Shabbat to Share

Food For the Soul

Speak no evil

The Gemara says that lashon hara—spreading true, derogatory information about someone else—harms three people: the speaker, the listener and the subject of the gossip. During biblical times, the punishment for evil speech was swift: the speaker would be stricken with tzaraat, a disease that required one to be isolated from the camp.

So, how do we stop the epidemic of gossip? Oddly enough, dwelling at length on the negative effects of gossip does little to stop its spread. It seems that the more we talk about how terrible it is to gossip, the stronger our urge to indulge in it becomes. We condemn the gossiper while not confronting the ways that we feed into it.

This week we read the dual Torah portions of Tazria and Metzora. The portion of Tazria discusses the various symptoms and identifying marks of tzaraat, while Metzora deals with the purification process.

The names of the two joined Parshiot, however, could not be more different in character. The word tazria means “to conceive,” and the Parshah begins with the laws of a woman who has just given birth. Metzora refers to one who has tzaraat, a serious condition likened to death. 

Yet the juxtaposition of these two names gives us a powerful insight into overcoming the negative effects of gossip and slander. The recovery process for the metzora holds within it the key to tazria—the flourishing of new life. The enforced isolation of the metzora is intended as a time of self-reflection and personal growth.

When we find ourselves caught in a web of gossip, that’s a clue that we need to take a break. We need to step outside that social interaction until we can figure out what’s going wrong. What inner need of ours is going unfulfilled, to the point that we are taking our frustrations out on others? Are we feeling small and depleted, and trying to put down others to compensate? Or maybe we’re just bored, and need more stimulating activities to occupy our mind. The way to stop lashon hara is not by condemning it, but by isolating it—reflecting on the circumstances that lead to it, and finding ways to nurture ourselves so we have less of a need to demean others.

From an article by Chaya Shuchat, Chabad.org


Shabbat Shalom

Preparation for Shavuot Begins

The Sages of old instituted, yet in the times of the Holy Temple, that thirty days before the onset of a holiday the teachers should begin publicly instructing the masses regarding the laws of the holiday; e.g. from Purim and onwards to teach the laws of Passover, and from the 5th of Iyar (Shabbat, April 17, 2021) and onwards to teach the laws of Shavuot” (Shulchan Aruch Harav 429:1). In preparation for the festival of Shavuot, we study one of the six chapters of the Talmud’s Ethics of the Fathers (“Avot”) on the afternoon of each of the six Shabbatot between Passover and Shavuot. On Shabbat April 17 we begin to study Chapter Two. (In many communities — and such is the Chabad custom — the study cycle is repeated through the summer, until the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah.)

Chabad.org


Mind Over Matter

You talking about me?

Two of the ten identifying characteristics of a truly virtuous person are the inability to perceive evil in another and the absolute determination to only portray others in a positive light (Maimonides, Tract on Reason, Chap 5). Chassidic philosophy explains that this is not self-delusional. Rather, speaking positively about others causes them to act positively. The very act of ascribing positive rationales to the intemperate behaviors one witnesses, unlocks the innate, though hereto concealed goodness embedded in people’s psyche, and develops their moral disposition to the point where they will automatically be driven to live up to your self-fulfilling prophecy.  Speak positively about others, let your words impact the world and let others be affected by those words, live up to your belief in them.

From an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum


Moshiach Thoughts

Purification

For as long as the galut (exile) persists, Moshiach is called chivara (afflicted with tzara’at – a biblical disease of the skin likened to leprosy). He himself is essentially pure and perfect, and his affliction merely reflects the condition of galut. The very moment of the redemption, when Moshiach will be revealed and his real being and righteousness will become manifest to all, that is “the day of his purification.” The redemption will demonstrate how in Moshiach is fulfilled the verse, “the leprous mark has healed in the one afflicted by it” (Metzora 14:3).

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

The price of “free speech”

Hannah Smith was a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl living in Lutterworth, Leicestershire. Bright and outgoing, she enjoyed an active social life and seemed to have an exciting future ahead of her. On the morning of August 2, 2013, Hannah was found hanged in her bedroom. She had committed suicide. Seeking to unravel what had happened, her family soon discovered that she had been the target of anonymous abusive posts on a social-network website. Hannah was a victim of the latest variant of the oldest story in human history: the use of words as weapons by those seeking to inflict pain. The new version is called cyberbullying.

The Jewish phrase for this kind of behavior is lashon hara, evil speech, speech about people that is negative and derogatory. It means, quite simply, speaking badly about people, and is a subset of the biblical prohibition against spreading gossip. 

Despite the fact that it is not singled out in the Torah for a prohibition in its own right, the sages regarded it as one of the worst of all sins. They said, astonishingly, that it is as bad as the three cardinal sins—idolatry, murder and incest—combined. More significantly in the context of Hannah Smith, they said it kills three people: the one who says it, the one he says it about, and the one who listens in. 

The story of Hannah Smith and other teenage suicides is a tragic reminder of how right the sages were to reject the idea that “words can never harm me,” and insist to the contrary that evil speech kills. Free speech is not speech that costs nothing. It is speech that respects the freedom and dignity of others. Forget this, and free speech becomes very expensive indeed.

From an article by Rabbi Jonathan Sachs

Is “negative reporting” ever allowed in Jewish law? 

We are obligated to try and keep others from harm but doing so without committing lashan hara is tricky and you should speak with an Orthodox rabbi about the specific situation. Of “whistle-blowing”, Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin writes in Chabad.org:

Having ascertained that a situation may call for whistle-blowing, it is important to keep in mind that the prohibition of talebearing is still in effect. In light of this, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (commonly known as the Chafetz Chaim) outlines certain conditions that, when met, suspend the prohibition of talebearing: 

The objective of revealing the wrongdoing must be a legitimate benefit, such as righting the wrong done to the victim.

You must be certain that the information you have about the wrongdoing is factually correct, and know for certain that the person you are accusing is guilty.

You may report only the relevant facts objectively, without exaggeration; any exaggeration violates the prohibition of speaking falsehood.

Before telling others, you must first satisfy your obligation of admonishing the wrongdoers yourself.

The disclosure should not cause greater harm than is necessary for the achievement of the whistle-blower’s objective.

There must be no other means by which the desired effect can be achieved.

The report should be motivated solely by the desire to right a wrong. If the motivation is a long-standing grudge or a desire to ridicule the wrongdoer, the report should not be made.

Food For the Soul

Why we keep kosher

This week’s parshah, Shemini (Leviticus 9:1–11:47), introduces the Torah’s dietary laws. Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves to be kosher, fish need fins and scales, and a list of forbidden fowl is enumerated. To those of us in Jewish education, it is a continuing source of disappointment that so many Jews still believe the kosher laws to be outdated. After all, they reckon, in the desert our ancestors needed to protect themselves from trichinosis and all sorts of diabolical diseases so some kind of dietary system was needed. But today, they argue, in an age of refrigeration, government inspection and modern hygiene standards, the kosher laws are archaic, anachronistic and quite dispensable.

How sad. The fact is that the kosher laws were never given to us for health reasons. If they happen to be healthy or provide good hygiene that is purely a fringe benefit. It may well be one of the perks but it has never been the reason. So let it be stated categorically: kosher is not for our physical health but for our spiritual health. It is not for our bodies but for our souls. It is a Jewish diet to help Jews remain spiritually sensitive to their innate Jewishness.

While the Torah actually records no official reason for these laws, the rabbis and philosophers have speculated on their purpose. They act as a bulwark against assimilation, we are taught. On a simple level, if we keep kosher, inexorably, we will shop with fellow Jews, socialize with fellow Jews and remain close to Jewish communal life. On a deeper, more spiritual level, keeping kosher keeps our Jewish souls sensitive to things Jewish. This is clearly a mystical concept and imperceptible to our physical senses, but according to our sages it is a fact. 

Your favorite diet may build healthy bodies, but a kosher diet builds healthy souls.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman


Shabbat Shalom

Why is it customary to eat fish on Shabbat?

Rochel Chein, in Chabad.org, writes: “In the Torah’s account of the creation of the world, the word blessing is used three times. The first is regarding the creation of fish, the second regarding the creation of man, and the third regarding Shabbat. When a human eats fish on Shabbat, he is thus the beneficiary of a triple blessing.  

Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a gematria (numerical value). The letters of the Hebrew word for fish, dag, add up to seven. We therefore honor Shabbat, the seventh day of the week, by eating fish. 

At the time of the messianic redemption, there will be a feast at which the Leviathan, a giant fish, will be served. Shabbat, the day of rest, is a microcosm of the messianic era. As such, the fish we eat on Shabbat is in anticipation of the ‘day which will be a complete and perfect Shabbat’. 

Perhaps most importantly: eating fish is an integral part of oneg Shabbat—the obligation to enjoy and engage in pleasurable pursuits on Shabbat.”


Mind Over Matter

Un-kosher kindness

Among the prohibited birds enumerated we find the chasida, translated as “stork.” The literal meaning of chasida is “kindly,” an appropriate name, says Rashi, because this bird is helpful to its friends, and shares its food with them. In this case, asks the Gerrer Rebbe, since the bird is kindly and sympathetic, then according to Nachmanides it belongs among the kosher instead of the forbidden fowl. The Gerrer drew an interesting moral from this. The chasida is helpful to its friends, but is indifferent to the plight of birds of another feather. Kindliness toward one’s own is not enough. If we differentiate between a friend in need and a stranger in like circumstances, between our kind and another, we are not kindly. Goodness must be indiscriminate – whoever needs help is deserving.

From an article by Rabbi Zalman Posner


Moshiach Thoughts

The power of mitzvahs

The goal is for the world to discover itself. To discover that its beauty is endless and its wisdom unfathomable, because it is the ultimate expression of the mystery of the divine. Which is why the mitzvahs of the Torah are absolutely crucial to this venture.

When you wrap tefillin on your head and arm, you are unveiling that mystery within yourself. When you make your consumption of food sacred by keeping kosher, you are unveiling that mystery in the world that feeds you. So it is with every mitzvah—all connect you and your world to a higher, divine purpose. To its true meaning.

Edited from an article by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Have I Got A Story

Food for growth

Judy was expecting her first child, and was doing everything she could to guarantee healthy growth. She prepared her meals carefully to ensure a sufficient supply of essential nutrients. She swallowed her daily prenatal vitamins and exercised regularly as per her doctor’s recommendations. Naturally, Judy never smoked. 

When Judy read about the benefits of exposing her unborn baby to music, she began playing evocative, beautiful melodies. She also became aware of the benefits of reading stories to babies in utero, so she dutifully read nightly. Judy never regarded her behavior as extreme or fanatical. In fact, she is constantly seeking more ways to nurture the physical, emotional or spiritual development of her child.


“You are what you eat” is a popular adage. Our physical food is transformed into blood and flesh, becoming an integral part of our being. Spiritually, too, the intrinsic qualities within our food help mold our spiritual persona. The Torah prohibits non-kosher foods to prevent us from assimilating their negative characteristics. What are the traits of kosher animals, embodied by their signs of kashrut? And, what do these signs indicate about which positive qualities to cultivate within ourselves?

1) Kosher land animals have split hooves and chew their cud.  A closed, unsplit hoof represents rigidity, being closed off and untouched by the plight of others. The split hoof, on the other hand, symbolizes approachability and sensitivity to others’ suffering and needs. It also epitomizes receptiveness to further growth. Foster an openness and awareness of others. Sustain an interest in continual learning and growing. 

The kosher animal that chews its cud symbolizes a thoughtfulness and “chewing over” of teachings and circumstances. Think over a situation before reacting in the heat of anger, recklessness, or impatience. Take a step back and consider a proper response or course of action. Shape yourself into a more insightful individual by analyzing, studying, and internalizing knowledge.


2) Kosher fish have fins and scales. Scales, which cover the fish like a protective armor, signify the quality of integrity and morality. Develop the ability to stay true to your inner self. Protect yourself from outside temptations and stay true to your morals. Fins, propelling the fish forward, represent ambition. Maximize your talents and capabilities by feeding your ambition to advance and improve yourself. 

The Talmud teaches that all fish that have scales also have fins, but some fish with fins do not have scales and are not kosher. Having fins (ambition) without scales (morality) can lead to less-than-kosher behavior. Too many people, in their climb to success, abandon their values along the way. Encourage yourself to use your drive—but charted by a moral guide.


3) Kosher fowl do not have specific signs, but are determined by our tradition, which affirms which species are kosher.

The fowl reminds us of the need for tradition and a higher guidance. There are times when every individual, no matter how intelligent or talented, will gain from seeking the guidance of those wiser or more experienced.  Consult a mentor and value his or her wisdom, and you will bypass many faulty courses in life.

What emotional or spiritual profile would you like to build in yourself? Sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and consideration are indispensable qualities. A drive to accomplish tempered by moral integrity is also an essential life skill. Add the ability to know when to seek guidance, and you have a winning combination.

The food we consume has a profound effect on our wellbeing. In our efforts to nourish ourselves, let’s acknowledge the profound spiritual effect of food on our ever-developing psyche.

From an article by Chana Weisberg, Editor of TheJewishWoman.org

Food For the Soul

The 7th Day of Passover

The seventh and eighth days of Passover are celebrated as Yom Tov, holidays, capping the weeklong celebration that begins with the first Seder. In Israel, only the seventh day is celebrated. The final days of Passover 2021 begin before sunset on April 2 and end after nightfall on April 4.

What happened on the seventh day of Pesach? 

The children of Israel left Egypt, where they had served as slaves for generations. Despite his original stubborn refusal, after 10 debilitating plagues, Pharaoh relented and allowed Israel to leave Egypt for a three-day spiritual retreat in the desert. Three days later, when the Israelites failed to return, Pharaoh realized that they were gone for good, safely on their way to independence and freedom in the Promised Land. He bridled his best warhorse and called his nation to join him in pursuit of his erstwhile slaves. After a short chase, the Egyptian army caught up with the Israelites at the banks of the red sea. The Israelites were trapped; there was nowhere to go but into the sea.

Then G-d commanded Moses to raise his staff and the sea split, allowing the Israelites to comfortably cross on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to follow the Israelites across, the sea came crashing down on them. Chariots, riders and horses all perished in the churning sea. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Moses led the Israelites in singing the Song of the Sea. Miriam led the women in an additional song of thanks, accompanied by tambourines and drums.  This miracle took place in the wee hours of the morning of the Seventh of Passover.

Rabbi Menachem Posner

Learn more about the seventh and eighth days of Passover on Chabad.org


Shabbat Shalom

“The wolf will dwell with the lamb…”

The seventh and eighth days of Passover are full holidays where we do no work, other than certain acts connected to food preparation. We recite holiday prayers, and women and girls light candles on the eve of both days. Many people have the custom to remain awake the entire night preceding the seventh day of Passover, studying Torah as a way of thanking G-d for the miracle of splitting the Red Sea. During the morning services of the eighth day, Yizkor memorial prayers are recited for departed relatives. 

The eighth day of Pesach is traditionally associated with our hopes for the coming of Moshiach. For this reason, the haftorah read on that day contains many prophecies which refer to the era of the redemption. Among the best-known of these: “The wolf will dwell with the lamb; the leopard will lie down with a young goat”; “He will raise a banner for the nations and gather in the exiles of Israel.” 


Mind Over Matter

“He turned the sea into dry land”

We find the miracle of the Splitting of the Sea described as follows: “He turned the sea into dry land.” In chassidic thought, the sea serves as a metaphor for the material world which hides the G-dliness within it. Like the waters of the sea which cover over whatever is within them, our material existence conceals the G-dly life-force which maintains its existence. The transformation of the sea into dry land symbolizes the revelation of this hidden truth, demonstrating that the world is not separate from G-d, but rather unified with Him entirely.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe


Moshiach Thoughts

Futuristic dining

Rabbi Menachem Posner writes: “The Baal Shem Tov remarked that on the last day of Passover, the rays of the messianic redemption are already shining bright. He instituted that a special meal be held during the waning hours of the day. Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch added four cups of wine to the meal, mirroring the Seders held on the first nights of the holiday.” The Baal Shem Tov’s linking of our awareness of Moshiach to the physical is significant, because it prepares us for the revelations of the era of the redemption. In that era, the G-dliness that is enclothed within the physical world will be overtly manifest. As the prophet Isaiah declared, “The glory of G-d will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.” At that time, “the glory of G-d” will permeate even the physical aspects of the world—“all flesh.”

Chabad.org


Have I Got A Story

Nachshon

He was a prince of the tribe of Judah. He was the brother-in-law of Aaron, the high priest. When everyone else hesitated, he jumped into the swirling sea. He was Nachshon, the son of Aminadav. Here is a portrait of the man whose quiet action left an indelible mark on our nation.

Nachshon was a fifth-generation descendant of Judah, son of Jacob. He appears for the first time in the Torah when Aaron marries his sister: “Aaron took for a wife Elisheva, daughter of Aminadav, sister of Nachshon.” The Torah generally records names only when mentioning someone new, and the commentaries wonder why Elisheva’s brother is mentioned here as well.

They suggest that before marrying Elisheva, Aaron had inquired about Nachshon, his future brother-in-law. We learn from Aaron that when searching for a wife, it is important to vet her brothers. Fine, upstanding brothers indicate that the sister will be a fitting life partner. 

Seven days after leaving Egypt, the Israelites found themselves trapped between a raging sea and the vengeful Egyptian army. Then G-d gave Moses a command that seemed impossible to fulfill: “Speak to the people of Israel; they shall travel.” 

The order was given to go forward, sea or no sea. But who would make the first move? At that moment, Nachshon’s devotion and bravery came to the fore. The Midrash and Talmud share the following account:

When Israel stood facing the Sea of Reeds, and the command was given to move forward, each of the tribes hesitated, saying, “We do not want to be the first to jump into the sea.”

Nachshon saw what was happening—and jumped into the sea.

At that moment Moses was standing and praying. G-d said to him, “My beloved ones are drowning in the stormy seas, and you are standing and praying?”

Moses replied, “Master of the world, what am I to do?”

Said G-d, “You lift your staff and spread your hand over the seas, which will split, and Israel will come into the sea upon dry land.”

And so it was. Following Nachshon’s lead, the Israelites entered the sea and were saved.

The Midrash enumerates several rewards that Nachshon’s brave deed earned him, including that the eternal kingdom of Israel was given to his tribe, Judah, and it follows that Moshiach will be his descendant as well. 

Nachshon was also among the seventy elders upon whom Moses conferred his spirit. However his appointment as an elder had a tragic result. We read that in the second year after leaving Egypt, “the people were looking to complain, and it was evil in the ears of the L-rd. The L-rd heard, and His anger flared, and a fire from the L-rd burned among them, consuming the extremes of the camp.” The Midrash explains that the “extremes of the camp” is a reference to the seventy elders, including Nachshon. 

Nevertheless, Nachshon’s name has become synonymous with courage and the will to do the right thing, even when it’s not popular. Inspired by Nachshon, King David wrote in Psalms, “I have sunk in muddy depths, and there is no place to stand; I have come into the deep water, and the current has swept me away . . . Let not the current of water sweep me away, nor the deep swallow me, and let the well not close its mouth over me.”

The Rebbe saw Nachshon’s deed as a call to action: “One fellow named Nachshon jumped into the sea, and caused the great miracle of the Splitting of the Sea. Technically, he was under no obligation to do so. But he knew that G-d wanted Israel to move onward toward Sinai. So he did what he needed to do. There was a sea in his way. So he jumped into the sea and plowed on toward his goal.  “The lesson for all of us is that we must stay focused on our life’s mission, disregarding all obstacles.” 

Adapted from an article by Rabbi Mendy Kaminker

Food For the Soul

The inside story on Passover

In each one of us there is an Egypt and a Pharaoh and a Moses and Freedom in a Promised Land. And every point in time is an opportunity for another Exodus.

Egypt is a place that chains you to who you are, constraining you from growth and change. And Pharaoh is that voice inside that mocks your gambit to escape, saying, “How could you attempt being today something you were not yesterday? Aren’t you good enough just as you are? Don’t you know who you are?”

Moses is the liberator, the infinite force deep within, an impetuous and all-powerful drive to break out from any bondage, to always transcend, to connect with that which has no bounds.

But Freedom and the Promised Land are not static elements that lie in wait. They are your own achievements which you may create at any moment, in any thing that you do, simply by breaking free from whoever you were the day before.

Last Passover you may not have yet begun to light a candle. Or some other mitzvah still waits for you to fulfill its full potential. This year, defy Pharaoh and light up your world. With unbounded light.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman


Shabbat Shalom

“The Great Shabbat”

This year Passover begins after Shabbat on Saturday, March 27, bringing with it a number of unique laws and guidelines. (Consult the Passover section on Chabad.org)

The Shabbat before Passover is known Shabbat Hagadol,  “the Great Shabbat”. It is the Chabad custom to only read the special Shabbat Hagadol Haftarah in years like this, when Shabbat Hagadol is the day before Passover.

Like every Shabbat Hagadol, after the Minchah services on Shabbat afternoon, it is customary to read a selection of texts from the Haggadah, beginning from the words, avadim hayinu, “We were slaves…” In some Sephardic communities, it is customary, when greeting one another on this Shabbat, to add the title of the day: “Shabbat haGadol mevorach” –  a blessed Shabbat haGadol.


Mind Over Matter

Customs differ but we are still one family

Jews are forbidden by the Torah to eat or even own leavened products on Passover. This means any product made from the five grains (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, oats), other than matzah, cannot be eaten or in your possession for the eight days of Passover. Jews living in certain areas took on an extra stringency and forbade rice and legumes on Passover. The Jews of the Orient, however, did not take on this custom. Rather than focusing on the superficial disparities between communities, look at our internal connection. We are all telling the same story. G-d took us out of Egypt to make us one nation, united by the Torah, our common history and our common goal. Some eat rice, some don’t, and it matters not. We are one family, the children of Israel. 

From an article by Rabbi Aron Moss


Moshiach Thoughts

Asking G-d for relief

We begin the Hagadah (the recitation of the story of the exodus) with the paragraph “This is the bread of affliction…,” in which we state: “Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and celebrate Pesach…” By reciting this, we are not only inviting strangers, but also addressing ourselves: The Almighty begs each one of us to sense our state of “hunger” and “need” in the great darkness surrounding us, and to ask G-d for relief. In turn, G-d assures us that He will then provide us not only with the substance to “eat” but also the possibility to “celebrate Pesach,” thus to be led (as stated in the conclusion of that paragraph) to the “Land of Israel” and to become truly “free people”-very speedily indeed!

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet


Have I Got A Story

Aluminum foil

Growing up, the mark for me between the haves and the have-nots of who has a real Passover and who does not was all wrapped up in aluminum foil. If the countertops, refrigerators, sinks and even the faucets -– especially the faucets -– having been exposed to non-Passover cooking the year long, now for Passover were plastered and enveloped in layers of protective aluminum foil, creating a virtual, new, above–level surface to create and celebrate a Passover, then this home had a full Passover.

A Passover complete with sleepless nights (she was up ‘til four in the morning!). Of cleaning underneath the mattresses, emptying every closet, oversized grocery lists (the check-out girl took one look at my three carts and you know what she said?) Family from out-of-town and visitors or friends all getting around a long, extended table, probably with a folding table or two added to the end with rented chairs and. . . all of this was visible in the folds of the aluminum foil around the faucets and the edges of the countertops.

My sister from Brazil once showed me an advertisement that caught her eye -– that caught her imagination. A picture of a home library with leather-bound classics, museum-quality art and a single, well-place antique. The caption read, “You don’t have to look in the kitchen to know they own a Cuisinart.”

Passover cannot be known from the prayers recited in synagogue (even though I love the tune for Passover morning prayers and feel cheated that it is squeezed between two seder nights). Passover cannot be known from four questions or sweet wine or even from Maxwell House Haggadah. Passover can’t even be known from Passover.

Passover in a child’s mind, the place where memories are made, where memories are solidified, jelled, preserved, slow-roasted and developed into full-bodied palates – that Passover is made in the preparations.

It was once, I couldn’t have been more than ten, when a new family from Persia had moved to Nashville and discovered us just before Passover. They came to my parents’ home to get Shmurah Matzah. Like everyone they instinctively came to the kitchen door (few people even know where our front door was). They walked in to the kitchen, saw the foil and, ”Ahhhh! Just like in Iran!” I was surprised only because I couldn’t imagine Iran having anything so advanced as our aluminum foil. But I knew that this family knew, really knew what Passover is. I knew also that they felt at home.

Nothing grows outside of its environment. And when that environment must be created, nurtured for a specific life to spring forth there from, then the preparations become that much more necessary. You can go out and order in soup and roasted chicken. You cannot go out and order in a family focus that brings all these forces together and from them creates a something out of relative nothing. Like prayer, you can’t put nothing in and expect to take something out. If you don’t sweat for it than how can it ever get into your blood?

Close your eyes and see the rows of tables with men, women and children finding place around the dining room. Hear the singing that you love and inhale the distinctively Passover smells. You will be awed by the sanctity of the simple acts we do: washing, reciting, eating, drinking. What binds this all together is wrapped up in silver foil. 

Rabbi Shimon Posner