Tuesday, April 22, 2008


First Night:

Friend S. Hosted. Wife M. Led. 16 People.

It's official: we've outgrown The Concise Family Seder. The term "Concision" was coined for the property of which this haggadah contained excessive amounts. The youngest, W., complained that the brief birkat hamazon was too brief, which was very heartening. Our institutions are doing well by our youth, creating a generation that is more engaged than the parents. The maggid was considered too brief, and a factual error was observed in this haggadah's assertion that Abraham met Sarah in Canaan. It served us well for 5 years, but it's time to move on. The layered Kugel I made was a hit. It comprised a layer of yam kugel, a layer of spinach kugel, and another layer of yam kugel.

Second Night:

I hosted. I led. 8 People.

Friend J. lent us a bunch of the Baskin Haggaddah. Slightly different crowd from first night, so lots of different energy in the room. I was leading this one, and we had enough in the way of students of Hebrew and native Israelis at the table to be able to look at some of the differences between the Hebrew and the English, which was fun. Then R., the 14 year old who had not been around on Monday, raised all kinds of thorny issues around chosenness, and how can we reconcile the plagues and drowning of the Egyptians with the merciful God we Liberal Jews like to believe in. So midrash was shared, various personal theories explored, a discussion of the balance between mercy and justice and she was, of course, assured that this is one of the questions that never stops being asked. The Baskin Haggadah served us well, except for missing the handwashing. Food was my low-effort lamb-packets. There was lamb from the meaty, broiled shankbone in our Hillel sandwiches, because Reform Judaism does not long for a return to temple service. B. and A. brought a marvelous Potato thingy, L. some steamed veg, J. supplied Matza ball soup and I supplied some vegetarian borscht.

Lamb Packets, per serving:

2 Lamb Loin chops (a nice lean cut)
6 Stalks of asparagus
1/2 tsp of Astringent (Lemon juice most years, but this year it was Balsamic Vinegar)
a few aromatic sprigs (I usually use lavender, but I could see rosemary working well.

Stack it all on foil, seal it, and put it in a 250 degree oven about an hour before the Seder starts, and then don't spare it another thought until you're ready to eat. The beauty of this food prep method is that it will wait for you.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Korban Pesach

Dovbear recently re-posted to his blog his ideal Passover menu. It's not a menu I would use myself, because it seems to me to be uninspired. But sifting through the comments (his readers range from left wing Reform to right wing Chareidi) I noticed a few things. Some commentors feel that red meat should not be eaten at the Seder. Others say red meat is fine so long as you don't grill or roast it. And then there are people I know who won't eat lamb on pesach at all.

The reason behind all this has to do with the notion that since the destruction of the temple, it is impossible to bring the Korban Pesach and therefore one should not eat it. Rabbi Yehoshua Weber of Clanton Park Synagogue, based on Shulchan Aruch OC 476 writes:

Today, given that we have no bais ha’mikdash, and consequentially no Pesach offering, we refrain from eating roast meat or fowl at the seder lest someone think that we are eating some sort of mock Pesach offering. (Weber, 12)

So when all is said and done, it is this nostalgia for the temple that has inspired this reticence. That it is in the Shulchan Arukh may even give it the force of halakhah. But the Reform Jew must determine for himself whether this halakhah is worthy of following. Paragraph 5 of the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 states that we do not expect a return to "a sacrificial system under the sons of Aaron." While much of that paragraph has been reversed by subsequent platforms, this statement remains unabrogated. Such a return is incompatible with the notion of a progressive Judaism. That being said, the remembrance of the sacrifices, and most especially of the Korban Pesach has moved from the Beit Hamikdash to the mikdash m'at of the home, therefore I will be serving lamb at my seder. I won't be roasting it though, but this is only because I find that lamb slow cooked in packets means that dinner will not burn if the Maggid should go long (as it should be allowed to.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

When you lie down and when you rise up

This is just a nodule of a thought really, not quite a post. But it is interesting to me that the command to recite the Shema "when you lie down and when you rise up" is presumed to refer to evening and morning recitations.

How odd it must be, for a night watchman or a third-shifter to help out with a morning minion and recite "who removes sleep from the eyes, slumber from the eyelids" before going to bed, or to recite Hashkiveinu at the start of his day.

The Shema itself, does not contain language linking it to the time of day it is recited, but the attendant blessings are.