Including the whole family in Pesach rituals

Before sunset, "ridding" the house of chametz:

Pesach 5770

Pesach 5770

The table is all set for the seder:

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Pesach 5770

Dexter is curious about this:

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L'hadlik khatul shel yom tov...

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The seder begins:

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The wicked child asks, why on this night...?

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No, really, get off the table, dumbass!

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Fast forward. The afikomen has been hidden. Dexter seems to have an idea of where it might be:

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Examining it from all angles...

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Uh, colder.

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OK, back on track...

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What's that bit of turquoise napkin I see?

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Yes! Almost there!

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And...we have a winner!

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Manischewitz Kojel shots: For those of you who felt four glasses of wine wasn't enough.

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All that afikomen-finding and wine-drinking was hard work:

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Remains of the day:

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On Pesach and taking care of the earth and one another

One of my favorite Passover readings, which is included in the copy/paste haggadah we've been adding to each year.

At Yachats we split the middle matsah and recite Ha Lachma Anya – "This is the bread of poverty – let any who are hungry come and eat, let any who need come and make Pesach."

In my family, we follow the Syrian custom, taking a whole, round hand-made matsah and breaking it very carefully into one big piece like a dalet (imagine an open-mouthed Pacman) and a small piece (the yod) that is maybe 1/4 or at most 1/3 of a circle. Holding up this very broken-looking piece and reciting these words is quite a stark image, and it struck me in a new way last year. According to our words, we aren't inviting all those hungry people to share in the feast that will follow, or even to share the afikomen that makes up the bigger half. The invitation is very literally to eat a fragment of a broken matsah that wouldn't even be enough for one person.

What does it really mean to hold up this small piece of matsah and invite anyone who is hungry to come share it? I know we can come up with answers from religious texts, Kabbalah, etc., to explain the spiritual or symbolic meaning or kavanah behind this, but very concretely, what would it be like to really only have a crust, so to speak, and to share that piece with another hungry person? That is the question I held with me all night through the first seder. Here are two answers:

1) Some people are most generous when they feel they have more than enough for themselves. Maybe I've set aside ten quarters to give out as I stroll down Broadway in the Upper West Side, knowing that I have ten dollars in my pocket for my own needs. Maybe I gave $200 to a charity knowing that a lot of that would go to taxes if I didn't disburse it myself. This act of giving creates a hierarchy, where one person is a benefactor and a recipient. But homeless people also give to each other, and even the poorest person is mandated in Jewish law to give tsedakah. Economically, sharing the lechem oni, poor bread, means that we invite other hungry and needy people to truly join us, as equals in our poverty. On a spiritual level, we invite others in despite our broken, limited perspective, without pretending to be able to see or understand the whole picture. In both realms, it makes sense to imagine that this action could make us free people, b'ney chorin.

2) We live in a society in which everyone wants a "whole share" – enough stuff for themselves and their family to feel self-sufficient, and enough to feel equal to everyone else, with a little more to spare. If this is what it means to have "enough", then all the world can't provide enough cars and TV's and 3 bedroom homes on 1/4 acre to take care of 6 billion people's needs. To do so would mean developing the entire world around us into either resources for consumption or places for people to live. If we only give when we ourselves are whole, that is what we model. If we give when we have less than a whole, if what we offer is enough to enjoy another person's company, but not more, than what is left for the earth and the other creatures is the bigger share. And in the end, all of it comes back to us in an abundance of what surrounds us, not of what we own, but what we fit into, a greater whole that is richer than any material riches. That is the afikoman, the bread of redemption.

--Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg

We're too lazy to actually get rid of our chametz

Cat-proof indoor herb garden

Cat-proof indoor herb garden

Use both hands to service customers faster!

It seriously says this on the bagging stations at Star Market on Comm Ave near BU.


[click for larger]

Gettin rid of chametz!

French toast! I used about equal parts of soymilk and OJ, couple splashes of vanilla, a dump of pumpkin pie seasoning, and enough almond meal to make it appropriately viscous. allowing homophobic assumptions, yet telling me that pointing it out is off topic

In this column on The Vegan View, a presumably straight male talks about how he's had problems with his libido since going vegan. He asks:

I have been vegan for over two months now and have noticed a drop in my male libido. This could be a good thing since I'm pushing 60 and don't need to have as much attention on this as when I was younger. I certainly feel calmer and more relaxed about it now. Guys, what has been your experience: better, the same, or worse? Ladies, have you noticed a difference with your vegan mate?"

I responded, pointing out the homophobia:

Why are you only looking for the experiences of females with male mates? Wouldn't males with male mates have valuable information to share as well?

I didn't actually expect a reply or for my comment to be published verbatim, but thought the editors might at least make note of it, even if just to better edit future such comments. Instead, I got this e-mail reply:


I'm more than happy to publish your reply. But the individual is not going to communicate a response to you through the site so your reply should go beyond your question and actually provide a response to the question asked. Do you have a response for the specific question asked? If so, send it to me and I will include it.

All the best,
Cynthia Mosher
Editor & Publisher

Since my whole point was that I don't have a question, not being a straight female or a male, I reiterated that my point was that the question was addressed to people of my ilk ("ladies," as much as I'm not a fan of the term), and I wanted to point out the homophobia inherent in this. So I abandoned the original snarkiness, and replied to her:

I guess it would be more constructive to phrase it as a comment in that case.

How about...

"While I'm guessing you didn't intend to be homophobic in your question, you might get more feedback if you opened it to all of those with partners with male genitalia, instead of limiting it to "ladies" (for whom this may or may not be the case)."

She wrote back, again totally missing my point:

No, not quite. It would be fine to include that observation but you're not replying to the actual question. Since the question will not be rephrased and run again, the observation alone is not going to be of any contribution to the actual topic.

As I said, we can post your comment but it should include a direct answer to the question asked, not just remark on how the question could be better asked.

So, she's willing to post this guy's homophobia, which isn't on topic for a vegan column, but won't post my comment pointing out the homophobia, because that's off topic? To paraphrase kids on the playground, he started it! If she's willing to publish oppressive assumptions on her site, it's pretty one-sided of her to then decide that responding to them is off-topic. I'd expect that veg*ns of all people would understand oppression, and this editor seems basically professional in her demeanor (as opposed to the veg*n communities I've stopped reading because all they do is wave their superiority flags and scream at anyone with different beliefs, as if that has ever aided progress), but maybe she is after all just a better-spoken version of the veg*ns who won't acknowledge any oppression other than animal oppression. *sigh* Can't we all work together?

EDIT: She just wrote me again, and seems to really not get that he's assumed that all people are in heterosexual pairs:

Read the question again.

No where did he state that he is asking for heterosexual experience. His question is about the effects of going vegan on one's libido. His question to women was about their experience with their vegan mate, which could be male or female. Why are you assuming he is only asking females with male partners? There is nothing in the question that would imply that. Libido is not in males alone.

I don't see the question is homophobic or that VegFamily is perpetuating any sort of oppression.


Tell your congressperson to open more foster/adoptive homes

The following text is from a Family Equality Council e-mail. More detailed information is available on their blog.

Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA) re-introduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 4608), a federal bill that would increase the number of qualified individuals eligible to become adoptive or foster parents by restricting federal funding to states employing discriminatory practices in adoption and foster care placements based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

There are currently 500,000 children in foster care across the U.S., 120,000 of whom are available for adoption. Each year, approximately 25,000 of these children “age out” of the system – never finding permanent, stable and loving homes of their own. Yet while there is a shortage of qualified foster and adoptive parents for these children in need, some states categorically exclude thousands of prospective parents simply because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. Indeed, a staggering 72% of children in foster care across the U.S. live in states that restrict foster and adoptive placements based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. This is not in the best interest of the thousands of children in the foster care system. Nor is it the best that America can do for these kids.

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act is a necessary and critical step in increasing the number of qualified individuals eligible to become adoptive or foster parents, and that is why passing this bill is a top policy priority for Family Equality Council. Thirty years of research have proven and all the major child welfare organizations support what we already know firsthand: that children raised by same-sex parents have the same advantages, developmental cycles and social and psychological adjustments as children raised by opposite-sex parents.

Contact your Representatives and ask them to support the Every Child Deserves a Family Act.

Delores Handy word of the day

"the grain line" (like, of the MBTA)
"dauphin" (as in, grey smiley ocean-dwelling mammal)

An oldie but goodie

Why I don't use the word "retarded," posted on Kate Harding's blog by Sweet Machine.

Love the sinner, hate the sin?

Hey, I've explained to The Spousal Unit many many times that our kitchen has cabinets for a reason. Why is it only Cheerios? She puts all the other items away after using them, and does quite a lot of cleaning around the house in general. I think the box of Cheerios finds it way onto the counter every day just to mock me. So I had to take matters into my own, uh, Photoshop.

Brookline WTF

What the hell are those lines in the road on Longwood Ave headed west from the Riverway toward Trader Joe's?

[Artist's rendering. Thanks,]