In 1797, the richest and most ornate of Chasidic rebbes was born: Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin, known as the Rizhiner. Unlike other rebbes, who lived in outright poverty, he loved wealth and to be surrounded by beautiful objects. His Chasidim, who were mostly poor, did their best to satisfy his wants, since the Rizhiner claimed direct descent from King David, and believed that he ought to imitate the lifestyle of his notable ancestor—not in personal behavior, but in his surroundings.
Pesach, besides its major theme of Liberation from Slavery, also has the poignant coda of Yizkor, the Memorial Prayer. We Jews are famous Rememberers, and it reminds me of the Old Days, growing up in the apartment with my family, and the Sedarim that my parents used to hold. We had no innovations, no “Bags O’ Plagues” with plastic animals or fun figures of scepter-shaking Pharaoh or crook-wielding Moses. We put on no plays. No: as many of my congregants and contemporaries can recall, an old-time Seder Meal consisted of Grandpa or Papa plowing slowly through the Traditional Hagada in lugubrious Hebrew without translation, adding a song here and there, with the family trailing along, yawning, chatting, or hiding in the kitchen with Bubbie and Mama, to taste if the chicken soup had enough salt or pepper.
A Wedding, NYC Taxi Rides through the Old Neighborhood, and Pesach We had a family simcha (joyful event) recently, returning to our hometown of New York City—my Old Neighborhood in particular, the Lower East Side—for our nephew Justin and his new bride, Sue’s, wedding. The venue was a hall directly across from the Statue of […]
By this time, even the staunchest fan of Pesach finds that the matzah does not melt in his mouth, and the never-ending diet of soup-chicken-and-matzah-balls, once ethnically enticing, has grown cloying and stale. “Fear not,” whispers the yetzer ha-ra, the never-tiring Evil Inclination, “the end is near, and you will, once again, be able to […]
Rather than the Torah reading, I will focus my drash/rabbinical commentary on Psalm 136, which is part of the Shabbat and holiday davening and the Haggadah as well, and features the refrain: Hodu la-do-noy—“Praise the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness endures forever.” One of its lines (136:16) thanks God “for leading His […]
Meditations and discussion with Rabbi Patrick on the Pesach seder
As we move through our morass of matzo, matzo meal, matzo ball soup, and other Paysadik (Kosher for Pesach) goodies—whose allure may be starting to pall, just a trifle—we find ourselves, this Intermediate Shabbat, reading Shir HaShirim Ashare L’Shlomo—the “Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s,” attributed to King Solomon, son of David, regarded as the […]