High School Life

Recently we had two freshman boys join us for Shabbos lunch. They attend are both “out of towners” who attend a boy’s yeshiva in the area. I listened to my 6th grade son ask them questions about dorm life, the daily schedule, what’s expected of them with school work, and what they do in their free time. It got to thinking about my own experiences in public high school.

Aside from the duel curriculum, the school life of my children, is pretty much the same as what I went through from kindergarten through middle school. It dawned on me, during this Shabbos lunch, that my children’s high school experiences will be radically different than what I went through.

My high school had multiple cliques and sub-cultures and plenty of sporting and extra-curricular activities to join in. Homework and reports were fairly uncommon and while cheating and skipping class were fashionable, I never subscribed to these temptations.

Every weekend night (well, only Saturdays once I started keeping Shabbos) was spent either at a party in someone’s home, going to an “all ages” concert, or hanging out in public areas in downtown Wichita, KS just chilling, listening to music, and trying not to cause too much trouble. While my punk friends and I looked rather fierce and counter-culture, we were all pretty much harmless.

These boys told me that their Motzei Shabbos activities usually include basketball and pizza. Sometimes they’ll go to a friend’s house to watch movies or just hang out. I am sure there are other students that do more “incriminating” activities.

I’m curious, if anyone with high school or post high school children can offer some insights into parenting issue during the yeshiva high school years?

The Rise of The Growth Culture Shul

A new post on ShulPolitics.com:

The Rise of The Growth Culture Shul.

The articulation of the above post was inspired by the Growth Oriented Culture of Baalei Teshuva, the recent Spiritual Connection Issue of Klal Perspectives, email discussions with one of the editors, emails and comments on the topic with Neil Harris and Micha Berger and the Growth Culture Shuls we’ve had the pleasure to experience.

Yom Hazikaron

Yom Hazikaron. Remembrance Day or Memorial Day for the fallen of Israeli security forces and victims of terror. For me, sitting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this may be the loneliest day of the year.

In front of me, on the wall behind my desk, is a bulletin board with all manner of important mementoes and reminders. A photo of my wife painting the scenery as viewed from Manara, overlooking the Hula Valley. A panorama of the view from our apartment in Kiryat Shemonah. A photo of Rav Tzvi Yehudah Hacohen Kook. The chief medic symbol from my IDF service. My IDF dog tags. The photo of a grave.

The headstone reads: דניאל (דני) האז. בן שושנה ומאיר. “Daniel (Dani) Haas. Son of Shoshanah and Meir. Born in the USA, made aliyah in 5739. Fell in battle in Lebanon in Operation Peace for Gallilee, the first day of Av, 5742. Age 26 when he fell. May his soul be bound in the bond of life.”

Danny was my friend. He came from Cleveland, Ohio to live and build in Ofra, Shomron, Israel. We had common friends in Ofra. We started our army service together in the Nahal brigade. He died in battle with terrorists in southern Lebanon during his first reserve duty call-up. A Jew committed to building a Jewish society in Israel based on Hashem’s Torah. A Jew committed to building that society with his hands, and his blood.

In Israel, when the observance of Memorial Day and Independence Day was being established, the Chief Rabbinate determined that if either day fell on Sunday, they would both be pushed off into the coming week to avoid desecration of the Sabbath with people rushing to ceremonies and preparations on Saturday night. In America, there is some discussion if Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) and Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) should similarly be pushed off as is done in Israel. Why not? Because ‘Memorial Day isn’t so relevant to American Jewry’, and so we aren’t concerned with the practical issues of possible Sabbath violation.

‘Memorial Day isn’t so relevant to American Jewry’! What a horrible thing. But sadly true. When I first came to the USA to teach, I found myself embroiled in a controversy. The Jewish Community Center in our city was hosting a Yom HaAtzmaut/Independence Day celebration the night starting the Hebrew date of the holiday. The event was starting well before sundown, with music and dancing. This was a desecration of the solemn and sacred nature of Memorial Day! How could this be? I contacted the organizers, and they were completely unaware of the significance of the day before Yom HaAtzmaut. They also said they couldn’t or wouldn’t change the planned start of festivities. So I told my students that year to boycott the event if it weren’t changed. My students, God bless and keep them, pressured the organizers and some modifications were made at the last minute.
Read more Yom Hazikaron

Is Your American Orthodox Community Experiencing A Crisis of Spiritual Connection?

Rabbi Adlerstein, Rabbi Rosenblum and a few others have started a new endeavor called Klal Perspectives. It’s similar to Cross Currents with a broader section of writers expressing their opinions on a single area in longer pieces on a quarterly basis. If you like reading opinion pieces, then it’s highly recommended.

The question of this quarter’s issue begins “The AMERICAN ORTHODOX COMMUNITY is experiencing a crisis of spiritual connection, in the opinion of many leaders and observers of the community.” and then asks a series of questions which can be summed up as:

1) Is there really a crisis of spiritual disconnection?
2) What are the causes for those lacking connection?
3) Are there proven methods to help those lacking connection?

It’s great to hear the perspectives of the Klal people, and it’s also important to hear from the people who are living in the communities, the “Orthodox Street” or Prat people if you will.

So what’s your take on these questions?

Jewish Music in Colonial America

By Simcha Cohen

Even as our schools face an unprecedented financial crises, I find myself in awe at the dedication and creativity that some teachers demonstrate. A friend recently told me about her daughter’s 8th grade Bais Ya’akov class which was studying about early American history. Knowing that a number of the girls were interested in music, their teacher succeeded in inspiring them by creating a presentation about music in early Jewish American.

This, of course, brings the class to the period well before 1776. The first Jews immigrated to the United States in the 17th century. These were Jews whose families had been forced to flee Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition. They sailed to Recife, Brazil and, when Brazil fell under Portuguese rule, made their way north to North America. As the teacher taught this information she was able to review the consequences of the Inquisition, Exile and its far-reaching effects on the Jewish World of its day.

These early Jewish immigrants settled in American settlements including New York City, Newport Rhode Island, Philadelphia, Charleston South Carolina, Savannah Georgia and Richmond Virginia. In each of these communities the Jews established synagogues and Jewish institutions.

The immigrants, termed “Western Sepharadim,” had been banned from practicing their own Jewish liturgies during prayer by the Inquisition and, for several generations, had no innate community music. Once allowed to practice their religion freely in America they incorporated North African and Mediterranean Jewish practices into their prayers. These included musical traditions which slowly took on various western innovations including adapted nasal vocal timbres and modal approaches. This Western Sephardic musical model can still be heard today at the Shearith Israel Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York which the early Jewish settlers established in 1654.

German immigrants who arrived in American in the early 19th century integrated into the established Sepharadic synagogues and adopted the musical traditions of the American Sepharadim. It was only when large waves of Eastern European immigrants began to immigrate to America in the 1880s that the Ashkanazi synagogues and traditions became more widely practiced than those of the Sephardim.

The Bais Ya’akov girls in the class were for the most part, from Ashkanazi homes and most have not been exposed to Sephardic culture. They had been unaware of the part that Sephardic tradition played in early America. The girls responded well to the presentation especially to after hearing some of the earliest recorded American Jewish music, recently released by Lowell Milken and his Music Archive. The teacher, in one swoop, succeeded in motivating the girls by using a subject that interested them, music, as they studied about the Spanish Inquisition and Exile, American history and Jewish America’s Sephardic roots.

Pirkei Avos – First Perek

As you probably know there is a custom to learn Pirkei Avos between Pesach and Shavuos.

You can download an English translation here (Translation by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld from his commentary at http://torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos). For those who don’t like to download PDFs, here is the First Perek/Chapter One:

Chapter 1

1. “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it Joshua. Joshua transmitted it to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise many students, and make a protective fence for the Torah.”

2. “Shimon the Righteous was of the last survivors of the Men of the Great Assembly. He used to say, the world is based upon three things: on Torah, on service [of G-d], and on acts of kindness.”

3. “Antignos of Socho received the transmission from Shimon the Righteous. He used to say, do not be as servants who serve the Master to receive reward. Rather, be as servants who serve the Master not to receive reward. And let the fear of heaven be upon you.”

4. “Yossi ben (son of) Yo’ezer of Ts’raidah and Yossi ben Yochanan of Jerusalem received the transmission from them. Yossi ben Yo’ezer used to say, let your house be a meeting place for the sages, cleave to the dust of their feet, and drink thirstily their words.”

5. “Yossi the son of Yochanan of Jerusalem said: Let your house be open wide, and let the poor be members of your household, and do not talk excessively with women. This was said regarding one’s own wife, certainly with another’s wife. Based on this the Sages have said, one who talks excessively with women causes evil to himself, wastes time from Torah study, and will eventually inherit Gehinnom (Hell).”

6. “Yehoshua the son of Perachia and Nittai of Arbel received the transmission from them (the Rabbis mentioned in Mishna 4). Yehoshua the son of Perachia said, make for yourself a Rabbi, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge everyone favorably.”

7. “Nittai of Arbel said, distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not befriend a wicked person, and do not despair of punishment.”

8. “Yehuda the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shatach received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 6). Yehuda the son of Tabbai said, do not act as an adviser to judges. When the litigants are standing before you they should be in your eyes as guilty. When they are dismissed from before you they should be in your eyes as innocent, provided they have accepted the judgment.”

9. “Shimon the son of Shatach said, examine witnesses thoroughly, and be careful with your words, lest through them they learn to lie.”

10. “Shemaya and Avtalyon received the tradition from them (the scholars mentioned in mishna 8). Shemaya said, love work, despise high position, and do not become too close to the authorities.”

11. “Avtalyon said: ‘Sages, be careful with your words lest you deserve to be exiled and are exiled to a place of bad waters. The students who come after you will drink of these waters and die and God’s Name will be desecrated.’ “

12. “Hillel and Shammai received the transmission from them (the scholars mentioned in Mishna 10). Hillel said, be of the students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah.”

13. “He (Hillel) used to say, one who seeks a name loses his name, one who does not increase decreases, one who does not learn deserves death, and one who makes use of the crown [of Torah] will pass away.”

14. “He (Hillel) used to say, if I am not for me who is for me, if I am for myself what am I, and if not now when.”

15. “Shammai said, make your Torah study fixed, say little and do much, and receive everyone with a cheerful countenance.”

16. “Rabban Gamliel said, make for yourself a Rabbi, remove yourself from doubt, and do not give extra tithes due to estimation.”

17. “Shimon his [Rabban Gamliel’s] son said, all my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence. Study is not the main thing but action. All who talk excessively bring about sin.”

18. “Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel said, on three things does the world endure – justice, truth and peace, as the verse says (Zechariah 8:16), ‘Truth and judgments of peace judge in your gates.’ ”

Why I Write Jewish Books for Little Children

OK, so I act like a child sometimes. But that’s because a lot of me remains child-like, and I really want those aspects to continue right along with me.

There is a gigantic sense of wonder about the world, for instance, that doesn’t seem to be decreasing at all. And a delight in simple things that can seem ridiculously corny to some people, I guess, but that’s just how it is. So I’m finally understanding that’s why, even though I was once a top student in the psychology department at Harvard, I’ve not been drawn to write long professional treatises on scholarly subjects. Nearly halfway through my life, G-d willing, I’m starting to get (accept) (even appreciate) what my essence really loves to do.

It’s not easy, and I can see why, because I just now looked up “childish” in the thesaurus, to try to find another word to use, and look what I found: infantile, juvenile, babyish, brattish, senile, simpleminded, weak, and foolish. Not too positive. So that’s what I’ve been up against!

People who know my background find it hard to believe that my favorite books have always remained picture books, and that those concise volumes are what I’m still drawn to read, much more than longer things. Picture books opened up the world to me when I was little, and now still, when I open one that I love, worlds within open.

So, when I began to have children, I began writing the kinds of books I have always most wanted to read – books to unfold the deepest and most important mysteries of life – in the simplest way possible. The Happiness Box, for example, probably emerged from the excitement of potential that cardboard boxes of all sizes still manage to contain for me. My mother loved to say that the best toys are cardboard boxes because children can find so many ways to play with them – including playing under them and on top of them, of course. In this book, one of the most essential tools in life, the skill needed to achieve happiness, is demonstrated in a way that children, as early as possible, can learn how to create their own happiness.

The deep concept portrayed in Aliza in MitzvahLand is that we are not here to be entertained, but to make this world better. And even very young children can absorb this outlook about their purpose in life, if the understanding develops delightfully, with concrete examples of ways to help others so that a child need never feel bored. Remarkable Park shows how the natural world that surrounds us, is chock full of deep spiritual messages for us. When even the “lowly” ant has so much to tell us when we are receptive – what an amazing adventure life can become!

The Invisible Book actually proves, in the simplest way imaginable, that it makes perfect sense to believe in an invisible G-d. Oh how I yearned for this book as a child, when I had so many unanswered questions that I was afraid to verbalize, so my inner confusion just mounted.

There is the series of What Do You See board books designed to help even the littlest toddler begin to see the everyday objects around them through their uniquely Jewish eyes. And then there is my newest book, Let’s Stay Safe which, I realize now, actually came about because of two more words I found in the thesaurus when I just looked up the word, “childish.”

The two other words I haven’t mentioned yet, as synonyms provided for the word “childish” are “trusting” and “naïve.” These two words still apply to me as well, but dramatically less so, since I became painfully familiar with how molesters in our midst operate. I don’t want more of our children’s sense of wonder, kindness, or joy in the world to be destroyed on account of perpetrators. Therefore, I wrote this book, to increase our children’s awareness of real dangers that exist, so that they can be far better prepared to avoid them. Empowering children to be less vulnerable is the goal.

It has been dangerous for our children to remain naïve. Through a honed awareness that comes from learning to be more careful and wary, our little ones can actually be able to retain, yet refine their basic sense of trust in our world, instead of losing it, G-d forbid.

Children may appear very small, but their neshamas, just like ours, are infinitely gigantic, and always seeking pure nourishment.

I’m figuring out now that I became a children’s book author because I wanted children to be filled with hopefulness and the delight of discovery, for as long as possible, like me.

But unlike me, I also want them to be able to grow up seeing clearly that spiritual meaning can be found all along this wondrous journey through life, from their very earliest pages.

Bracha Goetz is the author of 16 children’s books, including Remarkable Park , The Invisible Book and Let’s Stay Safe! She also coordinates a Jewish Big Brother Big Sister Program in Baltimore, Maryland, and can be contacted for questions, comments or presentations at bgoetzster@gmail.com.

The Illusion of Freedom

After generations of slavery and oppression, amidst miracles unprecedented and unrepeated, the Children of Israel marched forth out of Egypt and into the wilderness as a free people for the first time in their collective memory. Fifty days later they stood together at Sinai to receive the Torah — the code of 613 commandments that would define every aspect of their lives.

What happened to freedom? What happened to the promise of redemption when all that really happened was the trading of one master for another?

Much of the modern world has built its understanding of freedom upon Thomas Jefferson’s famous formulation of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But what would life be like in a society of unrestricted freedom? How many of us would chose to live in with no rules at all, where everyone was free to drive on either side of the road, to take whatever they desired regardless of rightful ownership, to indulge every whim and impulse without a thought of accountability? The absolute “freedom” of pure anarchy would provide no protection for the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Consequently, it would provide no freedom at all.

Intuitively, we understand that some freedoms have to be sacrificed in order to preserve order and ensure the common welfare. If so, we are forced to refine our concept of freedom. In contrast to ancient Egypt, in which our ancestors were coerced by the rod and the whip to bow before Pharaoh’s will, the G-d of our redemption allows us the freedom from immediate retribution. By doing so, the Almighty empowers us with the freedom to make our own choices, to take responsibility of our own actions, and to transform ourselves from creatures of physical impulse into beings of spiritual refinement.

Ultimately, the freedom we possess is the freedom to choose our own master, to choose the leaders and system of laws that will best serve our collective interests in the long run.

Because we live in a society with others who also demand freedom, our choices will necessarily be limited by the conventions of society. More significantly, the values of the society in which we live will shape our own attitudes, influencing the ways we think that priorities we hold dear. From the moment we are born, our impressions are determined by others: our parents, our teachers, and our peers, as well as writers, celebrities, sports stars, and advertisers.

How often have we asked ourselves whether the ideas that govern our choices as spouses, as parents, and as community members are truly our own? How often do we stop to reflect whether we have acquired the values that guide us in our relationships and our careers through thoughtful contemplation or through cultural osmosis?

The illusion of freedom convinces us that our own gratification comes before our obligations to others, before even our obligations to ourselves. If we allow our desire for unrestricted freedom to steer our lives, we will find ourselves enslaved by our desires no less than a chain smoker is a slave to his cigarettes or an alcoholic is a slave to his gin. Convinced that freedom is a goal in itself, we will sacrifice everything of true value for the cruel master of self-indulgence. Deceived into believing that responsibility is the antithesis of freedom, we will invest ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, in philosophies like this one:

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, Nothing don’t mean nothing honey if it ain’t free, now now. And feeling good was easy, L-rd, when he sang the blues, You know feeling good was good enough for me, Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

These are the words that made Janice Joplin into a counterculture idol, before she died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27.

Less dramatic examples confront us every day. Politicians, movie icons, and athletes destroy their careers and their family lives for a few fleeting moments of pleasure. Parents allow their children to grow up without direction or discipline lest they quash their creativity or damage their egos by imposing structure and meaning upon their lives. A once-productive citizenry increasingly looks to receive support on the backs of others, whether through welfare, lawsuits, or pyramid schemes that leave countless victims footing the bill.

More than anything, Passover celebrates the freedom to think, to take stock of our lives and reassess our values, to take a fresh look at our own motivations and our own decisions, to acknowledge where we may have lost sight of truly meaningful goals and sincerely commit ourselves to striking out on a truer course.

Last year we were slaves to our inner masters; this year we have a chance to set ourselves free to seek the paths of truth and follow them toward the destination of enduring spiritual redemption.

Originally posted in April, 2009

Uncle Martzi – The Son Who Wanted to Come Back

In the mid afternoon on Passover eve, a special guest would come to my parents home. Martzi Baci. Uncle Martin, my great uncle. I don’t recall him visiting us at any other time, only on Erev Pesach and for the Seders.

His routine was as follows; he’d come in, take off his coat, light up another cigarette,one always seemed to be dangling from his mouth, and head straight the the kitchen which my mother, a wonderful cook herself gladly ceded to him.

An apron tied round his waist, Martzi got to work preparing the ceremonial foods for the Seder meal, hard labor in those pre food processor days, but . Martzi.was up for the challenge Before retiring, Martzi had been a chef running the kitchen at a posh Arizona resort where the guests were millionaires, movie stars and politicians. But even as he worked, he always seemed to have time to chat with a little girl.

“Oh how are you doing with school,” he’d ask.

“Not so good” , I mumbled. I was in third grade at the time, and struggling with arithmetic and hopeless at sports.

“Oh I didn’t like school either. Was no good at it.. You know I was so bad that I flunked the second and fourth grade.”

That story blew me away. Never had I encountered an adult who willingly confessed to struggling with school.

Years later, I discovered that it was a myth, a fabrication, that Martzi had gotten though school just fine and even spent several years at a Yeshiva in his native Hungary.

He left the heim sometime around the first world war. The stories about that are fuzzy. I once heard cousins say that he went pink and found his way into Bela Kuns revolutionary army for a time. Sometime in the early 20s after the Johnson act curtailed European immigration he made it to America illegally, taking a job on a ship and slipping into New York City after the boat docked.

It was in New York that he met his wife, Esti Neni, a good looking divorcee with a child. and papers, the term they used back then for a green card. For reasons that are not known to me, Esther was allergic to religion. In her home, there was no Passover, no Seder, no Rosh hashana , no Yom kippur.

For a long time Martzi went along with it. That was his family, his life. Europe seemed very distant and he went along with the amnesia of assimilated Jewish culture but then one year my mother invited him to join our family and he said. yes. I don’t know what caused him to agree, good manners, nostalgia, or a respect for my mother who lived out the war in Europe and spent a year in Aushwitz but after that he came each year, until his death, when I was eight.

On Seder night Martzi was different, morphed into his childhood persona Mordche, the bochur from Tur Terebes. He spent the entire time immersed in ritual tasks. After he finished preparing the kaira, the Seder plate, he changed his clothing, went to shul and the took my father’s seat at the head of our mahagony dining room table to conduct the Seder. His Seder wasn’t just a prelude to the meal. It was a real Seder, run exactly as his pious father had run it in Europehe Hagaddah straight through without skipping anything.

Looking back on it all, I don’t know how me managed to live inside the paradox, conducting a strictly orthodox Seder and then going back home on the subway a wife who was making sandwiches. He never spoke about it. People back then were reticent, un-analytic, very much in the moment.

I suppose there are those who would call Martzi a sinner, the bad son of the Hagaddah, but they couldn’t have met him, seen him chopping and grinding with the seriousness of a priest in the Holy Temple. I prefer to see him as another kind of son, not included in the Hagaddah’s four categories, but very much present among us, the son who has gone some distance but is trying to find a way back home.

First Published April 2010

Make Your Sefira Count – Review the Six Constant Mitzvos

Sign up to learn The Six Constant Mitzvos from Peasch to Shavous with thousands across the world and make your sefirah count!!!

Short daily emails containing a lesson a day including 3 videos on each mitzvah.

Learn the Torah’s framework for living with a vibrant Emunah and developing a meaningful relationship with Hashem.

visit www.thesixconstantmitzvos.com to watch and be entered to win an iPod Touch

Thousands of Jews around the world have discovered the power contained within The Six Constant Mitzvos. By implementing the Mitzvos in their lives they have found an empowering framework for living with a vibrant Emunah and developing a meaningful relationship with Hashem.

Participate in the Six Constant Mitzvos – Sefiras HaOmer Initiative and learn what’s transforming peoples lives around the world.

The Six Constant Mitzvot are:

1) Know there is a God.
2) Don’t believe in other gods.
3) God is one.
4) Love God.
5) Fear God.
6) Don’t be misled by yo

Key Points For the Seder

Here’s the text version:

Key Points For The Seder
1) Tell the Detailed Story – Sippur Yetzias Mitzraim
2) Use Imagery & Details to Really Live/Feel It
3) Strengthen Your Emunah
a. Hashem Exists
b. Hashem is Directly Involved – Hashgacha Pratis
c. Hashem is One – No Other
4) Feel the Gratitude – Hakaros HaTov
5) Give Thanks, Sing, Praise – L’Hodos, L’Hallel, L’Shevach
6) Serve Hashem with Love, Joy and Enthusiasm

Download the one page graphic here.

Beyond BT Guide to the Passover Seder

Please make copies of the guide for your seder so that participants who want to perform the mitzvos properly can do so, without the need for continual instruction. Please feel free to email it to anyone who you think would find it useful.

Here is the link for the Beyond BT Guide to the Seder. The contents are also included below.

(Compiled by Mark Frankel) Brought to you by www.beyondbt.com.

The purpose of this guide is to highlight the structure, Mitzvos and some insights to the Seder. The halachos and measurements were mostly culled from the Kol Dodi Haggadah by Rabbi David Feinstein.

Mitzvos of the night
Biblical Mitzvos are mitzvos that are found in the Torah (five books of Moses)
Rabbinic Mitzvos are mitzvos that our Sages enacted. There is a Biblical Mitzvoh that the Rabbis can enact Rabbinic Mitzvos and we follow them just as if they were Biblical Mitzvos

In the times of the Talmud and before (before the year 500 C.E), there was a Sanhedrin composed of 70 of the leading Rabbis of the time. Every Rabbi had to be ordained by a Rabbi who had been previously ordained with the chain going back to Moses and the giving of the Torah by G-d at Mount Sinai. To be ordained, the Rabbi had to know all the laws of the Torah. After the period of the Talmud, this ordination process ended, mostly due to the dispersion and persecution of the Jewish People.

The Biblical Mitzvos on Pesach are:
— Eating Matzah – “In the evening you shall eat unleavened bread”.
— Relating the Story of the Exodus from Egypt – “And you should relate to your son (the story of Pesach) on this day”.

The Rabbinic Mitzvos on Pesach are:
— Drinking four cups of wine
— Eating Bitter Herbs
— Reciting the Hallel – Songs of Praise

Read more Beyond BT Guide to the Passover Seder

One Minute Guide To Passover

The Events of the Exodus
The process of the Exodus began when our forefather Abraham was told by G-d that his descendents would be enslaved in Egypt and subsequently freed. It was two generations later when Jacob, the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham, and his family settled in Egypt as the honored guests of the Pharaoh at that time.

The process continued through: the subsequent Jewish enslavement by the Egyptians; the ten nature-defying plagues prophesied by Moshe and activated by G-d over a period of twelve months; the subsequent release of the approximately three million Jews to freedom after the plague of the death of the first born; the splitting of the Red Sea seven days after their release; and the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai seven weeks after their release.

Our Focus on the Exodus
The centrality of the Exodus in Judaism is predicated on the fact that the Jewish people were freed and separated as a unique nation through the clear actions of G-d Himself. In addition to the physical freedom achieved, G-d chose us to be the world’s spiritual leaders by giving us the mitzvos of the Torah at Mount Sinai The mitzvos free us from a purely animal-like physical existence, to one in which we can elevate all our actions to be spiritual and G-d connected. Passover is a time where we commemorate the Exodus and renew our spiritual focus.

The Seder
The Seder, with its primary mitzvah of the telling of the story, enables us to experientially reconnect with the slavery and freedom of the Exodus and express our appreciation to G-d for our redemption and selection as His chosen people. The salt water, into which the green vegetable is dipped, and the bitter herbs are associated with our bondage. The four cups of wine and the festival meal help us relive our freedom.

The Holiday of Matzah
Matzah is a prime component of both the Seder and the eight days of Passover. Consisting of just flour and water, matzah was our no-frills food when we were slaves in Egypt. It is also a symbol of our freedom because we hastily left Egypt without enough time to bake bread.

From a spiritual perspective, the leaven enhances breads physical aspects by adding flavor and digestibility to its life sustaining core. As such, bread is appropriate for the rest of the year when our main challenge is to integrate the physical into the spiritual. On Passover, however, we eat only matzah and abstain from the physically oriented leavened bread. A matzah diet allows us to keep spiritually oriented as we refocus on our mission of spiritual leadership of the world.