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Rabbi Caine's Pesach Resources

What's the Deal with Rice, Beans, Corn & Legumes?

There's a much longer explanation at work here but, in simplest terms, some centuries ago a few rabbis were concerned that these foods could be considered to leaven when in contact with water.  In reality, they don't.  Other justification for this wrong restriction has to do with a concern that containers used for the five forbidden grains (oats, barley, spelt, wheat & rye) might be used for rice, beans, corn, etc. and therefore have cross contamination.  As with many rules, once someone claims a more pious practice, others follow.  Recently the Conservative Movement finally has made it official that the custom of avoiding rice, beans, corn and legumes has no basis, and can actually lead to missing the point of Pesach by focusing on the wrong things.  Nevertheless, these products ought to be bought before Pesach begins so if there were to be cross contamination, the trace amounts of forbidden grains would be legally "nullified" (considered as non-existent) once the holiday begins.  This nullification does not hold for products bought after the holiday has begun.

Podcasts on the Four Questions, the 10 Drops of Wine, and Shir HaShirim with Yizkor

What is Real Power?  By Rav Nadav

 The other night I was watching the latest Superman movie, "The Man of Steel." In no other movie has Superman been so incredibly powerful, and yet, though he can pretty much do anything in this one, he spends his time exclusively on saving people from accidents. Car accidents, tornadoes, that sort of thing. Even with no limits to imagining "a power that saves" at their disposal, the writers couldn't think, apparently, of anything beyond using that power to save people from accidents.


The Haggadah has a much broader imagination for a power that saves.


Accidents are a personal fear all of us have, sure, but the Torah, God, and the Prophets command us to think beyond our individual lives: they command us to think globally and morally, not just about life and death, but about the divinely-intended quality of lives.
Real power is the power to free people from injustice: to free a simple, shepherd people from a tyrant's bondage and cruelty, to free our relatives from the Crusades, from the gas chambers, from Arab massacres, from discrimination. And today, to free boys and girls from sexual trafficking, free villagers from the town-to-town raping and murdering of ISIS's evil hoard, free exploited workers everywhere from their taskmasters, free Israelis from the fear of Hamas rockets and Iranian nuclear capability, free African-Americans from racial profiling and harassment, free LGBT individuals from discrimation and prejudice.  The list of those needing the saving power we celebrate tonight goes on and on.


That's the power of the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, God's.... and ours when we fulfill God's mission for us and reach out with our outstretched arms to fight injustice and save those under  oppression. We as Jews understand that power in our very bones and in our inmost hearts. We've experienced that saving power, and now we tell each other that story, our story, as we say, "This is the bread of affliction... let all who are in distress, come and celebrate" it with us.


Let us break free of the mitzrayim, the "narrow confines," of the Hollywood imagination and embrace the Haggadah's holy perspective of what it means to save and be free. Feel it in your heart, tell it with your voice, and stretch our your arms, with renewed pride, sympathy, and celebration!

Tips for a Dynamic Seder

  • Assign different parts of the seder in advance to different people to present in any way they want. For example, say "You're in charge of presenting the 10 plagues." People could tell a personal story, act out a scene, give a personal interpretation, read a poem, or read from their haggadah.  

  •  Ask family and guests to dress up for the seder in some costume that says, "I just got out of slavery and now am free!"  Have fun with it based on my podcast above:  who, according to our society, is truly free?  Participate in the satire by dressing up as a "truly free" person!

  •  Does your seder start late or run a little long?  Then take advantage of the Karpas blessing which is the food blessing borei peri ha-adamah, that which comes out of the ground.  It doesn't have to be a sprig of parsley!  HAVE AWESOME APPETIZERS THAT TAKE THE PERI HA-ADAMAH BLESSING! It could be a large tray of assorted grilled vegetables, or even a potato bar!  With everyone feasting on a potato bar, they will be much more amenable to discussing "freedom" while patiently waiting for the main meal to begin.

  • Instead of a single winner for the afikomen, try this system:  Decide ahead of time where you will hide the afikomen, and make it a place outside of the hunting zone, such as "refrigerator."  Write out on index cards the letters that spell the location, so in this example:  12 cards, one with R, one with E, one with F, and so on.  Hide the 12 cards, and the mission for all those searching is "to find index cards with a letter on them" and then together figure out what word it spells.  That way, everyone wins in a collaborate effort, and no one finishes the seder grumpy.  We do this at Ner Tamid and it works wonderfully. 

  • Have at least one person at the table with an unusual haggadah -e.g. New American Haggadah, The Holistic Haggadah and The Breslov Haggadah - so that there's always an unusual perspective on each part of the seder as you progress through.  

  • Have each person at the seder use a different haggadah. Purchase an assortment of haggadot with different themes (many available on Amazon). For children, purchase colorful haggadot with pictures or games. As you move around the table, participants really need to listen to the person reading, and experience the variety of interpretations. Even a child gets to show what they have in their book.  

  • Most importantly, don't belabor parts that don't speak to you (especially at the beginning like the often boring description of the seder plate and the order of the seder) and make sure you fulfill the true mitzvah by saying what too often goes unsaid:. What are your ideas of freedom, spiritual, material, psychological, and emotional? How in your life and that of your relatives have you experienced redemption? What are your children's real questions about why you're Jewish? Why do you do the seder? Why do you belong to a synagogue? Why do you eat matzah on Pesach? What did it all mean to your parents and grandparents? Tell the story of liberation that is in your heart: that is the gift we give on this holiday.

The Basic Laws of Passover and Seder:There's a Kosher for Passover Aisle at the Supermarket -- It's Labeled "Produce"


The main rule of Pesach is to eliminate chametz (leavened grain) from your home and your diet for 7 days (or 8 outside the Land of Israel). Chametz is any product made with any amount of wheat, barley, oats, rye, or spelt, or their derivatives, that is not matzah (and so has possibly leavened).
Pesach is a week long celebration.  The Pesach diet is not meant to be an act of suffering!  (This is neither Yom Kippur nor Lent!)  Though chametz is avoided and we don't eat at restaurants, Pesach is a time of feasting at home on the natural produce of the good earth:  meat, fish, eggs, fresh vegetables, fruit, cheeses, nuts, salads, smoothies, bean stews, coconut, olives, berries, and so on.
At our home, instead of buying cake and ice cream, we make our own ice cream in the blender, and enjoy spreads of fresh fruits, nuts, macaroons, and other delicacies.
We no longer even step foot in the Manishewitz aisle at the supermarket:  we live in the produce department!  
Some Jews believe that much of what I eat on Pesach is forbidden, as I embrace beans, rice, soy, peanuts, green beans, and corn. Their "kitniyot" prohibition is without basis, and has derailed the true meaning of Pesach.  This was not meant to be holiday of deprivation and packaged foods, but a week-long celebration of God's bounty of unprocessed foods that are good for our bodies as well as souls.

Downloadable Resources

Download the Conservative Movement's full Guide to Pesach Preparations here. 

Download a Global-Justice Haggadah  here.

Download an Earth-based Haggadah here.

Download an Israel-based Haggadah Supplement from AIPAC here.

Download Mazon's Hunger-Seder Haggadah here.

Download a Social Justice Haggadah.

Download a Supplement on Refugees here.

Check out the ADL's campaign against the hateful legislation against refugees before Congress.

Check out Responsa on questions like "Why Do We Spill Drops of Blood when Reciting the 10 Plagues?"

Don't forget to sell your Chametz here!

Download Instructions for Bedikat Chametz (the afikomen-like search for chametz Thursday night) here.

Download OU's list of foods that do not require "Kosher for Passover" label.

Mon, February 19 2018 4 Adar 5778