An Overview By Rabbi David Kosak
Passover is one of our beloved Jewish holidays. It is rich with history, symbolism, meaning and philosophy. The more we put into preparing and observing the mitzvoth of Pesach, the more the holiday can impact us and transmit to us its many lessons.
The central narrative of Passover is the retelling of the exodus from Egypt. Thus, the central theme is how we gained our freedom. Like all important concepts, freedom defies easy definition. You can’t readily see, taste, touch or hear freedom, even if specific moments bring home what freedom feels like. Our tradition has hit upon two ways to make the abstraction of freedom into something concrete.
The first way, so typical of our culture, is to structure the Passover seder into a time for questioning and conversation. The ability to ask a question—and have it taken seriously—is a hallmark of freedom and of dignity. As you plan your own seder, build in time for real discussion. Not only will it make your seder more interesting, but it will also model our shared American and Jewish value of freedom of speech.
The second way we make freedom into something tachles, into something basic and essential, is through the use of symbols. Could anything say Pesach more than eating matzah? This symbolic food represents three notions. First, how we quickly left Egypt so that our bread did not have time to rise. Second, it becomes a stand-in for freedom itself, and how freedom sometimes demands sacrifice. Unless you are one of the fortunate people who really loves the taste of matzah, this lesson of sacrificing for freedom is pretty clear.
Third, and in connection with this, the Torah clearly and strongly reminds us not to eat anything that is hametz during the week of Pesach.
Hametz includes all food items made from wheat, oats, barley, rye or spelt, even if these ingredients appear in the smallest possible amount. To observe this mitzvah, we thoroughly clean our homes and our kitchens, put away or kasher pots and pans that have been used during the year, and cover or clean our counters, sinks and ovens. We even sell whatever hametz may remain in our homes. On the last page you can find the form to sell your hametz to Rabbi David Kosak. This allows you to keep hametz items locked away in your home over Passover so that you don’t need to suffer substantial financial loss.
Each year, our highly industrialized food production system brings new challenges to those of us who would keep kosher. Items that seem like they are hametz-free may not actually be. Dried fruits, for example, are often sprayed with hametz-based starches to allow for easier mass production. Oils or decaffeinated coffee are processed with starch-based chemicals. Appliances gain new technologies and materials, all of which require distinct methods to properly clean. Some plastics are non-porous and can be kashered, others are quite absorbent, and must be put away for the holiday, such as those Tupperware containers that get stained with spaghetti sauce.
All of this focus on cleaning and avoiding hametz may seem a bit overboard, but try to imagine the Passover story and seder occurring at a table loaded down with French bread, penne and oreo cookies. Freedom, after all, is invisible when you possess it. All of these ritual actions give shape, form and flavor to values like freedom, family, exile and Jewishness.
This year, you can click here for the Rabbinical Assembly’s Pesach Guide for 2019/5779. It is updated each year with input from one of the country’s top food scientists. It outlines cleaning procedures in your home, current information about which foods require kosher supervision for Passover and which do not, as well as links to material on how those who choose to eat kitniyot on Passover may do so. Kitniyot are those items such as beans or rice, which swell up and that Ashkenazic authorities of old prohibited. While the Conservative movement permits kitniyot for those who choose, there are specific concerns and instructions that are outlined on the link located on page seven on the guide.
For those who now do consume kitniyot on Pesach, please search for certified gluten-free versions. Rice, for example, is often sprayed with a hametz-based starch coating to make for easier cooking. That unfortunately does not need to be listed in the ingredients as it is considered a processing aid. Certified gluten-free rice does not.
Let me wish you all a happy, meaningful and kosher Passover.
A Zissen Pesach,
Shtar Harsha’ah: Document of Authorization for the Sale of Hametz
Passover 5779: Information
2nd Night Community Seder – Saturday, April 20, 6:00pm
Join the Neveh Shalom community and Rabbi Posen for an engaging 2nd night seder. This is a seder for all community members. Together we’ll engage in the traditional text of our seder, add some modern traditions and find ourselves in the narrative of our people. There will be wiggle space for little ones who can’t sit the whole time and engaging discussions for those who want to join. We’ll have a little bit of everything. $35/Adult | $25/Child | $125 Family Max.
Passover Packages for College Students
The College Outreach committee will be meeting on Thursday, April 11 to help prepare a sweet Pesach package for our congregation’s college students. If you would like a package to be sent to your college student, please fill this College Outreach Form out by Monday, April 8. For more information or to get involved with College Outreach, please contact Michelle Caplan, Membership & Engagement Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morning Minyan and “Siyyum”
Friday, April 19, 7:00am – Morning Minyan; 7:40am – Siyyum, Zidell Chapel
On the morning of the Pesach seder, first born children are required to fast in commemoration of the first born Egyptians who lost their life 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.
CNS Passover Home Hospitality – Host or Be Hosted! Seders – April 19 and 20
Need a place to celebrate Pesach? Interested in sharing your home for someone in the community that would like to take part in Pesach with your family? Please contact Membership and Engagement Director, Michelle Caplan, to get connected: email@example.com.
Passover Service Information
- Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach (Day 1 Service) – Saturday, April 20, 9:00am, Stampfer Chapel
- Pesach Day 2 Service – Sunday, April 21, 9:00am, Stampfer Chapel
- Morning Minyan Chol HaMoed Pesach – Monday – Thursday, April 22-25, 7:00am, Zidell Chapel
- Pesach Day 7 Service (Office Closed) – Friday, April 26, 9:00am, Stampfer Chapel
- Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach (Day 8 Service with Yizkor) – Saturday, April 27, 9:00am, Stampfer Chapel
We list this as a service but are not able to guarantee that the locations indeed have kosher for Passover items. Please always take care to call the store before heading over to make sure items are still in stock.
Albertson’s – Depends on the neighborhood, please call first.
Safeway on Barbur Blvd.
Fred Meyer – Depends on the neighborhood, please call first.
Link up your Fred Meyers Reward Card to have a portion of the sale go to Neveh Shalom. CNS Organization # 91406. www.fredmeyer.com.
Online resource – www.affordablekosher.com