L’shanah Tovah

To my friends and those I think of as family who begin the New Year at sunset I wish that the blessings of the New Year be as numerous as the seeds of the pomegranate.

7RoshHashanah-compressed

And as in years past to all my family, friends, and loved ones regardless of faith or practice I extend the traditional Sephardic greeting:

Tizku Leshanim Rabbot
May you merit many years

To which the answer is:

Ne’imot VeTovot
Pleasant and good ones

On this day in 1939: World War II: The Battle of Hel begins, the longest-defended pocket of Polish Army resistance during the German invasion of Poland.

Chag Pesach Samech

For my friends and those who are like family that celebrate tonight:

As you prepare your house and your table for the first seder of this Passover, as you open your Haggadah and ask the first question,  I wish all my friends and those who are like family who obey the commandment to tell of the miracles and wonders:

 Have a sweet Passover / zisn Pesach / חג פסח שמח

passover-table
A left click will take you an explanation of the Passover seder symbolic foods.

A left click on the various highlight/linked words and phrases will take you to an explanation of the observances of this major Festival of Liberation.

On this day in 1856: The Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the Crimean War.

Shanah Tovah Umetukah

שנה טובה ומתוקה‎‎

My wish for all my friends who celebrate the beginning of a new year:

A Good and a Sweet Year!

rosh-hashana

And to all my family, friends, and loved ones regardless of faith or practice I extend the traditional Sephardic greeting:

Tizku Leshanim Rabbot
May you merit many years

To which the answer is:

Ne’imot VeTovot
Pleasant and good ones

On this day in 1870: Bersaglieri corps enter Rome through the Porta Pia and complete the unification of Italy, ending de facto the temporal power of popes.

To Tell of the Miracles and Wonders

Chag sameach

It is a commandment of the Torah to tell of the miracles and wonders which happened to our forefathers in Egypt on the Fifteenth of Nissan as it is said:
Remember that day when you went out from Egypt

Rambam, Laws of Hametz and Matza, Chapter 7

This evening at sundown in households of friends and many I consider family that commandment will be obeyed. The house will have been prepared, the Passover table will be set, the Matzot and Seder Plate will be placed before the Leader of the Seder, who will open their Haggadah and begin the first blessing.

Two years ago I wrote about the incredible wealth of Haggadot that have been created over the centuries to guide observers through the rituals and ceremonies of the holy days. One of the most famous is the 13th century Birds’Head Haggadah created in Southern German by a scribe known as Menaham. It is the first illustrated Haggadah known to be produced as a separate manuscript from the prayer book. The strange practice of replacing human heads by those of animals and birds can be found in Ashkenazi manuscripts of the 13th and 14th century. It is widely believed that this was to honour the admonition against portraying human figures. At least one scholar has argued that the figures are meant to present the Jewish people by the mythological griffin – a symbol of strength, strong will, and majesty.

Though ownership is currently being disputed the manuscript has been in the collection at the Israel Museum for over 70 years and is often displayed during Passover. The Museum has produced a pop-up Haggadah for children – and adults – using illustrations and scenes from this remarkable document.

The Preparation

The Story

(Click to begin the slideshow)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Deliverance

(A short homemade video)

The Passover Seder

Wishing you all the joys of the Passover holiday!
To you and those you hold dear!
May you be blessed with
Happiness, prosperity and peace
And good health at this Passover and always!

Chag Pesach Sameach – Gut Yomtov –   חַג שָׂמֵחַ

On this day in 837: Halley’s Comet makes its closest approach to Earth at a distance equal to 0.0342 AU (5.1 million kilometres/3.2 million miles).

This Liberty Beyond Our Hopes …

… Appeared to Us.

For only the second time in our present century Hanukkah overlaps with the Christian Feast of Christmastide.  Tonight as we begin our Vigil of Christmas many of our friends and people we have long considered family will be lighting the first candle of the Festival of Lights.

The Jewish historian Josephus records that after the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem the triumphant Judas Maccabeus commanded that a great eight-day celebration be held.  Josephus refers to it as “The Festival of Lights” and supposes that “the reason was, because this liberty (i. e. the freedom to worship as they choose)  beyond our hopes appeared to us”.

Writing in around CE 93 or 94  he gives us the “historical” version of the commemoration however the more traditional story comes from the Megillat Antiochus, a Talmundic scroll possibly dated as early as the 2nd Century CE.  It ends with the following words:

02_jpg
The prayer “al ha nissim…” for Hanukkah. Fuerth, 1738. Manuscript on parchment

After this, the sons of Israel went up to the Temple and rebuilt its gates and purified the Temple from the dead bodies and from the defilement. And they sought after pure olive oil to light the lamps therewith, but could not find any, except one bowl that was sealed with the signet ring of the High Priest from the days of Samuel the prophet and they knew that it was pure. There was in it [enough oil] to light [the lamps therewith] for one day, but the God of heaven whose name dwells there put therein his blessing and they were able to light from it eight days. Therefore, the sons of Ḥashmonai made this covenant and took upon themselves a solemn vow, they and the sons of Israel, all of them, to publish amongst the sons of Israel, [to the end] that they might observe these eight days of joy and honour, as the days of the feasts written in [the book of] the Law; [even] to light in them so as to make known to those who come after them that their God wrought for them salvation from heaven. In them, it is not permitted to mourn, neither to decree a fast [on those days], and anyone who has a vow to perform, let him perform it.

It is that miracle along with the victory over oppression that is commemorated tonight at sunset as that first candle of the eight is lit and the first dedication proclaimed.  To all our loved ones who observe that ritual and recite those prayers we wish Chag Urim Sameach!

On this day in 1777:  Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, is discovered by James Cook.