Friday, March 22, 2013

PESAH: The Secret.

 What is the secret for a successful and meaningful Pesah Seder? What do you have to do to have a very enjoyable moment with your children and family members, while learning about our history and identity? 

The 'secret' for the Pesah Seder could be summarize with these three words: "Preparation. Preparation. Preparation."

Let me explain.

1. Write an email/text/whatsapp TODAY asap to each member of your family. Assign to each one of them one part of the Hagada. Ask them to be ready to read and/or explain at least one short text of the Hagada in Hebrew, English,  etc...  The little ones should be prepared to read, sing, explain 'ma nishtana' or 'abadim hayinu' or 'had gadya'. Ask the teenagers to search online about one particular text or idea of the hagada (=Pesah, matza, maror, 4 cups, eating reclined, haroset, etc.). Encourage them to search,,, etc, for material related to the idea they read.

2. Make it fun: Ask the funniest guys of the family to play some parts of the Hagada. You must have a play for the Ten Plagues: Somebody (a more serious guy) explains briefly each plague and the actors play the play. You must have at least one person playing Moshe (his head covered with a Talit) and somebody starring as Par'o... (use your imagination...)  Make it visual. Buy plastic frogs, animal masks for deber and ping pong balls for hail.  Another group should play the four sons. Encourage the 4 sons to briefly debate among themselves about one past/present subject: for example, Although they were only a small minority, the Egyptians feared that the Jews were "too powerful for us." (Ex. 1:10). Although Jews make us less than 3% of the American population Atlantic Magazine's "50 Most Influential Commentators in America" included 26 Jews. Are Jews too powerful? Not powerful enough? Is "Jew's influence" just an excuse to justify anti-Semitism? Should we keep it all to ourselves?

3. Educate with fun: Have games for the children, a Pesah treasure hunt or Pesah trivia. You MUST see THIS and THIS.  Have 20 questions ready, and most importantly 20 (or more) small prizes. So anytime the Seder is about to get  out of control, or boring or you want everybody's attention you can shoot one of your questions (show the prize first!). Guaranteed to work... or your money back!

Shabbat Shalom!
Candle-lighting in NYC:    6:50 pm
Shabbat ends in NYC :       7:51 pm

To download the list of Products for Pesah 2013 click here

For Minhaguim of Sefirat ha'Omer see  THIS

For Sefirat ha'Omer app for your Iphone, Ipad click here

For Sefirat ha'Omer reminder app for your android see this

For MYC email reminder for Sefirat ha'Omer click here

Thursday, March 21, 2013

PESAH: The Night of the Seder

We previously explained the first step of the Seder, qaddesh (see here).

2. Urhatz
We wash our hands ( netilat yadayim ) without saying any Berakha. It is customary that children help with the netilat yadayim bringing a bowl of water and a towel to the parents and grandparents. This netilat yadayim is done in order to eat the Karpas dipped in vinegar. Our sages instituted that the night of the Seder we should dip the Karpas not once but twice to awake the curiosity of the children and provoke their questions. These questions are already integrated into the famous text: Ma Nishtana. One of the questions refers to the double dipping of the Karpas.
3. Karpas
We eat a small piece of Karpas (celery).  In ancient times it was common for affluent people to have an aperitif (celery or another vegetable) before the main course to stimulate the appetite (poor people did not need appetizers!). The night of the Seder we should feel that we are free and affluent in the sense that all our needs are covered by HaShem, as if we were royalty. This is also the reason why we sit leaning in our chairs: the slaves use to eat sitting on the floor, while the freemen and nobles would rest in comfortable chairs or couches.  Now, we also dip the Karpas in vinegar (or salted water) to remind us of the misery of our slavery and the tears we shed in captivity. As you can see once and again: the Seder is a balanced act of memory, between remembering our past as slaves and celebrating our God-given freedom, for which we should be thankful to HaShem.   Before eating the Karpas we recite the blessing Bore Peri haAdama. As we have explained, all these deviations from the ordinary dinning habits are meant toward one single goal: to motivate the children to ask questions in order to ensure their active participation during the entire Seder.

To see the rest of the Seder click HERE

To download the list of Products for Pesah 2013 click here

I would like to thank Mrs. Esther Livi, wife of Mr. Bernard Livi, for her help and assistance to 
elaborate this list. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

PESAH: List of approved foods and products for 5773

 The foods and products described in the following list do not contain Hametz and are authorized for Pesah 5773.

The products mentioned in this list do not bear a special Kosher for Pesah certification. They should be bought before Pesah begins. They can only be used if the package is new and unused. 

The authorization of these articles is only for Sephardim and it is based on information obtained from Kosher for Pesah lists elaborated by experts Orthodox rabbis.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton 

Click HERE to download the list of Products for Pesah 5773/2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

PESAH: Understanding the Seder (Part 1)

Throughout its symbolisms and traditions, the Seder of Pesah makes us revive the bitter experience of slavery and the sweetness of freedom. It invites us to visualize ourselves as if we were slaves, who are actually leaving right now our misery in Egypt for good.  

We have two types of symbols in the Seder.  

On the one hand, the maror (bitter leaves), the haroset (or Haligh), and the vinegar (or salted water) all reminders of a cruel slavery.

On the other hand we have the four cups of wine, the representation of our departure from Egypt and the fact that we seat reclined - as was done exclusively by the Kings and Lords in antiquity - all symbols of freedom and liberty.

On this night, we rebuild the scenery of the events that took place at the time of our Exodus. Refreshing our collective memory and transmitting to our children who we were and who we are, where we coming from and how did it all began.  But, keeping one strategy in mind during the whole Seder, celebrating our freedom, without forgetting our ancestors' suffering.

There is one element in Pesah that beautifully encompasses these two antagonistic memories simultaneously: the matza ( see "the Story of matza" here ).

During the coming days we will review the steps of the Pesah Seder and we will hopefully learn its performance and meaning. 

Monday, March 25th 2013 at night, we will have the first Seder of Pesah. The Seder begins with the Holiday consecration and its official inauguration: the qiddush.  Upon concluding the qiddush and the blessing sheheheyanu everyone shall drink his or her first cup of wine, while leaning on the left side. Each cup should contain at least 3 ounces.  Throughout the Seder we drink four cups of wine. Symbolizing a joyous celebration of the four expressions of freedom found in the Tora. If one cannot drink wine, it could be substituted by grape juice or diluted wine. 

  Dear readers, I have been very busy with personal matters during the last days. I had no time to prepare the list of products for Pesah as I did in previous years. B'H, I hope to do this today and present the list in tomorrow's HOTD. Also, I  will try to have a link with the forms, for those who wish to sell their hametz. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mekhirat Hametz: Should you sell your Hametz?

Since it is forbidden to have hametz during Pesah in some communities it is customary to sell the hametz to a non-Jew through the local rabbinate. This is the way this selling is done: the community member signs a paper (virtually, a power of attorney) authorizing a Rabbi to sell his hametz to a gentile. The rabbi sells the hametz to a non-Jew Pesah eve. The buyer gives a down payment for the hametz to the rabbi and commits to pay the balance up to a few minutes after Pesach is over. During Pesah, then, the buyer is the legal owner of the hametz, even if the hametz still remains in the property of the Jewish seller. When the buyer fails to cancel the balance (although, if he wishes to do so, he can theoretically and legally pay the balance and collect his hametz!), immediately after Pesach, the hametz belongs back to the seller.
Until recent times in Sephardic communities it was not customary to sell the hametz to a gentile except in exceptional case, e.g.,  someone who owned a food store. Traditionally, Sephardic Jews got rid of all their hametz (bi'ur hametz) as prescribed by the Rabbis of the Talmud, and if some hametz accidentally had not being detected, then the bitul hametz,i.e., renouncing to our ownership of any undetected hametz in our possession, would prevent the transgression of owning hametz during Pesah. If we take these two simple steps, then there is no need to sell any hametz.    Whenever possible this is the best way to proceed and to preserve the ancient Sephardic Minhag. (This is, by the way, what I have been doing for years. I personally avoid keeping any hametz at home and selling it...).  Remember that you only have to get rid of hametz which is afood item (for pets food, see note below). Medicines, perfumes or any non edible items could be kept, regardless of its composition. Food items: you could keep anything as long as you make sure that it does not contain any of these five grains: wheat, barley, oats, rye, spelt (FYI, anything which contains gluten, is hametz. Check online!). All those community members who wish to continue with the tradition of removing all hametz from your premises and avoid the selling of the hametz, can email me ( a list of food you wish to keep and I will email back the status of that food (K: Keep.  D: Discard or give as a gift to a non Jew)   

For those community members who wish to keep their valuable hametz products (whiskey, vodka or liquors made from grain alcohol, etc), in order to avoid transgressing the prohibition of owning hametz during Pesach, there are many ways to arrange the selling of the hametz thru the local rabbinates.  You can also email me. 

Pet's food are usually hametz and it is forbidden to use them for your pets or even to keep them during Pesah.  For a list of Kosher lePesah pet's food see  HERE