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Pesach: Why We Really Eat Matzah

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It’s that time of year again. When you’re stuck eating that stale saltine cracker for a week while your non-Jewish friends say, “Matzah? I love that stuff!” Yes, everyone’s favorite unleavened holiday is fast approaching. But why do we eat matzah during Pesach?

Because when the Jews were leaving Egypt in haste,

they didn’t have time to let the bread rise.

Well… that was an easy blog happypass

Okay… so it turns out that’s actually not true.

What? No! They told me so in Hebrew school!

Yeah, it makes for a nice story. But it’s a little more complicated.  Let’s look at the Torah, Parshas Bo. The plague of darkness has just happened and God is telling Moses about the next plague, the death of the first born. God then gives Moses the first commandment in the Torah, the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh. This would make it the first day of the month. (Shemos 12:1)

God then continues to give Moses the commandments of the Pesach offering (you know, slaughter the lamb, blood over the door). “[T]he fourteenth day of this month, [all of Yisrael] shall slaughter it–“ (Shemos 12:6)  He continues:

“This day shall be for you a [day of] remembrance… It is an eternal statue that you must celebrate it. You must eat matzos for seven days…” (Shemos 12:14-15)

God had just told Moses that in two weeks they would leave Egypt and that they would be eating matzah for 7 days.  They had plenty of time to let the bread rise. In fact, the Jews were eating matzah long before the exodus. They ate it the entire time they were slaves in Egypt!mindblown

So matzah is the bread of our affliction and we ate it during our slavery? Wouldn’t the moments after leaving Egypt be the perfect time to eat bread?

As stated by Rabbi Denbo, “If Pesach is all about freedom, eating matzah on Pesach is like paying taxes to England on July 4th.” There’s obviously something deeper going on. Let’s look at the difference between matzah and bread. Their ingredients are essentially the same: flour and water.

But bread has yeast!

Both doughs have natural yeasts. Adding yeast just helps the leavening process to occur faster and fuller. It is even possible to make bread without adding yeasts. What makes the yeast do it’s thing is time.

Judaism doesn’t consider freedom to be sitting on a beach in the Bahamas drinking a Corona. Freedom is about being able to accomplish what you want to accomplish. There are going to be restrictions when you are on that path because there are only so many hours in a day and you have to make choices. But that’s okay. Restrictions are different from distraction.

Because climbing a mountain gives you meaning in life… I guess.

Pesach is about sitting down, deciding your priorities in life, understanding what you need to do to accomplish those priorities, and ultimately recognizing the things that hold you back. Those are the things to which we are still slaves. Ego, procrastination, lack of unity, grudges from years past are prime examples. Pesach gives you the opportunity to take those things and declare, “I want to be free of xyz.”

A very accomplished person is always busy. Very busy. Taking meetings, answering emails, spending time with family, helping those who need it. They do not waste time. They aren’t sitting idle.

I said the difference between bread and matzah is time. As stated by the Rav himself, Rabbi Denbo, “In order to make bread, the dough is left to sit and rise until it gets all puffed up. By Jewish law, the matzah is not allowed to sit at any point during the process. From the moment the making of the dough begins until it is baked, the entire process can not be more than 18 minutes.”

Matzah is the perfect symbol for not wasting time. So on Pesach, we eat the bread of our slavery, because it was when we were slaves that we were driven. We were unable to waste time. We accomplished so much! And because of the miracles of God in Egypt, we can tap into that drive once again. Only now, we can use it how we choose to. Imagine having unwavering focus paired with an overflowing ambition to achieve what you want to achieve.

That’d be true freedom.

So this year, when you are getting ready to eat the matzah, think about that thing you want to be free from once and for all, that thing that has been holding you back. Then take a big, dry, crunchy bite… of freedom! matzah

 

 

For more of Bejamin’s Torah blog posts please visit: Sixdegreesofkosherbacon.com
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Benjamin Elterman is a writer of stage, film, and televisions. Originally from Dallas, Texas Benjamin has worked in Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles. He and his writing partner Marc Goldsmith started SixDegreesOfKosherBacon.com a year ago (literally right before Passover began) as a way of growing their new appreciation for their Judaism. Benjamin has worked with such companies as Anova Pictures, Chocolate Filmes, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, and Pictures From the Fringe.

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IsraAID is launching the Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN) in Los Angeles and Bay Area

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 World-renowned Israeli Humanitarian and disaster relief organization expands presence in U.S. by offering Americans training andopportunities for Disaster relief deployment

Los Angeles, CA – On January 10, 2019, in Los Angeles, disaster relief NGO IsraAID will launch its new aid initiative, The IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), an elite program that trains doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers and mental health professionals in disaster response and deploys them around the world to helpsave lives.

IHPN members become part of a network of likeminded professionals at the top of theirfields, joining a robust roster of professionals in Israel, and have a chanceto share Israel’s humanitarian ethos with communities in need. Current IsraAID missions span disasters such as the wildfires in California, refugee crises in Greece, Kenya, Bangladesh, violence in Uganda, and cyclones in Vanuatu.

“IsraAID draws on Israeli social innovation and expertise to benefit people in need around the world. We are now leveraging our organization’s unique capabilities to train professionals in the U.S. interested in developing life-saving skills and joining humanitarian relief missions globally, hand in hand with professionals from Israel” said Seth H. Davis, Executive Director of IsraAID U.S. “IHPN will equip skilled individuals in hands-on disaster relief experience and provide enhanced capacity if local disaster were too strike.”

The first event, entitled “What You Need to Know About Humanitarian Aid,” will feature speaker Tim Burke, MA, MPH, who lead IsraAID’s work in South Sudan for five years, where he oversaw programs in public health and post-conflict development. Subsequent speakers include atmospheric physicist Colin Price and refugee crises expert Dr. Nir Boms.

With deployment in 49 countries, and currently active in 19 countries, IsraAID is an expert in training professionals to deploy. In the U.S. alone in the last year, IsraAID has provided humanitarian relief in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California, and Puerto Rico.

“IsraAID will make Los Angeles more secure by leveraging their unique expertise in disaster response to train professionals in our community,” said [Paul Koretz]. “I look forward to working with IsraAID to help them rollout their IHPN program in California”

Professionals interested in attending should RSVP here  and/or learn more and join the network here.

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About IHPN: The IsraAID HumanitarianProfessionals Network (IHPN) is an exclusive network of professionals at thevanguard of global aid relief activities. Members of IHPN receive expert briefings, emergency-preparedness training, access to enrichment with field leaders,and priority access to deploy on IsraAID missions.

About IsraAID: IsraAID is anon-governmental organization that provides lifesaving emergency relief andlong-term, sustainable solutions for populations affected by natural disasters, epidemics and post-conflict situations. Our teams leverage Israeli innovation,work in full collaboration with local partners, and educate the public and professionals on disaster prevention and relief. IsraAID (US) Global Humanitarian Assistance, Inc. is an independent 501c(3)organization.

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Nothing Matters More Than This

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We live in a world where FOCUS is even MORE important than your INTELLIGENCE.

From our never-ending Facebook feed, to our freshly-updated YouTube subscription page, to our email inbox, we live in an abundant world of information.

However, is it really necessary to consume all of this general information?

Will it ever be useful? Will it ever make any difference in your life?

No. Most likely not.

Learning a little about a lot of different things doesn’t really amount to much.

Instead, you should FOCUS.

Focus on learning and applying ONE skill as intensely and deeply as possible.

Focus is where mastery kicks in.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t the best basketball player that ever played because he was the best all-around person.

Kobe Bryant was world-class because he was absolutely great at ONE thing and one thing only: playing basketball.

So instead of consuming as much general information as you possibly can… instead FOCUS.

FOCUS on one topic. FOCUS on one task. FOCUS on one goal.

Because today, more than ever, focus is way more important than your intelligence.

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New Initiative Launched to Restore Memories and a Legacy

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On Tuesday January 30th, Thirty Years After (30 YA) hosted the Legacy Launch, one of their largest, most innovative and interactive projects to date, at the Ahyra Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

Sam Yebri, President of Thirty Years After, explains the Legacy Project, “The Project is a grassroots initiative that will help preserve and honor the Iranian  Jewish experience through video for future generations,  and provide an opportunity for every family to capture their parents’  and grandparents’ most compelling memories and anecdotes before it is  too late.”

Doors opened to guest at 7:00 pm where they were greeted with smiles from 30 YA volunteers and staff members. The lobby was packed with guests who were treated to wonderful Iranian street food not often seen or eaten in the United States. The delicious cuisine included Labu (beets baked in their own juice, and typically served steaming hot in a street cart during the dead of winter), Baghali (beans topped with spices, typically served the same way as Labu), Dizi (a meat mash/stew– usually made with lamb, but made with beef and chickpeas at our event), Shohleh Zard (saffron rice pudding), Chos-e-fil (otherwise known as popcorn) and Mahi-Cheh Polo (herbed rice with beef shanks).

The large number of attendees was a testament to the genuine and unprecedented support for the new generation of leaders of the Los Angeles Iranian-American Jewish community.  The printed program for the event listed over 25 generous families and businesses that supported the Legacy Launch and congratulated 30 YA on celebrating their 10 year anniversary.

This event was magical because of the broad range of emotions experienced just by being shoulder to shoulder with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins born in Tehran. Sadness is one emotion that could have been felt while standing in the room, because of all of the untold stories that were not recorded, told or heard. How many stories have we “missed out” on because family members have passed away, younger generations have gone off to college, or simply because we took time for granted? At the Legacy Launch, time stood still for a few hours for the sake of a community recording the past, but very aware of time, embracing beloved memories on video, but also progressively moving toward the future.

Yebri explained, “Our history informs our present and powers our future. This is especially true when our families and community have such a rich legacy of inspiring memories and experiences in Iran and during our exodus to America.  30 Years After  is thrilled to launch ‘The Legacy Project’ as part of the organization’s 10th anniversary celebration.”

Bobby Zolekhian, former President of Nessah Young Professionals expressed, “It was one of the most inspirational events I have been to. I am recruiting people to share their stories. This is something extraordinary!”

Featured guest speakers during the screening included Mrs. Susan Azizzadeh, President of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, Dr. Saba Soomekh, Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs at AJC, Megan Nemandoust, Margalit Rosenthal, Liora Simozar and 30 YA President, Sam Yebri.

The dynamic presentation of the screening and its intimate interviews clearly validated that the second and third generations of Iranian Jews growing up in the United States are confidently embracing their unspoken responsibility to record the stories of generations before them for a purpose with a greater cause– maintaining their identity, culture, and traditions.

Learn more about preserving your legacy with 30 YA at https://legacy.30yearsafter.org/

 

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december, 2019

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