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Passover

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Jews all over the world will begin to celebrate Passover on Friday, April 3, 2015, with a ritualized meal called the seder, a Hebrew word meaning “order” that refers to the order of the prayers that are recited and the symbolic foods that are eaten prior to a fancy meal. The purpose of the seder is to tell the story of the liberation of the Israelites from the Egyptian slavery.

Passover is a popular family holiday, primarily observed in the home. Even though rabbinic Judaism portrays the festival solely as the commemoration of the exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses,...

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We often talk at the seder about the Four Children: the Wise, the Wicked, the Simple, and the Silent children (or, as the last is often called, the Child Who Does Not Know How To Ask). We see a little of ourselves in each child as we discuss their place in the seder and how we explain to them the story of Passover. Do we tell them that we were there together at Sinai, including them in their legacy, or do we exclude them and criticize their apathy?

This year, as we consider Passover’s Four Children as we sit around the seder table, let us discover and discuss the tension between...

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Passover is full of flavors: the bitter herbs, the juicy charoset, the crunchy matzah. But what about spicy?

In 2003, then-Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl explained the intensity and the relevance of the spiciness of Passover in a short autobiographical essay published in Sh’ma. In “Kimchee on the Seder Plate,” she described how she brought her Korean lineage, via her mother, to her understanding of Jewish practice and identity. Optimistically, she concluded, “May we continue to see the many faces of Israel as a gift that enriches our people.”

At the time, Cantor Buchdahl...

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Cruelty and bloodshed abound in the Bible as, for example, the Pharaoh's ruthless treatment of his Israelite slaves and Moses' vengeful slaying of the Egyptian taskmaster in the Passover story. But one biblical story in particular dismayed theologian Martin Buber: the prophet Samuel's vengeful killing of Agag, king of the Amalekites. In I Samuel 15:3, God commands King Saul to kill all the Amalekites, "men and women, infants and sucklings, oxen and sheep, camels and asses." Saul proceeds to kill the Amalekites, the eternal enemies of Israel, but chooses to spare Agag. In response, the...

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When I was a kid, my family did not keep kosher. The closest we got was the story my mother told about how, when she was growing up, her father once yelled at her as she poured a glass of milk to go with her BLT sandwich: “We don’t mix milk and meat!”

Still, my mother always used a kosher chicken when she made chicken soup. “It tastes better,” she said with a shrug, and she made amazing chicken soup. It was mostly for holidays, like Rosh HaShanah or Passover – big, extended-family meals that came out in a thousand courses.

Each one of them started with soup – and noodles,...

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