Purim Acts of Kindness

Posted by Haggadot

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A delicious treat? Yes, but there is a story with meaning behind those mishloach manot (pronounced: “meesh low-ach mah-note”) we hand out and receive at Purim. This mitzvah of handing out little “goody” bags comes from the idea of making sure that everyone has enough food to celebrate the holiday and to increase friendship between Jews. There is a line in the Book of Esther (our heroine of the holiday) that speaks to this idea:

“On those days, the Jews rested from their enemies, the monthwas turned  from sorrow     to gladness, from mourning to joy. Thus, they should make them days of feasting and exhilaration, sending portions to one another and gifts to the poor” (Esther 9:22)

Traditionally, there are at least two different food items in the mishloach manot and everything is ready-to-eat (a can of soup would not work here!). Giving tzedakah, donations to those in need, is also part of this Purim mitzvah of making sure everyone has the means to celebrate this joyous holiday. This Purim, think about the holiday as an opportunity to commit some acts of kindness. If you’ve never handed out mishloach manot, here is a game-plan to help get you going:

  •  make a list of recipients to whom you plan to deliver your mishloach manot
  •  make a list of items you’d like to include (candy, baked hamantaschen and fruit are popular)
  •  decide on the container – clear baggies or tissue sealed with ribbon work well
  •  write out little cards or make labels that say “Happy Purim” from you/your family
  •  create a shopping list and pick up everything for your mishloach manot in one trip
  •  have everyone in the family or a friend help you assemble the bags
  •  enjoy handing out your mishloach manot – this should be done on Purim

Purim is coming up…it begins the evening of Wednesday, March 7th.

Call for Submissions - Los Angeles Artist Haggadah Supplement

Posted by Haggadot

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Haggadot.com and NuArt are seeking contributions for a new Passover Haggadah supplement celebrating the work of Los Angeles-based, emerging artists. The supplement will be featured for download on Haggadot.com, as well as distributed in print format at NuArt’s community “Seder” dinners, and shared with Jewish art institutions nationwide in 2012.

Artists of any medium – visual, performance, and printed word – are invited to submit existing work or proposals for new work. In considering submissions, artists are encouraged to be broad in their definition of Passover themes – slavery, freedom, oppression, redemption, ritual, etc.  All artists will have a bio & link to their websites included in the publication.

Send all submissions to info@haggadot.com, with the following information.

1)     Name

2)     URL to online portfolio, or up to 5 images of work

3)     2-3 sentences describing the work within a context of Passover

Deadline to submit proposals or portfolios: Monday, March 5, 2012

Deadline for final delivery of print-ready artwork: Friday, March 16, 2012


For more information on NuArt, go to http://www.nuartprojects.com/mission--vision.html


The Other Story

Posted by Haggadot

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Every year at Passover we re-tell the same celebrated story of Exodus so that as Jews, our children and our children’s children will know from where we came and the origins of our freedom. There is another story that we celebrate by re-telling every year, but for a different reason. On the night before March 8th (the 14th of ADAR) we will gather together, perhaps dress up as Queens and Superheroes, and listen to the story of Esther.

Although we do have the four glasses of wine and an abundance of Kosher for Passover food for the Passover seders, Purim is a much more joyous occasion – more a celebration of perseverance than a thankful remembrance of freedom. The story of how Queen Esther saved the Jews from annihilation serves as a reminder, not only to remember her bravery and the strength of the Jewish people, but also to keep our faith that with G-d’s help, every generation will have an Esther to stand up to the Haman’s of the world.

To get into the festive spirit of Purim this year, here are a few ideas for a creative holiday:

     • Make hamantaschen – create your own recipe or try one of these: JewishRecipes.com

     • Put together some small shaloch manot to hand out to family and friends

     • Make your own grogger - a plastic cup, some beans, and tape is all you need!

If this is the first Purim you are celebrating, here are a few key terms:

     • Megillah – the scroll containing the Book of Esther, read the evening the holiday begins

     • shaloch manot (short for mishloach manot) – a small bag of treats to hand out

     • hamantaschen – a traditional three-point shaped cookie with fruit filling

     • grogger – a noise-maker used to drown out Haman’s name during the Megillah reading

       Find out more at: Judaism.com

In the Final Stretch

Posted by Sara Smith

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The first seder is on Monday night. In preparation for Passover, I've been busy turning my house inside out, shlepping boxes, cleaning my car, and taking out all my Passover dishes. Meanwhile, Haggadot.com has been buzzing with activity. The variety of content on our site continues to grow and surprise me.  Here's just a sampling of the content submitted this week:


B'chol Lashon contributed recipes, customs, and more revolving around the Global seder. Fair Trade Judaica shared readings relating to Fair Trade and how it can be incorporated into the seder. The Congress of Secular Jewish Organization posted their haggadah. Rabbi Scott Gurdin shared his Rhyming Haggadah, great for kids of all ages and those young at heart. Sue Kayton posted her Monty Python Haggadah. And artist Beth Flusser shared her beautiful Passover-related pieces.


We've also received some great press recently. Check out some of the articles:

-  Jewcy.com: http://bit.ly/gmGWm3

- eJewish Philanthropy: http://bit.ly/gAlLOz

- The Jewish Week: http://bit.ly/hBWfuz

- The Forward: http://bit.ly/hP4wxS


There are just a few days left to create your own personalized haggadah. Keep checking back for new content!

Only One Week to Go!

Posted by Sara Smith

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There's so much to do during the week before Passover. Cleaning, cleaning, more cleaning…and preparing for the seder. Here are some new submissions this week at Haggadot.com:

-Sippling Seder shared some recipes for seder-related cocktail drinks.  Check these out for a good laugh and a way to literally spice up your seder!

- American Jewish World Services posted countless resources dealing with social justice and the seder.  Browse through this material for readings relating to the genocide in Darfur and other social justice issues.

Also, check out these fun, Passover related movies that have been making their rounds online:

















Passover is less than a month away!

Posted by Haggadot

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Can you believe that it's almost Passover? Some of us have already begun cleaning our houses. Some of us have begun our Passover shopping in anticipation of the holiday. And some us have begun thinking about what will make this year's seder different and more meaningful than last year's.



We can’t help you with your cleaning or shopping, but the seder happens to be our expertise! Check out the new material posted this week on haggadot.com.



-Rabbi Rosenberg from Edison, NJ has posted pieces from his siddur for Holocaust Remembrance day.



-Yoel Benharrouche, of Jerusalem, has shared some of his stunning artwork with us.



-Rabbi Kligfeld of Temple Beth Am in Los Angeles shared his favorite seder tune along with the story of how it became his favorite seder song.



-Jewish Boston has begun posting their newly released Haggadah, which they hope will enable more Jews to participate at the seder.



-The Shalom Center in Philadelphia shared selections from the "Freedom Seder," which puts a modern twist on the issues of freedom and slavery from the Passover story.



-The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington DC uploaded pieces that reflect a contemporary outlook on various sections of the haggadah.



We can't wait to see what great content next week will bring!



Shabbat Shalom.


Bee Yourself: Aladdin and Megillat Esther

Posted by Haggadot

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Those of us who grew up in the great age of Disney animated feature films (1990s) know movies such as The Little Mermaid and The Lion King to be classics. And they are.  Their story lines are well known, their songs always on the tip of our tongues, and their characters unforgettable.  But what is it really about these movies that made them so successful (other than the cutting-edge animation)? I’d argue that we could all see ourselves in the characters. Okay, maybe none of us are as evil as Ursella and her eels. But there is a part of each and every one of us that thinks the grass is greener on the other side, that wants to be a part of something we view as fascinating and intriguing, and feels trapped by the world we’re in.

Disney, though they are creative geniuses, did not invent the idea of a narrative with relatable characters and universal themes. Just take a look at the Bible. Open up to any page. It might not be as obvious to you as the colorful, animated films, but if you think about it, you’ll see yourself reflected in every page.


In light of the upcoming holiday of Purim, I recently started thinking about the connections between the story of Esther and Aladdin.  Even without having seen Aladdin in probably over ten years, some of the parallels with the characters jumped out at me.  Haman, the evil villain of the Purim narrative, is manipulative, wants to kill Mordechai, and is a power-hungry advisor to the king. Sound familiar? King Achashverosh, according to many interpretations of the story, is not aware of Haman’s plan, allows himself to be manipulated, and only seems to care about his beautiful wife, Esther, and how others perceive him.  He may even have been in a constant state of paranoia and drunkenness.  Aladdin’s Sultan is literally hypnotized by Jafar and gives Jafar his “ring”, presumably one of the most notable symbols of his power.  Continuing on with the character parallels you can view Esther in Jasmine, Mordechai in Aladdin, Zeresh in Iago, and even God in the Genie.  We’ll leave those deeper analyses for another time.


Once I thought past the character parallels (and saw the movie again), I realized that characters’ struggles are reflective of larger themes.  Aladdin is not only about staying out of trouble, beating the bad guy, and falling in love.  It’s about taking responsibility for your own destiny. It’s about identity. And it’s about freedom.  Each one of these is a major theme in Megillat Esther.


Toward the beginning of the movie, Aladdin falls in love with Jasmine. He believes that he doesn’t have a chance with her because he is not a prince. The law says a princess must marry a prince. At first, Aladdin loses all hope.  Then, after becoming the Genie’s master, he realizes that by becoming a prince, he can win Jasmine’s heart. (Later he’ll realize he just needed to be himself!) When Mordechai hears Haman’s decree to kill the Jews, he mourns. Esther doesn’t seem to think she can take action. When Mordechai reminds her that she is in the perfect position to take action, she does. And guess what, she saves the Jews. She doesn’t allow the authority of the king or a law that prohibits her from showing up unannounced to stop her. At the end of Aladdin, the Sultan tears up the law about only marrying princes just like Haman’s decree was edited to allow the Jews to fight back.


Aladdin, the street-rat, dreams of being in the palace. Jasmine, trapped inside the palace walls, dreams of venturing outside. They both struggle with their identity. They both try to hide their identity. They both eventually are forced to tell the truth. And they both live happily ever after. Following Mordechai’s instruction, Esther does not reveal her Jewish identity in the palace. It is almost as if she is living in a parallel universe, hidden behind the palace walls with her new identity. Interestingly, it is Mordechai again who convinces her to reveal herself to save the Jewish people. And guess what? When the king finally learns her real identity, he doesn’t kick her out! He grants her all her wishes, and Mordechai becomes an even more important figure in the government.


When Aladdin learns that he can make 3 wishes, he promises Genie that on his third wish, he will set him free. Ever wonder what those bracelet-type things on Genie’s wrist are? They’re shackles, symbolizing his bondage. That’s kind of how the Jews were for most of the Esther story. They were destined to be thrown around, bullied, and even killed. And at the end, they were saved, able to defend themselves, and took over Haman’s post. Still, it’s not just the Genie who is released from bondage. Both the Sultan and Jasmine are released from the strict rule of law about her impending marriage. The Sultan is released from Jafar’s spell. Aladdin is saved from a life of poverty and thievery. In this same way, the heroes of Purim are freed from themselves and from hiding behind the facade they had create for themselves.


So you see, Aladdin can teach us a lot, but Esther taught us about these things way before Aladdin came out in theaters almost twenty years ago.  Purim isn’t just about the Jews being saved. It’s about us, today.


Don’t just continue on the course life is taking you because that’s where you’ve always been. It is up to us to take action for what we truly believe. We need to be ourselves and not try to be or wish we were someone else. Who we are is so much better than the person we sometimes pretend to be.  And, finally, let us value the freedom that we are fortunate to have in this world. Let us not allow ourselves to become slaves to our cell phones, our favorite TV shows, our emails, and our stomachs. Let us learn to listen to our hearts and our brains so that we can be ourselves instead of hiding from ourselves. 


What Will Your Tu Bishvat Seder Look Like?

Posted by Haggadot

Somehow, in the last 20 or so years, the Tu Bishvat seder has become an increasingly popular Tu Bishvat ritual. Tu Bishvat seders, modeled after the Passover seder and created by 16th century Kabbalists, have become an important way of marking this date in the Jewish calendar, especially in the green age of environmentalism. I have very early memories of attending Tu Bishvat seders. Actually, I dreaded these seders because they were all about eating the fruit of the land of Israel, and I don’t eat fruit! The only parts of the seder I ever partook in were eating crackers and drinking grape juice. One of the great things about a Tu Bishvat seder, even for the most observant Jew, is that the texts and readings are flexible. In creating your own seder, you may choose to read excerpts from The Giving Tree or Hebrew poetry about the land of Israel or commentaries on Biblical imagery that relates to nature. Many of the already compiled seder texts relate to Kabbalah, spirituality, and meditation. One thing is certain if you are preparing a Tu Bishvat seder—you will need LOTS of fruit! The following blessing for eating fruit might come in handy: Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam Borei peri ha-etz Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe Who creates fruit of trees. Here are some helpful resources for preparing your very own Tu Bishvat seder. Good luck! Hillel’s Tu Bishvat Seder and Helpful Information http://www.hillel.org/jewish/holidays/tubshevat/default.htm Ritual Well’s Tu Bishvat Seder http://www.ritualwell.org/holidays/tubshvat/PrimaryObject.2005-04-23.4355 Jewcology Tu Bishvat resources: http://www.jewcology.com/resources MyJewishLearning.com’s Tu Bishvat resources: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Tu_Bishvat.shtml

Judaism's Green Holiday

Posted by Haggadot

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Tu Bishvat, otherwise known as the Jewish New Year for the trees, is right around corner. During the Temple period, Tu Bishvat was the first day of the yearly cycle for calculating the age of trees. Today, we plant trees, have Tu Bishvat seders, and think about what it means to celebrate nature. Since the beginnings of 19th century Zionism, Tu Bishvat has become a celebration of the land of Israel. Many Jews outside of Israel donate trees while people in Israel plant them. Even outside of Israel, Tu Bishvat has traditionally been a time for Jews to become more aware of their environment. As a child, I remember visiting the TreePeople, an environmental non-profit in Los Angeles, getting my hands dirty, and learning about and planting trees. In my teenage years, I participated in other tree planting campaigns in the LA area. Many Jewish organizations have JNF (Jewish National Fund) drives during the time immediately preceding Tu Bishvat. This year, as Northern Israel finds itself in the aftermath of the Carmel Fires, these efforts are even more vital than usual. Today, Tu Bishvat is the perfect holiday for our environmentally conscious, “green” mentality. It is a day where we can evaluate our own personal relationship with the physical world and make positive commitments towards being more “friendly to nature.” Do we bring reusable bags to the grocery store? Are we being careful with the amount of paper we use? Are we wasting precious water by not fixing a leak in the sink or letting the water run for too long? Many of us do not need to be reminded to use the blue recycling bin because it has become so normal to us. If we all made an extra effort, in the hopes that other environmentally friendly actions would become the norm as well, the meaning of Tu Bishvat could have far reaching positive consequences.

Remembering the Forgotten

Posted by Haggadot

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Coming a little more than a week after we finish celebrating Hanukkah, the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet (Friday, December 17th) is observed by some as a minor fast day. Biblically, the fast commemorates the siege of Jerusalem in the year 587 BCE, which eventually led to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile. But beginning in the mid-twentieth century, this day has come to take on an additional significance that appeals even further to the Jewish soul and is universally relatable--the theme of remembrance. The American Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as similar tombs in countries around the world, reflects the concept that though we may not be able to identify soldiers’ remains, they should still be remembered. This was not the reality that Walt Whitman observed: “"the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied and unknown." Similar to the efforts of the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, comes the modern spin on the 10th of Tevet. It has become Yom Hakkadish Haklali, a day dedicated to mourning and remembering the lives of people whose exact date of death is unknown to us. Jews around the world commemorate this day by remembering those who perished in the Holocaust. I do not have any close family to remember on this day. Still, the entire Jewish people is my family, and I stand with my Jewish brothers and sisters on the 10th of Tevet to remember. Even though many people today do not fast, it is still important to take time out to think about the significance of the day and to remember. For more information on 10th of Tevet and how others observe: Modern day fasts? http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/history-community/faster-faster-asara-btevet/ Exploring the juxtaposition between Jerusalem’s historical role as a city and contemporary reality. http://renaissance.jewishagency.org/2010/12/09/wanted-in-jerusalem-social-justice-10-tevet-events/ Western Wall and the fast day http://www.westernwallblog.com/7/asarah-betevet-the-10th-of-tevet-fast/ Should we observe 10th of Tevet today? http://www.halakhah.org/2010/12/asarah-btevet-10th-of-tevet.html?spref=tw Fasting on a Friday? http://mahrabu.blogspot.com/2010/12/in-tradition-of-mah-rabus-calendar.html