The echoes of Purim are fading away as the Hebrew month of Adar comes to an end next week. Like many of you, I am looking forward to the arrival of Spring – to spending more time outdoors, to opening our windows again, to putting away our winter gear until Chanukah time. According to the Talmud, the most important Jewish New Year takes place in the springtime, with the celebration of
Pesach – this year, falling neither early nor late – but just
right, April 11-18.
There are two reasons that Pesach is considered the New Year by our ancient rabbis: First, our biblical ancestors were herdsman and farmers. Spring, for them, symbolized the renewal of the earth, hope for a good harvest and productive flocks, prayers for energy enough to meet their overburdened days and, finally, a promise to share what they produced with the God on whose bounty they were dependent. Moses and Aaron already explained to Pharaoh the Israelites’ need to celebrate in the springtime.
It was only Pharoah’s refusal to accede to all of their requests (allowing even the animals to join them in celebration outside of their Egyptian borders) that forced the issue – and ultimately led to the death of all of the firstborn male Egyptians, including Pharoah’s first born who would succeed him as the Egyptian god. Their lack of compromise led to our freedom. Secondly, Pesach is z’man
charuteynu, the time of our freedom. Pesach is the time when we celebrate being a New, Independent People, in search of our own land. For all of us, Pesach should be a joyous time to gather with our extended families and friends, or synagogue family to celebrate. A few Pesach reminders:
Preparation is the key to enjoying anything important. Even if you don’t keep kosher during the year, prepare your home by removing all bread
products and purchasing new kosher for Passover food items. Avoid bread for 8 full days. Living in Westchester, we have way more Passover items to choose from than we would ever need! Incidentally, some of the items which are labelled “kosher for Passover” are not required to be kosher for Passover! See rabbinicalassembly.org (right side of the webpage) for a list of Passover guidelines. Or, call me with any questions – that’s why I’m here!
Even if you’re not a member of Costco(!) you probably have more non-Passover items in your pantry and cabinets than you can possibly finish
before Passover. Our ancient rabbis already recognized that, since we’re enjoined not to waste – bal tashchit, it is called. You can turn over ownership of these items to a non-Jew through the simple signing of a form. Our good friend Henry Estephanio will be a faithful custodian of your non-kosher for Passover items if you assign that responsibility over to me by filling out and returning the form found on page 8.
If you would like to offer to host a member of our community for Seder the first or second night of Passover (it’s a great and important Mitzvah to do so!) let me know as soon as you are able to.
Not only should you prepare your kitchen, your pantry and your house for Passover, if you are going to hold a Seder, or attend a Seder, you should come prepared. Don’t keep to the script prescribed by “Rabbi Maxwell House!” — Innovate! Ask those around your Seder how their ancestors arrived in America to enjoy freedom. Create a tent-like setting in your living room to tell the story, and eat the symbolic foods, before the seder dinner. Use props and puppets and costumes. See the myriad creative Seder suggestions now available online! Hint: Try Oriental
Trading for ideas, and prizes for the Afikoman. After the meal, don’t rush your guests out. Sing together – try“Take Me Out to the Seder,”
“There’s No Seder Like Our Seder,” or any number of other contemporary “seder tunes” available online. Or, write your own! Involve your children and grandchildren in the enterprise. Make the Seder your seder by using your own creativity, innovation and imagination!
Passover Services – please help us enjoy wonderful and well-attended Passover Festival Services on the mornings of April 12, 13, 17 and 18
(with Yizkor). Services begin at 9:30 AM – come as you are for as much time as you can allot. Your presence will make for beautiful festival
days. May the joy of Passover fill your cups to overflowing! Let me know how I
Chag Sameach, a joyous Passover Holiday to you and your dear ones.
Rabbi Eytan Hammerman