The Shabbat-O-Gram is sponsored by Matthew and Kelly Sabloff in honor of Ava becoming Bat Mitzvah.
The great Hebrew poet Hayyim Nachman Bialik wrote:
"So much for words. But beyond that, God has other languages without words: melody, tears and laughter.... These begin where words end, to bring not closure, but new beginnings. They rise up bubbling from the chaos. Indeed they are the rising itself.... Any artistic creation that does not echo one of these three - its life is not a life, and it would have been better had it not been created."
I was thinking about that verse as my Wednesday Lunch and Learn class was discussing the 150th Psalm, that great cacophony of ancient instrumentation. Perhaps the two greatest wordsmiths the Jewish people has ever known, the poet and the psalmist, both say that in the end, words are only the first stage of human expression. Psalm 150 states that, ultimately it is breath itself that proclaims God's glory. Just the simple act of being alive. And for Bialik, being alive can be most supremely celebrated in music, in laughter and in tears.
That is precisely our vision here at TBE. We strive to ensure that any service, any class, any interaction, will be genuinely, authentically and fully human. Certainly that can be felt at our Shabbat services. Come tonight at 7:30, as Cantor Fishman and I will be joined by Beth Styles. And let's be fully human together - for simply by doing that, we are praying. So let's laugh (a totally under-appreciated for of prayer), cry a bit and sing a whole lot, as we celebrate - like our UConn women and the Villanova men did this week, One Shining Moment, a new month, a new season, and new beginning, just two weeks from our Feast of Freedom.
- The whole congregation joins in wishing a speedy and complete recovery to Steve Lander, our executive director. Steve is in the recovering from a recent surgery, and doing well.
- Mazal tov to Jewels Harrison, winner of the J Luce Leadership award for his humanitarian efforts in fund raising. Jewels did much of that fundraising as his mitzvah project while celebrating his most memorable bar mitzvah.
- I'm especially proud of my son Dan's new blog posting, published this week on the eve of his 23rd birthday (can it really be ten years since his bar mitzvah?). Read Dan's essay in its entirety here.
- See also my op-ed in the Jewish Week (appearing in next week's printed edition)"What We Lose When the Diaspora Shrinks." I write:
"Israel could always use more Jews, but what the Jewish world needs is more Jewrys: more diversity, more richness, more cultural connections, more interaction with other cultures and yes, more assimilation, not less. Just as a healthy world needs biodiversity, a healthy Jewish world needs Judeo-diversity."
Passover Prep, Those Darn Legumes and Haggadah Helpers
This Shabbat is Shabbat Ha-hodesh, "The Sabbath of the Month," a special Shabbat when the new month of Nisan, is announced. It happens that this year Shabbat Ha-hodesh coincides with the actual first day of that month - Rosh Hodesh - giving us the rare trifecta when we read from three Torah scrolls: one for the portion of the week (Tazria), one for Rosh Hodesh and one for Shabbat Ha-hodesh. Add to that a bat mitzvah (mazal tov to Ava Sabloff and family!) and Shabbat morning will be truly hopping here.
Shabbat Ha-hodesh reminds us that preparations for the festival must now begin in earnest. With that in mind, you can look at the Rabbincal Assembly Guide and my own "Guide for the Perplexed." Last week, I offered some news on the age old question of what we can eat on Passover, particularly regarding the Ashkenazic custom of avoidingkitniyot (legumes).
Since this issue has drawn inordinate interest, I'm reprinting here what is printed in this year's R.A. Guide.
Until this year, the position on kitniyot (for Ashkenazim) has followed that of the longstanding Ashkenazi minhag of refraining from eating them. These foods included: beans, corn, millet, peas, rice, soy, and some other plant based foods like mustard, buckwheat and sesame seeds. The one exception was an approved permission of peanuts and peanut oil, provided said items have proper year-round kosher certification and do not contain hameitz ingredients.
In the fall of 2015 the CJLS passed two responsa which permit the consumption of kitniyot for Ashkenazim. To fully understand their positions, which differ in their argumentation, please see:
- David Golinkin, " Rice, Beans and Kitniyot on Pesach: Are they Truly Forbidden?"
- Amy Levin and Avram Israel Reisner, " A Teshuvah Permitting Ashkenazim to Eat Kitniyot on Pesach"
This permission does not come without a few caveats that do appear in the body of the papers. The first is that the CJLS affirms that this new position does not constitute an instruction to consume kitniyot during Pesah, but rather a halakhic basis and guideline for those who choose to do so. We recognize that while some individuals, communities, and institutions will utilize this new ruling, others may choose not to do so. Both are equally legitimate and derekh eretz should be the guiding value with which we hold our communal and interpersonal conversations around this topic. We encourage all decision-making parties to be transparent in their policies and menus, as well as sensitive to the spiritual and dietary needs of others.
For those who do avail themselves of this ruling, it is important to note the following specific guidance:
1) Fresh corn on the cob and fresh beans (like lima beans in their pods) may be purchased before and during Pesah, that is, treated like any other fresh vegetable.
2) Dried kitniyot (legumes, rice and corn) can be purchased bagged or in boxes and then sifted or sorted before Pesah. These should ideally not be purchased in bulk from bins because of the concern that the bin might previously have been used for hameitz, and a few grains of hameitz might be mixed in. In any case, one should inspect these before Pesah and discard any pieces of hameitz. If one did not inspect the rice or dried beans before Pesah, one should remove pieces of hameitz found in the package on Pesah, discarding those, and the kitniyot themselves remain permissible.
3) Kitniyot in cans may only be purchased with Pesah certification since the canning process has certain related hameitz concerns, and may be purchased on Pesah.
4) Frozen raw kitniyot (corn, edamame [soy beans], etc.): One may purchase bags of frozen nonhekhshered kitniyot before Pesah provided that one can either absolutely determine that no shared equipment was used or one is careful to inspect the contents before Pesah and discard any pieces of חמץ hameitz). Even if one did not inspect the vegetables before Pesah, if one can remove pieces of (hameitz) found in the package on Pesah, the vegetables themselves are permissible.
5) Processed foods, including tofu, although containing no listed hameitz, continue to require Pesah certification due to the possibility of admixtures of hameitz during production.
6) Even those who continue to observe the Ashkenazic custom of eschewing kitniyot during Pesah may eat from Pesah dishes, utensils and cooking vessels that have come into contact with kitniyot )קטניות מי( may consume kitniyot derivatives like oil that have a KP hekhsher.
Search for and Sell Hametz
The traditional search for hametz occurs on Thursday evening, April 21. During Hebrew School that day, we are going to engage the kids in a hametz treasure hunt around our building to make sure that we've found every crumb! It's lots of fun. You can download this sheet to search for hametz at home. And to sell you hametz to me, simply fill out handy dandy form and send it back to our office.
With just two weeks to go until the Seders, I offer an annotated guide to some of the best Haggadah supplements out there, in the hopes that your Seder will go beyond the "let's just eat" phase and truly explore some of the ways this timeless ritual can become relevant - and real - to all participants.
Just in time to spice up your Seders, here are some recommended supplements. Next week, BTW, I will share the superb Haggadah put together for our Women's Seder by Cantor Fishman and her committee, with a special assist by Lisa Gittelman-Udi. It is truly remarkable, as is the advance registration of over 120 for the even next Wednesday! Here's the cover:
Haggadot.com - Make your own Haggadah!
Rabbis Against Gun Violence Seder Supplement - Gun violence is indeed a form a slavery, from which no Exodus seems possible. You can look for my commentary on "The Child Who Cannot Ask" - because we allowed them to be killed on our watch.
American Jewish World Service Passover Supplement - New this year. Beautifully designed and written, universalizing the Passover experience: "This year, this Passover, let us recommit to our sacred responsibility to protect the stranger-particularly vulnerable and persecuted people like the Rohingya minority in Burma, indigenous people in Guatemala and LGBT people in Uganda- whose suffering is so easily ignored."
Schusterman Foundation Passover Page - Lots of Haggadah possibilities, plus a neat introductory video.
Teachings of Nehama Leibowitz - commentary on Haggadah sections by famed Torah scholar
The Shalom Center Haggadah for the Earth confronts the plagues and Pharaohs of our generation.
Kol Aleph Pesach Prayer for the Earth and the Kol Aleph Seder Home Companion - adds helpful and probing questions for each section of the Seder
Holocaust Seder - frames the story of the Holocaust into the Passover narrative
Keshet Resources - materials with an LGBT slant
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