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Archive for April, 2010

We thought you might be interested in reading about the new direction for the Sephardic Educational Center, based in Jerusalem with programs and support throughout the world.  Welcome onboard, Rabbi Bouskila….congratulations to the SEC.   Stay tuned…and join us!!!

http://www.jewishjournal.com/community/article/bouskila_takes_leadership_at_sephardic_educational_center_20100420

Visit us on Facebook at “SEC”   Online at : http://www.secjerusalem.org

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Passover will end this Tuesday evening.  The Moroccan Jewish community marks the occasion with a wonderful celebration called “Mimouna”, an evening filled with symbolic foods,  special delicacies and good wishes. Thank you to Rabbi Daniel Bouskila for sharing this story about Mimouna with us to share with “Bendichas Manos” readers!

We are blessed with many and varied traditions in our communities…..May we all have the opportunity to share in this beautiful, traditional celebration at some point, and appreciate the “salad bowl”, the colorful and meaningful variety of those traditions we share.

http://www.tabletmag.com/life-and-religion/29821/it-is-risen/print/

It Is Risen

At the end of Passover festival known as Mimouna, Moroccan Jews return to yeasty treats in grand style

BY LARA RABINOVITCH | 7:00 am Apr 2, 2010

Many Jews will mark the end of Passover unceremoniously, with a slice or pizza or a piece of toast. Yet for Moroccan Jews, and increasingly for other Jews as well, the transition back to eating bread and other yeasty foods is celebrated in grand style with a feast known as Mimouna.

Traditionally, Mimouna is celebrated in Moroccan homes after sundown on the last day of Passover with a sumptuous spread piled high with sweet delectables, including stuffed dates, candies, brightly colored jams made of carrots, beets, or citrus fruits (known as mazune), and zabane (almond nougat). Most importantly, mufleta, thin pancakes doused in honey, are eaten with abandon. Thus in a similar way to how Yom Kippur is ended with an elaborate breakfast, on Mimouna tearing into a plate of freshly baked food signals the end of matzo-filled days and the start of something new.

The Mimouna table is not set as usual but is covered with “an array of symbols that are basically variations on a theme,” explains (more…)

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When I cook, especially for Shabbat and the holidays, I love to listen to Ladino and Hebrew music!  It puts me in a great mood and a holiday frame of mind.  The Jewish Community of Rhodes has a website.  Included is a page containing a collection of wonderful Ladino songs and their lyrics.  Visit and take a listen….we think you’ll enjoy them!

http://www.jewishrhodes.org/?page_id=46

We thank the Jewish Community of Rhodes for posting the songs and we thank the Rhodes Jewish Museum for the link!

Enjoy!!!  Bendichas Manos!!!!

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My cousin Leah’s husband, Avi, introduced the “Bibhilu” tradition to our Passover seder….one which we now look forward to each year.  Rabbi Bouskila offers a beautiful explanation for the “Bibhilu” in a column he wrote for the Jewish Journal some years back.

May we all have the opportunities to share those traditions we hold dear, and to learn and always add new ones to our families, as well.   Pesah Alegre to all!

The Jewish Journal
April 21, 2005

April 21, 2005The Blessing of Bibhilu

A Sephardic ritual calls attention to God’s place at the seder table.

BY RABBI DANIEL BOUSKILA

http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/the_blessing_of_bibhilu_20050422/

A book’s opening chapter is crucial to setting the mood and aura for the remainder of the book’s journey. Likewise, the opening scene of a film usually helps set the tone for what will ensue.

The Passover seder is both a reader’s experience and a moviegoer’s. We sit around the table and read the haggadah, and we also witness a host of rituals. But how does the seder leader creatively capture an audience and draw it into the experience from the beginning?

My father is neither novelist nor screenwriter, but from childhood he exposed me to a Moroccan seder ritual that immediately drew all those around the table into the full experience of a seder. This ritual is affectionately known amongst Moroccans as Bibhilu.

Following the kiddush, the karpas, and the yahatz (division of the matzah), the leader takes the brass seder plate, adorned with all of the ritual items, and he begins to walk around the table, waving the seder plate over each person’s head. As the plate is being waved, the entire gathering at the seder chants in unison: “Bibhilu yatsanu mimitsrayim” (“In a hurry we left Egypt”). When my father did this, each of us wondered whether he would simply wave the plate above our heads or knock us over the head with it. This ritual created lots of positive energy — between the anticipation of your turn under the plate and the chanting in unison of Bibhilu.

Yes, it’s a lot of fun. But is there a deeper spiritual meaning, or is this ritual simply some gimmick meant to create excitement among those who might be otherwise bored?

Throughout my life, I have always celebrated the seder in Moroccan fashion, Bibhilu and all. But only a few years ago did I first see a Moroccan haggadah.

At the beginning, there was, as in all haggadot, a drawing of the seder plate, illustrating the placement of each ritual item, which generally followed the Sephardic tradition. I had always known that Sephardic Jews arrange the seder plate differently than Ashkenazim, but again, I never knew why.

The Sephardic pattern, I knew, derives from tradition attributed to the great kabbalist from Safed known as the Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria). In this haggadah, the drawing not only reflected the Ari’s Sephardic arrangement, but it added something that I had never seen, something which suddenly tied together for me the logic behind the Sephardic arrangement, and the reason behind the Moroccan Bibhilu ritual. Next to each ritual item on the plate was written one of the 10 kabbalistic sefirot, the mystical dimensions describing the sacred attributes of God. The three matzahs correspond to keter (crown), chochmah (wisdom) and binah (understanding); the shank bone corresponds to hesed (kindness); the egg corresponds to gevurah (strength); the bitter herbs correspond to tiferet (beauty); the charoset corresponds to netzach (victory), the karpas corresponds to hod (splendor), the hazeret corresponds to yesod (foundation); and the seder plate itself represents malchut (kingship).

It suddenly dawned upon me that, with this mystical arrangement, the seder plate is no longer just a platter carrying a selection of ritual items. The Ari’s Sephardic arrangement transformed the seder plate into a sacred representation of God, which means that when the seder plate is waved above your head during Bibhilu, you are being blessed by the spiritual strength of the Shekhina. The body of God, as represented by the sefirot, is now being waved above your head, and for the rest of the evening, the presence of the seder plate on the table represents the presence of the Shekhina in your midst.

From then on the Bibhilu ritual suddenly meant a lot more to me, because I now understood that, in addition to drawing in the audience, the Bibhilu ritual also represented a spiritual blessing for each participant as he or she prepares to set off on the haggadah’s storytelling journey from slavery to freedom.

As an American Jew raised in a Moroccan Jewish home, the Bibhilu ritual will always be part of my life. Having experienced it from childhood, and now coming full circle to understand its meaning, I will always look at the seder plate as a source of blessing and sanctity throughout the evening. Whether you are Moroccan or not, this ritual can become a powerful way to help infuse your seder with a newfound spiritual depth.

As it turns out, my father is now in a wheelchair, so he has transferred this privilege and responsibility to me. And yes, after all of those years under the seder plate, it’s lots of fun banging my father over the head while we all chant Bibhilu.

Daniel Bouskila is rabbi at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.

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