PUBLISHED BY THE JEWISH RUSSIAN LEARNING CENTER
No 46 APRIL 2012
cha rac ter
MY PLASTIC PHARAOH EXPULSION FROM PORTUGAL
PLEASE HANDLE THIS MAGAZINE RESPECTFULLY: IT CONTAINS HOLY WORDS OF TORAH
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We cordially invite you to our
INTERACTIVE PESACH SEDERS with full course catered meal, Matzah Shmurah, Passover Haggadahs with English and Russian translation, with discussions, songs etc. At our two locations* (both 1st and 2nd Seders): GREAT KILLS - 3911 Amboy Rd. SOUTH BEACH - 15 Waterview Ct.
First Pesach Seder Friday, April 6th at 8:00 PM Second Pesach Seder Shabbat, April 7th at 8:15 PM Cost: $36 per Seder (or $50 for both nights) for adults; $18 ($28 for both nights) - for children (If you need a discount please don't hesitate to ask) FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO RSVP 718-569-5593 â€˘ INFO@JEWISHRUSSIANCENTER.COM *On the last day of Pesach, April 14, the Yizkor Services will be held on both locations @ 11:30 am SPONSORED BY
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Editor-in-Chief: Rabbi E. Kogan Art Director: M. Kurov Cover Design: A. Soble Published bi-monthly by Jewish Russian Learning Center Director: Rabbi Eli Kogan Phone: 908-963-8661 Email: email@example.com www.5thdimension.org We accept no responsibility for unsolicited materials and for content of advertisings.
IN THIS ISSUE:
WAYS OF G-D .................................................... 4 MY PLASTIC PHARAOH ......................................... 4 EXPULSION FROM SO MANY .................................. 6 CALENDAR OF HOLIDAY ........................................ 7 PESACH GUIDE ................................................ 10
WAYS OF G-D “On the Shabbat before Passover, the rabbi shall teach and explain the laws of Passover,” states the Code of Jewish Law. This refers to the traditional sermon given on this Saturday, Shabbat Hagadol the Great Sabbath. Must the Rabbi include anything specific in his sermon? The Code answers: “The most important thing is that he expound upon and show them the ways of G-d, and teach them the deeds that they must do.” Obviously, the “deeds that they must do” refers to the cleaning, nullification of leaven, baking of matza, preparations for the Seder, and other practical matters pertaining to Passover. But what is meant by “the ways of G-d”? A “way” is only a means of reaching a particular goal. The path we choose to get there is not an end in itself, but only a necessary means by which we may arrive at our des-
tination. Therefore, the “ways of G-d” are not the Torah and commandments themselves, for these are the ultimate goal. “The ways of G-d” must, accordingly, refer to anything which will lead us to a more observant and religious life. Love and awe of G-d are the two main paths that lead us to a fuller life of Jewish observance. These two emotions infuse our service of G-d with the proper joy and delight. The Torah and mitzvot themselves are our objective, but it is the love and reverence we feel for G-d that ensures that our actions will be performed in the most perfect manner possible. “A mitzva performed without the proper intention is like a body without a soul,” say our Sages. Of course, the most important thing, in any event, is that the mitzva gets done, however lofty our intentions or ulterior our motives may be, because a mitzva connects an indi-
MY PLASTIC PHARAOH It’s almost Passover already. I’ll soon be sitting at the Seder table with family and friends and the same question as with every one of these holidays is going to come up: What are we celebrating? What are we all here for? My kids tell me that’s no question: We’re here to celebrate our freedom. That’s what the holiday is called, “The Festival of Our Freedom.” We were slaves in Egypt, now we are free. So let’s get to the meal and celebrate. I’m glad they feel so free. As for me, I’m still a slave and Pharaoh, king of Egypt, never died. I labor for him all week long. He tricked me into it: First, he let me have all these
nice things I really wanted for nothing. Later he started demanding money for them. When, one time, I didn’t pay all the money, he demanded even more money. So I have to keep working real hard to give him all the money he demands. I carry a picture of Pharaoh in his present incarnation in my wallet. It has his very intimidating new name engraved on it. He’s called “Master Card.” But my kids don’t go for that. They say that in the Haggadah it says Pharaoh let us go free. Well, I know the Haggadah a little better than them. The fact is, the Haggadah, like every other piece of Torah, is full of puzzles and seeming contradic-
FROM THE TALKS OF THE REBBE vidual to G-d and brings holiness down into the physical world. But G-d wants Jews to rejoice in His Torah and do His mitzvot with zeal and enthusiasm, not with an eye to fulfilling only the barest minimum prescribed by law. That is why our emotions play such an important part in our observance. This Shabbat, when the rabbi delivers his sermon, he will deliver more than a dry recitation of the minutiae of practical Torah law. Rather, he will endeavor to infuse the congregation with the positive feelings that are the “ways of G-d,” which bring us to the perfection in our service that we seek. For it is only with a happy heart and with true joy in being a part of the Chosen People that we may celebrate the coming festival of Passover to the fullest. tions, there just so you’ll ask questions. If you read any piece of Torah, especially the Haggadah, and you don’t have any questions, you obviously aren’t reading right. To get to the point: We just finished making Kiddush, in which we call this “The Festival of Our Freedom.” What do we say next? “This is the Poor Man’s Bread...Now we are slaves, next year we will be free men.” Now is that a contradiction or is that a contradiction? Are we free or are we slaves? So my kids tell me that we’re celebrating that once we were slaves and then we got free and so we’re celebrating. The fact that we all got into a mess and became slaves again, well, too bad. We can still commemorate the past. As long as the dinner is good.
Let me tell you something: I’m not into commemorating the past. If I’m going through all this trouble 33 centuries later to clean my house for Passover and make a big Seder, it’s got to have more significance than commemorating something that cancelled itself out with history anyway. The problem of being a slave with all these contradictions, coupled with the stress of cleaning for Passover, really bothered me. So I went to see a psychotherapist. He listened, took notes and then told me that MasterCard is not Pharaoh. I am Pharaoh. More specifically, my unreasonable demands upon myself is the Pharaoh. I told him my only real demand upon myself is that I should not be a slave. He said I shouldn’t use that word, “should.” The word “should” means I’m making an unreasonable demand upon myself. That causes stress. Stress, in his Haggadah, is slavery. Apparently, the Hebrews in Egypt were really stressed out. Building pyramids was nothing. It’s the stress that did them in. “So,” I asked, “What should I do? I don’t want to be a slave.” He told me I shouldn’t do anything. Wanting is ok. I can want to not be a slave. Shoulding is bad. It’s unreasonable to should. Now I was really confused. I had always understood that “I should” was my liberator and “I want” was the one that got me in all this trouble to begin with. But the hour was up and there I was in the office showing my picture of Pharaoh to the psychotherapist’s secretary. “In summary,” I thought, “I shouldn’t say should.” I needed to make another appointment with the shrink to ask whether I should or should not say that I shouldn’t say should. But, at these profes-
sional rates, I didn’t think my little Pharaoh would let me. At any rate, I decided, I don’t need a shrink to achieve liberation. After all, liberation is a form of enlightenment. When is the last time you met a spiritually enlightened psychotherapist? What I needed was a guru. An elevated, transcendent soul who is essentially liberated and could pull me out of all this muck and mire. So I sat down and keyboarded out a letter, explaining everything, to the Guadalajara Rebbe. Then I fired it off to firstname.lastname@example.org. I stayed online awaiting my reply. In the meantime, I electronically paid the bills I was incurring by staying online so long in order to get a swift reply. My little Pharaoh came in useful again. Then it came. Verbatim, as follows: “We are all prisoners. The act of existence is our crime. The universe is our prison. Our bodies and our personage is our cell. The keys to liberation are held tight in the fists of our own egos.” Then a little note: “see Tanya, chapter 47. Also read Bringing Heaven Down to Earth by Tzvi Freeman.” I meditated, I sipped licorice tea, I meditated some more, and I got it. MasterCard is not Pharaoh. “I want” is not Pharaoh. Neither is “I should”. It’s not the want or the should, it’s the “I.” I looked in Tanya, the classic Chassidic work by Rabbi Schneur Zalman
of Liadi, chapter 47. There he says that when G-d gave us the Torah, He gave us Infinitude. We connect to Him with the Torah and we are free because we are then infinite and unbounded as He is. And he writes, “...and so there is nothing stopping anybody except for his own will, for if a person does not want...” Again, the same idea. We are all free. But our egos clutch tightly the keys. How do I get my ego to let go of the keys? For philosophy you can go to an enlightened tzaddik somewhere in Mexico. For practical, real-time liberation, I need The Rebbe. The Lubavitcher Rebbe. This is the practical advice of the Rebbe, in a talk one Passover: “Make a part of your life an act that takes you beyond your bounds, helping people that are not part of your family or circle of friends, doing something that does not fit within your own selfdefinition. Invite someone to your Seder who you’re not so comfortable with. At first, it may not feel so good. But you have set yourself free.” So, again this year, I come to my Seder. I leave my own little world of my own puny self and I walk through the door into something infinite, timeless and eternal, because it is bound with an infinite, timeless and eternal G-d. I am no longer part of me. I am part of us and part of His Torah and therefore part of Him. And to prove it, I say, “Let all those who are needy come and join our Seder. No matter who.” I have broken free. This year, we should all break free. Not just at the Seder, but for every moment of our lives. Forever. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
EXPULSION FROM PORTUGAL T
he story of the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Span is well known. Not so well known is what happened five years later in the neighboring country of Portugal. Of those Jews who chose to flee Spain in 1492, large numbers went to Morocco, Italy and to the Ottoman Empire. But, the greatest number, perhaps half of the total went to Portugal. King João II allowed them to enter. He was preparing for war against the Moors and he needed the taxes collected from these Jews. He also was aware of the great talent of the Jews in many fields including the mechanics of arms making. But his welcome was not complete. Permanent residence was granted only to 630 wealthy families (and a number of craftsmen, skilled in arms making) who were allowed to establish themselves in several parts of the country upon payment of 100 cruzados. Others were allowed to settle for only eight months upon payment of eight cruzados for each adult. The king then bound himself to provide shipping so that they could leave. One hundred thousand refugees may have entered under these conditions. At the end of eight months, however, the king saw to it that little shipping was available and few could leave. Those left behind were declared forfeit of their liberty and were declared slaves of the king. In 1493, many Jewish children were torn from their parents, converted and sent to the island of São Tomé off the west coast of Africa. In 1494 King João died. Next in line of succession to the throne was a cousin, Manoel. The new king
recognized that the Jewish slaves were guiltless and he restored them their liberty. He even refused a gift offered to him in gratitude. The status of the Jews of Portugal appeared to be improving and they must have felt secure to be ruled by such a seemingly merciful king. But, their good fortune did not last. There was some dispute as to the legitimacy of Manoel’s claim to the monarchy. He needed a way to solidify his position. His solution: marry Princess Isabel of Spain. He made an offer to Ferdinand and Isabella. Their answer: the marriage would be approved only if the Jews were expelled from Portugal. Manoel was in a dilemma; he did not want to lose the wealth and skills of Jews and he feared that these skills would be used to the advantage of the Moors in the coming war. But, he felt that a marriage to Princess Isabel was necessary. Finally, Isabel herself interceded; she announced that she would not accept the marriage unless the Jews were expelled. Manoel agreed to the terms. A marriage agreement was signed on November 30, 1496. Five days later, the king issued a decree banishing the Jews from the country. They were ordered to leave Portugal by October 1497. Soon Manoel began to question his decision. He knew of the value of the Jews and may genuinely have felt he could convert them. He wanted to find some way to keep them in Portugal as Catholics. On the advice of the Apostate Levi ben Shem-tob he found a way to achieve this goal: Friday March 19, 1497 (the first day of Passover) Jewish parents were ordered to
take their children between the ages of four and fourteen to Lisbon. On arrival in the capital, they were told that their children would be taken from them and given to Catholic families to be raised as good Catholics. At the appointed time, those children who were not presented voluntarily were seized by the officials and forced to the font. Scenes of indescribable horror were witnessed as they were torn away by the royal bailiffs. ... In many cases, parents threw their offspring into wells in order to save them from the disgrace of apostasy, and then killed themselves. In all other cases, the unwilling neophytes, some mere babies, were distributed throughout the country, as far as possible from home, to be brought up in Christian surroundings. Meanwhile the final date for departure was arriving. In October 1497 some twenty thousand Jews from all parts of Portugal gathered in Lisbon where they were herded onto the courtyard of Os Estâos palace. Here priests and apostate Jews harangued them in an attempt to bring them to the baptismal font. Some succumbed. The rest were kept under guard until the time for their departure had elapsed. They were then informed that by their failure to leave they were now declared forfeit of their liberty and again were the king’s slaves. More succumbed, others were dragged to the font by force. And the remainder? Holy water was sprinkled on them and they were declared to be Christians. King Manoel then informed the Catholic Kings of Spain. «There are no more Jews in Portugal.”
PASSOVER CALENDAR (times are shown for New York and New Jersey only) Thu, April 5
Formal search for Chometz after7:59 PM
Sun, April 8
The 2nd day of Pesach Yom Tov ends at 8:11 PM
Thu, April 12
Light Yom Tov candles at 7:14 PM (say blessing #3)
Fri, April 6.
Pesach eve; Fast of the Firstborn Eat chametz until 10:48 AM Burn chametz before 11:52 AM Light Shabbat/Yom Tov candles at 7:08 PM (say blessing #1&2) Start the 1st Seder after 8:01 PM
Fri, April 13
The 7th day of Pesach Light Shabbat/Yom Tov candles at 7:15 PM (say blessing #1)
Sat, April 14
The last day of Pesach Yizkor Prayer recited Pesach ends at 8:18 PM
Sat, April 7
The 1st day of Pesach Light Yom Tov candles after 8:10 PM (say blessing #3&2) The 2nd Seder
BLESSINGS: 1 BO-RUCH A-TOH ADO-NOI E-LO-HEI-NU ME-LECH HO-LOM, A-SHER KI-DE-SHA-NU BE-MITZ-VO-SOV VE-TZI-VO-NU LE-HAD-LIK NER SHEL SHAB-BOS VE-SHEL YOM-TOV. 2 BO-RUCH A-TOH ADO-NOI E-LO-HEI-NU ME-LECH HO-LOM, SHE-HEH-CHE-YOH-NU VI-KIYE-MO-NU VE-HE-GE-O-NU LEZ-MAN HA-ZEH. 3 BO-RUCH A-TOH ADO-NOI E-LO-HEI-NU ME-LECH HO-LOM, A-SHER KI-DE-SHA-NU BE-MITZ-VO-SOV VE-TZI-VO-NU LE-HAD-LIK NER SHEL YOM-TOV.
SALE OF CHAMETZ FORM I
the undersigned, fully empower and permit Rabbi Eli Kogan to act in my place and stead, and on my behalf to sell all chametz possessed by me, knowingly or unknowingly as defined by the Torah and Rabbinic Law (e.g. chametz, possible chametz, and all kinds of chametz mixtures). Also chametz that tends to harden and adhere to the surfaces of pans, pots, or cooking utensils, the utensils themselves, and all kinds of live animals and pets that have been eating chametz and mixtures thereof. Rabbi Eli Kogan is also empowered to lease all places wherein the chametz owned by me may be found, particularly at the address/es listed below, and elsewhere. Rabbi Eli Kogan has full right to appoint any agent or substitute in his stead and said substitute shall have full right to sell and lease as provided herein. Name:............................................................................................................................................................................................. Address: ......................................................................................................................................................................................... City/State/Zip:................................................................................................................................................................................. Signatures: ..................................................................................................................................................................................... Phone: ...............................................................................Email: ..................................................................................................
To avoid having Chametz in your possession during Passover, please fill out the above form. sign and mail it to: Jewish Russian Learning Center, 3911 Amboy Rd., Staten Island, NY 10308 Mail early so that it reaches us no later than April 4, 2012. I would like to attend Pesach Seder ( in Great Kills; in South Beach) Adults $36 each (or $50 for both Seders) 1st Seder on Apr 6 2nd Seder on Apr 7
Children $18 each (or $30 for both Seders)
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PASSOVER GUIDE O
n Pesach (Passover) we celebrate the liberation of the Jewish people – not just our physical liberation from Egptian slavery, but also our spiritual freedom from the “abominations of Egypt.” The civilization of ancient Egypt was steeped in idolatry and immorality. Beyond that, however, the name Egypt – mitzrayim in Hebrew – implies “limitations or “narrow straits.” In a very real sense, freedom from the “abominations of Egypt” is freedom from narrowness of mind, freedom from a constricted heart.The Torah laws concerning Pesach, besides being G-dly commandments, are to help us experience this spirit of freedom. This guide, though concise, covers the practical details and some of the significance of the Seder and the basic Pesach laws. It is filled with useful tips and profound insights to enhance your Passover experience. Use it well and in good health! Passover is a holiday that mandates our complete involvement, not just during its eight days but for weeks before. Aside from the regular holiday obligations – we don’t work or perform creative labors for four of its eight days, we add special prayers, etc. – we are also commanded (Exodus 13:3-7): “No leaven shall be eaten... For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread... and no leaven shall be seen of yours (in your possession).”
What is Chametz? Unique to Pesach is the eating of matzah and the stringent prohibition against eating or possessing chametz. Chametz is a general term for all food or drink made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt or their derivatives, which is forbidden on Pesach because it is leavened.
Even a food that contains only a trace of chometz is prohibited and must be removed from our homes. Note: Matzah used all year round is not for Pesach use. Only matzahs baked especially for Pesach may be used for Pesach.
Getting Rid of Chametz -Obvious chometz – both food and utensils used throughout the year (and not koshered for Pesach) – should be stored in closets or rooms which are not easily accessible (i.e., locked or taped shut). This chometz should be sold to a non-Jew, turn to page 7 for Sale of Chametz form. - Clean the entire house thoroughly to remove all crumbs and small pieces of food. - Also check for chometz in the car and office (desks and drawers, etc.), clothes, pockets, (especially the children’s), pocketbooks and briefcases. Vacuum cleaner bags should be discarded or thoroughly cleaned.
How to Prepare the Kitchen Dishes and Utensils: Have special sets of dishes, silverware, pots, pans and other utensils for Pesach use only. If necessary, certain “yearround” utensils may be used provided hey are koshered for Pesach. To do so, consult a Rabbi. Stove: Thoroughly clean and scour every part of the stove. Heat the oven to the highest temperature possible for 1-2 hours. Ideally, use the self-clean setting if available. Heat the grates and the iron parts of the stove until they glow red-hot. It is suggested that the oven and stove-top should be covered afterwards with aluminum foil. Sink: Meticulously clean the sink. For 24 hours before koshering it, do
not pour hot water from chometz pots into the sink. Afterwards, boil water in a clean pot which was not used for 24 hours, and pour hot water 3 times onto every part of the sink, including drain stopper. Afterwards, line the sink. Refrigerator, Freezer, Cupboards, Closets, Tables and Counters: Thoroughly clean and scrub them to remove any crumbs and residue. Afterwards, cover with a heavy covering those surfaces that come into contact with hot food or utensils. Tablecloths and Napkins: Launder without starch.
Shopping for Pesach While shopping for Pesach we must be careful that the foods we buy are not only kosher but are also kosher-for-Pesach – that is, chametz-free.
Shmurah Matzah ‘Shmurah’ means watched and is an apt description of this special Matzah (unleavened bread). The wheat used is carefully watched protected against any contact with water from the moment of harvest – as water would cause leavening, and thus disqualify the wheat for use on Pesach. These Matzahs are round in form, kneaded and shaped by hand, similar to the matzahs baked by the Children of Israel on their way out of Egypt. They are baked under strict supervision to avoid any possibility of leavening during the baking process. Shmurah matzah should be used on each of the two Seder nights for the three matzahs of the Seder plate.
Starting “from Scratch” All fresh fruits and vegetables as well as all kosher cuts of meat and
11 The Morning before Pesach
kosher fish are kosher for Pesach – provided they have been prepared in accordance with Jewish law and have not come into contact with chametz or chametz utensils. The prevailing custom is that we do not eat on Pesach rice, millet, corn, mustard, legumes (beans, etc.), or foods made from one of them.
Commercially Prepared Products Nowadays, there are many kosher-for-Pesach packaged foods available. However, care must be used to purchase only those packaged foods that have reliable Rabbinical supervision which is valid for Pesach. Obviously, all leavened foods made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt are actual chametz and are prohibited on Pesach. Examples are bread, cake, cereal, spaghetti, beer and whisky.
Search for Chometz On the evening of Thursday, April 5, 2012, make a formal search of the home for chametz while holding a lit candle. It is customary to distribute ten small, individually wrapped pieces of chametz throughout the home to be collected during the search. Recite the following blessing before the search: Bo-ruch Ah-toh Ah-do-noi Eh-lohei-nu Me-lech Hah-olom A-sher Kih-dih-shah-nu Bih-mitz-vo-sov Vih-tzi-vah-nu Al Be-or Chah-metz. Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to remove the leaven. Afterwards, hold the lit candle and search for chametz in every
Chametz may be eaten only in the early hours of the morning. See the Pesach calendar for exact time. After that time only foods which are kosher for Pesach may be eaten. However, we do not eat matzah until the first Seder.
Fast of the First-Born room, as well as any other areas of the home that may have chametz, such as the basement, attic, garage, or car. When the search is completed, recite the following: All leaven or anything leavened which is in my possession, which I have neither seen nor removed, and about which I am unaware, shall be considered naught and ownerless as the dust of the earth. Then take all the chametz that was found in the search, wrap it securely and place it in a conspicuous spot. This chametz will be burned in the morning. Food intended to be sold or eaten later should also be carefully put aside. The search should also be conducted in one’s place of business.
Burning the Chametz On the next morning burn the chametz that was found during the search (or that was left over from breakfast) and all other chametz which is not stored away to be either sold to the non-Jew or eaten on Friday morning. See the Pesach calendar on page 7 for exact time. Recite the following after burning the chametz: “All leaven or anything leavened which is my possession, whether I have seen it or not, whether I have observed it or not, whether I have removed it or not shall be completely considered naught and ownerless as the dust of the earth.”
When the Al-mighty slew the firstborn of Egypt, He spared the firstborn of the Children of Israel. Therefore, all first-born sons of Israel, or fathers of first-born sons under 13, fast on the day before Pesach, in gratitude to the Almighty. It has, however been a custom for many centuries that this fast day is broken by a festive meal in celebration of the conclusion of the study of a book of the Talmud. This usually takes place in the synagogue.
The Seder The first two nights of Pesach, we conduct a Seder – a festive yet solemn event. At a table royally set with our best crystal and silver and the finest of kosher wines, we reenact the exodus from Egypt in ancient times. Then we pray for the forthcoming redemption speedily in our days. Having carried out the Seder service properly, we are sure that it has been well received by the Al-mighty. We then say “Leshanah haba’ah beyrushalyim – Next year in Jerusalem!”
The Concluding Days of Pesach Pesach is eight days long. The last two days of Pesach are also Yom Tov. Until Pesach ends no chametz should be bought or eaten. Be sure to give the Rabbi at least one hour to buy back your chametz before digging in!