Posts Tagged 'Judaism'

Whats been going on

Its been almost two weeks since my last full posting, and now I have so much to say, I have been putting it off because I just don’t know where to start. I think the easiest way is chronologically, so I will pick up where I left off and tell you about our Passover holiday.

Friday night the 18th we all went to one of the mom’s houses for Shabbat dinner. Dinner was to be at about 6:30 but for many reasons we did not actually eat until closer to 8:00. Dinner was fine but we needed to get a lot of the food back to our house for the rest of the holiday so a nice old-fashion wagon came in handy. We got home by 11 pm and thank God the kids went to sleep.

I think we made it to Synagogue just about when it ended. We went to the other mom’s house for lunch and that was actually kind of nice. It was a nice day so the kids played outside and we all got a chance to relax. One of the many kids was a bit sick but she just stayed asleep on a couch. By about 3:30 the moms moseyed back to our house to begin to get food in the oven and set the table for the Seder. I brought a few of the kids back at about 5, and helped to finish getting ready.

Normally dinner is during the Seder. On the other hand, the Seder cannot start until after sundown, so we would have to feed our kids very late if we did that (not to mention the hungry adults!) So we decided to have dinner first and then start the Seder on time. At the point where dinner would be we would have dessert.

I wont go into details of the Seder itself, except to say it was lively and I think everyone had a good time. Of course we did the whole thing over the 2nd day and I think everyone had fun then too.

Will we do this cooperative Seder again? I don’t know, but it did make for some fun times despite the difficulties of getting ready. Next year we may try again and we will have learned from our past mistakes.

Passover Prep part 3

When we last left our heroes, we were beginning to clean out the house. The cleaning lady came on Thursday (an hour late, but she got there) and by the time we went to bed on Thursday night (2 am) most of the kitchen was now ready for Passover.

We ate Friday night dinner at mkm’s parents house and then spend the afternoon after Synagogue at the home of one of the other families. We got home at about 8:15 pm, bathed the kids and get them to bed. By 9:30, the moms had arrived and cooking began. One of the moms brought the largest pot I have seen in a non-commercial kitchen and we make gallons of Chicken soup. They also rolled about 135 matza balls and prepared veggys for some of the next days cooking fun.

Everyone was supposed to show up at about 9:30 on Sunday. One mom got there at 10:00 and the other at 11:00, but they did do some significant cooking. The chicken for Friday night was done. The roast for the first seder, done. Tzimis, done. 709 meatballs, done! ( ok, that is way too many meatballs and the one mom who was in charge of meatballs admitted so, but we can eat meatballs for the next two weeks!)

Most of the food is not packaged and frozen, waiting for the seders. The only big-ticket food to cook is still the turkeys, and that will happen over the next few nights. Beyond that is green veggys, the quinoa and desserts. We will probably just make it!

The next major part of passover prep will occur on Thursday night. We will make one final sweep of the house to make sure there is no more non-passover food in sight. We do this by placing a few pieces of bread around the house and then we make a blessing and go “search” for them. The reason for placing the bread around the house is that we can be pretty sure we put everything away, but since we make a blessing to search for the food, we need to make sure we find some.

On Friday morning this bread will be burnt, also with a blessing to ceremonially show we have gotten rid of all the non passover foods. I will be taking off from work on Friday to help with the final prep work. We will prepare the ritual foods for the Seder table so that everything will be able to be put out when we start on Saturday night. If there is time, we will also get the tables ready and set as much as possible.

I know this sounds like so much work, but we do enjoy a lot of it and once it is all together, the Seder is a lot of fun. I don’t know if I will post another Passover prep, but I will probably post a post Seder entry.

Here is a link to a youtube that does not allow embedding. It is so cute!

Here is another fun video.


Song of the day

I’ve been in a mellow mood the past few days (despite the harried Passover Prep), and often when I feel down or mellow I like to listen to a wonderful album that mkm and I bought when we were in Israel a number of years ago. The double CD album is called “Shalom Chaver” and was basically a recording of a peace concert in Israel that was organized in the aftermath of the assignation of Yitzhak Rabin. The title comes from the Eulogy given by President Bill Clinton.

For those who love modern Hebrew music this album is woderful because all of the major Israeli singers dontated their time to this concert and sang their most well known songs. There are many times on the album that the audience is louder than the singers. Some other songs were added from recorded versions for those artists who could not attend.

Perhaps my favorite song from this album is יהיה טוב (Yihiyeh Tov) which translates as it will be ok. The song is written by David Broza who has a following in America as well as Israel. It is a moving song and is perhaps one of the best Israeli songs to say that there will be peace and everything will be alright. Here is a link to the lyrics in English and transliterated Hebrew.

I am embedding two videos for this song. One is a very early version. Broza added stanzas to this song as time went on. But this version is very clear and easy to hear. The other, comes from a peace concert that Broza did with Jackson Brown and Shawn Colvin at Massada in Israel. This was broadcast on PBS in America, but this video comes from someone’s camcorder.


When Nothing Seems To Go Right

Did you ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go right?  They don’t happen too often, but when they do, it makes for a very trying day.

Yesterday was one of those days.  I knew something was up when I was running late for everything in the morning.  Things seemed to go ok after that, but then I got a call from mkm telling me that she forgot to leave the key for the cleaning lady.


That totally put a kink in the day.  If you have been reading about our passover prep, you know that we have this all laid out day by day.  The house was to be cleaned so we can start changing over to Passover tonight.  This means that I would have to stay up late to clean the refrigerator last night and make sure that we will be able to do the change over.

Then if that weren’t enough, we have a Cub Scout pack meeting last night.  The previous cubmaster had planned this one and we were going to have a police detective come and speak to the boys.  Well, turns out she could not make it and no one got the message.  So there I was with about 15 boys with no program and an hour to kill.

The good thing is that these days end.  You usually figure it all out and then go on.  Our cleaning lady is now coming today at 4:30 (when mkm will be home) and after talking with the boys we had relay races and they had a good time.

Today, everything is back on track.  I actually got an early train today as the earlier train was in the station as I got there.  We got free pizza for lunch at work because someone in my office won an NCAA basketball tournament and the house should be totally clean when I get home.

Things always seem to snap back into place.

Passover prep part 2

When I last discussed this monumental process, the three moms had just decided on menus. One might think that this is easy, and in some years it is not that hard. You have two Seders. You make a lot of food and eat it both nights. In many ways we are doing that, with minor changes. However, this year a wrench is thrown into the gears because Passover begins Saturday night right after Shabbat. This means that we cannot do any preparation at all the entire day before, but our houses have to be “kosher for Passover” before Shabbat. So the 2 Seder menus just went up to three menus, including Friday night Shabbat dinner.

The three families will each dinner on Friday at one house, lunch Saturday afternoon at another and then all descend upon our house for the first Seder on Saturday night. One final wrench is that you really cannot start the Seder until after sundown on Saturday night with is around 8:15. Way too late for dinner with kids. So we are introducing an innovation, and eating the meal before the Seder and at the “meal” during the Seder we will have dessert. Here is a PDF of our basic menu.


Yesterday Marsha and the moms met again to discuss shopping and what we will need.  As we are all hosting these Seders together we are sharing the costs.  For example, we know that we need a minimum of 15 dozen eggs.  Eggs are a major staple of passover cooking and thank God the holiday is only one week long.  We will be making 200 Matza balls.  That equals 5 1/2 dozen eggs right there.  You get the idea.  By the end of this week much of the shopping will be done.

To bring us to today, on Sunday mkm and I defrosted and cleaned the large freezer in the basement and we are now emptying out our main freezer in the kitchen and relocating the food downstairs.  Half of the large freezer will be dedicated to passover foods while the rest holds are every day stuff.  We also cleaned out mkm’s grandmothers fridge which is also downstairs to hold the every day fridge stuff that needs relocating.  Tonight we will remove everything from the kitchen fridge and freezer, the pantry and the counters so the woman who cleans our house every other week will do a more thorough cleaning in the kitchen on Wednesday.  Thursday night, the dads will convene at our house to bring upstairs all the Passover supplies (pots, pans, dishes etc.) and put away all the every day stuff.

This then brings us to this coming Shabbat.  Cooking is going to occur Saturday night and Sunday, and I will post part three of Passover prep on Monday.

Song of the day plus

Early in the morning on Friday, my father’s Aunt Rose passed away. Due to the timing or her death, and Jewish tradition (I can explain in private email if someone wants to hear the reason), there was no real eulogy at her funeral, so I want to share some thoughts here.

She was 95 years old, and expect for the last 6 years or so when she was in a nursing home, she lived in Brooklyn, much of those years in the same apartment in Borough Park. Of all of this generation, I remember my Aunt Rose the most. She was one of three sisters. Her older sister Florance was my grandmother and she died when I was very young. Her younger sister Minna died a few years later, and though I have some fond memories of Aunt Minnie, none of them can compare to Rose.

I think she was at our house or we at her home at least twice a month. She was with us for every holiday, every celebration and every time sadness came as well. She was married to Michael, uncle mike for many years and not for lack of trying, they had no children. I think that me and my siblings were like her surrogate children. My uncle Mike worked as a letter carrier for the post office for most of his adult life and thought they never had much, they gave everything they had to me and my brothers and sister, my cousins and the one nephew that uncle mike had on his side.

When I was in college, more than once I found myself at their apartment. One time I when to Brooklyn with my roommate and his mother to do some errands in Borough Park. Even though my friend and his mother had never met my Aunt Rose, I called a few hour before, and she graciously invited me and my friends into her home. I will never forget that moment, and I know that she never did as well.

After her husband did, she lived in her apartment for a number of years, some with full time care. As this became difficult, my father and his sister Naomi moved Rose to a nursing home in Central New Jersey so she would be nearer to us all. We visited her there a number of times, but I never really saw the Aunt Rose I remembered from the past and she became very distant to us all. The Rabbi at the home told us that she did speak to him about her memories, and I have to take some comfort that in her last years, she did find someone to talk to enjoy her memories with.

What does this have to do with the song of the day? Well, at many Jewish funerals someone will read a passage from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes. The beginning of this chapter became very well knows to music lovers when the Byrds recored a song written by Pete Seeger which was basically the first 8 verses of this chapter. The song became know as Turn! Turn! Turn! and below is a video of a reunion concert of three of the original members of the Byrds.


Favorite Lyric Friday

When I think about favorite songs for my daily song of the day, different things come into my mind, and often it is either the lyrics in general or perhaps just one lyric. I began thinking about some of my favorite lyrics in songs. Sometimes songs I like have lyrics that are ok but nothing special, and sometimes I can find a great lyric in a song that I may not like as much.

I decided that I would make my song of the day on Fridays into Favorite Lyric Friday, and I will start off with what (in my mind) may be the greatest lyric of all time. I have mentioned Les Miserables here before and the very last line of the story itself is perhaps the most moving and wonderful lyric that anyone could have written.

The book Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo is mostly a political commentary on his time. The Broadway musical is mostly about fate and faith in God. Without giving away the story (if there is anyone out there who has not seen it), the basic story has concluded and we get an epilogue. The main characters come center stage and sing the final words of the story (there is a final song after that), “to love another person is to see the face of God.” Even as I type this now, I admit that I am moved by these words.

I don’t hide the fact that I believe in God. I feel God in things I do and see. I have felt God on the streets of New York City at 5 am on a totally deserted Madison Avenue, and at camp, looking over a still lake before everyone wakes up. Abraham Joshua Heschel called this radical amazement. He said that each person will have a moment in their lives where the amazement of what they see and hear and feel allows them to feel Gods presence.

But to truly see God, I do believe that you need to love. I see God in my wife. I see God in my children and I see God in my closest friends. Perhaps this is radical amazement taken to its extreme, but when you love you bring God closer to your life.

Here is a clip of the epilogue from the 10th anniversary concert of Les Miserables.


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