Archive for the ‘Passover’ Category

“Spring Up, O Well!”

Today is Blog Action Day 2010. The theme is WATER.

I could write about so many things, but once again, the day is almost over and I find myself running out of time. Nevertheless, I have thought of little else this day except what I would write about when at last I got a moment to sit down at my computer.

The world’s environment is in such disarray. As humans we can live for much longer without food than we can without water. Every week, nearly 38,000 children under the age of 5 die from the lack of unsafe drinking water.  I thank the Holy One that I live in a community where drinking water is not only clean and safe, but it is plentiful. Yet, the question pounding in my head is – What would Miriam do?

According to our midrash, Miriam, the prophetess, was blessed to have a well of water that followed her wherever she traveled  throughout the Israelite’s wanderings in the desert. All she had to do was say, “Spring up, o well!” and a well of clean fresh water would appear.  Many people commemorate this miracle by having a special goblet – a Miriam’s Cup – on their Seder table during their Passover seder.  There is a special prayer that accompanies the use of Miriam’s Cup:

Zot Kos Miryam, kos mayim chayim. Zeicher l’tzi-at Mitztrayim.

This is the Cup of Miriam, the cup of living waters. Let us remember the Exodus from Egypt. These are the living waters, God’s gift to Miriam, which gave new life to Israel as we struggled with ourselves in the wilderness.

Blessed are You God, Who brings us from the narrows into the wilderness, sustains us with endless possibilities, and enables us to reach a new place.

“Miriam’s Cup blessing” Copyright 1996 (Matia Rania Angelou, Janet Berkenfield, Stephanie Loo). Kol Ishah, PO Box 132, Wayland, MA, 01778

Tonight, as my family and I  bless the Shabbat candles, say Kiddush over the grape juice and thank the Holy One for the bread that graces our table, we are also going to raise Miriam’s Cup and thank God for the water that we drink every day. We will pray that wells will spring up all over the world so that children will have as much clean water as they need when they need it.

Ken yehi ratzon – May it be God’s will.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Let’s Get Back to Basics

I have an idea.

A book, actually.  I have a book I want to suggest.

The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper. Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. © 2007, Abrams Books for Young Readers.  Ages 4-8. In this very beautiful, very simple, extraordinary book, a grandfather explains the Golden Rule to his grandson. “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” Found in all the world’s religions and cultures, it is an easy statement, but apparently very difficult to live by. As Grandfather says, “‘You can’t make everyone in the world practice the Golden Rule. There’s only one person you can ask to do that.’ ‘Me?’” Says his grandson. “‘You. It begins with you.’”

I am thinking that perhaps instead of the bullying, name-calling, rock throwing, standing by, threatening, child abusing, ignoring, suicide-bombing, warring, raping, murdering, destroying behaviors the human race has been practicing over this past week – this Passover Week – this past Holy Week – perhaps, we can get back to basics.

Perhaps for just one minute, one hour, one day, one week, we can model for our children and for the world, what it looks like to live The Golden Rule.

Repeat it.

Do not do anything to another person that you would not want them to do to you.

Think about it.  Remember it.  Live it. Try it.

Imagine a world like that.

Kein yehi ratzon – May it be God’s will.

Happy reading,

Kathy B.

Why is this night different?

Passover is a mere seven days away. As I was thinking about what to write about, I discovered that both Jennifer Shultz at the kiddosphere and Tricia at Miss Rumphius Effect have both blogged about Passover books and have done a fine job. I encourage you to visit their sites for more information.

I do, however, want to tell you about the newest Passover book I received.

The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah by Leslie Kimmelman. Illustrated by Paul Meisel. © 2010, Holiday House. Ages 4-8. A charming retelling of the classic Little Red Hen story. In this version, Ms. Hen needs to make her matzah for the Seder. She seeks help from her barnyard friends for the planting, harvesting, milling and making of the matzah. Of course, no one has the energy or enthusiasm to assist. However, when it is time for the Seder, everyone needs a place at the table. Can Ms. Hen refuse? Of course not! The illustrations are terrific, bright, colorful and bold, and the use of Yiddish is fun and appropriate throughout this delightful story.

I am happy to be able to remind you that you can now go to my catalog for an annotated list of Passover titles that are currently available. There are quite a number and there is still time to get them before the Holiday.

What more to tell you about, then? How about the ever-evolving process of creating my family’s Haggadah every year, including what I use for inspiration – which is of course, Passover themed books and other Haggadot.

I will start by saying as I did in an earlier blog, that I put all of my “Christmas” energy into Passover. When my children (now 22 and 25 years old) were small, we used the Kar-Ben My Very Own Haggadah, which is still in print and available – only now with a color cover. As I began to take on more Passover responsibilities – more guests, more food preparation, etc. – I needed more information.  I obtained a copy of the Art of Jewish Living Series: Passover, now titled Passover, 2nd edition: The Family Guide to Spiritual Celebration by Dr. Ron Wolfson with Joel Lurie Grishaver. Dr. Wolfson’s view of the Passover Seder as a “drama in four acts,” each act with four scenes and a curtain, was extremely helpful in enabling me to see what was happening during the various Seders I attended and what needed to happen during our Seder.

I also learned from Dr. Wolfson that there were 14 steps to cover during the Seder. Another revelation!  Four Acts – Four Scenes – 14 Steps – This truly was Order! These Seders were not different at all! They were ALL EXACTLY THE SAME just the words were different.  This information has been the foundation on which I have built my family Haggadot over the years. I return to The Art of Jewish Living: Passover every year to make sure I am “sticking to the plan.

Of course, in children’s Haggadot, some “Scenes” may be shortened. Do 2-6 year olds really need to hear about the B’nei B’rak Rabbis?  Do we need to study Torah text with children or can we find more creative, perhaps more dramatic, ways to relate the story of our people’s deliverance from slavery. While wildly popular now, we began tossing plagues around during our Seders in 1988 when my son was 4 years old. I have often wondered if Oriental Trading Company understands the spike in its frog, farm animal and wild beast toy sales during the March-April period.

Over the years, I have collected Haggadot in order to glean from them new ideas to add to our family’s Haggadah. Every year, I would focus on adding or enriching some Act, Scene or Step. Then, a few years ago, I found this incredible website, It contains everything I had been looking for to put together my own Haggadah – Hebrew, transliterations, English translations, plus more. Readings, poems, essays, recipes and the most amazing collection of songs I have ever seen.

We now cover all 14 Steps and all Four Acts of the Passover Seder. I will not guarantee that every Scene is present and accounted for. Our Passover Seder table always includes a wide range of ages and faiths. (I think they come for the frogs.) Whatever their reason, we are happy they join us. I want to make sure their experience is warm and welcoming, they feel free to ask questions and are engaged with what is happening.

Now, in addition to our Haggadah, thanks to that fabulous website, we also have a Passover songbook containing songs we have grown to love singing over the years and many that parody popular tunes with Passover related verses. Once we finish our Seder, we often sing into the night.  After all, we have been sure to drink those four cups of wine, so why not sing our favorite tunes. It is far better than karaoke.

At the beginning of our Haggadah, we state (adapted I am sure from somewhere):

“The purpose of this evening is to arouse the attention and curiosity of all who sit at our table… We want them to ask us “Ma Nishtanah? What is going on here? What in the world are you doing? And why?”

If at the end of the evening, we have accomplished that, what more could we ask? Isn’t that what a Seder is all about?

I wish you all a happy and wondrous Passover.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by the publishers cited or are from my personal collection.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,

I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.

You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Courage/Ometz Lev – The Strength of Heart to Show the Way

Right after Purim is over, I begin to think about Passover. It is an “event” in our home. I often tell people that when I converted to Judaism, I took all my “Christmas energy” and threw it into Passover. We write our own haggadah, are visited by some rather creative plagues and make sure our guests have a really good time.

While I read the Exodus story in preparation for the holiday, what always pops out is the courage of many of the Biblical characters. Of course, Moses, with his speech impediment (Ex. 4:10), repeatedly facing down Pharoah saying “let my people go!” (Ex. 5:1) is hard to miss. But it is the lesser known heroes that stand out in my mind, starting with the midwives who defied Pharoah by allowing the Hebrew women to give birth to their babies rather than killing them (Ex. 1:17). Then, Pharoah’s daughter who rescued Moses from the Nile to raise him as her own son (Ex. 2:6). Finally, Nachshon, the son of Amminadab, who was the first to put his foot into the waters of the Reed Sea so that those waters would part and the Israelites could walk across and be free (Ex. 14:22). When I read about these individuals, and most of what we know about them comes from midrash, I think to myself, “How did they learn to be so courageous? Where did they get their strength of heart? What kind of stories did their parents tell them?”

This month’s books all demonstrate the value of Courage/Ometz Lev. They would be the stories I would (and did) read to my children in the hope of instilling in them the ability to find their courage at the right moment.

Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim: A Passover Story. By Deborah Bodin Cohen. Illustrations by Jago. © 2009, Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 4-8. A 2009 AJL Sydney Taylor Honor Book. Nachshon, a young Israelite slave, was very brave. As a child, he smuggled water into the quarries and spied on Pharaoh and his guards. He was afraid of one thing, however – swimming. Even as he grew up and worked with the other slaves, he was still afraid to swim. Then he meets Moses who tells him, “Real freedom means facing your fears and overcoming them.” When Pharaoh relents and frees the Israelites, they find themselves trapped at the shores of the Sea of Reeds. Nachshon knows what he must do. Does he have the courage? Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim, would be perfect at your Passover Seder. (BTW, if you are a PJ Library subscriber you may be receiving this book this month.)

Brave Bear. Written and illustrated by Kathy Mallat. © 1999, Walker and Company. Ages 3-7. A little bird falls from a tree. Little Bear wants to help, but to do so means he has to climb up the very tall tree, out on a very long branch to the little bird’s nest. He thinks he can. With some help, he does. Using very simple text, a minimal use of words, but extraordinary and beautiful illustrations, Ms. Mallat conveys Little Bear’s determination, fear, courage and ultimate triumph. One of my all-time favorite books.

Mirette on the High Wire.  Written and Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. © 1992, G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Winner of the 1993 Caldecott Medal. In late 19th century Paris, the widow Gateau’s boarding house is where actors traveling in from all over the world find the best accommodations. Mirette, Madame Gateau’s daughter, worked at her mother’s side to ensure that all their guests were happy and content. When Mr. Bellini, a retired tight-rope walker visits, Mirette is intrigued. Watching him walk across a rope in the courtyard every day, she begs him to teach her how it’s done. When he refuses, Mirette teaches herself. Impressed, Mr. Bellini takes her on as a student. Soon the entire boarding house learns that their guest is “The Great Bellini,” whose tightrope feats are world famous. Unfortunately, he has become afraid and refuses to continue his work. Realizing that he must face his fear or disappoint Mirette, he arranges another performance. However, when the time comes to step out on the wire, he freezes. It is up to Mirette to teach her teacher the meaning of courage. Can she do it? This story will leave you with goosebumps. The illustrations evoke Toulouse-Lautrec’s art with their pastel colored backgrounds and their brightly colored highlights.

Rainbow Fish to the Rescue. Written and illustrated by Marcus Pfister. ©1995, North-South Books. In this sequel to The Rainbow Fish, all Rainbow Fish’s scales have been shared with his friends. A new fish wanting to join the game of “flash-tag,” learns that a flashing scale is required. Since there are no more flashing scales to be found, the other fish ignore him. When a shark attacks the group of fish, they run for cover. Unfortunately, the new fish is left alone. Rainbow Fish bravely goes out in order to save the new fish. His friends follow him to distract the shark while Rainbow Fish brings their new friend into the safety of the cave. As always with the Rainbow Fish books, the holographic scales on the fish will be very attractive to young readers, while the simple story and its message will be very evident.

Sheila Rae, the Brave. Written and illustrated by Kevin Henks. ©1987, Greenwillow Books. Sheila Rae is very brave. Braver than anyone. She steps on sidewalk cracks, giggles when the principal walks by and growls at stray dogs as she sings, “I am brave…I am fearless.” Sheila Rae is very brave. Until she decides to take a different route home from school. And things do not look the same, noises sound scary and she has creepy thoughts. Thank goodness her sister, Louise, is following her. In his inimitable style, Kevin Henkes brings us another loveable character and her sister to brighten our day, make us smile and teach us a thing or two about courage.

Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson.  By Sharon Robinson. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. ©2009, Scholastic Press. Most people know that Jackie Robinson was the African American baseball player who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. That achievement took enormous courage and was extremely public. This book, however, is about a feat of courage that took place in the privacy of his own home, in front of his children. It took place on a very cold winter’s day, when his children asked him to test the ice on their pond to see if it was safe for skating. He put on his boots and slowly walked out on the ice, tapping gently to make sure it would not crack. He declared it safe and the children rushed out on their skates to thank him. It wasn’t until many years later that they realized how courageous their father was, because Jackie Robinson could not swim. Beautiful, detailed illustrations bring this story to life.

I hope that you will find these books inspirational and meaningful as you plan your Passover experiences. Perhaps you will want to share them with your Seder guests or your hosting family.

On Monday evening, March 29, Jews all over the world, with family and friends, will be sitting down to retell the Passover story and the birth of the Jewish people. Whether you believe that every word you read in the Haggadah is true or that what you are reading are archetypal legends of the Jewish people, the fact remains that Passover is the most celebrated Jewish holiday in the Hebrew calendar. It took a lot of people (real or imagined,) with a lot of courage, to create a way to bring us together every year to remember, teach and celebrate these events.

I wish you a Passover season that is filled with blessings,

Happy reading!

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my personal collection, my local library or provided by the publishers cited.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon,

I may receive a very small commission on your purchase.

You will incur no additional cost, however.

I appreciate your support.

Book Review | Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim
by Deborah Bodin Cohen

Score: 4

Illustrated by Jago © 2009 Kar-Ben Publishing. A 2009 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. This is a beautifully written midrash about the story of Nachshon, the individual who was the first to step into the waters of the Reed Sea thereby enabling the Jewish People to reach freedom on the other side. Nachshon is portrayed as [...]

Read the rest of this review »

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