and meaningful Pesach during this challenging time. Finding meaning in comfort at the Seder this year will be hard for us all, myself included. I look forward to better days together, and hope you are all doing well!
Love, Rabbi Ruz