Singing of His Faithfulness

It was been another blessed and wonderful Pesach. In certain ways the week-long holiday flies by, but in other ways it feels like it has been a relatively long season, as we spend several weeks preparing for the holiday. I find that the preparations add real depth and meaning to the holiday. We prepare both ourselves and our homes to the best of our abilities, so that we are ready for the holiday when it comes.

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One of the evening during Pesach we went to an exhibition of some very special Hagadot, and this is an illustration from one of them.

I have come to the conclusion that for the time being my favorite holiday is Pesach. Like, – what would all the other holidays be if we did not have Pesach?! Pesach builds the base for everything else! We became a People! Our God brought us out of slavery, – to freedom! He delivered us, so that we can live for Him, the lives He meant for us to live when He created us! He has good plans for us, and He brings them about! He is faithful, and we can trust Him as we walk in His ways for us!

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Getting ready for another holiday meal. This one is for the night of the seventh day of Pesach. Fitting with the Psagot-wine from the seventh (Shmita/Sabbsatical) year, don’t you think? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Some of the definite highlights for me from the celebrations have been moments of singing. I absolutely LOVE the Halel part from the hagada and the services during Pesach. It connects with my heart! And as I join in these songs, my soul connects with those of Jews all over the world singing those same songs at this time, and with generations and generations that have sung them before us! We are part of a great chain, and we get to join in building the part that is for our generation to build, – and what a time to be alive!! And what a privilege to live in Jerusalem at this time!

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On one of the days of Pesach we made a trip to Psagot in the Binyamin region. This is text from Amos 9: “Behold the days are coming… And I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build cities and inhabit them. They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up…”

There certainly are many gems among the halel and the various prayers that we sing and pray during the holidays, but the ones that I connect with the very most at this time, I think are these:

Eli ata ve odecha! Elokai, aromemecha!

Hodu le Hashem ki tov! Ki le olam chasdo!

You are my God and I will thank you! My God, I will exalt You!

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! For His loving-kindness is forever!

The way the melody helps build up these words, adds a lot to the depth of meaning, and it is just wonderful to lift your voice together with those around you and proclaim these truths!

I find that whatever I am going through, good or bad, somehow these words fit the situation. They bring stability and perspective when times are challenging, and they add joyful thankfulness to times of celebration. I find these words to be great reminders of God’s faithfulness! We belong to Him! He has brought us this far, and He has good plans for us! Whatever the future holds, He will be there with us! We can trust in Him and do not have to worry.

I have read and heard a lot of interesting teachings during this season, and the one I want to share here is part of one that I heard at the synagogue on the last day of Pesach. We celebrated that God brought us through the Reed Sea on that day, and the one who taught on this pointed out that on the one side of the sea we were crying to God to save us. We were desperate. On the other side of the sea, we were singing to Him! This can also be a picture of a maturing faith. On the one side we believed in God, in His existence. On the other side, we had experienced His faithfulness. When our belief is in God’s faithfulness, we can trust Him fully. We know who He is, so we can sing to Him from the depth of our hearts!

The wisdom of asking questions

Asking questions is something that is very encouraged in Jewish tradition and culture. We see this already in Abrahams relationship with God, – he asks questions, and it is acceptable and encouraged. You want to raise your children to be critical thinkers, not to just receive and accept whatever they are told without thinking for themselves.

Kite flying during chol hamoed Pesach

Kite flying during chol hamoed Pesach

We have an eight year old and a ten year old here in our home, – and boy, do they ask questions! Of all kinds! Our daughter will very often at night, when I have prayed with her as she is going to bed, quickly turn to me saying: – Can I ask you something? And of course, I say yes, as I am trying to prepare for the coming question. Often it is just something little, like: – What are you going to do now? Where are you going to be? How long do you think you’ll stay up? But then all of a sudden she asks: – Imma, do you believe in hell?? Eh…. good night and sweet dreams to you too!

And then the other day, she was wondering: -Why is water wet?? We actually googled that one, and found that many others had asked the same question, and the answer is that “wet” is how you describe the feeling of water. So there you go! You’re welcome.

the kite high up in the air

the kite high up in the air

Now at Pesach the whole thing of asking questions is part of our rituals. There are standardized questions that we all ask and answer, and we hear about different types of children, of whom the saddest type is the one who doesn’t know to ask. This year we talked about the fact that somehow the one asking the question may in certain ways be wiser than the one providing the answer. I gave the reasoning that the one asking the question is openminded and ready to learn, while the one answering, may have more of an attitude of “having arrived” and not seeing the need to keep on moving forward and learning. Then one of the children added; – and the one giving the answer, may even have the wrong answer…

So, people, let’s keep asking questions. Let’s keep thinking and seeking and learning and growing! It is OK to come up with answer too of course, as long as we keep an open mind to learn more about the subject.

Enjoying Pesach

The weeks leading up to Pesach are always very much influenced by the fact that they are the weeks leading up to Pesach. In addition to work and all the normal parts of life, you take on this huge project of sorting through all your belongings and cleaning every little corner in your home. This culminates in the cleaning of the kitchen which comes at the end of it all, – there you scrub your pots until they look brand new, and the same goes for the oven (I am SO thankful that my husband takes care of those parts!).

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

Then I boil everything, – utensils and pots and anything metal. Glas gets to stay, but anything ceramic gets removed and replaced by our Pesach-dishes. All of this we do in order to remove the leaven from our homes. And as I work on it, I try to think of what this symbolizes, – the removal of sin and pride and everything bad from our lives, our hearts.

And then Pesach arrives, and you decide that it is all good enough. The last day before Pesach was devoted to cooking, – in my sparkling clean kitchen and my almost new pots! (And somehow after that it was not all so sparkling clean anymore, but at least there was no leaven…)

Our Pesach table

On erev Pesach we sat around our decorated long dining room table and enjoyed one of the most special evenings of the year together with dear family and friends. I sat there and just soaked it all in. The sights of the candlelight flickering on my children, the sounds of the singing of these familiar and traditional songs, the depth of the content of what we were reading together. I am glad that a Seder Meal takes a long time. Just think of all the preparations that have gone into this! You wouldn’t want it to just fly by!

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. :-)

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. ๐Ÿ™‚

By the time the festive meal was served, we were all quite hungry, – so I got tons of complements on the cooking! This is the way to do it folks, – starve your people before feeding them, and they will love your food! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We had the traditional chicken soup with matzaballs, then we had turkey breast and beef, both with their own gravies, mashed potatoes and tzimmes (*which I think was the most popular dish, so I might write a separate post with its recipe), and of course salad and all the parts of the seder-plate, of which of course the sweet charoset was the one that most was eaten from. A good friend brought yummy desserts, one forrest-berry mousse cake and one chocolate mousse cake, – yum and double yum!

Pesach

In the weeks leading up to Pesach I had late nights sorting and cleaning, and I kept waking up really early thinking of what project on my list I was going to try to get to before I was starting work that day. And really, I am the type of person that enjoys that type of thing too. I really really enjoy the results, tidy cabinets, the thought of that I know what I have and where I have it. And now after Pesach arrived, – I have slept soooo well! Long nights, relaxing mornings. No thoughts of what I have to accomplish, – just enjoying time with family and friends. It is lovely!!! There certainly is a time for everything.

Pesach at the pool

We have had good friends from out of town staying with us, and have really enjoyed hanging out with them. Be it over long breakfasts or by the pool in the afternoon or watching a movie in the evening. We also got together with a lot of our friends here in the area for a fun barbecue picnic in a large park here in Jerusalem. Lots of fun! The children get to run around playing with various balls and kites, or just roll around in the grass, while the adults get to sit on picnic blankets and enjoy good food and fellowship. (The kids of course eat too, – but quickly…)

Pesach picnic

Today we have had a wonderful time touring the land together with my in-laws. We visited Shilo and Psagot in the beautiful hills of Samaria. The views of these terraced hills are just breathtaking. And the thought of the depth of history of what has been going on out there is amazing.

Where the tabernacle stood

Where the tabernacle stood

The Tabernacle was in Shilo for 369 years after Joshua brought the Israelites into Israel. So this was the place were the people came to for worship, like they came to Jerusalem after the Temple was built.

a model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

A model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

It was in Shilo, for example, that Hannah came and prayed for a son, and later brought Shmuel there to serve God in the Tabernacle.Pesach trip

They have very well done movies in both Shilo and Psagot, and they have as a common theme that they want to connect you with the Land.

photo 1-83 Once you connect with the Land, it will connect with you. This is an amazing process, and I witnessed it happening in my children today.

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

It was a real privilege to be out there as a three generation family. We are so blessed!photo 3-67

I am glad Pesach is not over yet! I am planning on making the most of every moment of this holiday of freedom and redemption!

Pesach trip

Some highlights from Pesach.

How time flies! Pesach is already over! And I sit here with yet another glas of wine and a heart full of wonderful memories from the past week.

It has been lovely to have time for late, long and lazy breakfasts with good friends.

Pesach breakfast

We feel privileged to live our lives in Jerusalem and be able to hang out here during another pilgrim-holiday when Jews from all over come up to our city.

Jerusalem kids

We had a fun picnic in a large Jerusalem park together with lots of friends, but since I am not sure if they would like to appear on a photo on the blog, I choose to show you one of the kite we flew instead… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Jerusalem kite

Several nights we have sat with friends around a small bonfire in our garden and told stories, sung songs and barbecued marshmallows, – and tonight as Pesach and the feast of unleavened bread was over, we made our first real bread over the fire too

small bonfire

A big highlight was the day-trip we made out to Har Eval in Samaria, where Joshua‘s 3 200 year old Altar was found about 30 years ago.

Joshua's Altar

Joshua’s Altar

It was a really unique experience, as this is not an easy place to get to, and most people do not get the opportunity to visit it. Har Eval was the place Joshua and the Israelites came to after crossing the Jordan and entering the Land of Israel. This is were they were sworn in to the Land, so to speak. For us zionists, this is all pretty exciting!

Har Eval hike

The hike out there was really beautiful.

view from har Eval

The views were really amazing! We were able to see most of our country, really! We even saw all the way to the snowy Mt. Hermon!

We have hosted and been hosted and enjoyed lots of holiday meals with dear friends and family. Even today, as the whole week of celebrations was coming to an end, we had another highlight as we sat around a long table here in our home. We were sharing the Meal of the Messiah together, Seudat Ha Mashiach. This particular meal consists exclusively of Matza / Unleavened bread and Wine. And as we shared this together we focused on the Messiah, who He is etc. This is a growing tradition within several groups of Jews, and always something we look forward to!

Matza Photo

Yes, we have been blessed with yet a wonderful Pesach! I am very thankful for the celebrated freedom and redemption, and for family and friends!

Pesach is here!

We have been preparing for this holiday for more than a month! Finishing all our leaven. Cleaning our whole houses. Scrubbing our pots and ovens. Burning our last leaven. Cooking food for the holiday. Decorating the house and ourselves. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Calling friends and relatives to wish them a joyous and kosher Pesach. ย And the long awaited holiday is finally here!! Baruch ata she hechianu…ย Thanking God for having brought us to this time!

Pesach is here!

We had a lovely Seder Night with family and friends Monday night. In the diaspora you guys get to have this joy two nights in a row, but here in Israel we do it only once a year. So we have to make the very most out of that night, – and believe me, we do! I wish you could have heard our beautiful princess sing the four questions of what makes this night different than all the other nights, which is traditionally sung by the youngest member of the family. She totally loves this part, it is what makes it fun to be the youngest, in her opinion! ๐Ÿ™‚

Spring has come! Pesach is here!

Spring has come! Pesach is here!

Seder literally means Order, – so this holiday meal is full of order! I read somewhere the thought that it is kind of strange that the holiday of freedom is celebrated by a meal with lots of rules and limitations… But then again, this adds so much! It is what makes it special! It is what makes it what it is! The article I read compared it to unstructured play with a ball and playing a real ball-game with rules and regulations. The latter option is so much more interesting!! So also with the Seder Meal!

Home-made Pesach Cookies

Home-made Pesach Cookies

This Jewish holiday can be summed up the same way almost all the Jewish holidays can: “They tried to kill us. The didn’t succeed. Let’s EAT!!” And yes, we celebrate by eating, – lots of symbolic foods, four cups of wine and a very yummy holiday meal. We eat bitter herbs to remember slavery in Egypt, unleavened bread to remember the haste in which we had to leave, we have a lamb bone to remind us of the blood that was put on the doorposts which saved the firstborns from the angel of death, we dip vegetables in salt water to remind us of our tears, we eat a sweet mixture of fruits and nuts to reminds us of mortar we used to put the bricks together in building, etc. etc. Notice the fact that we look upon it as thought WE were the ones who left Egypt. This is the way it is supposed to be. – Every generation should think of himself as having been set free from slavery in Egypt. This is why we are teaching our next generation all this and much more, to help them feel that they are a very real part of this.

Pesach and Spring.

Pesach and Spring.

And now we have a whole week of festivities of various kinds. Tuesday we were invited over to good friends for food and fellowship after the synagogue service in the morning. Today we are going to have a barbecue in a large park here in Jerusalem along with a group of friends, and the rest of the city, basically. And this is the way the days go by, good times, making more memories with family and friends. We have so much to be thankful for!

“Baby Moshe on the Nile” – Craft

This is such a brilliant Pesach craft. (I can say that, because I was not the one who came up with the idea!) It is so simple and fast, – and yet so sure of success.

Baby Moshe on the Nile

You need: A piece of cardboard to draw the Nile on, A little basket of sorts, a little doll to be baby Moshe, possibly a little piece of cloth for a blanket, and last but certainly not least two quite strong magnets.

You color everything, – well, not the baby…

Making a Pesach Craft

And you glue one piece of magnet to the bottom of the little basket and put it on “the Nile”.

basket on the Nile craft

The other one you hold underneath the cardboard under the place where you have just placed the basket.

magic with magnets

And here is the trick; – when you move the magnet under the cardboard, – the basket with baby Moshe moves on the Nile! By itself, so to speak!! It’s magic!!!

Moshe in the basket on the Nile Craft

I have now done this with several groups of kids, and they have all loved it! I am warmly recommending it!

Spring Cleaning, Jewish Style.

I am in spring cleaning mode these days. Cleaning. De-cluttering. Wiping. Sorting. Cleaning. Tidying. Cleaning. Throwing away. Washing. Giving away. And So On.

Late Spring cleaning

(Photo credit: storebukkebruse)

We have close to finished the bedrooms. And it feels good. To open up a cabinet door and see orderly shelves. To know what is there. I always find some lost treasures as I go along. It actually has been a saying in our family for years, when we have lost something somewhere in the house, we sayย – well, at least we will find it when we clean for Pesach

clean room

Because that is what I am doing. Cleaning for Pesach (Passover). I have felt the itching for a long time already, and had to even start a little before Purim. Then I call itย Pre-Pesach-Cleaning, and it is more focused on sorting than on cleaning. The Pesach-cleaning itself is very focused on cleaning, as we want to clean out all leaven from our houses. And as leaven is found in just about everything, and has for sure been in the air ever since Pesach ended last year, – it is found everywhere, so we clean everywhere.

Our daughter has gotten a new shelf to decorate in her room. It is one of those made for plates, but is works great for books as well. She loves it!

Our daughter has gotten a new shelf to decorate in her room. It is one of those made to display plates, but is works great for books as well. She loves it!

Anyway, I kind of like it. I have to admit that every year I look forward to Pesach Cleaning. I guess I see the need for it. And I enjoy the result of it. And the fact that we do it as a people, together, makes it all the more enjoyable. Cleaning-supplies are on special sales in the supermarkets, reminding me that I am not the only one spending my spare time cleaning these days.

What adds meaning to this rather mundane task, is also to remember the symbolism of it all. Because, of course, as this has to do with Jewish tradition, – it is full of symbolism! Even though leaven is something that we use in abundance, and of course it benefits us during the non-Pesach-days of the year, it has a negative meaning in what it symbolizes. As it is something that helps things rise, it symbolizes unhealthy pride, someone who thinks too highly of himself, who thinks he can make it on his own, that he is better than others and so on. Basically, – it symbolizes all bad things! And that is what we now put so much effort in cleaning out of our homes. Getting rid of it all!

So, our spiritual Pesach Cleaning is then to clean all of this stuff out of our lives, of our thoughts and minds, our words and actions, our hearts. This is something we speak with the children about as well, and they get totally into it. That is what I love about symbolism. It makes it so easily understandable!

May we all make good use of this time, and get rid of all the leaven, all the bad stuff, from our homes and our lives, – so that we can get a good, clean start come Pesach!