Sunday, April 23, 2023

Something new under the sun: A family-history update

First, my California brother reminded me that our mother’s Hebrew name was Hadassah, not Esther.  Oops!  Since I’ve been calling myself Léah bat Esther v’Ozer for 50 years or so and can’t bring myself to ditch my old name entirely, I’m now calling myself Léah bat Esther Hadassah v’Ozer. 

Then, our sister reminded me to check a recent e-mail from our Israeli brother that had gotten lost in the Pesach (Passover) preparations, and I was in for quite a surprise!

Our brother told an interesting tale of his first Sephardi (or Mizrachi?) seder (with a family originally from Tripoli, Libya).  But far more interesting was what he had to say about our family’s background.  Since our parents made Aliyah about 10 years after he did, he’d had the privilege—and the responsibility—of being the only one of the four of us to live within commuting distance of them, and had heard a few tales that were certainly news to me. 

Our mother had told him that an ancestor of her American-born father (who had an Ashkenazi last name and was, reportedly, of Austrian origin) was the first gabbai at Mikveh Israel, a Sephardi synagogue in Philadelphia.  That means that he was a Sephardi Jew, probably from Southern Europe. 

There’s more, folks.  My brother also thinks that some ancestors of our father purchased our Ashkenazi last name when they migrated to Austria-Hungary from Turkey. 

I’ve been davening (praying) in Ashkenazi synagogues all my life, and the only nusach (roughly, traditional prayer-wordings and melodies) that I know is Nusach Ashkenaz.  In addition, many, if not most, of the holiday celebrations that we enjoyed as kids were organized by our mother’s mother’s Ukrainian side of the family.  So it’s an understatement to say that I’m pleasantly surprised to learn, at the age of 74, that my family is probably part-Sephardi on both our mother’s and our father’s sides.  Wow! 💖

Sefirat HaOmer Niggun (by Shir Yaakov Feit, Zach Fredman, and Yosef Goldman)

Featuring Yosef Goldman, Deborah Sacks Mintz, and Chava Mirel (vocals), Joey Weisenberg (mandolin), Zach Fredman (guitar), Daniel Ori (bass), and Megan Weeder Gould (violin)

I love this song!

Bonus:  Two of Joey's kids are along for the ride.  :)

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Another beauty by Rabbi Deborah Sacks Mintz


Monday, April 10, 2023

Instant S'fard: Why this Ashkenazi Jew had to start eating rice mid-Pesach

I can't eat "regular" matzah; gluten-free oat matzah is vile-tasting; white potatoes aggravate my arthritis; and sweet potatoes aren't good for my kidney stones.

Quinoa to the rescue!  I decided to avoid all the above problems by making quinoa my main "starch" for Pesach (Passover) not only for dinner but for breakfast and lunch as well.

Um, not so fast.

I was wondering why I seemed to be running to the all-genders room much more often than usual.  This morning, it got really bad, so I consulted "Dr. Google."  It turns out that, while quinoa is super-healthy, it's also very high in fiber and is well known for causing diarrhea.  Apparently, I can eat it once a day in good health and with no ill effects, but *three* times a day is another matter!

So I'll be cooking rice tonight.

Sunday, April 09, 2023

Enjoy this video of Eliana Light singing her "Moadim L'Simcha"

Here's Eliana Light's delightful song reminding us that there's a special greeting for Chol HaMoed.


Are the rabbis trying to make us sick?

Here’s a link showing the amount of matzah, wine, and maror that one is required to eat at a seder, according to some traditional rabbinic opinions.  The amounts are roughly almost three sheets of machine-made matzah or about one and two-thirds sheets of hand-made matzah, wine equaling the approximate equivalent of one and a half cans of soda pop, and, for us masochistic Ashkenazim, about a shot-glass worth of ground horseradish.  And all of those are supposed to be eaten or drunk within a prescribed amount of time, usually only a few minutes, if I understand correctly.  This is how the rabbis show concern for our health?

Then there’s the matter of kitniyot (again, for us crazy Ashkenazim).  There’s some controversy regarding whether the South American grain quinoa is or is not kitniyot.  Those of us who have health problems that limit how much matzah we can eat and/or what kind of matzah we can eat and/or whether we can eat any kind of matzah at all, need alternatives, all the more so if we also have problems eating potatoes.  So why is it that the rabbis are so obsessed with eliminating one of the few alternatives to matzah that are permissible on Pesach?  Do the rabbis consider it irrelevant to ensure that people with dietary limitations have “starches” that we can eat on Pesach without risking our health?  😡

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Another Dayenu, by Galeet Dardashi

We were there! What fun! Galeet Dardashti and Divahn (and Friends) make wonderful music. Also, it isn't every day that this Ashkenazi couple has an excuse to follow Persian minhag (custom) and bonk each other with scallions. 😀


A Pesach special: Shira has more fun with Shir HaMaalot, thanks to Eliana Light

One of my favorite things to do with Jewish liturgy is to choose tunes other than the traditional ones for singing Shir HaMaalot, the psalm (126) that we use for introducing Birkat HaMazon (Grace After Meals).  On Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year), I might sing a tune that our synagogue uses for Areshet S’faténu.  On Sukkot (Feast of Booths), I might use a tune that we sing for Psalm 115 (“Y’varech et Bet Yisrael”).  On Simchat Torah, I like to use En Adir, which our synagogue reserves for that day.  On Chanukah, I choose a traditional (Ashkenazi?) Maoz Tzur.  On Purim, I use the old song Chag Purim.  Between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), my husband and I usually borrow songs that we know from Israeli folk-dancing that were written to verses from Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs).  On Shavuot, I usually use an old melody to Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe.  On ordinary Shabbatot (Sabbaths), we’ll often borrow tunes from various Shabbat services or z’mirot/piyyutim (liturgical poems often used as song lyrics).  One of my personal favorites for Shabbat is this tune to L’cha Dodi that was written by Dapha Rosenberg, of the Israeli spiritual community and singing group Nava Tehila. 

So nu, Shira, didn’t you say that this post was going to be a Pesach special?  Oh, yeah, thanks for the reminder.  😊 Normally, I would sing Shir HaMaalot to the (Ashkenazi?) tune for Adir Hu.  But this year, I’m trying a tune that was just released on Facebook and YouTube last week:  Eliana Light’s Dayenu.  Working with this tune, I’ve found that it’s easier to put the accents on the wrong syllables for some of the words.  Here’s the way I’ll be singing it—verse A, verse B, verse A, verse B, chorus A, chorus B, chorus A, chorus B.  I’ll be singing the random verses after Psalm 126 this way—verse A, verse B, chorus A, chorus B.  Try it, you may like it.  Enjoy!


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