Some of My Favorite (Seder) Things

The Exodus is mentioned numerous times in the Torah, and our calendar is based on the first month (Nissan) as the month of the Exodus. The Torah tells us not to oppress the stranger because we were strangers in Egypt, do not hurt the downtrodden, do not cheat in business etc. because we were slaves in Egypt. The Ramban (Shmot 12:12) says that the reason there are no names for ...

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Springtime is Pesach-time

Passover is always observed in spring, on the fifteenth day of the month of Nissan (around March or April). The Torah describes the month in which Passover falls as the first month, and emphasizes several times that Pesach occurs in the springtime: God said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: This month shall be for you the beginning of the months; it shall be for you the ...

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Exile of the Body, Exile of the Soul

As we are no preparing for Passover, of course, we begin to think about the exile in Egypt and about exile in general. When one becomes familiar with the Torah and with Judaism, one will observe that exile features frequently in the Torah. Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden of Eden, Cain is exiled, Abraham has to go into exile in Egypt and Jacob and his sons also ...

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What Kashrut Is and What Kashrut is Not

What Kashrut Is Not This week’s parsha, Shemini, contains most of the laws of Kashrut, the dietary code of Judaism. Anthropologists have viewed the laws of kashrut as superstitious taboos, or a reflection of the eating habits and norms of the ancient Near East.  One author explained the prohibitions of kashrut as purely a matter of economic necessity.   A number of scholars explain the laws as being an ancient attempt at ...

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Laws and Customs of Purim

Laws and Customs of Purim (From Gateway to Judaism, Mordechai Becher, Mesorah-Artscroll) Purim is preceded by the Fast of Esther on the 13th of the Hebrew month of Adar (usually corresponding to late February or early March).  The fast begins at dawn and ends at night.  It commemorates the fact that Queen Esther and the Jews of her city fasted before she entered the king’s chambers to ask him for ...

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Very soon Jews all over the world will celebrate the festival of Purim. Our Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, and we were exiled to Babylon and Persia (modern day Iraq and Iran). Haman ascended to power under the Persian Empire and was at the peak of his political influence and wealth.  As we know, Haman hatched a plot to destroy all the Jewish people, something with ...

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Eat, Drink and Be Merry – We Almost Died

As we approach Purim, I cannot resist talking about this beautiful festival.  It is one of two festivals of the winter, Chanukah and Purim.  While the events of Chanukah were principally a threat to our spiritual survival, Purim recalls a threat to the physical existence of the Jewish people.  Haman attempted to physically destroy every Jewish man, woman and child.  We celebrate our deliverance from this threat with mitzvot that ...

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Chapped Hands and the Temple

We are approaching spring, hopefully, but as winter continues one of the things that I have been thinking about is chapped skin. Yes, my hands get very rough and chapped.  I use a hand cream on them, but, when I put on my tie I can actually feel the fabric catching on my skin.  I cannot help thinking that one of the reasons my hands are chapped is because as ...

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The Month of Miraculous Jewish Survival

We are currently in the month of Adar I, and will celebrate Purim in about a month, during Adar II.  Rashi tells us that the season of miracles and redemption culminating in Passover begins at the beginning of the month of Adar.  This is why the Talmud tells us that “When Adar begins one should increase their happiness.”  I believe that the miracle of Purim is really the ongoing miracle ...

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