“and the Lord took Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it and guard it. (Genesis 2:15) Upon creating the first human beings, God guided them around the Garden of Eden, saying; ‘Look at my creations! See how beautiful and perfect they are! I created everything for you. Make sure you don’t ruin or destroy My world. If you do, there will be no one after you to fix it ’ (Midrash Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Rabbah 7:20)
Each morning we are bid to recite the following prayer which beckons us to imagine the world is being re-created every day, a new Genesis:
“Praised are You, Our God, Ruler of the universe, former of light, creator of darkness, maker of peace and the creator of all things. In Your mercy light shines over the earth and upon all who inhabit it. Through your goodness the work of the creation is daily renewed. How great are Your works, O God, in wisdom You have made all of them. The earth is filled with your creations.” (Daily Prayer, Yotzer Or (Former of Light))
The late John McCain in his presidential bid strongly argued for conservation saying that even if you don’t believe in climate change it is still important to protect our resources. That attitude even precedes Teddy Roosevelt who labored to protect our nation’s parks and their resources. I personally understand that climate change is real; from forest fires in Australia to weather weirding across the globe marked by iceberg melt and drought. Our heritage has long encouraged respect for nature and an attitude of modesty about our place in creation:
Why were human beings created last in the order of Creation? So that they should not grow proud – for one can say to them, ‘Even the gnat came before you in creation!’ (Tosefta Sanhedrin 8:3)
Sometimes the problems of this world seem insurmountable. Our concept based on mysticism Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) beckons us to do our part, however small in resurrected Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden. My rabbi versed in Yiddish would encourage me when I got frustrated with my Hebrew by saying Yidl by Yidl. Rabbi Israel Salanter (1810-1883, founder of
Lithuania’s Musar Movement) offered this perspective: “First, a person should put his house
together, then his town, then the world.”
I chair the subcommittee for the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance called Spartanburg Green Congregations. At long last our temple is practicing what it preached. Our recycling bin is being used. (Thanks in no small measure to Susan Abelkop who made them happen!) Throughout our building are little blue recycling containers. Please use them! Plastic, paper, aluminum oh my! (Alas no glass!) The large bin is presently in the portico. Feel free to bring your own disposables when you come to Temple.
It is fairly large. I would hope it will become insufficiently small as you will fill it up, (a nice problem to have or what I call a Messianic problem!) We have taken other steps in the past (Energy saving LED bulbs in the sanctuary–thank you Rex!)
In the meantime as Purim nears, and spring is on the way I wish one and all a happy March as we march on fulfilling the imperatives of our precious faith.
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz D.D.
What a crazy winter we have had! A little bit of snow, record rains, tornadoes, warm weather…you name it. When March arrives, I begin to look forward to spring and a pattern of warmer days. I also look forward to celebrating Purim, one of my favorite holidays. I have so many fond childhood memories of Purim, dressing up as Queen Esther and parading around the synagogue.
I recently did a little research to get some “fun facts” about Purim. Thanks to Rabbi Liebowitz, I discovered a new website: myjewishlearning.com. Did you know that Esther was a vegetarian? She followed a vegetarian diet consisting largely of legumes so that she would not break the laws of kashrut. For this reason, there is a tradition of eating beans and peas on Purim. Did you know that the Book of Esther is one of just two biblical books that do not include G-d’s name? The other is Song of Songs. I learned that right after the 1991 Gulf War, Israel’s most popular Purim costume was of the Israel Defense Forces spokesman whose face appeared on TV every time a Scud missile alert sounded, and people snacked on “Saddamtaschen” instead of hamantaschen. Check out myjewishlearn- ing.com for more information.
We have our own special traditions and ways to celebrate Purim at Temple B’nai Israel. It begins with fellowship and includes fun, food, and music! The Oy Boys and special guests will perform their original Purim songs. Of course, there will be hamantaschen and other good food. Please plan to join us on Friday, March 6th. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Happy Purim to all!
As we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we wish you l‘’shanah tovah tikateivu v’teichateimu. We welcome out of town guests and visitors. Please call the Temple office for reservations, 864-582-2001.
Wishing you a happy and kosher Passover
Ideas to Enhance Your Seder by Rabbi Annie Tucker
1. Get Creative – At the start of the Seder have everyone pick a card which has three words on it – two of which are closely related to Pesach and the third of which is a little random. The goal is for participants to ask a question or to say a sentence at some point during the night using all three of their words without getting caught. A person wins if a full minute passes after using the word without being accused of completing the task.
-matzah, noodles, jump
-sea, staff, electricity
-pharaoh, hail, slippers
-freedom, slave, garden
-charoset, haggadah, stairs
-wine, four, radio
-thank, dayenu, maze
-sons, questions, airport
-sandwich, bitter, umbrella
-sing, praise, feather.
2. Get in Character – For the Maggid (telling) part of the seder, select a few designated guests to imagine themselves as a particular character in the Passover story (Miriam, Pharaoh, an Israelite slave, etc.). Other participants can ask questions to learn more about their experience in Egypt such as:
-Do you believe the Israelites will actually make it to freedom?
-If you could say one thing to Moses, what would it be?
-What special things are you bringing with you as leave home?
-What did the Sea of Reeds look like when it parted?
3. Stand with Refugees – Print out a Seder supplement from HIAS and hold in solidarity with current-day immigrants and refugees on this holiday that recalls our own painful experiences in a land not our own: www.hias.org/passover2016.
4. Puzzle It Up – Visit the website edubakery.com/Bingo-Cards/Passover-Bingo-v1-Bingo-Cardsto create a Passover Bingo board to use around the Seder table (participants mark off items on their card when they hear that word mentioned in the Haggadah). Or, if your holiday observance allows for it, use the site to create Passover word-searches, crosswords, and other games to keep younger children occupied.
5. Make Charoset – Create a make your own charoset bar with lots of items to choose from: dates, figs, apples, coconut, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, dried cherries, chocolate chips, mashed banana, craisins, raisins, mango, orange, strawberries, pomegranate, honey, cinnamon, spices, wine, grape juice, etc. Guests mix their own selections in preparation for the seder. Extra points if someone can explain how the items they chose teach us about slavery and freedom!
6. Connect the Dots – Prepare two bags, one which has a bunch of cards with Pesach-identified nouns (Moshe, charoset, liberation, Miriam, parsley, etc.) and the other which has cards with random items listed (the US Supreme Court, Nigeria, an iPhone, bananas, a rainbow flag, ice, etc.). Divide guests into teams of two to four players. Each team picks one card from each bag and then has a minute to come up with Six (or Fewer) Degrees of Sederation that connect the two. (For example: charoset and iPhone– Apple/apple in one!; parsley and Nigeria – Nigeria is in Africa where the Israelites experienced the terrible slavery of which dipping parsley in saltwater reminds us; etc.).
7. Act it Out –Use the following 10-minute Seder script to tell the Passover story rather than reading it word-for-word from the Haggadah: https://www.haggadot.com/clip/passover-play-ten-minute-script-all-ages.
8. Ask Important Questions – Based on the ancient Greek symposium, the seder was originally intended to be a great philosophical meditation on themes of justice and freedom. Spark discussion with some of the big questions listed here or create conversation starters of your own: https://labshul.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/sayder-fold-out.pdf.
9. Split the Sea – Engage young children before Seder night by making creative and topical centerpieces, name-cards, or other decorations including this one: https://www.creativejewishmom.com/2010/03/kids-crafts-for-pesach-krias-yam-suf-the-splitting-of-the-red-sea-diorama.html. You might also consider decorating the room in which seder is taking place in a special way (like an ancient Israelite tent with scarves and pillows on the floor, like the Red Sea with waters to cross through, etc.) and/or having the seder leader dress up for parts of the ritual.
10. Go Out of Order – Before the night begins, copy the tale of the Exodus (from the Haggadah or an online summary or a version you create) and cut the text into enough sections that each Seder guest receives one. Randomly distribute the pieces and then work as a group to put the story back in order – each person reading their text when appropriate – as you arrive at the Maggid (telling) part of the Seder.
11. Dip It Up – While it is traditional to dip a green vegetable like parsley into salt-water at the Karpas (Spring Greens) stage of the Seder, there’s no need to stop there! Getting creative with other kinds of dipped foods (vegetables into guacamole, bananas into chocolate, etc.) can stave off hunger pangs and prompt the very kind of spontaneous questions that are meant to be at the heart of the seder ritual.
12. Keep a List – Prior to the seder, write down the name of the person using each Haggadah in the book’s cover (this can immediately serve as a kind of place-card, with individuals walking around the table to find their designated Haggadah, and ultimately serves as an archive whereby each Haggadah contains a list of everyone who has ever used that book in the past). In years to come, begin the Seder by having everyone share the name of the person who used their Haggadah last year and naming one thing that they love about this person!
13. Fight for Freedom – Dedicate each of the four cups of wine to a different individual or organization working to end oppression and work for justice in our world. Consider having the afikoman “present” be a donation towards one of these important causes or using the Omer period (the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot) to engage in some kind of volunteer work that furthers these values.
14. Make It Personal – The Haggadah tells us that in each generation, every individual should feel as though he or she personally escaped from slavery. Thinking about the escape from Egypt as a personal journey, ask Seder participants what they are hoping to leave behind this year as we gather for Passover and where they hope to go in the coming year.
Prohibition of Chametz
On Pesach it is prohibited to possess chametz (leaven). All chametz that will not be eaten or burned before Pesach must be sold to a non-Jew. All chametz utensils that will not be thoroughly cleaned by then, and are stored away in closets or rooms while preparing for Pesach. The storage area is locked or tape-shut, and leased to a non-Jew at the time of the sale. There are many legal intricacies in this sale, thus, only a competent rabbi should be entrusted with its execution. The rabbi acts as our agent both to sell the chametz to the non-Jew on the morn- ing before Pesach starts and also to buy it back the evening after Pe- sach ends. Locking your chametz away and giving your Rabbi
the Signed Chametz Contract is an easy way of observing one of the most important laws in the Torah. (Contract follows below). Chametz which remains in the possession of a Jew over Pesach may not be used, eaten, bought or sold even after Pesach. It is customary to give tsedaka in the performance of this Mitzvah.
I, the undersigned, fully empower and permit Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz 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 inside surfaces of pans, pots, or cooking utensils, the utensils them- selves, and all kinds of live animals and pets that have been eating Chametz and mixtures thereof. Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz is also em- powered to lease all places wherein the Chametz owned by me may be found, particularly at the address listed below, and elsewhere.
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz has full right to appoint any agent or substi- tute in his stead and said substitute shall have full right to sell and lease as provided herein. Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz also has the full power and right to act as he deems fit and proper in accordance with all the details of the Bill of Sale used in the transaction to sell all my Chametz, Chametz mixtures, etc., as provided herein.
Signed: ______________________________________________ Date: ______________
Name: ________________________________________________ Address/es: __________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ City/ State/ Zip Country: ____________________________
Photo: Marc Hoberman
Toasted sesame seeds, honey and almonds make a deep-golden, chewy treat. Popular at any celebration, this ancient confection is traditionally offered over the Festivals of Purimand Hanukkah (Festival of Lights). These petite treats, not unlike the nut bars that are popular today, are utterly addictive
- Sprinkle 1 cup of sesame seeds with a pinch of flour and toast lightly in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat for 4 minutes or until lightly golden. Shake the pan often and stir with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat this process, 1 cup at a time, with the remaining four cups of sesame seeds.
- Heat the honey, water and sugar in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until it thickens and reaches the soft ball stage*. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into a very large, heatproof bowl.
- Add the almonds and 3 cups of sesame seeds and stir together vigorously with a wooden spoon. Spread the hot mixture onto an oiled worktop. Sprinkle in the remaining 2 cups of sesame seeds, working it a little at a time into the mixture. Dampen your hands with cold water and roll into four ropes about 1-inch (2.5cm) in diameter. Cut diagonally into 1-inch (2.5cm) sections using a sharp knife dipped into hot water. Allow to cool at room temperature until hardened.
How I Feel as a Jew During Christmas
We chose to raise our children in a home that celebrated Hanukkah – but sustaining a minority culture in the face of Christmas’s incessant commercial drumbeat was exhausting.
“No, Santa isn’t coming to our house.” “Yes, he’s going to your friends’ houses.” “Yes, it’s exciting that Santa brought your friend a tricycle.” “No, Santa still isn’t coming to our house.”
On the bright side, the situation provided an opportunity to teach my children that we live in a great country where people have many different religions and the government doesn’t favor one over another. In other times and places, people attacked us just for being Jews, but in our country today, we are safe and free to celebrate our holidays.
Our children attended a preschool located in the building that houses our state’s Supreme Court. Every morning we walked through the Great Hall, whose exhibits provided more opportunities to teach the children about the values and principles of our country, including the separation of church and state.
Things became more complicated in December. The stately hall erupted in evergreen swag and red bows, trees glittering with tinsel, and piles of gifts.
I explained to my children that even a great country doesn’t always live up to its ideals. It’s up to each of us to keep working to make those ideals real and help our country be the best version of itself. My son made a poster about Hanukkah, and we brought in dreidels and gelt (chocolate coins) to share. His classmates were curious and attentive. It felt good to be introducing the inquisitive preschoolers to Judaism.
When my son was in kindergarten, his teacher decided – to my dismay – to spend two weeks making Christmas crafts. When I gently expressed my discomfort with the plan, explaining that we are Jewish, she excitedly explained how much she loved Christmas and said that, for the first time, her entire class (except for my son) was Christian. It seemed like the perfect time to share her favorite crafts with them.
Sympathetic to my concern, she offered to send my son to the library alone while the other children made reindeer and built gingerbread houses. That isn’t how the separation of church and state is supposed to work! I discreetly brought the matter to the principal’s attention, but to no avail.
So I let my son participate in two weeks of Christmas crafts, and I offered to teach the children about Hanukkah. I fried up enough latkes for the entire class and served them with all the fixings. My son showed them our hanukkiyah (candle holder), and we shared a picture book about Hanukkah around the world.
The children were mesmerized. Everyone wanted to spin the dreidel, and every last latke was consumed. It felt wonderful to share our culture and to demystify Judaism for the children and their teacher.
That was years ago. My children are now old enough to negotiate the holidays without my help, but there is still work to be done.
This year, walking through the towering Christmas trees, festive wreaths, and profusion of poinsettias in the lobby on my way to work, I was reminded that, for all the ideals enshrined in our Constitution and our civil rights laws, the Christian winter holiday still dominates our public spaces to the exclusion of other religions.
As I talked with people about our building’s lobby, it dawned on me that a majority of my Jewish friends feel like outsiders in such spaces. One friend lamented, “It’s the only time of year when I feel like a foreigner in my own country.”
By contrast, my friends of Christian origin have a wide variety of thoughts and feelings about Christmas, but it never challenges their core sense of fully belonging in this country – and until we talked, most of them had never dreamed that Christmas pageantry might cause some Jews to feel estranged.
This situation calls for more than a dreidel poster and a plate of latkes. What’s needed is education – for grownups.
I decided that I wanted our next winter lobby display to be more welcoming, and not merely by adding a token hanukkiyah. I wanted the building managers, display designers, my co-workers, and others to join me in becoming aware that Christmas hegemony makes a significant number of people feel excluded.
That insight opens up a wonderful opportunity to steer closer to our national ideals by crafting our winter decor, from the ground up, to better reflect the religious pluralism we value.
How fortunate that so many religions share the values of hospitality and inclusion!
I wrote a petition to that effect, which my co-workers are circulating throughout the building. Maybe the lobby display will change next year or maybe it won’t, but I like to believe that some people will have started thinking about religious pluralism in a new way.
And perhaps a few will even start standing up for it.
Juliette Hirt lives in San Francisco, CA, and works in Oakland. She practices law, pottery, and parenting.