Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Hunt for Chametz


B'dikat chametz is a Passover tradition perfectly designed for young children. The night before Passover, after the whole house has been emptied of leavened food, parents hide 10 pieces of leaven, or chametz, for their children to find. Guided by the light of a candle, the children use a feather to sweep the chametz onto a wooden spoon and then deposit the chametz into a paper bag. It takes a lot of dexterity and patience, but it's also a lot of fun. The chametz is then burned the next morning.
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It's important to hide the chametz strategically and carefully so that you don't miss any pieces! Cheerios are perfect for this activity. For more information about the custom, including the blessings, click here, and for an interesting article about the origin and philosophy behind the custom, click here. You can purchase b'dikat chametz kits or create your own. However you plan on celebrating the holiday, have a joyous Passover!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Shabbat Around the Table -- Mikvah

I find this week's parsha, Tazria, the most challenging one to write about year after year. It focuses primarily on the laws of ritual purity and impurity as well as the mysterious biblical disease tzaraat, which has been incorrectly associated with leprosy.

The most relatable part of the parsha for me is the part that talks about mikvah. Mikvah means "gathering of waters," and a mikvah is any naturally occurring flowing body of water. But since immersing in a mikvah is commanded for certain situations (such as conversion to Judaism), it was important to bring the mikvah indoors. Immersing in an ocean or a river isn't always convenient or safe.
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I serve as a mikvah guide at the Adas Israel Community Mikvah in Washington, DC. It's the only one of its kind between Baltimore and Richmond. It serves the whole community and encourages immersion to mark all kinds of transitions, including ones the Ancient Israelites never could have imagined. Milestone birthdays, overcoming personal loss, coming out, fertility journeys, and becoming a bar or bat mitzvah are all transitions honored at our mikvah.

To learn more about the ritual of immersion, check out this short video.

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