Passover 2023 / Pesach 5783
It is hard to believe that we are already in the throes of preparing for Pesah. It seems like only yesterday that we were putting the sukkah away. Yet, in just a few short days we will sit down at our seder table to celebrate and to remember the departure are Egypt.
We all have family customs both old and new that evoke warm memories and feelings at Pesah. These family customs remind us of relatives and friends from seders past. As well, new relationships and new thoughts also served to create new customs.
Several years back, the Gorman family began a custom that dates to the Middle Ages. There is dispute in the codes as to how many cups of wine we drink at the seder. It is clear that we should not have fewer than four cups. However, there are also opinions that a fifth cup of wine is also permitted.
The Jerusalem connects the four required cups of wine to promises of redemption mentioned in the beginning of parashot Va’era. There are certainly four promises of redemption at this point in the Torah. But there is also a fifth promise. The fifth promise speaks of bringing the Children of Israel into the Land of Israel. As Pesach is about the departure from Egypt and not about coming into the Land of Israel, a cup to commemorate this fifth promise might be what we call in modern times ‘mission creep.’ It is related to the overall theme, but is not part of the overall theme.
Nonetheless, the Gorman family has started consuming this fifth cup of wine. The reason is that Israel supporters have so many rational and relevant reasons for a strong connection to Israel, both the land and the nation. With all of the rational reasons, we often forget to consider the spiritual connection. We drink a fifth cup because of that fifth promise, a promise that reminds us of that spiritual connection.
We are also specific in our choice. The world of kosher wine is varied and wonderful. We are able to enjoy top-rated wines from every continent. Pesach is certainly a time to have fun with that. For this fifth cup of wine, we come back to the promise of the Land of Israel. We thus specifically choose a wine from Israel. That wine is a taste of that fifth promise.
On behalf of MERCAZ-Canada and Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful Pesach.
If you want to try new things are create new traditions this year, here are a few ideas to try.
Charoset is that fruity pasty mixture we eat to remind ourselves of the mortar the Israelites had to use while enslaved in Egypt. Most Ashkenazim make a traditional version, with apples, walnuts, and a bit of wine.
But other options abound!
Here is a spicy Persian charoset that Beverlee, from MERCAZ-Canada’s Toronto office, makes each year. She has adapted a recipe to remove the apples and some nuts because of food allergies. The result is delicious and will bring a definite zing to your seder table. Feel free to adjust the spices to your tastes and tolerance.
- 25 dates, pitted and diced
- ½ cup unsalted pistachios, chopped
- ½ cup almonds, chopped
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1 pomegranate, just the arils
- 1 orange, peeled and diced
- 1 banana, sliced
- ½ cup sweet red wine (up to 1 cup, to get the consistency you prefer)
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 1 TBSP ground cloves
- 1 TBSP ground cardamom
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (less, to taste)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Black pepper, to taste
Combine the fruit and nuts. Blend the wine and spices and mix with the fruits, adding more wine if needed to get the pasty consistency you prefer. Adjust spices if necessary.
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If you have vegetarians coming for a meal during Pesach, this spinach and cheese dish from the Sephardi tradition is sure to please.
Spinach, Cheese, and Potato Minas
- 8 medium potatoes
- 2 10-oz packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
- 4-6 scallions
- 15 oz ricotta cheese
- Juice of 1 lemon (3 TBSP)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6-8 matzah squares
- 2 cups grated mild white cheese (mozzarella, white cheddar, etc)
- Bake or microwave the potatoes in their skins till tender. Peel, then slice into ¼-inch slices.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare two 9x9 baking tins with a bit of oil or parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach, scallions, ricotta, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Soak the matzah in warm water till pliable but not mushy, then drain. Put one matzah at the bottom of each baking tin. Then add a layer of spinach mixture, a layer of potato slices, some cheese, and another matzah. Repeat till all ingredients are used up and top with another layer of matzah.
- Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes until the top matzah is golden with spots of brown. Cut into squares to serve.
There are so many interesting Passover and Seder traditions from around the world. Some are more widespread and others are more personal.
There is a Persian and Afghani tradition of tapping each other lightly with scallions while singing Dayenu. This symbolizes the whippings the Israelites endured while enslaved in Egypt.
A Romanian tradition involves filling a bag or pillowcase with heavy objects and walking around the table several times, to recreate the burden that the Israelites carried while escaping from Egypt.
Moroccan Jews end the festival of Passover with a Mimouna, to celebrate the return to eating Chametz. Traditionally, after sunset on the last day of the chag, people open their homes to guests and serve sweet treats.
Rabbi Gorman, the Executive Director of MERCAZ-Canada and the CFMJ, has a personal tradition of giving each Seder guest a different Haggadah. This can lead to a bit of confusion as people flip back and forth to figure out WHAT PAGE ARE WE ON? But it can also lead to some really interesting conversations, since everyone has slightly different commentary.
FUN and GAMES
You can make the seder fun by decorating the table with toys and craft paper to make a desert scene, represent the plagues (toy dinosaurs make fun wild beasts), or by singing silly seder songs.
You can find these songs in various places, but one good collection is here:
If you have lots of kids at the seder, ask them to act out part of the story to keep them interested.
Here is a crossword puzzle to get you in the mood.
And here's the solution, if you need it.
Chag Kasher v’Sameach from all of us at MERCAZ-Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism.
FROM our PRESIDENT
On behalf of the executive and board of MERCAZ-Canada we wish you a happy, meaningful and Kosher Pesach. This year in particular, we wish the entire people of Israel a peaceful Pesach, especially being in the midst of the crisis in Israel’s Knesset.
As Masorti Jews, we hope that there will be a return to cooperative and consultative actions by both the government and the opposition, back to a time when the extreme rhetoric has been replaced with civil conversation. This is not a “present” wish; we all believe that we as a people are much stronger when united than divided, and that we may find ways to continue to have meaningful conversations about the changes and issues facing us all.
With HaShem’s help, by the time you read this the demonstrations in Israel will have ended and we will all be able to enjoy our holiday of liberation. Whether from our previous slavemasters or leadership needing correction, let’s remember that we are one people at our Seder.
Shortly after Pesach, many of us will be leaving for Israel to attend the WZO Special 75th Congress in Jerusalem.
It is our hope that this upcoming Congress taking place from April 19 to 21 will be a time of honest conversation and productive efforts for the Jewish people as a whole.
This year, our Canadian contingent is one of the largest ever with Rabbi Steve Wernick, Rabbi Phil Scheim, Rabbi Jennifer Gorman, Charles Wrock, Kyla Hershoran and myself as delegates, along with Rabbi Sean Gorman as an alternate and Devorah Gillard as an observer. We will proudly represent our Canadian MERCAZ and Masorti members and friends at the table and work to advance our goals of connecting the Canadian Jewish community with Israel.
Your continued support of MERCAZ-Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism allows us to represent all of the members of our community and to work towards the success of the State of Israel.
Chag Kosher Sameach
You can read more of what MERCAZ and Masorti are doing at our website:
You can contribute to our efforts by joining MERCAZ-Canada and by donating to the Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism.
Membership is only $18 a year for adults, $9 for youth up to age 25.
mercaz.ca/join-mercaz at the bottom of the page
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