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Laws of Dayenu!

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There is a beautiful practice among Persian Jews worldwide to whip each other with scallions during the recitation of the Dayenu song found in the Haggadah.  We strike family members with scallions when the Hebrew word Dayenu is read, symbolizing the whips endured by the Israelites under the ancient Egyptians.

Much to my dismay, many of our young children are not following the proper traditions laid down by our forefathers.  In many cases, I have seen gross negligence on their part, so much so that I don’t think they have even fulfilled their obligations for Dayenu. I have jotted down some important points as a guide.

Background

Dayenu is an ancient custom; anyone who makes fun of this or mistakenly calls it barbaric should not be invited to the Seder table. If one has family over and because of Shalom Bayit purposes must invite such evil doers to their home, they should only be invited for the dinner portion so as not to disrespect this holy Mitsvah. In general, one should be careful about exposing their children to such people throughout the year, as well.

Preparation

  1. Yom Kippur is an auspicious time to pray for properly sized and shaped scallions that can cause the most pain. There is a custom to plant scallions right after Yom Kippur in one’s backyard.

Type of Scallion to Use

  1. The color of the scallion leaf should be fully green and ripened. Our Sages say it should be ripe enough to leave a dime-sized mark on a new white cloth. 
  2. Lengthwise, the scallion must be a minimum of two tefachim (handbreadths).  However, one who uses scallions that are at least an amah (arms length) will receive special blessings from heaven. Note: length does not include the head/bulb.
  3. Preferably, scallions from Iran should be used, and they must be checked for Chametz a minimum of 3 times. (Elat Market has a special shipment for only $27 per scallion. It must have Kosher for Passover supervision).
  4. If there is a famine and scallions cannot be found, whole round onion may be used. If one does not have onions either, a belt can be used provided it is 100% pure leather without any additives or synthetic ingredients.
  5. There is a dispute among authorities as to the proper size of the scallion. Some say the head should be olive-sized (around 18.753 grams) and others say egg-sized (around 32.256 grams).
  6. The scallion head/bulbs should have at least two visible root hairs.

The Custom of Dayenu

  1. To properly fulfill the Mitsvah, one must hit at least two Jewish males above the age of Bar Mitsvah at least two times in at least 3.5 minutes. If this is not done, one must go back and Dayenu again.
  2. The Mitzvah of Dayenu should be done while standing, however old people and Shirazis may sit.
  3. There is a debate amongst Rabbis as to whether this custom came from a Jewish source or the ghettos of Iran. Therefore, when in doubt, no blessing is recited. One can simply say ‘Baruch Sh’asani Heyvun’ without mentioning G-d’s name.
  4. If one fell asleep during the seder and wakes up in time for dinner, the latest he can make up Dayenu is by midnight. If he misses this time, he has to wait until the second night and do it twice. If he forgets both nights, he should hit himself with the scallion every night before he goes to sleep as a penalty for not doing it properly the first time.
  5. Although many say Dayenu was established to remind us of slavery, some say that the scallions represent our Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) and Yetzer Tov (Good Inclination), and that it is a Mitsvah to rebuke others even by force. Therefore, it is better that two scallions are used at same time, symbolizing that we are beating up our friends and family to make them serve the Almighty with both inclinations. 
  6. The mystics tell us that there should be direct contact between the hands and the scallions. Therefore, special blessings come to those that do not wear gloves and remove rings before Dayenu.
  7. For the Dayenu hit to count, an audible “ouch” or “aay” should be heard at least 6 steps away from the person being hit.
  8. One should preferably use another fellow Persian to fulfill this custom. If an Ashkenazi was invited to the Seder, one can fulfill his obligation by hitting him as well. Please note the 6-step audible requirement (see previous halacha) would instead be 3-steps as Ashkenazim are not as rowdy as Persians. (Please also note that it is forbidden to feed Ashkenazim rice, however, one can be lenient and serve them food that was cooked in a rice pot).
  9. Hitting the face is not allowed as we fear the person will become blind and not be able to fulfill the Mitsvah of reading the Haggadah.
  10. It is not becoming of Jewish women to do Dayenu. The custom is that the women go to the kitchen and prepare the meal at this time. Nowadays, if there is a concern that the women would be offended, or if there is a chance that they will leave the seder altogether, it is permissible for them to engage in the custom. However, G-d fearing men should not gaze at ladies doing Dayenu. They should quickly find another G-d fearing man, do the Dayenu ceremony together, and find a corner to stare at while the frivolous immodest ladies finish Dayenuing.
  11. There is a Torah prohibition against hitting parents. One must be very careful to get permission in advance from their parents if they want to use them to fulfill this Mitsvah. Fortunately, there is no prohibition against in-laws.

After the Dayenu

  1. Since the scallions have been used for a Mitsvah, they are considered very holy and one should not profane them by disposing them in a trash can. Some have the custom of putting the scallions under their bed as a Segulah (omen) to have righteous and calm children. For those that don’t believe in such nonsense, the scallions may be buried.
  2. If someone is summoned to a non-Jewish court for damages incurred by the Dayenu ceremony, he should explain his religious obligation and demand his right to religious freedom.

 

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Eman Esmailzadeh is a graduate of UC Irvine where he studied mechanical Engineering and Business Management. After college, he advanced his Judaic studies at various seminaries in New York and Jerusalem. He currently is the Brand Director at Coloronix, a manufacturer of themed lighting products.

Culture

High Collars, High Holidays 

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Never in a million years did I think I would be fond of the ‘high collar’, also known as the ‘turtle neck.’ I still cringe everytime I hear the name. I remember my mom making me wear them when it got cold outside… But hello, we live in Los Angeles. When does it get cold?

Dressing already modestly, by covering my knees, elbows (song playing in my head), the thought of covering my full neck is like dude, can I show any skin!? It almost felt like I was covering too much, as if I couldn’t breathe! It is as if someone is choking and restricting my head!

Seeing this trend all over magazines and fashion blogs, I decided to give it another chance! Lo and behold… I fell in love. The choking high collar has NOW become my ultimate favorite thing. Just ask Judith, co-founder of our fashion line RaJu. I keep adding turtle necks to all our styles to the point where we’re almost tired of it. The high collar has a sense of class and elegance to it. It has personality, dimension and is more mysterious. Wearing this dress, with all of its details, print and ruffles, I felt like the high collar tied it all together. The high collar makes you of high end, it’s a luxury, a lifestyle. It forces you to carry yourself in a certain way by maintaining a straighter back and a better posture. Everything manifests differently because of this magical collar.

The high collars forces you to hold your head up high, like a princess. When I see someone wear it, it really adds a beautiful sense of royalty and confidence. As we come into the High Holidays (the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), a solemn time, a time for judgement and reflection, we must remember that we are all daughters and princesses of a king. Wear what you may, during these High Holidays… you know what I’ll be wearing!

Here’s some inspiration:

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Feature

Six Mindful Eating Tips for Your Body and Soul

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The average person spends at least one hour a day eating. So by the age of 30, you’ve spent the equivalent of two years just putting food in your mouth. How can we make this a more pleasurable, productive and meaningful experience?

Traditional Jewish thought has much to say about what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, and even why we eat, and much of it is also recommended by modern scientists.

 

  1. Eat Hungry.

 

When was the last time you pulled over at a gas station to fill up your tank that was already full? Probably never. However, when was the last time you ate something when you weren’t hungry?  

Checking your hunger gauge before popping in that random bite will allow you to keep your weight in check as well as build your self-control.

Going to your second event of the evening, already fed, and still have an urge to pop down some more food?  Like the modern day nutritionists, King Solomon advises against the unnecessary consumption of food, saying “The righteous eat to satisfy their souls” (Proverbs 13:25).

  1.  Sit Down.

Late to work? Running after the kids? Doing errands? No problem–it’s just not the best time to be chomping down your meal.  Although it may save time, it’s a bad idea. The Talmud uses harsh terminology against those who eat while standing. The Rambam, in his magnum opus Mishneh Torah, says that one should never stand or walk while eating.

Modern day scientific research also claims that this kind of eating is fattening and unhealthy. In fact, there is even a diet based on this understanding, called ‘The Sit-Down Diet’, which suggests that we consume fewer calories when we eat sitting down versus while standing up or walking. We are also more likely to digest food better when we sit down and chew our food properly.

  1.  Acknowledge

You’re hungry and sitting down to your meal, now recognize where the food comes from. Taking three seconds to acknowledge basic details of the culinary dish placed before you can set the tone for rest of the meal. Something as simple as verbally acknowledging the work of the cook, especially if it is a parent or spouse, can have a profound effect on your mood. Paying attention to all of the individual ingredients can make the experience even more tasty.

On a deeper level, every time any food is consumed, Jewish sources tell us one should recite a blessing of recognition prior to taking the first bite. A common misconception is that the blessing or bracha that is said before eating is a form of thanksgiving. This is not accurate; while the after-blessing of Birkat Hamazon clearly mentions the act of thanksgiving, the initial blessing makes no mention of thanks. It is a statement acknowledging that God is the Creator of the food (Blessed are you Hashem … Creator of ….).

  1.  Remove Distractions

Imagine our reaction to someone in a movie theater who is on their phone half of the time.  Would we have the same reaction to the ever-so-common sight of someone munching down an entire meal while consumed with an iPhone, TV or computer screen?  One cannot fully enjoy a meal while answering emails or scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed.

Unlike many other religions whose ordinances promote abstinence from physical pleasures, Judaism incorporates the pleasure of eating in every one of its holidays. However, we rob ourselves of this enjoyment every time we mindlessly eat.

Don’t care about enjoyment? Distracted eating causes your digestion to be less effective in breaking down your food, leading to less flavor and increasing the possibility of bloating, gas and constipation. Trying to lose weight? Research shows that the more you distract yourself during a meal, the more pounds you add. Doing simple acts of mindfulness, such as paying attention to the smell, taste, appearance and texture of the food, can keep the focus on your meal.

  1.  Chew, Swallow, Wait… Repeat.

Ever mindlessly wolf down a meal in one minute? Scarfing down an entire meal can leave you feeling disheartened, but it can also leave you with unwanted extra fat on your hips.

Taking your body off of autopilot mode while feasting has great spiritual benefits as well.  In describing ways of going against animalistic eating habits, the great nineteenth-century Iraqi sage Rabbi Yosef Hayim, in his famous book, Ben Ish Hai, gives a recommendation that is sure to slow your scarf. He writes that one should not reach for the next bite until the previous bite has been completely swallowed.  

Speaking from experience, this one tip is much easier said than done. However, once mastered, this habit is sure to leaving you feeling in control and elevated, especially if you take it to the next level and put down your utensil between bites.

  1.  Appreciate.

Now that you’re satiated and your spirit is recharged, it’s time for some thanksgiving (without the turkey). Saying thanks is much harder when you have somewhere else you want to go. Maybe that’s why the only biblically ordained blessing is the Grace After Meals and not the blessing before the meal (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Being appreciative is a core Jewish value. In fact, Jews are called Yehudim from the word L’hodot, or to thank. Messages of appreciation are found in the stories of our forefathers and foremothers. Gratitude permeates the entire Jewish experience, from the first words that are uttered by our lips when we wake up in the morning, “Modeh Ani”, to the thrice-daily communal prayer service throughout the day.

Surprisingly, recently discovered side benefits of gratitude include improved health, increased self-esteem and even better sleep. Taking the extra minutes to appreciate our privileged satiated stomachs should now seem more meaningful and hopefully a little easier.

Although not practical for every meal, striving towards these goals should help us lead more meaningful, in-control and healthy lives.  For what it is worth, I will personally vouch for it!

 

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Culture

How To Thrive On Yom Kippur: Practical Tips For An Easier Fast

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Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred Jewish Holidays of the year, is upon us. Here are ways you can prepare yourself for the 25 hour fast. These pointers will help keep your stomach from grumblin’ and your breath from stankin’.

1) Cut down on the caffeine For all you coffee/tea addicts out there, your morning cup of caffeine is a must. In fact, some of you are quick to develop headaches/migraines if you don’t have that cup. What to do:  Days preceding the fast, try to minimize your caffeine intake as much as possible. Try some herbal tisanes, perhaps. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. There is nothing better you can do for yourself than to drink. Stay away from alcohol; poppin’ bottles will only make you more prone to dehydration, causing unpleasantness during the fast.

2) Did I mention HYDRATION? The difficulty we experience during the fast is not usually linked to lack of food; rather, it is the lack of fluids. Best choices: You can never go wrong with the good ol’ H20. Experts suggest drinking EIGHT 8 oz cups of water per day. Try to reach that goal or even surpass it by drinking more the day of. Eat your way to hydration by stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of the most hydrating foods include:  Cucumber, iceberg lettuce, celery, grapes, tomatoes, watermelon, green peppers, and spinach, to name a few. A handful of these ingredients mixed together sounds like a delicious salad, no?

3) What to eat the day of?  On the day of the fast try eating balanced meals. For the meal before the fast, eat a proper meal that includes protein, carbohydrates, and plenty of vegetables.  Eating more carbohydrates will help make you feel fuller longer (you can never go wrong with potatoes, pasta, and bread). Try to avoid salty and spicy foods as much as possible. The over-consumption of salt causes thirst because the body requires more water to absorb the extra salt. Knowing that we won’t be able to eat for 25 hours drives us to eat as much as possible before the fast begins. However, do yourself a favor and try not to eat a heavy 5 course meal fit for a Prince. The more you eat, the more water is needed from the body to digest it.


Now, you are fully equipped to a be an angel for the day.
 May we all be inSKRIBED and sealed in the Book of Life!

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june, 2018

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