Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
STORY: As Moses and the children of Israel were crossing the Red Sea, the children of Israel began to complain to Moses of how thirsty they were, after walking so far. Unfortunately, they were not able to drink from the walls of water on either side of them, as they were made up of salt-water. Just then, a fish from that wall of water whispered in Moses’ ear that he and his fishy family heard the complaints of the people and through their gills, they could miraculously remove the salt from the water and force it out of their mouths like a fresh water fountain for the Israelites to drink from, as they walked by. Moses accepted the kindly fish’s offer. However, before the fish and his family began to help, they told Moses they had one demand. They and their descendants had to be always present at the Seder meal that would be established to commemorate the Exodus, since they had a vital part in the story. When Moses agreed to this, he gave them their name, which remains how they are known to this very day, for he said to them, “Go Filter Fish!” B’ dum bum.
FOLLOW UP TO LAST WEEK’S YOU TUBE DEMONSTATION: Here’s The Handy Hazzan’s contribution to your Passover dessert table. (See live demonstration on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6KWdL_rEa4.) I also call them “Chocolate Matzoh Wine Rolls.” This recipe is very simple to execute, and the results just as delicious. I thank my dear Hebrew teacher, Vered, who taught me when I was in seminary at the Academy For Jewish Religion, for this recipe. Make these no later than the night before.(Remember that we serve dessert BEFORE the Afikomen, which is the real dessert!)
CHOCOLATE MATZOH WINE PETIT FOURS
I cup sweet wine,
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate,
½ cup milk,
2 tblsp cocoa,
1 cup sugar
3 tblsp brandy
1 tsp instant coffee
I stick margarine
Over low flame melt together the chocolate, cocoa, sugar, brandy, coffee, and milk. (I like to add in the milk after I’ve melted the other ingredients together and I’ve taken the saucepan off the stove. Remove the combined ingredients from the flame and mix in margarine (and milk).
While the chocolate mixture is melting, crumble the eight matzohs into little pieces and soak in the sweet wine… i.e soak the matzohs. (I didn’t mean that you should take a bath in sweet wine.) Add in the yummy, chocolaty stuff and combine well. In heavy-duty aluminum foil - sorry if that is a little uncomfortable - create two rolls of the completed mixture, wrap up and tuck them into the freezer for the night. Shortly before the guests arrive, remove them from the freezer (hee hee… the dessert, not the guests) and cut into individual pieces. Serve as petit fours in those little, paper cupcake thingies. There’s enough sugar, alcohol and caffeine in there to keep you up all night talking about our deliverance from Egypt.
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MORE DO-IT-YOURSELF FOLLOW-UP: Last week I made a list of some items that needed fixing around the house before welcoming guests to our home for seder. I’ve begun to test the “Nature’s Miracle” solution on the carpet to remove the stains donated by our cat, Arnold. The good news is that you’ll do better if you saturate the area with the solution immediately after the kitty saturates the area with his solution. The longer you wait, the less effective the results. Or just get your cat diapers and be done with it. That ‘s a better solution.
WINDOW BOXES – This is EASY TO MODERATELY EASY. Tools and materials you’ll need: electric drill with bit slightly smaller than the screws you will be using, flathead or Phillips screwdriver, tape measure or ruler, carpenter’s level, pencil, holder for the window box, tray to place between window box and holder to catch water.
I put up two boxes and here’s the way I did it. First, I purchased ready-made redwood boxes. Redwood stands up well to the elements, and I decided to stain them with an additional redwood sealer/protectant. I already had a black, metal garden hose holder with a fleur de lis design at the top, and I was happy to find the same design on the black, metal window box holders I chose. Since I was putting the box in front of French windows (opening out), I knew that I had to attach the boxes low enough so that I could plant flowers and still possibly open the windows. I was also willing to forgo opening these two windows, as there are four more in the dining room. (We DO open the windows in summer, as I am not a big fan of air-conditioning. We have the original 1913 roller screens that pull down from inside the top of the window casing. They are so cool! I’ll show you sometime this summer.) Choose your plants based on the amount of sun exposure to the area. At least one plant that trails or cascades – like a trailing geranium (full to part sun) looks really nice.
If you have French windows as we do, simply center the window box holder so that the middle of it corresponds to the spot where the French windows meet in a closed position. I chose to drill mounting holes in the bottom of the window casing itself. Others instruct to drill holes in the wood siding below the window frame. I didn’t want to drill into wood shingle. The choice is yours, and both ways are fine. Once I centered the holder, it was easy to place a pencil mark inside the top of the screw mounting holes of the holder. These mounting holes are smaller at the top and larger at the bottom, so that the holder will “hook” onto the screws. Be sure to measure from the smaller, top hole. That is where the holder will hang.
First pre-drill one hole using a drill bit slightly smaller than the size of the screw you are using. I would use at least a #8 screw, brass or galvanized, as probably only two screws will be supporting a holder plus wooden box filled with earth, occasional water and plants. Insert one screw into one of the holes, turning it until it is in about half way in. Hook the appropriate mounting hole over that screw. Swing the other end of the holder to what looks like a level position and then place the level on the holder to find the exact level (horizontal) position. I put the tray on the holder so that the level would lie more easily. Never use a level before? It’s easy. When the little bubble shows up in the middle of the glass tube, you’re level! With your pencil, mark the spot for the second drill hole. After drilling, insert the second screw about halfway into the window casing. At this point the holder will be at a slight angle vertically, with the bottom of the holder closer to the house than the top of the holder. Check the level again. If it’s good, turn your screws until they are all the way in. That’s it! Place the planter tray on the holder and then, after arranging your plants and adding potting soil, place your window box on the tray. Make sure all is well watered. Enjoy your new window box. See photos.
You’ve still got time to put a bit of Spring into your Passover with a new window box…. and also make that great dessert. Tikkun Olam starts at home. You can fix it! - HH
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April 8, 2011 | 12:32 am
Posted by Cantor Harris Shore, The Handy Hazzan
I am pleasantly obsessed with the coming of Passover…. and Elijah… and all of our guests for second-night seder. I see everything that needs fixing as one more bit of chumetz to chase from our home before we can welcome everyone in less than two weeks! There are so many little fixy things around the Shore Shack, our humble Craftsman abode. Moisture from the rains has expanded just about anything made of wood, and one of them is the deadbolt lock on our wooden front gate. The cylinder won’t move through the strike. I have to remove the strike, slip it back over the bolt (extended), reset the screws, and then put the strike back on. We may include it among our photos next week.
There are ten other things to do as we strive to make our home especially inviting to those who will be joining us the evening of April 19th, as we retell the Passover story and how our ancestors “were strangers in the land of Egypt. “ Hachnasat Orchim (Welcoming the Stranger) has become one of the most emphasized Jewish virtues, technically as a sub-category of chesed– which is Hebrew for caring. And it has come to mean hospitality to any guests, whether they are strangers or not. The ultimate stranger we DO wait for on Passover is the Prophet Elijah. While there are countless drawings interpreting Elijah as to how he might look…. most of them depicting a humble, bearded dude in sack cloth with a staff and sandals made in Y’rushalayim… many of our sages (and your humble Handy Hazzan) believe Elijah could appear in any persona. So be kind to strangers. You never know who she or he really might be. This is very tricky to explain to our children. I grew up in an age of innocence where we went out to play all day and our parents didn’t have to worry about us. Yet they still warned us not to talk to strangers. I can’t imagine permitting my daughter to talk to strangers, and would certainly forbid it unless Daddy were right next to her.
There is surely great merit in this virtue. Let’s investigate the origins of Hachnasat Orchim, which considerably predates the Passover story. The Torah sidra, Vayera (GENESIS 18:1-22:24) is chuck full of powerful stories and lessons, including the account of how Abraham and Sarah received three angels who were visiting them. According to the Torah text, Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent in the heat of the day when he noticed three strangers approaching. They were angels, but he did not know that at the time. As soon as he saw them, he jumped up and ran to greet them, offering them the hospitality of his home. Though he had no idea of who they were, still he bowed down before them and treated them as nobility, calling them “My lords.” He offered them a little food and then provided them with a feast of cakes and beef and curds and milk. (Genesis 18:8) (For those who are curious as to why it was okay for Abraham to eat milk and meat together – some rabbis explain that he served the milk first, then the meat so it was okay – whatever - let’s remember that this episode occurs considerably before Moses received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. And as this predates Torah, it brings on another question: How can we call Abraham the first Jew if we did not yet have our Torah and our ancestors were not called Jews until they crossed over into Judea? Any takers?)
Rabbi Henry J. Carp in his recent D’var Torah explains, “The rabbis of the Talmud and the Midrash saw this story as being a very important one when it comes to Jewish life. They spoke about it extensively, and from it they derived one of Judaism’s most time honored and practiced virtues; the virtue of Hachnasat Orchim - the virtue of welcoming the stranger; of offering hospitality. Abraham taught us how to behave when welcoming strangers. We clean and fix up our homes to create an environment that will feel inviting and comfortable to our guests. When I invite people over for Passover, Hachnasat Orchim takes on special significance, as we begin the journey from the degradation of slavery to the elevation of freedom and continue to the High Holy Days where we pray to receive and grant forgiveness to elevate ourselves to a place in the Book of Life for the coming year. While I am consumed with thoughts of matzoh, bitter herbs, choroset, and the recipe for the chocolate and wine matzoh rolls I’ll share with you next week, I have more seriously gone inward to grapple with how to cleanse the chumetz from my soul and the souls of those I love and counsel. This is the real Spring Cleaning. The physical realm can speak to my inner landscape. I’d like to spend a week or two just throwing out and giving away all that “stuff” I no longer want or need. It’s my experience that cleansing the external space can lead to inward cleansing. I will be happy with even a small amount of clutter busting. If you and I can remove JUST ONE PIECE OF CLUTTER, something we’ve been staring at for ages, it could begin the momentum to remove more. You may observe how taking charge of one piece of clutter might quell your inner turmoil; how it creates a sense of freedom and space. The more we get rid of that which weighs us down, physically and emotionally, externally and within …. the more space we create for new life. Let me know how that process works for you.
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DO-IT-YOURSELF PLANNING: Here’s what I’ve planned as we prepare for Passover. First: I plan to put up two window boxes for flowers later in the week. Passover signifies the coming of Spring, when all of the flowers locked up in their buds finally get to break free into blooms. Window boxes brimming with Spring and Summer blooms have been decorating the exterior of houses for centuries. Look for photos next week. I think the boxes will be very inviting for our guests. Second: I’ll clean the leaves up from the flowerbeds. It looks and smells nicer afterward, and wet leaves can rot the roots of plants. Third: (and can be difficult) We love our cat, Arnold; and yet he has decorated my favorite rug one too many times. I’ve got the solution… and it comes in a red, plastic container manufactured by Nature’s Miracle. I’ll let you know how it works. Four: Connect the new Whole-house water filter. That’s something for which I’ll need professional assistance. Five: Connect the ice cube maker in the refrigerator to water source. I never got around to it and now I will! Finally…THE GOOD NEWS: I finished the cabinetry in the basement – see the photo above. I may still swap out some of that chrome for the more rustic, black hardware. I have this forum, “The Handy Hazzan” as granted to me by The Jewish Journal and all of my readers to thank for finally getting that project finished. Now I just have to clean the basement. We are getting things done together …. in havruta.
Next week, look for a step-by-step demonstration on how to make that Passover dessert! (NOW ON UTUBE AS OF APRIL 10: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6KWdL_rEa4. If there’s time, we’ll talk window box details too. Thanks for tuning in. Remember…. Tikkun Olam starts at home. You can fix it! - HH