Pesach in a Nutshell
by Rabbi Hackenbroch
For those of you who are still in denial – we need to come to terms with the fact that Pesach is imminent and we might as well face up to it!
One of the fears overshadowing the beauty of Pesach is the daunting prospect of preparations and the minutiae….
This year, I would like to give you a helping hand transforming your Pesach from “Oy” to “JOY”!!!
Cleaning the house
Pesach cleaning doesn’t have to be spring cleaning. It is a matter of cleaning all the places where Chametz – i.e. leaven may be. So the shed or garage for example – if you know that food is not there, then these places do not need to be cleaned for Pesach.
Cleaning the kitchen
Clean and line all kitchen shelves. The Chametz food that is intended on being kept till after Pesach should be placed in a designated cupboard or area where no one will enter for the duration of Pesach. The Chametz needs to be sold – please see Chametz form.
The work tops should be cleaned and left for 24 hours. Boiling water should be poured over them and the surfaces covered. If they are non-porous, then there is no need to cover them.
The fridge should be cleaned and the shelves lined.
The oven should be thoroughly cleaned so that there are no stains visible on the inside, then set the oven temperature to the highest for one hour
The electric hob top should be cleaned and then left on the highest temperature for an hour and the areas around the hob where the fire couldn’t reach should be covered with foil.
The sinks should be cleaned and pour boiling water over them. If you have a stainless steel sink, there is no need to cover them. Otherwise you should use inserts
There are many more details but this is a general guide.
Please feel free to contact me with more specific questions concerning the preparations for Pesach or the Seder
The word itself connotes order and yet there is perhaps no night seemingly as disorderly as the Seder. We wash our hands but don’t eat anything. Then we taste a little vegetable called karpas
We describe that we were slaves in Egypt but then jump back to the fact that our forefathers worshipped idols. We find ourselves in Bnei Barak witnessing a group of wise sages experiencing their own Seder… So what is going on?!!!
There is a profound idea here that Pesach and the Seder night in particular symbolise more than just reflecting on a historical and momentous moment from a bygone era. We are going further than celebrating the birth of our nation although this is truly significant.
The Seder is timeless and has the innate ability for us to be able to tap into and experience our own freedom. We can free ourselves from those things that enslave us throughout our lives – the routines, habits and social pressures that we find ourselves in.
Seder night is the quintessential parent and child experience. We are able to sit around the table and question everything and anything that has value in our lives.
We can look at the relative strengths and weaknesses that we all have as we discuss the four sons, bearing in mind that each and every Jewish child is equally precious to us and our community
Through the bitter herbs (Romaine lettuce or horseradish) we can question how we deal with challenges and difficulties in life. Are we families that choose to share issues that each family member could face? Or is there an expectation in our family to show a stiff upper lip – continue and ignore the issue or problem?
Through the matzah and four cups of wine, we lean back and celebrate our achievements. But, in truth what we are really engaged in is thanking G-d for our redemption. A question we may ponder over at this juncture is this – do we show appreciation to those who help us, our nearest and dearest as well as the Almighty? How often do we actually express that love and gratitude? Arguably not often enough…
The Haggadah is timeless – if we want it to have meaning like an opera does, we have to understand what is going on to truly appreciate its sublime beauty
The truth is that the Seder night in a nut shell is the one occasion when we sit around the table as a family. This enables us to share, discuss and reflect on the essence of who we are and in turn, determine the values we have.
Perhaps the mark of a truly successful Seder is not the lateness of the time it ends or the amount of courses served at the meal. The take home message from our Seder should be that we have experienced and engaged in meaningful conversation.
With this achieved, we will ensure that this night is indeed different from all other nights.
Wishing you and your families a Kosher Pesach and an uplifting Seder
Straddling Both World
by Rabbi Wayland
A common sight in shuls during Chol Hamoed Shabbat (morning) Service, is a mix of men wearing tefillin and those not. Until recently, each community – with Ashkenazim ruling they should be worn, and Sefardim, Chasidim and communities in Israel saying they should not – fervently guarded its custom. This visible, historic difference in custom has been hotly debated, and teaches us much about the nature of these special days.
The very name ‘Chol Hamoed’ seems like somewhat of a contradiction. Chol means secular and normal. Moed means festival. Hence these days are the ‘ordinary days of the Festival’!
They are similar to festivals in that we do the mitzvot – sit in the sukkah and take the lulav, or eat matzah and avoid chametz. The prayers are a combination of the week- day and festival services. In addition, certain acts of work (melacha) are forbidden.
However, Chol Hamoed is governed by a completely different set of guidelines to Shabbat and Yom Tov in this respect. The purpose of these laws is to enhance the enjoyment and protect the spirit of the festival. These guidelines are nuanced, complex and very much take into account individual circumstances. Therefore, anything
that is for immediate benefit or of little actual effort is generally permitted, whereas strenuous or unnecessary activities are often prohibited. There are also exceptions if avoiding work will result in significant financial loss.
Tefillin are described as a ‘sign’ (‘ot’) – an act of testimony to our belief in G-d as being intimately involved our lives, and our acceptance of His mission for us. We have other ‘signs’ as well – including Shabbat and Yom Tov. The Talmud explains that the ‘sign’ of the celebration of Shabbat and Yom Tov renders the ‘sign’ of tefillin unnecessary on those days.
What about Chol Hamoed? The fact that it has aspects of both the holy and the ordinary has led the great authorities to debate its status – does it constitute a sufficient ‘sign’ of our connection with G-d? Some, such as the Rambam (Maimonides d.1204) say it does, and so tefillin are unnecessary. Others, such as the Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles d. 1572) say that one must still wear them.
However, all authorities, agree that Chol Hamoed is a special time, endowed with holiness and the opportunity to connect to G-d in ways not possible during the rest of the year.
Oh No! .... Shortage of Horseraddish
by Rabbi Michael Plaskow MBE
A few years ago there was a root crop failure in the Middle East because of a combination of drought and a blight blown in by the winds of Europe . While virtually all root crops were affected, the worst hit was the horseradish crop in Israel . Instead of being available in the weeks before Passover, not one piece of horseradish was to be found anywhere in Israel.
By the time this was realized, there was very little time. The religious parties in Israel's government began to create a major crisis. The Ministry of Agriculture went into emergency mode to try at the eleventh hour to locate alternative supplies of horseradish for the Sedarim of Israelis all over the country.
The agricultural attaches at every embassy were alerted, and frantic phonecalls were being made to and fro. Finally three days before Pesach, the undersecretary at the Israeli embassy in Madrid found a supplier who undertook to immediately air-freight thirty tons of local horseradish to Tel Aviv at three times the normal price. Well, there was no choice, so the Israelis agreed, and next day three trucks loaded with boxes of horseradish arrived in Madrid Airport for loading onto a specially organized El Al jet.
All seemed to be going well, when the ground crew union at Madrid Airport suddenly announced an immediate strike. No aircraft could land or take off. The strike lasted two days, and as a result…
"The chraine* in Spain stayed mainly on the plane". **
by Rabbi Michael Plaskow MBE
This is a true story written by Rabbi Michael Plaskow MBE our Emeritus Chazan. He now lives in Israel and amongst many other activities he writes articles which are published once a month in an english magazine called HOB. Hitachdut Olei Brittania = British immigrants keeping together.
A few years ago, here in Netanya, we were sitting and watching our grandchildren playing in their garden during chol hamoed Pesach. It was so lovely and warm and a beautiful fragrance of honeysuckle blossom wafted over the lawn. What a delightful view I had from my deckchair. Large size lemons stared me in the eye next to overhanging branches of a palm tree. The occasional butterfly flitted by and some very pretty tropical birds could be seen. I thought to myself this is freedom. Pesach is "Zman Chairutainu" - The Season of our Freedom.
Then I got up from my chair to see the news. The story of the fifteen British sailors captured by Iran dominated everything else. We were all amazed when some of the sailors "admitted" that they had entered Iranian waters and could not believe they had "confessed". They were then returned safely as a result of a "gift" from the President of Iran to Britain. Then we were told the truth. Even in the short period of time they were in Iranian hands they feared for their lives. However, not once did I hear from any of these sailors any thanks to the Good Lord Above for saving their lives.
In our siddur there is a very appropriate prayer which is recited on Mondays and Thursdays. "As for our brethren, the whole house of Israel, who are in distress or captivity, on the sea or on land, may the All-present have compassion on them, and lead them from trouble to deliverance, from darkness to light, from oppression to freedom, now, speedily and very soon".
Let me return to the subject of freedom. In every generation, there always seems to be a person who rises up against us in order to wipe us off the face of the earth but Hashem saves us. As we say in the Haggadah, if it would not have been for Hashem then we would still have been slaves in Egypt. I am so thankful that I have that emuna (faith) in Hashem, which strengthens me every time I hear of those who wish to destroy us. Let us pray that Hashem will hear our cry when we call upon Him in truth. Phyllis and I send our best wishes to Rabbi and Rebbetsen Hackenbroch and the entire community for a Chag Kasher V'sameach.