Retelling

One of the main activities of Passover is the retelling of the story of Exodus.  We retell the story to remember.  We retell the story to learn from the past.  The cycle of Jewish holidays is described to be spiral; although we end up at the same point after each cycle, hopefully we are moving up and growing.

One would hope that in the retelling of the Passover story each year, we will gain new perspective.  We will pick up on some detail we missed the previous year or some  lesson that we will integrate into our lives.

In our family, there is homework for our Seder.  I ask each person (I admit, so far it has only been my husband and myself) to share something connected to one of the themes of Passover.  The idea is to find something meaningful to share and hopefully in the sharing we will pick up that new thing each year.

This year I am excited to be hosting our first ever guests at one of our Seders. I have already asked them to find something to share and they are very excited to participate.

How do you retell the story each year?

This post is part of Twitter’s @imabima’s list of writing prompts for the first two weeks of Nissan leading up to Passover.

A Charoset Blended Recipe

My grandmother, Bless her Soul, made the most amazing dishes.  Sadly, all the recipes disappeared when she passed away because she would never reveal any of her secrets.  She was born and raised in Egypt and emigrated with the Exodus of the 1950’s.

One dish I remember LOVING as a child was her charoset, a staple of the Passover Seder.  I used to steal the walnuts with some of the sweet dip during the Seder.

My grandmother lived (with my father’s family) in Italy for a while and from my research, I think her charoset recipe is a blend of a traditional Egyptian charoset and a traditional Italian charoset.

It seems fitting since my husband’s parents were both born in Italy.

I don’t have amounts, so these are approximate and then you can adjust based on taste.

The recipe:

  • 1 Cup dried dates, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • one apple (shredded) or 1/3 cup of apple sauce (I think the applesauce gives the charoset the flavour that I remember)
  • a bit of sugar (if you’d like it even sweeter)
  • a pinch of cinnamon or ground ginger (if you like that flavour)
  • a splash (or three!) of sweet wine or grape juice

Put the raisins and the dates into a saucepan with some of the wine (or grape juice) and some water and simmer gently until everything is softened and the liquid is gone.  Add all the ingredients together and blend.  Enjoy!

What charoset recipe do you use?  Was it a traditional recipe in your family (or country)?

Joy

In early May, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the JCC‘s of North America Biennial Conference in New Orleans.  Most of the conference sessions I attended were about leadership, community and the future of the JCC movement – all very interesting and meaningful to me as a JCC professional.  However, the best workshop I attended was the one presented by David Ackerman of the JCC Association and Karina Zilberman, creator of Shababa at the 92nd Street Y in New York City focused on celebrating Shabbat at JCCs.  If you live in Manhattan and you have small children, my advice is to RUN, not walk, to the 92nd Street Y for Shababa Fridays and Saturdays.  If your kids like music and you like to feel inspired, this is the place.  In a room full of 40 adults, Karina was able to create an atmosphere of joy that I haven’t experienced really since summer camp many moons ago.  Her spirit, creativity and unique enthusiasm had a way of making everyone feel good, and in essence, make everyone feel good about being Jewish.  That’s a pretty big and important task.

This experience really got me thinking about joy and Judaism – are my husband and I making Judaism joyful for our boys?  We try to make it fun by bringing them to the JCC and synagogue Purim carnivals, by taking them to see Mama Doni concerts and by celebrating Passover with their cousins.  We try to make it part of our lives by going to religious school on Sundays and participating in the family service each week.  We try to make it social by setting up playdates with Jewish friends.  But do we make it joyful?  How do we really do that? 

I think I can see and hear joy when our boys are singing Jewish songs in the car and reading books from the PJ library – but how can we take it to the next level?  Overnight camp is one way for sure – Friday night services outside with all of your friends, singing the Birkat Hamazon (blessing after the meal) with all of the “campy” traditions – but until they (and we) are ready for that, what can we do now?  How can we ensure that they feel great about being Jewish and that they feel joy when they are doing Jewish things? 

Wild Pesach

Our Passover Seders are typically enjoyed at the home of one of Hubby’s Aunts and Uncles. They always do an incredible job, and are some of the few people we know who are equipped to handle 20+ people for dinner (and make it look pretty darn easy, even though I KNOW it’s not). Last year, I have to admit, I was dreading the Passover Seder. Baby boy was almost 1, he was mobile, and I just KNEW he was going to be a handful. I was pleasantly surprised at pesach/">how well it all went.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I WASN’T worried about this Passover… on the contrary. Baby boy is now almost 2, and all that goes along with that. His big brothers, while typically well-behaved, have a penchant for egging him on (mainly because he’s so darn cute, but also because, well, they’re big brothers). Add to that the fact that I realized about half an hour before we needed to leave that I never procured a travel high chair. I had no way of strapping him down ensuring he could sit safely at the table.

Again, my fears were *mostly* unfounded this year. As he climbed the front steps, Baby boy excitedly called out “Aunt Su-san house! See. Aunt Su-San!” (Try to read that in your best squeaky-toddler voice.) Baby boy was pretty good, if somewhat restless. He mostly sat in my lap, until he realized that Zayde was at the next table, and then he’d sort of roam between Mommy, Daddy, and “Zalie’s” lap. He didn’t eat much dinner (not that I expected otherwise; he’s definitely in the “picky” stage of toddler eating), though he did ask for more and more “apple-cinn-mon” (charoses). He wore his kippah, (he kept calling it his “hehmet” because anything that goes on one’s head right now MUST be a baseball helmet) except for when he shared it with me or Daddy. (Even showing him that his big brothers were quietly and calmly wearing their “hehmets” didn’t persuade him to keep his on.)

There were a couple “extra” (i.e., not related to us) kiddos at this year’s Seder, which made the hunt for the Afikomen even more exciting! Bear found it this year, and after some pretty intense negotiations for its ransom, we had to have a little “lesson” with Bear about the ransom’s fair division between his co-searchers. All the kids did GREAT on their reading (and considering the youngest reader is only in kindergarten, I’m SO, SO impressed), and they all (with the exception of Baby boy) behaved very well at the table. It was a late night, as usual, and maybe a little wilder than in years past, but I’d still say it was a very successful Seder. Maybe one year Hubs and I will be brave enough to have our own family little Seder.

Book review: P is for Passover


image from : http://www.judaism.com/gif-bk/33835a.gif

I love reading to my son.  One day soon, he’ll actually understand the words but for now it is still special bonding time over the pages.  As much as I love Dr. Seuss, I am starting a collection of Jewish holiday children’s books.  For Passover, I bought the book P is for Passover by Tanya Lee Stone at the first ever Passover fair at our Shul

Since my son is only 6 months old, he tends to respond more to books that has a good rhyme to it (which this book does well).  I love how he sits up and pays attention when the words have a rhythm. 

When I first opened the book I wondered if the author would skip letters or just stop somewhere in the middle of the alphabet.  I was impressed (and pleasantly surprised) that there is indeed a Passover “something” for each letter (ok, the X was in Exodus, but still). 

The artwork isn’t anything terribly fancy, but the colours are bright and there is much to look at on each page. 

Do you have a special Passover book you read with your kids (other than the Haggadah)?

What is your Mitzrayim?

We celebrate Passover to commemorate the Jewish people’s redemption from Egypt – Mitzrayim in Hebrew.  The root of the Hebrew word for Egypt refers to that which is constricting, perhaps even slows us down and prevents us from moving forward. 

As a parent, what is your Mitzrayim? 

I have much to learn as a parent.  My person Mitzrayim is to overcome the personal issues so that I can be a better role model to my son.  One specific example I can think of is that of charity.  I didn’t grow up in an overly generous home.  In fact, I can’t recall a single time I saw my parents sign over a check to help someone in need.  Money in my parents house was something to save for a rainy day.  It certainly wasn’t for sharing. 

As I started my spiritual journey and learned more about the Mitzvah of Tzedakah (charity), I had to work hard to break from that monetary mold.  I found myself open to giving away money, but I was very untrusting.  Who were these organizations?  Was it just a scam?  I forced myself to write the check without questioning the recipient’s motives. 

Now that I am a parent, I continue to work on my Mitzrayim and I have a game plan so that my son is raised with generosity as a value.

So, what is your Mitzrayim?

Passover cleaning the soul

Jewish thought has a concept of Cheshbon HaNefesh – making an account of the soul.  Every day one should spend some time thinking about their day – what was done well, what could be improved.  We return to that concept big time at Elul, the Hebrew month leading up to Rosh Hashannah, kind of a Jewish version of New Year’s Resolutions.

At Spring time, right before Passover we rid the house of chametz, that which is leavened, or puffed up.  Between the fall and the spring, we forget about our personal resolutions, and maybe let our egos get the best of us.  We return to our not-so-evil-but-not-so-great ways.  Passover is a time to clean out the soul again and see if we are heading in the right direction. 

For the first time, as I cleaned my kitchen, these were the thoughts that went through my head.  As I cleaned, I was removing the gunky stuff, not letting it get too thick (since I cleaned it last year and every year).  I felt it liberating, that the Jewish calendar provides opportunities for soul cleansing and redirecting. 

Do you see Passover cleaning as a chore?  Or do you feel it is an opportunity to rid your house of the puffed up gunk (of the soul)?

Thinking of Passover

With Purim now done, we look forward to pushing the clocks an hour ahead, spring and Passover (cleaning). 

What do you do for Passover to prepare?  Is there a massive clean up?  Do you plan a special menu or stick with tradition? 

I enjoy our Seders, which has been just my husband and myself.  We always have additional readings and talk about various themes of Passover (like freedom).  When we are elsewhere, people always want to zip through the Haggadah and get it all over with.  I guess since I’ve only been doing this with my husband for the last 3 years, it is still so novel and fun to me, and with all the preparation, I want to enjoy the Seder

I am looking forward to hearing my son ask the four questions, and adding games and activities that will whet his appetite for Seders.