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I grew up in an irreligious home. We rarely belonged to a Temple (Synagogue was too traditional) and attending a service was even rarer. When we did go to temple you would never a yarmulke except on the Rabbi & Cantor (sometimes). The only tallitot were these little vest things that the clergy wore. The only Hebrew was the Sh'ma, the Torah/Haftarah readings and the Mourner's Kaddish (which is really Aramaic).
But every year, without fail, the Passover dishes and linens would come out, and we would have a full-blown Seder. The only other holiday we really observed was Hannukah, and that was only by lighting the Hannukia and singing Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages).
All over the world Jews from the least to most observant observe rituals. Why? Perhaps it is the L'Dor V'Dor (generation to generation) thing, or as Tevye said, "Tradition". But this "kesher" - connection - is what has sustained us through thousands of years of occupation, exile, pogram, shoah, and assimilation.
Every year we return to relive the story - next year in Jerusalem!
Praising as a spiritual practice
How is this Hallel on seder night different from all other Hallels?
What are we aiming to accomplish in this Hallel of seder night?
Unlike every other holiday Hallel, the Hallel of the seder (and in synagogue) is sung at night. Unlike other Hallels, it is sung without an introductory blessing, and it is recited sitting down. Unlike every other Hallel, this Hallel is...
This piece was written by Rabbi Elliot Kukla, the first out transgender rabbi. He was ordained in 2006 at HUC-JIR’s Los Angeles campus, and now works as a chaplain at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center.
A few years ago at Kol Nidre I delivered a sermon on the power of diversity to my congregation in Toronto. Afterwards, in the swirling crowd I felt someone tug at my jacket. I turned around to find a...
The olive branch is a universal symbol of peace, associated with the dove in the story of Noah's Ark and the Flood.
Olive trees mature slowly, so only when there was an extended time of peace, with agriculture left undisturbed, could the olive tree produce its fruit. In 2008, Jewish Voice for Peace promoted putting an olive on the seder plate as part of its Trees of Reconciliation project, which sought to donate...
This song was written to be part of Fiddler on the Roof, but was cut from the show before it made its Broadway debut for being too slow, and comic at a moment in the show when the people of Anatevka are experiencing tragedy. It imagines a world in which the Messiah is coming, but lost, and worried about us.
Words and music by Sheldon Harnick
When Messiah comes he will say to us,
“I apologize that I...
Why is there no orange on our Seder plate?
In the early 1980s, while speaking at Oberlin College Hillel, Susannah Heschel was introduced to an early feminist Haggadah that suggested adding a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of solidarity with Jewish lesbians (there's as much room for a lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the seder plate). Heschel felt that to...
The seder plate holds the main symbols of a traditional Passover seder-- the shank bone, egg, karpas, charoset, and maror. The Kabbalists of the Middle Ages added hazeret, another kind of bitter lettuce. And in recent years feminists have added an orange on the seder plate to symbolize women's leadership roles and full empowerment in Jewish life.
The artichoke however is a new development. What is an artichoke?...
Jews from Spain, Italy, Sicily, Morocco, Tunisia, and Sardinia would bring the Seder plate to the table with ceremony. Sometimes, they would cover it with a nice scarf and sing as it arrived to the table. They would pass it from person to person around the table, and place it on each head for a moment. This demonstrates that we were once slaves in Egypt and carried heavy burdens on our heads. In...
A Cup to our Teachers: To those we have known and those whose work has inspired us, and made space for our lives. We are grateful to you who did and said things for the first time, who claimed and reclaimed our traditions, who forged new tools. Thank you to the teachers around us of all ages-- the people we encounter everyday--who live out their values in small and simple ways, and who are our most regular and loving...
Charoset is our symbol of mortar, recalling the brutal work conditions experienced by the Israelite slaves in Egypt. This year, we introduce a Charoset recipe that includes pine nuts.
Makes approximately 5-6 cups Charoset:
4 medium sized granny smith apples, cored, peeled, and 1/4 inch diced
1 cup dates (about 15-20)
3/4 cup pine nuts
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet red wine
A Rabbi who came to America in the 1920's relates the following story:
"When I first came into the city, I saw a big store. I walked inside and noticed people taking shopping carts and going aisle to aisle, piling as much food as they wanted into their carts. No one said anything to them, and no one stopped them. People filled up their wagons to their hearts' content. This seemed very strange to me. Indeed, this...
With the third cup of wine we remember God’s promise to redeem the Israelites with an outstretched arm. With this cup we turn our thoughts to those not being offered a helping hand. Scant resources are allocated within the criminal justice system to provide alternatives to incarceration and prepare incarcerated individuals for successfully reentering society.
The criminal justice system has...
by Stanley Kunitz
Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
When we talk about God we are talking about the spiritual energy of the universe which makes it possible to transcend the tendency of human beings to pass on to others the hurt and pain that has been done to us, the force that permeates every ounce of Being and unites all in one transcendent and imminent reality. God is the Force in the universe that makes possible the transformation from “that which is” to “that...
Who can say we’ve actually left? “Wherever you live, it is probably Egypt,” Michael Walzer wrote. Do you live in a place where some people work two and three jobs to feed their children, and others don’t even have a single, poorly paid job? Do you live in a community in which the rich are fabulously rich, and the poor humiliated and desperate? Do you live among people who worship the golden calves of obsessive...
More Clips from Robb Gordon
I grew up in an irreligious home. We rarely belonged to a Temple (Synagogue was too traditional) and attending a service was even rarer. When we did go to temple you would never a yarmulke except on the Rabbi & Cantor (sometimes). The only tallitot were these little vest things that the clergy wore. The only Hebrew was the Sh'ma, the Torah/Haftarah readings and the Mourner's Kaddish (which is really...