A Really Brief Guide to Pesach

The Seder – Seminar in a Meal The Seder is structured around the fulfillment of a number of Biblical and Rabbinic commandments – The Paschal lamb -- During the times of the Temple, the Jewish people were commanded to roast a whole lamb on a spit and eat it on the first evening of Pesach.  The lamb was a symbol of Egyptian idolatry, specifically representing the ram god, Khnum who, according ...

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Four Cups, Four LeChaims

The Meshech Chochmah on the Four Cups (Parshas VaEirah) Our Sages instituted 4 cups of wine at the seder and the Talmud Yerushalmi says that each one of the cups of wine symbolizes a different expression of redemption. In Shmos 6:6 there are four expressions of redemption.  They are: Vehhotzeisi—I will take them out Vehitzalty—I will save them Vego’alty—I will redeem them Velakachty—I will take them to me as a people. Each expression ...

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Remember the Exodus, But Don’t Forget the Eisodus.

Pesach celebrates a historic event – the freeing of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt 3333 years ago. The Torah recounts how Hashem intervened in history, punished the Egyptian slave-masters and took His people –out of Egypt with miracles and wonders. The term Exodus  denotes the specific departure of Bnei Yisroel from Egypt. At this time, Hashem created the physical entity known as the Jewish people and paved the ...

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Drinking Wine on [a day like] Yom Kippur

One of the most peculiar laws of Purim is the obligation to drink wine, and even become intoxicated.  As the Talmud states, “A person is obligated to become inebriated on Purim, until he does not know the difference between ‘Blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman.’  Excessive drinking is frowned upon by Jewish law, yet here it appears that the law specifically advocates drinking.  Clearly, a person may not become ...

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The Purim Back Story and Jewish Survival

The Purim story begins about 900 years after the Exodus from Egypt.  The Jews had been living in Israel continually, since they first entered with Joshua.  For 410 years, Shlomo Hamelech’s Bais HaMikdash in Jerusalem had been the focal point of Jewish spiritual and national life in Israel.  The first major tragedy that the Jews of this era experienced was the division of the country into the northern kingdom of ...

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Calvin and Hobbes and Judaism

I recently cited Thomas Hobbes in an article that I wrote, and I received criticism for bringing a non-Jewish source in a Torah article. I thought it would be of interest to share my response. In citing the philosopher Thomas Hobbes I was actually following an ancient practice which recognizes that there is indeed “wisdom amongst the nations” (Midrash Eicha Rabba 2:17) and following the Rambam’s exhortation to “hear the truth ...

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Coffee – The Grind and the Gemara

I confess that we in the Becher home are coffee fanatics.  We only buy recently roasted beans, grind them in a ceramic grinder, make pour-over coffee using only non-bleached paper filters and do not pollute the coffee with sugar or chas v’shalom, artificial sweeteners and other toxic waste.  We recently acquired a cold brew coffee tower, which drips cold water through ground coffee for six hours and produces one of ...

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Where is Moshe?

The parshiyos that we are currently reading feature Moshe prominently in the story of the Exodus, the Red Sea and the time in the desert. It is fascinating to note, however,  that if you look through the Haggadah Moshe is just not there, he is not mentioned. He is mentioned in one place as an aside – coincidentally. Rav Yossi of Galilee was talking about how many plagues hit the ...

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Fall and Winter 

As a young boy growing up in Melbourne, Australia, fall was almost non-existent and winter only meant that I had to wear shoes when playing outside and, occasionally, a parka. It never snows in Melbourne, and a brutal winter day can sometimes go down to the mid-40s. Immediately after I finished high school (in December, the beginning of the summer in Australia) I left to learn in Yeshivas ITRI in ...

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Shalom – Salaam

I was once at a resort near Sydney, Australia and it was close to sundown. There were six men in our group and we wanted a minyan for mincha. There were four elderly Jewish men nearby playing cards together, so I went over to ask them if they would join us for 10 minutes. They responded with shock, “We are in the middle of a card game, we can’t stop.” ...

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