My dear husband, now retired, is shouldering a huge amount of the Passover preparation this year. He will get plenty of extra hugs.
Passover (Pesach) has become the most overwhelming holiday in the Jewish calendar, at least in the U.S. It requires a whole lot of preparation, lasts 7 or 8 days (depending), and its highlight is a long ceremonial dinner (or two), the seder, with story-telling and ritual from a booklet called a haggadah, usually with a large number of people, especially family. So it’s a big deal, fitting for celebrating the Exodus from Egypt.
The focus of the preparation is getting rid of leavened foods, chametz. I wrote here in 2017, “We are supposed to rid our abodes of chametz, which technically is “any food product made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and ‘rise’.” Chametz is also symbolically linked to pride (being puffed up, get it?), so getting rid of chametz is a means of increasing your humility. But trying to rid one’s house of all chametz can be carried to extremes if one conflates chametz with schmutz (dirt). I have read of Legos placed in a mesh bag and laundered to get rid of possible crumbs on crevices. In the last several years, however, I’ve seen articles encouraging a moderate approach. An article in my own shul’s newsletter declared that if we’re spending more than a day getting rid of chametz, it’s too much. Debra Nussbaum Cohen’s 2011 essay, The Passover Cleaning Season Is Upon Us, and the link there to advice from Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg are also worth looking at.”
There are a whole lot of haggadahs to choose from for your seder. See, for example, http://www.ifitshipitshere.com/the-ten-quirkiest-passover-haggadot/. Now you can even download them. Two examples:
1. Explore the connections between the ancient Passover story and today’s refugees in the HIAS Haggadah
2. The JewishGen Passover Companion 2019 contains inspirational vignettes about how Passover was observed in
various communities, along with first-hand accounts about the great
effort and personal risk (Mesirat Nefesh) Jews took to observe
Passover during the Holocaust….To read it online, please click here: http://bit.ly/JewishGen2019FS
To download the file to your computer (and for printing), please click
Since the sedarim are generally long and incorporate 4 cups of wine, attendance at services the first two days of Pesach is often light. My husband has to go the 2nd day this year because he’s doing some of the Torah reading. Here is my crib sheet in case you actually go or are just curious.
|April 20, 1st day Pesach||Exodus 12:21-51
The first Passover, the Exodus, and laws for future Passovers (duh).
The Passover sacrifice (also duh).
|Joshua 5:2-6:1, 27
[or 3:5-7; 5:2–6:1, 27] Circumcision of the males born in the wilderness.
|April 21, 2nd day Pesach||Leviticus 22:26-23:44
The holidays (“set times”).
Same as the first day.
|II Kings 23:1-25
or 23:1-9, 21-25] King Josiah’s religious revival.
But was there actually an Exodus from Egypt, as written in the Bible? Were there 10 plagues? Did the sea split? (That’s in the 7th day Torah reading.) There are all sorts of opinions with varying levels of believability. Here are links to some of them:
Move Over, Moses: A Pharaoh May Have Created the Ancient Kingdom of Israel New archaeological evidence and biblical scholarship suggest Shishak wanted to make Egypt great again – but may have inadvertently steered the Israelites into creating a great nation of their own.
(I haven’t yet read the 5 items below.)
1.ESSAY by JOSHUA BERMAN March 2, 2015, professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University and a research fellow at the Herzl Institute. Was There an Exodus? A biblical scholar reviews the historical claims of the biblical book of Exodus.
Many are sure that one of Judaism’s central events never happened. Evidence, some published here for the first time, suggests otherwise.
“To this day, no pulpit talk by a contemporary American rabbi has generated greater attention or controversy than a sermon delivered by Rabbi David Wolpe on the morning of Passover 2001. ‘The truth,’ Rabbi Wolpe informed his Los Angeles congregation, ‘is [that] the way the Bible describes the exodus [from Egypt] is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.’”
- RESPONSE How to Judge Evidence for the Exodus
- RESPONSE The Exodus: Case Not Proved
- RESPONSE Biblical Criticism Hasn’t Negated the Exodus
- LAST WORD Was Israel Taken out of Egypt, or Egypt out of Israel?
Actually, I react to all this with only academic interest. The historicity of the Exodus doesn’t really matter to me. The story is a way of demonstrating, or at least introducing, the foundation and values and principles that define a people.
Shabbat shalom and a zissun (sweet) Pesach,
For your amusement: A newly relevant rewrite of the discussion in the Haggadah about how to tell four sons/children about Passover, How To Talk To Your Four Sons About The Mueller Report Very clever! (thanks, Stanley)
Top Ten Signs the Russians have Hacked your Seder
- The 4 glasses of wine suddenly 4 shots vodka
9. Marror (bitter herb) sure smells a lot like ‘military-grade nerve agent’
8. Hillel sandwich now includes beluga caviar
7. The 4 sons now showing as 4 million sons on Facebook
6. Yachatz (breaking the middle matza) done in Ivan Drago voice proclaiming” “I will Break You”
5. Dtzach Adash Bachab mnemonic (for the 10 plagues in Hebrew) is now U.S.S.R
4. Your drunk Uncle Rob keeps asking you to call him Boris
3. Seder invitation begins “Whoever is Hungry, welcome to socialism”
2. Anyone who discloses the location of the Afikomen gets shot
1. Seder concludes with “Next Year in Crimea”
Really Really Bad Seder Jokes
● What army base is off limits on Passover? Fort Leavenworth
● What’s the difference between matzoh and cardboard?? Cardboard doesn’t leave crumbs in the rug
● What kind of shoes did the Egyptians where during the plague of Frogs? Open toad!
● What do you call someone who derives pleasure from the bread of affliction? A matzochist.
● Who is behind Pharaoh’s Evil Empire? Darth Seder
● What was the name of the Secret Spy for the Jews in Egypt? Bondage, James Bondage
● Q: What’s the best cheese to eat on Pesach? A: Matza-rella.
● How many Pharoahs does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, but he won’t let it go.
Moses’s Gift to the Auto Industry
My five-year-old daughter excitedly greeted her mother: “Guess what we made in Jewish school today, Mommy. We made unleaded bread!”
K’vetch, we need you!
Picture a nerdy looking man named Herbert sitting at the Passover seder table. He speaks: “Why do I hafta sit at the kids’ table? This stinks!! This really stinks!!”
Moral: . . . No seder would be complete without the bitter Herb.