Shabbat Hol ha-Mo'ed Pesah--Exodus 33:12-34:26
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Questions for Young Children

• Is the story in Ezekiel about the “dry bones” scary? How do you think people would feel after hearing what Ezekiel saw?
• Why do you think a lot of people who are not Jewish connect to the story of the exodus from Egypt?

Questions for Older Children
• If you lived in Australia, South Africa, or Argentina, would you want to switch the times for Pesah and Sukkot?
• According to the Torah reading, would it be possible to switch the seasons for the holidays? Why do all Jews have to celebrate each holiday at the same time?
• Why do you think the rabbis selected the haftarah featuring Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones for this week?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• What is the message of Ezekiel that you think appealed to songwriter James Weldon Johnson? (see A Dash of Children’s Songs). Johnson had not been a slave but was born free in 1871 in Florida.
• What do you think is the meaning of Ezekiel’s vision to the Israelites who were living in exile in Babylonia when he prophesied?
• The haftarah could lead to a discussion about t’hiyat hamaytim (resurrection of the dead). In the opening b’rakhot of the Amidah we say m’hayay hamaytim(God resurrects the dead). How do you and your guests understand the Jewish view of t’hiyat hamaytim- literally? Symbolically? How could one resurrect the dead in a symbolic way?

 

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Not this week!

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Appropriately, we’re back in the book of Sh'mot, Exodus, for the Shabbat that falls during Pesah. God promises to be with Moshe, to show him God’s ways, and gives Moshe some rest. But by chapter 34, Moshe is back at work, carving another set of tablets. God reestablishes his covenant and reminds the Israelites of their miraculous exodus from Egypt. By today we all need a little rest. Still, there is a Shabbat dinner to be made. You may have had the same guests for a week so it’s time to change up the menu and change up the conversation. For another change, the verse this week that served as my inspiration is taken from the haftarah (Ezekiel 37: 1-14), rather than the Torah reading.

Find the Food Connection…

וַיְנִיחֵנִי בְּתוֹךְ הַבִּקְעָה; וְהִיא, מְלֵאָה עֲצָמוֹת
“…He [God] placed me in the valley and it [the valley] was full of bones”
--Ezekiel 37:1b

Rib bones!

 

The Side Dish
By Shabbat, some family members may protest they don’t want to eat another big meal or engage in another extended conversation. Experience tells me that my family will sit down and readily eat another festive meal. If a dinner of ribs feels too rich for your family, you can try a vegetarian or a fish dinner. As for conversation, the seder discussions have had time to marinate and your Shabbat guests may have some new insights to share by Friday night. This is a Shabbat when it’s fun to invite guests who attended seder elsewhere so you can swap different seder experiences and traditions. If you invite only your seder guests to your Shabbat table, it’s a good time to reflect on the seder and discuss what you might do differently next year and what you might repeat.

 

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A Dash of Children’s Songs Along with a Serving of U.S. History
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrzBsUtUdts
Ezekiel’s prophecy has been transformed into a children’s song which you can hear on the website above. The song was written in the early 20th century by James Weldon Johnson, a well-known African-American poet, writer, and founder of the NAACP. He also wrote “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” which became known as the Negro National Anthem. When he composed “Dry Bones” based on Ezekiel chapter 37, Johnson was following in an African- American tradition of creating songs based on Biblical themes—usually focused on the Exodus and God’s redemptive powers. You may have sung “Go Down, Moses” at your seder or talked about Harriet Tubman’s nickname, “The Black Moses.” This is a good opportunity to talk about the power of the Exodus story for American slaves. “Go Down Moses,” was probably composed in 1862 not by enslaved African-Americans, but by slaves who had been freed by Northern soldiers and were temporarily housed at Fort Monroe in Virginia. These freed slaves were known as contrabands and, if someone at your table has studied American History in depth, that word will be familiar from the Civil War unit.

A Dash of Counting

At the end of the second seder we begin to count the omer--the 49 days until Shavu'ot (Pentecost).  Unlike a space countdown, we count up. If you don't have an omer counter or a calendar with the omer count-up, try this website featuring the Homer  omer counter (http://homercalendar.net/Welcome.html).  For a more traditional explanation of the b'rakhot and the how's of counting, see (http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/how-to-count-the-omer/).  The word omer means barley sheaf.  The first of the barley crop was brought to the Temple on Shavu'ot. Even though we're no longer bringing a sacrifice of barley and first fruits, we can think about the spiritual link between Pesah, the Exodus from Egypt, and Shavu'ot, receiving the Ten Commandments.  How would the link differ if we counted down to Shavu'ot rather than counting up? And, by the way, Friday night April 14th is Day 4 of the Omer and Saturday night April 15th is Day 5.

A Dash of Definition

What is hol hamo'ed?  When translated it sounds like an oxymoron:  regular day/holiday.  In practice it's the intermediate days of Sukkot and Pesah that are still part of the hag (holiday) but on these days some of the prohibitions for hag are rescinded.  It's permissible to drive, work (depending on your rabbi's interpretation), shop, etc.  Shabbat hol hamo'ed Pesah we celebrate both Shabbat and Pesah so it's not really a yom hol at all. The Torah reading, maftir, and haftarah this Shabbat are all connected to Pesah suspending the ongoing reading in Vayikra (Leviticus) until April 22nd when we resume reading Sh'mini.

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Pesah Short Ribs, Farfel, and Spinach
A one dish wonder--serves 10-12

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika (or smoked paprika)
  • 1 Tbsp. salt  
  • 2 Tbsp. pepper
  • ½ c. cooking oil
  • approximately 9 pounds of short ribs
  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 c. boiling water
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 celery ribs, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 pound mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 8 oz. matzah farfel
  • 6 oz. (or more) baby spinach

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 275º.
  2. Set a large rack in a large roasting pan.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the garlic powder with paprika, 1 Tbsp. kosher salt and 2 Tbsp black pepper.
  4. Stir in ¼ C oil.
  5. Rub the spice paste on both sides of the ribs and place ribs on the rack of the roasting pan, meatiest side up.
  6. Roast for 4 hours, until the meat pulls away from the bones.
  7. Transfer the ribs to a platter and pour off the fat from the pan.
  8. Increase the oven temperature to 325º.
  9. Soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water in a heatproof bowl for at least 20 min.
  10. Drain the mushrooms, reserving 2 c. of the soaking liquid.
  11. Rinse the mushrooms and chop coarsely.
  12. Place the roasting pan over the burner and add the olive oil.
  13. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, fresh mushrooms, chopped porcini mushrooms and cook over moderately high heat stirring until the vegetables are softened and begin to brown, about 10 min.
  14. Add the wine and cook until the wine has evaporated, about 5 min.
  15. Add the beef broth, the reserved 2 cups of mushroom soaking liquid and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  16. Season with more salt and pepper.
  17. Return the cooked short ribs to the roaster, meaty side up.
  18. Cover the pan tightly with foil and cook in the oven 1 hr. 15 min. until the meat is tender.
  19. Remove the foil and spoon off as much fat as possible. Remove the ribs from the pan.  (If you want to remove the maximum amount of fat, prepare the ribs up to this point on Thursday and Friday remove the pan from the refrigerator. The fat will be easy to skim from the pan. If you’re already committed to eating ribs this one time of the year, it may not make much difference if you don’t remove every bit of fat.)
  20. Meanwhile in a large skillet, heat the remaining ¼ c. of oil.
  21. Add the matzah farfel and toast over high heat.
  22. Stir continuously so it doesn’t burn. (about 5 min.) Stir the toasted farfel into the pan juices.
  23. Return the ribs to the roaster, arranging them in the liquid and roast uncovered 15 min until the matzah farfel is moistened and plump.
  24. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, remove the bones and slice the meat across the grain.
  25. For use with this haftarah, save the bones for the serving platter. Otherwise, discard the bones.
  26. Stir the spinach into the farfel, season with salt and pepper and let it wilt.
  27. Spoon the farfel-spinach mix on a platter and top with ribs.

Your children or grandchildren may enjoy arranging the bones on the platter.

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