JBuzz April 5, 2012: Passover Guide 2012: Holiday Preparations, Laws, Haggadahs, Seder Rules, Recipes & The Exodus Story

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

AISH Passover Resource Guide

Source: Aish.com

Themes

Haggadah

Seder

Crash Course on the Ten Plagues

A fascinating overview of the significance of the plagues.

Crafts

Games and Tips for the Seder

Spice up your Passover Seder!

Recipes

Passover Foods Around the World

Fresh, intensely flavorful Passover recipes from different Jewish communities.

Laws

Passover Cleaning Made Easy

By knowing what and how to clean, Passover cleaning needn’t be a chore.

Aish.com’s Passover Primer

An inspiring and thought-provoking compendium of articles that will transform your Seder experience.

Want to deepen your understanding of Passover, make them more exciting, meaningful and inspiring?

Aish.com’s Passover Primer is just for you. An inspiring, thougth-provoking compendium of articles that will transform your Seder experience.

Download it now, share it with your family and friends and take it with you to your Seder.

Click here to download.(It may take a minute to complete the download.)http://media.aish.com/documents/Aishcom-Passover-Primer.pdf

(To save the file to your computer: Right click on the file link, then select “Save target as”. )

Crash Course on Passover

Source: Aish

A fascinating overview capturing the meaning and joy of the holiday.

The 5 Most Important Things to Know About Passover

Our greatest contributions to the world summarized in five words: memory, optimism, faith, family, and responsibility.by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Source: Aish

Scholars have long wondered why Jews who number less than one quarter of one percent of the world – as Milton Himmelfarb memorably put it, “The total population of the Jewish people is less than a statistical error in the annual birth rate of the Chinese people” – have had such a profound influence on almost every field of human endeavor.

What accounts for the remarkable fact that in the 20th century, Jews, more than any other minority, have been recipients of the Nobel Prize, with almost one-fifth of all Nobel laureates being Jewish?

Perhaps it all goes back to the very beginning of the birth of our people and the Passover holiday that we will shortly be celebrating.

Passover conveys five major concepts that became our mantras for how to lead successful and productive lives. They are the five most important things to know about Passover, and to incorporate into every day of the rest of the year. Because we’ve absorbed them into our national psyche for the thousands of years since the Exodus, we’ve been privileged to fulfill in great measure our prophetically mandated role to become a light unto the nations.

They are our greatest contributions to the world and can be summarized in five words: memory, optimism, faith, family, and responsibility.

The Importance of Memory

The Irish Catholic writer Thomas Cahill was so overwhelmed by how the Jewish people literally transformed the world that he authored what proved to become an international bestseller, The Gifts of the Jews. One of the major gifts he credits to Jewish genius is the invention of the idea of history.

“Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” “Remember that the Lord took you out of the bondage of slavery.” Remember is a biblical mandate that had never seemed important to anyone else before the Jewish people came on the scene. It was the Passover story that initiated a commitment to memory.

Henry Ford was famous for his belief that “history is bunk.” The Ford motor company is also famous for producing the Edsel. And both were probably equally stupid blunders. History is the only way we can learn from the past. History allows us to grow by standing on the shoulders of giants. Make a mistake once, and you’re human. Never learn from what happened before, and you’re brainless. That’s why it’s so important to heed the famous words of George Santayana that “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Memory links our past to our future. It turns history into destiny.

We know how horrible it can be to live without a personal memory of events that preceded. For an individual we have a name for it that fills us with terror: Alzheimer’s. It is a disease we fear perhaps even more than death because it leaves us living corpses. Strangely enough, we don’t have a similar word for the condition that describes ignorance of our collective past. Knowing what came before is almost as important in an historic sense as it is in a personal one. Only by being aware of our past as a people can our lives become filled with purpose and meaning.

Memory links our past to our future. It turns history into destiny. Learning to treasure it was the first step in our climb up the ladder of greatness.

The Importance of Optimism

To study the Passover story in depth is to recognize that the most difficult task Moses had to perform was not to get the Jews out of Egypt, but to get Egypt out of the Jews. They had become so habituated to their status as slaves, they lost all hope that they could ever improve their lot.

Without hope they would have been lost.

The true miracle of Passover and its relevance for the ages is the message that with God’s help, no difficulty is insurmountable. A tyrant like Pharaoh could be overthrown. A nation as powerful as Egypt could be defeated. Slaves could become freemen. The oppressed could break the shackles of their captivity. Anything is possible, if only we dare to dream the impossible dream.

In the story of America’s Great Seal, a particularly relevant chapter is the imagery suggested by Benjamin Franklin in August 1776. He chose the dramatic scene described in Exodus, where people confronted a tyrant in order to gain their freedom.

“Pharaoh sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his head and a Sword in his hand, passing through the divided Waters of the Red Sea in Pursuit of the Israelites: Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Cloud, expressive of the Divine Presence and Command, beaming on Moses who stands on the shore and extending his hand over the Sea causes it to overwhelm Pharaoh.”

The motto he suggested, words based on the Passover story, inspired George Washington and the founding fathers of the American colonies to rebel against their British oppressors: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”

It was the biblical record of the Exodus that enabled the spirit of optimism to prevail for the followers of Martin Luther King in their quest for equal rights, because they were stirred by the vision of Moses leading his people to the Promised Land. It was the hope engendered by recalling how God redeemed our ancestors that allowed even Jews incarcerated in Auschwitz to furtively celebrate the Festival of Freedom and believe in the possibility of their own liberation.

That optimistic spirit, based on our own miraculous history, is the second great gift we have given to mankind and defines our identity.

The Importance of Faith

A pessimist, it’s been said, is someone who has no invisible means of support.

Jewish optimism is rooted in a contrary notion, a firmly held belief that we are blessed with support from above by a caring God. And that faith in a personal God gives us faith in ourselves, in our future and in our ability to help change the world

The God of Sinai didn’t say “I am the Lord your God who created the heavens and the earth.” Instead, he announced, “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.” The God of creation could theoretically have forsaken the world once he completed his task. The God of the Exodus made clear He is constantly involved in our history and has a commitment to our survival.

The Passover story conveys that history is not happenstance. It follows a Divine master plan.

Thomas Cahill credits the Jews not only for monotheism but for this additional groundbreaking idea of a Divine being with Whom we share a personal relationship. This, he points out, is key to Western civilization’s concept of personal accountability, conscience and culpability for ourselves and the rest of the world.

The Passover story conveys that history is not happenstance. It follows a Divine master plan. It has a predestined order. “Order” in Hebrew is “Seder” – and that is why the major ritual of Passover is identified by that name. Coincidence is not a Jewish concept. Coincidence is just God’s way of choosing to remain anonymous.

Faith gives us the certainty that whatever our present-day problems, history moves in the direction of the final messianic redemption. That is what has always motivated us to believe in progress and to participate in tikkun olam, efforts to improve the world.

The Importance of Family

Passover taught us yet another major truth: the way to perfect the world is to begin with our own families.

God built his nation by commanding not a collective gathering of hundreds of thousands in a public square but by asking Jews to turn their homes into places of family worship at a Seder devoted primarily to answering the questions of children.

It seems all too obvious. Children are our future. They are the ones who most require our attention. The home is where we first form our identities and discover our values.

More even than the synagogue, it is in our homes that we sow the seeds of the future and ensure our continuity. No wonder then that commentators point out the very first letter of the Torah is a bet, the letter whose meaning is house. All of the Torah follows only after we understand the primacy of family.

The world may mock Jewish parents for their over-protectiveness and their child-centered way of life, but they are the ones chiefly responsible for the extraordinary achievements of their progeny.

At the Seder table, the children are encouraged to be the stars and their questions are treated with respect. And that is the first step to developing Jewish genius.

The Importance of Responsibility to Others

One serious question begs to be asked as we celebrate our Divine deliverance from the slavery of Egypt. We thank God for getting us out, but why did God allow us to become victims of such terrible mistreatment in the first place?

A remarkable answer becomes evident in numerous Torah texts. We were slaves in Egypt – and so we have to have empathy for the downtrodden in every generation. We were slaves in Egypt –  and so we have to be concerned with the rights of the strangers, the homeless and the impoverished. We experienced oppression –  and so we must understand more than anyone else the pain of the oppressed.

The tragedy of our encounter with injustice was in no small measure meant to prepare us to serve throughout all future generations as spokesman for those with whose pain we can personally identify.

The purpose of our suffering was to turn us into a people committed to righting the wrongs of the world, to become partners with God in making the world worthy of final redemption.

We begin the Seder by inviting the hungry and the homeless to join with us. We conclude the Seder by opening the door for Elijah. It is our acceptance of responsibility to others that is the key to hastening the arrival of Messiah.

From earliest childhood every Jew identifies with these five powerful ideas that are at the heart of Passover and its message. And precisely because memory, optimism, faith, family and responsibility have become such vital characteristics of our people, we have been able to achieve far beyond what anyone might have considered possible.

Chabad Passover Resources

Source: Chabad

Pesach (Passover): April 6–14, 2012

Seder Guide   |   Passover Calendar

Haggadah | Passover Seder | Matzah | Passover Recipes | Maror | Passover Calendar

 

Passover Greeting Cards

Behrman House Passover Resource

Source: Behrman House

Passover Menu

Online Passover Haggadahs – Download and Print Haggadot for Pesach

Source: Judaism About.com

Haggadahs (Haggadot) contain the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt and are read each year at the Passover Seder meal. Download and print an online Passover Haggadah.

  • Chabad.org: Complete English Haggadah Chabad.org offers this free, complete Haggadah in English, published by Kehot Publication Society. It contains the whole service, from Kadesh to Nirtzah, with text and instructions.
  • Chabad.org: Complete Hebrew Haggadah Chabad.org offers this free, complete Haggadah in Hebrew. As a 23-page PDF file, it is ready to print and use at your Seder table.
  • Charles Finn: Modern English Haggadah This Haggadah aims to be a clear, practical Haggadah that everyone at a big family Seder can follow together. It is 16 pages of text with interesting illustrations. It is best to use this Haggadah as a companion along side a more complete Haggadah.
  • JewishFreeware.org: Free Downloadable Family Haggadah for Passover The Foundation for Family Education offers a variety of online Haggadot written by Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner: Very Brief Haggadah, Family Haggadah for Almost Novices, Family Haggadah for Novice. In addition, the site offers a Seder Supplement, Passover Guide, and even a Haroset Workshop.
  • Rabbi Blank’s Internet Haggadah Rabbi Bill Blank offers a downloadable Haggadah for $18. Reviews say Blank’s Internet Haggadah contains clear instructions and understandable translations. They also say it is designed well so that it is pleasant to use and read.
  • The Sephardi Connection: Passover Haggadah This Sephardic Haggadah reveals some interesting Sephardic Seder customs, such as putting charoset near the entrance to the house at the end of the Seder for good luck.
  • Uncle Eli’s Most Fun Ever Haggadah for Kids This Haggadah is not traditional, but it is very fun. Uncle Eli’s Special-for-Kids Most Fun Ever Under-the-Table Passover Haggadah is written in Dr. Seuss style. Enjoy!
  • Virtual Cantor: Vocalized Haggadah Listen to the entire Passover Seder service. Virtual Cantor has vocalized the entire Haggadah in an effort to help those who are far removed from synagogues or ill. This vocalization is also helpful to those who want to become comfortable and independent with the liturgy.

JBuzz Features March 7, 2012: Purim Guides, Megillah, the Story, Laws & Recipes

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Purim Guides, Megillah, the Story, Laws & Recipes

Purim Sameach!

Purim

Source: Aish.com

Purim

Source: Chabad.org

Purim WizardPurim Wizard
Walk Through the Holiday Step-by-Step

The MegillahThe Megillah
Telling the Story

With CommentaryMegillah With Commentary—Side by Side Version

The Basic Purim StoryThe Basic Purim Story

The characters of the Purim story come alive in this brief rendition of the miraculous tale. See G-d’s delivering hand veiled behind a fascinating story of palace intrigue…

Complete Story of PurimThe Complete Story of Purim

The Scroll of Esther tells the story of Purim, but many of the details appear only in the oral tradition handed down through the generations by the Sages.

Pre-Purim ObservancesPre-Purim Observances

Post-PurimPost-Purim

Walled CitiesWalled Cities
Why Jerusalem celebrates a day later

Laws & LoreLaws & Lore
From the classic work Sefer Hatodaah

Purim 2012 Guide

Source: Chabad.org

The festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.”

The story in a nutshell:

The Persian empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When Persia had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen—though she refused to divulge the identity of her nationality.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed and convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar—a date chosen by a lottery Haman made.

Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At the feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued—granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar they rested and celebrated.


Note! If you live in Jerusalem, the Purim laws vary; click here for details.

1) Listen to the Megillah

To relive the miraculous events of Purim, listen to the reading of the Megillah (the Scroll of Esther) twice: once on Purim eve, Wednesday night, March 7, and again on Purim day, March 8.

To properly fulfill the mitzvah, it is crucial to hear every single word of the Megillah.

At certain points in the reading where Haman’s name is mentioned, it is customary to twirl graggers (Purim noisemakers) and stamp one’s feet to “eradicate” his evil name. Tell the children that Purim is the only time when it’s a mitzvah to make noise!


2) Give to the Needy (Matanot LaEvyonim)

Concern for the needy is a year-round responsibility; but on Purim it is a special mitzvah to remember the poor.

Give charity to at least two (but preferably more) needy individuals on Purim day, March 8.

The mitzvah is best fulfilled by giving directly to the needy. If, however, you cannot find poor people, place at least two coins into a charity box. As with the other mitzvahs of Purim, even small children should be taught to fulfill this mitzvah.


3) Send Food Portions to Friends (Mishloach Manot)

On Purim we emphasize the importance of Jewish unity and friendship by sending gifts of food to friends.

On Purim day, March 8, send a gift of at least two kinds of ready-to-eat foods (e.g., pastry, fruit, beverage) to at least one friend. Men should send to men and women to women. It is preferable that the gifts be delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their own gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.


4) Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Purim should be celebrated with a special festive meal on Purim day, at which family and friends gather together to rejoice in the Purim spirit. It is a mitzvah to drink wine or other inebriating drinks at this meal.


Special Prayers (Al HaNissim, Torah reading)

On Purim we include the Al HaNissim prayer, which describes the Purim miracle, in the evening, morning and afternoon prayers, as well as in the Grace After Meals. In the morning service there is a special reading from the Torah scroll in the synagogue (Exodus 17:8–16).


Purim Customs: Masquerades and Hamantashen

A time-honored Purim custom is for children to dress up and disguise themselves—an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments. This is also the significance behind a traditional Purim food, the hamantash—a pastry whose filling is hidden within a three-cornered crust.

Pre- and Post-Purim Observances:

Torah Reading of “Zachor”

On the Shabbat before Purim (this year, March 3), a special reading is held in the synagogue. We read the Torah section called Zachor (“Remember”), in which we are enjoined to remember the deeds of (the nation of) Amalek (Haman’s ancestor) who sought to destroy the Jewish people.


The Fast of Esther

To commemorate the prayer and fasting that the Jewish people held during the Purim story, we fast on the day before Purim. This year we fast on Wednesday, March 7. The fast begins approximately an hour before sunrise, and lasts until nightfall. Click here for exact times for your location.


The “Half Coins” (Machatzit Hashekel)

It is a tradition to give three coins in “half” denominations—e.g., three half-dollar coins—to charity, to commemorate the half-shekel that each Jew contributed as his share in the communal offerings in the time of the Holy Temple. This custom, usually performed in the synagogue, is done on the afternoon of the “Fast of Esther,” or before the reading of the Megillah.


Shushan Purim

In certain ancient walled cities—Jerusalem is the primary example—Purim is observed not on the 14th of Adar (the date of its observance everywhere else) but on the 15th of Adar. This is to commemorate that fact that in the ancient walled city of Shushan, where the battles between the Jews and their enemies extended for an additional day, the original Purim celebration was held on the 15th of Adar.

The 15th of Adar is thus called “Shushan Purim,” and is a day of joy and celebration also in those places where it is not observed as the actual Purim.

The Purim Story

Is Purim just a fun-filled dress up holiday? Or is it something more? Perhaps it’s a flip-flop, upside-down, full of surprises kind of day…not at all what you’d expect.

Source: Aish.com
Over 2,000 years ago, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The Jewish people were sent away from the Land of Israel and were forced to live in Babylonia.

Fifty years later, Babylonia was defeated by Persia. Achashverosh (that’s pronounced: Ah-chash-VEY-rosh) was the second Persian king. He ruled 127 provinces from Hodu (India) to Kush (Africa) the largest, strongest kingdom in the world.

A new king needs a new capital, so Achashverosh chose the city of Shushan. To celebrate, he made a tremendous feast for all the important people in the kingdom. It lasted for 180 days. Then he made a second feast just for Shushan. Everyone in the city was invited, even the Jews.

Mordechai, the leader of the Jews, warned his people not to go to the feast, but they were afraid to disobey the king. And to tell the truth, they were honored and pleased to have been invited. For seven days they ate and drank to their heart’s content. Only one thing troubled them. Achashverosh brought the gold and silver vessels from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and used them for his wild celebration…

The drunken king began to brag that his queen Vashti was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. On the last day of the feast, he commanded her to come and dance before the crowd. But Vashti was the proud granddaughter of the cruel Nebuchadnezzar and she refused to appear. “Am I a servant to the king?” she asked. In a fit of anger, the king had her killed.

Achashverosh now needed a new queen and he wanted someone even more beautiful than Vashti. His men went from house to house in all of Persia, taking the young girls away to Shushan where they were kept as hostages until they were brought before the king.

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In Shushan, a Jewish orphan by the name of Hadassah lived with her uncle Mordechai. When the king’s men came to her house, Mordechai said, “Don’t be afraid. Go with them. Do not tell them you are a Jewess. Tell them your Persian name — Esther. God will watch over you!”

Esther was kind and gentle and very beautiful. As soon as the king saw her, he chose her as his new queen. Esther appointed seven maidservants, one for each day of the week, so that she would always remember which day was the Sabbath. Her meals were cooked with kosher foods. And all the while, she kept her secret. No one knew she was a Jew. Everyday, Mordechai sat outside the palace gate to wait for news from Esther.

One day outside the palace, Mordechai happened to hear two men plotting to kill the king. He warned Esther and the two men were caught and killed. Although it was recorded in the Royal Book that Mordechai the Jew had saved the king, the matter was soon forgotten.

Soon after, Achashverosh appointed Haman — the richest man in the kingdom — as his new prime minister. All the king’s subjects were ordered to honor Haman and bow down to him. Everyone did, except Mordechai. It was permissible to honor Haman and bow to him as the prime minister, but Haman wore a large medallion, engraved with the picture of an idol, on his chest. Mordechai said people might think he was bowing to the idol too, and a Jew is forbidden to worship or honor idols.

Haman was furious. He went straight to the king to complain. “There is one nation,” he said, “scattered throughout your kingdom, which is different from all other nations. They don’t eat our food, drink our wine, or marry our daughters! They don’t keep the king’s laws and they don’t work! Every seventh day they rest and they are always celebrating holidays. If you give me permission, I will destroy them for you. I will even pay for any expenses from my own money!”

Achashverosh gave Haman his royal ring, to seal the orders and decrees. Anxious to do a perfect job, Haman wanted to execute his plan on the right day, a lucky day blessed by his gods and the stars. He cast lots — purim in Hebrew — to choose the day. Then he sent out letters, sealed with the king’s royal ring, to each of the 127 provinces in the kingdom.

“On the 13th day of the month of Adar,” the decree said “you are to destroy, kill and slaughter all Jews, young and old, women and children, all in one day. Their money and property will then belong to you.”

When Mordechai heard of the decree, he ripped his clothing and put ashes on his head as a sign of mourning. He told Esther she must go to the king to try and save the Jews. Esther was afraid, for it was forbidden to come before the king without being invited. But Mordechai said, “Who knows if you have not been put in the palace for this very purpose? If you are silent now, help will come to the Jews from some other place — and you will perish!”

Esther asked that the Jews in Shushan fast and pray for her for three days. Mordechai gathered all the Jewish children in Shushan and told them to pray, too. (In the end, it was the prayers of the children which were answered.)

The Jews finally realized they should not have gone to the king’s feast; they should not have eaten at the royal banquet nor drunk the wine, nor used the vessels from the Holy Temple. They understood that this was their punishment for fearing the king more than they feared God.

When the three days of prayers and fasting were over, Esther went to the king. “What is your request, my queen?” he asked. “Half of my kingdom is yours for the asking!”

But Esther asked only that the king and Haman come to a private banquet she was making. At the banquet, Achashverosh asked again, “What is your wish? Whatever you want is yours!” But Esther only invited the king and Haman to a second party. “How strange,” thought the king. But Haman was delighted. On his way out of the palace, he passed Mordechai at the gate. His delight turned to hate. “I am important enough to be invited to the queen’s private banquets together with the king — and that Jew refuses to bow down to me?!” He wanted to kill Mordechai then and there, without waiting for the 13th of Adar!

“Do it!” advised his evil wife Zeresh. So Haman built a gallows, 50 cubits high, in his own courtyard. He would hang Mordechai at the first opportunity!

That night, the king could not fall asleep. He tossed and turned and finally called for his servant to bring out the Royal Book and read him to sleep. The heavy book fell open to the story of how Mordechai the Jew had warned of the plot against the king and saved the king’s life.

“What reward did the Jew receive?” asked the king.

“None, sir,” was the reply.

“He saved my life and received no reward?!” stormed the king.

Just then, someone knocked. It was Haman, coming for permission to hang Mordechai the Jew. He was in such a hurry he couldn’t even wait for the morning!

“Haman!” thundered the king. “Tell me, what shall be done for a man the king wishes to honor?”

“He must be referring to me,” thought Haman gleefully. “I know just the thing,” he said. “Let him wear the king’s royal robes. Place the king’s royal crown upon his head. Let him ride the king’s royal horse. And let a servant walk before the horse and cry out: Thus shall be done to the man whom the king wishes to honor!”

“Wonderful idea!” cried the Achashverosh. “I shall leave it all to you. Find Mordechai the Jew and do exactly as you described, down to the last detail!”

Haman did as he was commanded, and Mordechai was led with royal honor through the streets of Shushan.

Haman returned home, a bitter, broken man. But he had no time to brood. He had to be at the royal palace in time for the Queen’s second banquet. Once again, the king asked, “What is it you desire, Esther? Why have you invited us here? Speak and it shall be done!”

This time, Esther spoke. “Spare my life,” she cried, “and the lives of my people. We have been sentenced to death!”

“Death? Your people? By whom?” asked the surprised king.

“By an evil and wicked man — by your minister Haman!”

The king was so astounded that he marched out of the room to regain his composure.

Trembling and fearful, Haman threw himself on the queen to beg for mercy. At that very moment, Achashverosh returned.

“What?” he cried. “Do you dare to attack the Queen in my palace? Take him away and hang him!” he shouted.

In the end, Haman was hung on the gallows he himself had built for Mordechai. And Mordechai became the king’s new prime minister in place of Haman!

According to Persian law, it was impossible to change a decree stamped with the royal seal, so the king could not cancel the decree against the Jews. But Mordechai was given the royal signet ring to issue whatever new decrees he could think of to help save the Jews.

Now it was Mordechai’s turn to send out a royal letter. It said: On the 13th of Adar, all the Jews in the kingdom would organize to defend themselves. The Persians were more than happy to listen to Haman and kill Jews, but if the Jews were going to arm themselves and fight back under royal protection, well then, that was another story!

On the 13th of Adar, Jews across the kingdom assembled and defended themselves. Thousands of their enemies were killed, including Haman’s 10 evil sons who were hanged from a tree. Unlike the Persians who planned to take money and property, the Jews took no loot at all. On the 14th of Adar, they gave thanks to God and celebrated.

But in the walled capital city of Shushan, the Jews continued to fight an additional day. On the 15th of Adar the Jews of Shushan celebrated their victory. Therefore we celebrate:

The Fast of Esther on the 13th of Adar

Purim Day on the 14th of Adar

And in the walled city of Jerusalem, the main celebration is:

Shushan Purim on the 15th of Adar.

Esther asked the rabbis to write the story of Purim and include it in the Bible. Scrolls – megillot – were written and sent to the Jews throughout the kingdom. The rabbis commanded the people to keep the holiday of Purim forever as a day of thanksgiving and feasting and joy; of sending gifts to friends and money to the poor. And that is just what the Jewish people have been doing for the past 2,400 years!


THE FOUR MAIN MITZVOT OF PURIM

1. MEGILLAT ESTHER — we read the story of Purim in the evening and the next day. And whenever Haman is mentioned, we make as much noise as possible to blot out his name and his memory!

2. SENDING GIFTS OF FOOD to at least one friend or relative, because Purim is a time of love and friendship between Jews.

3. GIVING GIFTS OF MONEY TO THE POOR because Purim is a time of sharing and caring and helping.

4. EATING A FESTIVE PURIM MEAL – the special holiday meal eaten on Purim afternoon.

AND DON’T FORGET, PURIM IS COSTUME-TIME! We celebrate how everything can turn upside-down and into something else, and nothing is exactly what it seems to be. So start thinking about who you want to be on Purim!

A joyous Purim to all of you! May Purim – and all other days in the year!– be full of light and gladness, honor and joy, just as it was for the Jewish people in the time of Esther and Mordechai so many years ago.

Hanukkah recipes: How to build better latkes

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Hanukkah recipes: How to build better latkes

You don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to love latkes, which are sometimes referred to as potato pancakes. Done right, the traditional versions made of potato, onion and a

If you’re looking to learn or improve basic techniques, consider these tips:

* Start with older potatoes, which may contain less moisture. Be sure to squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the grated potatoes.

* Add potato starch instead of flour; this will keep them gluten-free and create good texture.

* A self-rising flour may help produce a drier potato-onion mixture.

* Don’t peel all the potatoes you’re going to grate, for a deeper flavor and interesting texture.

* Combine potato with other grated, raw root vegetables, such as celeriac (celery root), beets and yams.

* If you’re frying in a fair amount of oil, test the temperature with one latke. If the oil around it bubbles too vigorously, adjust the heat. Conversely, if there’s hardly any bubbling around the latke, increase the heat slightly.

* Speaking of oil, you can fry latkes in a relatively small amount of it — especially when you use an electric skillet or griddle.

* Instead of draining the latkes on layers of paper towels, transfer just-cooked ones to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. You can can keep them warm in the oven this way and they’ll stand a better chance of remaining crisp all around.

* Latkes take well to reheating at 350 degrees (on a rack or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, even if they’re frozen.

* Serve with a nice, soft ricotta instead of sour cream (earning bonus points for incorporating another symbolic ingredient of the holiday).

Check out the roundup of latkes from our Recipe Finder archive after the jump, along with appropriate sides and a few of our favorite briskets.

What kind of problems or successes have you had with latkes? We’d like to hear about them. Submit comments below.

Washington cookbook author Joan Nathan, Washington caterer Vered Guttman and Fairfax blogger, recipe developer, cooking instructor and food photographer Shulie Madnick contributed to this post.

Cabbage Latkes. Egg whites keep the batter light.

Crisp Latkes. Once you achieve the right shoestring thickness on the potatoes, there’s no need to squeeze out extra moisture.

Fire-Pit Latkes. A version of the cooked-potato method that starts on the grill.

Frankenstein Latkes. No bolts; just big and tasty.

Indian-Inspired Latkes. Yellow-gold and flecked with green, thanks to the turmeric, cumin, jalapeno and cilantro mixed in.

Leek and Beef Latkes With Beet Salad. A true, hearty meal.

Sweet Potato Latkes. Lightly spiced, these caught on years ago; scallions may be substituted for the chopped onion.

Swiss Chard Latkes. A standard dish on Sephardic Rosh Hashanah spreads. Why not go green for Hanukkah?

You could serve them with . . .

Gingered Applesauce. Healthful, kid-friendly, gluten-free.

Luxury Applesauce. Onion, almonds, winter spices and orange zest; it all works.

Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce. My personal favorite; the flavor of pear is a great complement.

Smoked Applesauce. Goes great with Fire-Pit Latkes, of course.

Grandma Rubenstein’s Brisket. Beer’s involved; go figure.

Brisket Nina. A winner.

Abigail’s Top-Secret Brisket of Beef. The fruity components of the sauce can stand in for any applesauce-y side dish.

Brisket With Onion Gravy. A great match for particularly onion-y latkes.

Michel Cluizel: Tired of Hanukkah Gelt? Try a Chocolate Menorah

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Tired of Hanukkah Gelt? Try a Chocolate Menorah

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Source: NYT, 12-13-11

Michel Cluizel, the French chocolatier, has introduced a line of chocolates and pastries made under kosher supervision in a New Jersey plant. For Hanukkah, he has come up with a pareve chocolate menorah that allows you to observe the tradition in reverse, eating one candle each night instead of adding one. The central candle, or shamus, which is used to kindle the others, is fitted with a small container of almond oil so it can actually be lighted….READ MORE

Jonathan D. Sarna: Manischewitz Goes Sephardic

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Source: Forward, 7-11-11

Man, Oh, Manischewitz

Holy Matzo: Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, a supervising rabbi at Manischewitz, compares a regular sheet of matzo with the giant matzo on the machine behind him at the firm’s Newark factory.

Peter Morehand
Holy Matzo: Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, a supervising rabbi at Manischewitz, compares a regular sheet of matzo with the giant matzo on the machine behind him at the firm’s Newark factory.

“Holy Matzo!” a recent Forward headline read. The accompanying article announced the baking of the “world’s largest matzo” — 82 square feet — to mark the opening of the new Manischewitz matzo factory in Newark, N.J.

The matzo proved ephemeral; it was soon broken up and distributed. What I found fascinating at the factory’s opening (which I attended) was an off-the-cuff remark by Israel’s chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, before he blessed the plant. “Who knew,” he quipped, “that the world’s largest manufacturers of gefilte fish were two Moroccan Jews from Casablanca?”

Manischewitz, founded in 1888 in Cincinnati, once symbolized the emergence of Eastern European Jews on American soil. Dov Behr Manischewitz, the company’s founder, hailed from Memel in Lithuania and spun gold in the New World by discovering new ways to combine flour and water. The technological innovations introduced by Manischewitz and his sons revolutionized the production of matzo in America and catapulted Manischewitz’s company into the world’s largest producer of Passover matzo.

What had been, before the founding of Manischewitz, a product that for the most part was handmade, locally distributed and round became, thanks to the man from Memel, a universally recognized brand of matzo: produced and packaged by patented machines, distributed internationally and shaped in the form of a square.

By the 1920s, Manischewitz produced 1.25 million matzos per day and claimed that it delivered matzo to “80% of the Jewish population of America and Canada.” Building on its success, it branched out into other Jewish foods, like gefilte fish, chicken soup and borscht. In 1947, it licensed its name to a line of sweet kosher wines produced by the Monarch Wine Co.

Thanks to one of the most brilliant advertising campaigns in the history of American kosher food, “Man, oh, Manischewitz” became a well-known slogan. Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan actually exclaimed that phrase during a moonwalk in 1973.

Eventually, like such well-known, family-based ethnic food companies as Ronzoni, Franco-American, La Choy and Lender’s, Manischewitz outgrew the family that established it. Bernard Manischewitz sold the company to Kohlberg & Co., L.L.C., in 1990; Kohlberg sold it to RAB Enterprises in 1998, and in 2007 it was sold again, this time to Harbinger Capital Partners.

Today, the Manischewitz Co. has moved far from its Eastern European roots. Indeed, its Moroccan-born co-CEOs, Alain Bankier and Paul Bensabat, reflect the changing face of America’s increasingly diverse and polychrome Jewish community. Sephardic Jews with roots in the Middle East, often known as Mizrahi Jews, form part of a sub-community that now comprises somewhere between 4% and 10% of all American Jews. And their numbers are growing….READ MORE

Holy Matzo! The World’s Largest Matzo

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Source: NY Jewish Week, 6-15-11

(Photo: Peter Morehand)

This Tuesday, Manischewitz daringly went where no other matzo maker has ever gone. The company attempted to bake (or should we say build?) the largest matzo in history — 336 times a regular matzo sheet — in honor of the opening of its new headquarters, in Newark, N.J. Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz (pictured above), chief rabbi of Manischewitz, shows us just how big the giant matzo was (that’s a regular sheet of matzo his holding, folks). Israel’s chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, blessed the plant and the town’s mayor, Cory A. Booker, joined the event. The matzo, which was baked in a 200-foot-long oven, was divided up after the ceremony for everyone to sample.

Manischewitz is currently in the process of registering the matzo with the Guinness World Records, which will decide if it’s actually the biggest ever made. So what does it take to make a claim of the world’s largest matzo? See the details, below.

Flour: 27.6 lbs.

Water: 8.3 lbs.

Total weight of matzo: 25.3 lbs.

Width: 41 in.

Length: 24 ft.

Surface area: 11,808 sq. in. (82 sq. ft.)

Baking temperature: 620°F

Cooking time: 204 seconds

Handlers required: 6 people