Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Passover 2011

Every year while preparing for our Passover seder, I say the same thing:  "Next year, we having it catered!"  I figure it must be like forget the pain and only remember the joy!  We had lots and lots of joy this year.  With 83 people, our joy was greatly multiplied.  The many children, including our 1 1/2 year old grandson, made it really fun this year, too.

"Rabbi Jem and I are so tired, we are taking TWO Shabbats this week," I told our Hadassah* group.  We did just that.  After the seder on Friday evening, we rested for two whole days afterward.
Peeling & chopping apples
Hall preparations

We did a potluck this year for the Passover meal, which turned out very well.  The ladies and I had spent several days before the event making kugel* and charoset*.  Rabbi Jem and men from the congregation had spent several days preparing the hall, getting the hagaddahs ready and other chores. 

Dance team praising Adonai

At the seder, we sang the traditional songs, Dayenu and Eliyahu, but this year, added a new song, "Hallelujah, Our Passover Lamb" which I love.  We'll definitely use it next year.  Our dance team did two dances.  The first, Hear Now, adjured us to pay heed to G-ds commandment to observe the feasts and festivals.  The second, Step by Step voiced our promise to follow Him and obey. 

Children ready to open the door
Each year, a place is set at the head table for the prophet Elijah, who is foretold to return prior to the second coming of Yeshua.  This year, at the appointed time during the service, Rabbi Jem told the children to go to the door, open it, and look for Elijah.  When little Hannah opened the door, she shouted, "He's here!"  All the children started jumping up and down, shouting, "He's here! He's here!"  I was standing at the door, too, and sadly reported that it wasn't Elijah, but one of the members of the congregation who'd stepped outside for a minute.  We all had a good laugh on that one!

As in years before, we remembered, we praised Adonai for His faithfulness to the Israelites and to us.  We recognized Yeshua in the matzah, the 4 cups of wine, and in many other ways in the readings.  The seder is both serious and humorous at times, just like our lives.

At the end of the evening, our bodies were tired but our hearts were filled with joy.  Our faith and our hearts were renewed, refreshed and energized. With joyful and hopeful hearts, we ended the seder with the traditional and enthusiastic, "Next Year In Jerusalem!"

*Hadassah is a women's service organization in the synagogue
* Kugel is noodle pudding - a dessert without leaven, traditional Jewish cuisine
*Charoset is chopped apples, nuts, honey & grape juice, part of the seder plate, and symbolizes the mortar the Israelites used to make bricks in Egypt.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Passover JOY

 “Rabbi Jem!  I need you to taste test the kugel!”  I called from the kitchen.

“My pleasure,” he grinned, and planted a big kiss on my cheek.  I love my taste-tester/rabbi.  (He’s also my husband.)  He assured me that all of the kugels tasted wonderful.  I baked two applesauce, 2 cinnamon raisin, and one coconut kugels.  Oh, and one sugar free raisin kugel for those of us who don’t eat sugar.  That’s a lot of kugel, but with a guest list of 91 for our Passover seder, it takes a whole lot of kugel.

We celebrate the Feasts and Festivals commanded in Leviticus 23, and I've been very busy this week preparing for one of my favorite holidays.   Monday, April 19 at sundown marked the beginning of Passover, and tomorrow we will celebrate the Passover seder with friends, family and our congregation at Ma’gen Da’vid Messianic Synagogue.

The seder is all about remembering. It reminds us of the faithfulness of G-d to Israel in bringing them out of Egypt, and is a beautiful ceremony that celebrates and illustrates our L-rd and Savior Yeshua (Jesus Christ). The “Last Supper” Yeshua held with his talmadim (disciples) was a Passover seder , held in the Upper Room the night before Yeshua was crucified (see Luke 22).  He went through it with His disciples, showing them that the seder was a fore-shadow of Himself as the fulfillment of G-d’s divine plan of salvation.

The rich imagery of the seder is a beautiful, tactile means of understanding the sacrifice of Yeshua in the following ways: the seder reminds us of the tyranny the Israelites were released from, and is a picture of the bondage of sin Yeshua released “us” from as believers. We eat bitter herbs to remind us of the terrible life we had before Yeshua. The salty water reminds us of the tears we shed in that old life. We remember the plagues and pestilence G-d brought on the Egyptians, and the miracles He worked to save them. Yeshua worked miracles during His life on earth, and is still working miracles for us even now.

We see the lamb shank bone and remember that each family was instructed to choose a perfect lamb. Yeshua was described as “a Lamb without blemish or spot” (I Peter 1:19). We remember that each Israelite family killed the lamb, but were instructed not to break its’ bones. We were then reminded that Yeshua’s bones were not broken when He was crucified.

The Israelites applied the blood of the lamb to the doorpost and lentils of their homes so that the death angel would pass over them. Together, we see that the shape of the application was the Hebrew letter “dallet” which looks like a door, and means “door or path”. Yeshua’s blood made for us the door of salvation. What a glorious picture!

Together, we drink the four cups of wine while remembering that Yeshua’s blood sanctifies us, redeems us, protects us from G-d’s judgment, and makes us part of His family – which is cause for great joy.
The most beautiful picture of all is the matzah: the unleavened bread, with its’ piercings and stripes. We will hold in our hands the reminder of Yeshua who was without sin (leaven), was pierced for our sins, and took stripes for our healing.

As we eat the sweet charoset (apples, nuts and honey) we will be reminded of how sweet our lives are with Yeshua, our Messiah. We will sing, we will praise G-d, and we will thank Him for His Word, for our beautiful Messiah Yeshua, and for the reminders in the Passover celebration.

Each year, remembering the provision of G-d for Israel reminds us that He will meet our needs as well. If He could deliver the millions of Israelites from plagues and pestilence, He can and will protect us today.

Passover is a reminder of G-d’s faithfulness to his people. This year, as always before, I will leave the seder full of joy and praise to Adonai, humming the tunes we sang, and thinking  how blessed I am to be called His child.

For even Yeshua, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. (I Corinthians 5:7b)

I'll have pics from our seder next week.

I'm sharing this on Spiritual Sundays

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's a Swan!

Living near the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge gives me wonderful opportunities to see many different birds, and I've turned into an avid bird watcher.

Recently, my husband and I were riding near the Indian River when I spotted a large white bird near the shore as we approached the bridge.  "Stop!" I screamed.  "I saw a swan!"

"There aren't any swans around here, " he mumbled with no interest.

"Honey, please turn around.  I know I saw a swan.  A BIG Swan!"

"Yes, dear..."  (that's part of why I love him so much)

He turned around on the other side of the bridge and headed back to the opposite shore.  As we pulled into the grassy field close to the water, I spotted the bird standing with his head tucked under his wing.  "It's a swan, honey!  Look!  That's a swan!"  I grabbed my phone, rolled down the window, and took a quick picture. 
The white bird on the left is the swan.  The one on the right is a stork.

"That's not a swan," Jem said. "That's a goose!"

"It's a swan, I'm telling you! Drive a little closer...slowly, so we can get a better look at it!" I whispered. "Don't scare him away!"  We rolled closer and then stopped for a better, closer picture.

The swan raised his head, and looked at us as we rolled closer, and then started walking toward us.  
It's times like this when you wish you had a "real" camera!  He walked closer and closer and didn't act a bit afraid.  I kept taking pictures, until finally he was REALLY close...until he was THIS close!!!!

Oh, my goodness!  I was soooo excited!  He (I think it was a he...) was just as interested in us as we were in him!  I kept snapping pictures and whispering, "He's so beautiful!"

Mr. Swan was REALLY interested in us....He got even closer! 

Yes, he got close enough to convince Jem that he was a SWAN!

Mr. Swan stood right near the window for several minutes, looking at us with not one trace of fear.  "This is not a wild swan, Jem, " I whispered.  "He's tame, and he's thinking we're going to give him some food!"  My heart was pounding, I was so excited to be so close up and personal with this beautiful bird.  "Dang it!  I wish we had something to give him..."   Jem started looking  for some stray peanuts or french fries on the floorboard, but he came up empty...too bad.

Mr. Swan stood patiently, looking in the window for a few more minutes, and then turned and walked slowly away toward the river to join his stork friends. (I think he probably thought they were funny looking swans).

It was a wonderful day for me as a bird-watcher! We found out later in the week that several swans had been stolen from Lake Eola in downtown Orlando.  Undoubtedly, our friend, Mr. Swan was among the stolen birds.  Someone must have reported him, because later reports were that all the swans were found and returned to their home.   I wonder if it was a college prank.....

I'm linking up to  Simple Pleasures
and White Wednesday