A Passover Message from Rabbi Kosak

National Treasure

One of the exciting aspects of the Passover seder for children is the search for the afikomen at the end of the meal; this is hardly surprising. Most children seem to enjoy both treasure hunts and scavenger hunts. If it’s been some time since you last participated in one of these activities, a scavenger hunt involves a list of items to collect or identify and normally involves racing against others. These objects often have no intrinsic value, for the reward is in the joy of the chase. A treasure hunt, meanwhile, usually involves the search for a single object or treasure, whether that is a sunken ship or Tutankhamen’s tomb. In this case, there normally is some sort of intrinsic value.

The search for the afikomen shares interesting commonalities with the above hunts, yet what is most intriguing are the differences. First of all, it’s not so clear what the afikomen actually is. We are used to thinking it is the matzoh we eat at the end of the meal, yet when this very question is asked in the Jerusalem Talmud, “Rabbi Simon says, it refers to music and Shmuel says it refers to sweets.”[1] In other words, there are ways in which not only the location of but what the afikomen actually is are hidden from us; in the Haggadah, fittingly, the afikomen section is called Tzafun, that which is hidden.

What is it that is hidden?

Let’s take a step back and remember that the matzoh we use and hide for the afikomen comes from the stack of two or three matzot that are on the seder plate (different communities use either two or three matzot). We break the middle matzoh and reserve the larger ragged part to be hidden.

Symbolically, this reminds us that our human realm is broken. As Rabbi Helen Plotkin puts it, “The bottom matzo represents the earthly realm; the top is the heavenly realm. Below, pure physicality; above, pure spirit. The middle matzo represents the human story, straddling above and below. The role of humans is to become the bridge, bringing holiness down into the nitty-gritty stuff of life and, at the same time, elevating the mundane so that it takes on spiritual meaning….We begin the Seder by recognizing that, like the Israelites in Egypt, our need for redemption is great. The world that we inhabit is broken, incomplete, full of suffering and despair. With our first bite of the middle matzo, we internalize this truth….When we eat the afikoman, the broken pieces of the human realm will get put back together—they will recombine inside us—they will become us. The bridge between heaven and earth will be repaired.”

The power of this image resonates strongly, for this is our first Passover post-pandemic. Just as it was hard to imagine when Covid would end, it will increasingly become difficult for us to remember what we endured. We want to forget.

Redemption, freedom, and suffering are like this, as is their memory. In this way, they truly are hidden from us. It would be quite easy to go back to the sedarim (plural of seder) we knew, rejoicing in their normality. Yet the afikomen reminds us that our Jewish national treasure demands we continually seek for redemption, work toward freedom, while reflecting and reciting the story of what it means to be both free and enslaved. In doing so, we learn not to take for granted the blessings we already possess. Our national treasure lies in our refusal to acquiesce to a broken world by continually seeking out the hidden thing which is not yet in existence. If that seems a bit abstract, just consider how often Jews are always in the forefront of new human endeavors. It’s who we are.

As we sit down to our sedarim, may we remember where we have been and use that as encouragement for where we still need to go.

A Zissen (joyous) Pesach,
Rav D

Practical Matters and Preparations for Passover

As we completed our synagogue communications for Passover, we were still waiting for the Rabbinical Assembly to publish their Pesach Guidelines for 2023. I have included the link, here, for last year’s guide hoping that it will bring you close to the updated guidelines for 2023 once they are posted.

In the meantime, while Passover is a wonderful opportunity to focus on a deep clean, what matters most is to focus on the kitchen, and make sure you nullify additional hametz with the prayer found in the beginning of most haggadot.

Put the rest of your unused hametz (food items made from wheat, oats, barley, rye, or spelt, even if these ingredients appear in the smallest possible amount.) in a closet and sell those items to Rabbi Kosak.

It remains acceptable for all Conservative Jews to eat kitniyot this year (pulses, legumes, rice, etc) for doing so provides more variety of food, minimizes cranky family members, and adds to the joy of the holiday.

In this regard:

  1. Purchase tofu, rice, and beans before the holiday.
  2. All unflavored coffee, black, green, and white teas are acceptable—including decaffeinated. For those interested in the reasoning, please see the bottom of this message.*
  3. Opened spices that would otherwise be ok for Passover consumption are acceptable to use. One does not need to purchase new, unopened spices so long as one recites the nullification blessing in the Haggadah. This reduces the economic and ecological impact of the holiday.

*Decaffeinated Coffee and Tea

While the RA still does not permit unhekshered decaffeinated coffee and tea for Passover, I hold it is permissible when purchased before the holiday begins. Below are the reasons for that decision. When creating a leniency of this sort, it is important that this does not occur in isolation; I vetted this with one of the three top poskim, or religious decisors, in the movement who agrees with my conclusions.

  1. The chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee or tea (ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, CO2 and water) are not themselves food items–EVEN IF SOURCED FROM CHAMETZ BASED INGREDIENTS.
  2. They do not therefore qualify as achilat kelev—food suitable for a dog. This is the minimum requirement for something to be considered food and therefore subject to kashrut restrictions.
  3. The chemicals are not davar ma’amid–they are not necessary or intended to remain in the decaffeinated coffee, in the way that rennet or gelatin is.
  4. The manufacturers don’t want the ingredient to remain, they merely wish to sell decaffeinated coffee or tea. So should these ingredients remain after processing, they are nullified by the manufacturers’
  5. The chemicals used are targeted, as best as science permits, to the caffeine, and not other flavor elements, and it is the caffeine that is being removed.
  6. The chemicals themselves, if formed from hametz-based ingredients, are themselves davar chadash, or a new substance, and thus can’t in any way be considered as chametz.
  7. An observant Jew who purchases decaffeinated coffee or tea BEFORE Pesach also would not wish any slight remaining ingredient to be present, and it would thus be nullified by the buyer’s intention of batel bshishim.

[1]  מאי אפיקומן רבי סימון בשם רבי אינייני בר רבי סיסיי מיני זמר ר”י אמר מיני מתיקה שמואל אמר כגון ערדילי וגוזליא דחנניא בר שילת:
Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim 10:6:2-4

Shtar Harsha’ah: Document of Authorization for the Sale of Hametz – Dues by Monday, April 3

Passover Services

Candle lighting: 4/5: 7:26pm | 4/6: 8:31pm  | 4/7: 7:28pm | 4/8: 8:33pm (Havdallah) | 4/11: 7:33pm | 4/12: 8:39pm | 4/13: 8:41pm (Havdallah)

  • *Pesach Day 1 Service – Thursday, April 6, 9:30am – Stampfer Chapel/Livestream
  • *Pesach Day 2 Service – Friday, April 7, 9:30am – Stampfer Chapel/Livestream
  • Shabbat Pesach Service – Saturday, April 8, 9:30am – Stampfer Chapel
  • Sunday Morning Minyan Chol HaMoed Pesach – Sunday, April 9, 9:00am – Zidell Chapel/Zoom
  • Morning Minyan Chol HaMoed Pesach – Monday-Tuesday, April 10-11, 7:00am – Zidell Chapel/Zoom
  • *Pesach Day 7 Service – Wednesday, April 12, 9:30am, Stampfer Chapel/Livestream
  • *Pesach Day 8 Service & Yizkor – Thursday, April 13, 9:30am, Stampfer Chapel/Livestream
*Office Closed

Passover 5783: Information

Wine and Haggadot: An Exploration

Monday, March 20, 6:00pm OR Wednesday, March 22, 2:00pm

Join Leora and Rabbi Eve in the library for a special pre-Pesach event of wine tasting and haggadah exploration. The Feldstein library has an impressive collection of different haggadot, representing the idea that we should tell the story of our Exodus from Egypt in ways different people can hear. Come and explore these haggadot – from the beautiful to the poignant to the funny – while also “exploring” which wine might pair best with which Haggadah.

Click here to RSVP

Decorative watercolor image of matzah and seder plate

Please note that we are now full and not taking any more requests

CNS Pesach 5783 Home Hospitality – Wednesday/Thursday, April 5 & 6, 2023
Please let us know by Wednesday, March 29

“Let all who are hungry come and eat!”

Need a place to celebrate Pesach? Have an extra seat at your seder table? Help make sure no one in our community feels like a stranger this Passover.

Zidell Chapel CNS

Passover “Siyyum”
Wednesday, April 5, Time: 7:00am as part of Morning Minyan
Zidell Chapel and on Zoom

On the morning of the Pesach seder, firstborn children are required to fast in commemoration of the firstborn Egyptians who lost their lives during the tenth plague. Our fasting beautifully demonstrates our compassion even for our enemies. That said, we have another tradition to mark when we complete a book of Jewish learning with a celebratory meal. This “siyyum” overrides the fast for those who attend the study session.

Rabbi Kosak will be completing his study of “B’nei Machshavah Tovah—Conscious Community,” and will share key insights on the art of observation as told by the Warsaw Ghetto rabbi who perished in the Shoah.

While in-person is preferred for this study session, those who need can join in on Zoom by clicking here.

PDX Young Adult Seder: Beyond Bubbe’s Seder!

Saturday, April 8th at 5:00 PM
Hosted at Congregation Beth Israel
Early Bird: $18/person*
Regular: $25/person*

Join us for a festive meal and raise a glass (or four) with your fellow Portland Area Jews in their 20s and 30s. We’ll be telling the Exodus story with the tunes and traditions you remember while reinventing the Seder plate and introducing new traditions and ideas for the current times. The RSVP deadline is fast approaching, so If you want to buy tickets, do so quickly! The RSVP form closes on March 23rd at noon. We are doing EARLY BIRD TICKETS for this event: if you buy tickets in the first week (before the 17th), you’ll save 7 dollars (more than a cup of coffee)!

Click here to RSVP.

*Cost should never be a prohibitive factor in your attendance at CNS programs. If you need assistance, please contact lrichmond@nevehshalom.org

Cleaning Your House of Chametz?* Bring Items for our Food Drive for Neighborhood House

Neighborhood House is in the midst of their SW Hope Community Food Drive (through April 15). If you are cleaning out your cabinets, this is a great time to see if you have extra non-perishable food you can bring. You can also purchase items on the most needed list. The food drop-off collection bin is outside in the plaza near the main office door.

Click here for a list of their most needed items.

*Only bring chametz items to the synagogue prior to the start of Passover. We do not encourage our congregants to handle chametz during the holiday.

Mimouna Celebration: A Post-Passover Moroccan Tradition

Sunday, April 16, 5:00-8:00pm

People of all ages and walks of life are encouraged to join us for our festive Mimouna – a unique and joyous celebration of the conclusion of Pesach with festive crafts, Moroccan desserts, music, dance, and henna. As it is said customarily at the Mimouna, “Terbah!”, as is said in Moroccan Arabic – or “Tirbaḥu vetis’adu” – we wish you success and luck!

$5/per person, $20/family max.

RSVP to https://members.nevehshalom.org/event/mimouna2023

Co-sponsored by Itrek and Keruv Levavot

Try a New Dish for Passover

The Feldstein Library has a collection of Passover cookbooks for all kinds of tastes. Below is just a sample. Come and check one out!

  • Passover Lite: Kosher Cookbook by Gail Ashkanazi-Hankin features almost 200 recipes that are delicious, Passover-observant, healthy, and easy to make.
  • In Passover by Design by Susie Fishbein, you can find elegant and imaginative Passover recipes, as well as ideas for setting a fun and beautiful seder table. Over 130 of the recipes are also gluten-free.
  • Perfect for Pesach by Naomi Nachman, presents easy recipes that use innovative flavor combinations to create fabulous gourmet dishes that you’ll want to cook all year.
  • Zell Schulman’s Let my People Eat! offers a guide for those who may be less familiar with preparing for Pesach and running a seder. Besides yummy recipes, her book includes “lists, explanations, and sources for everything from ceremonial objects to stocking your Passover pantry.”

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