The Blessing of Bibhilu….in the Moroccan Tradition

My cousin Avi introduced the ‘Bibhilu’ to our Passover Seder, a beautiful Moroccan tradition which Rabbi Daniel Bouskila explains in an article in the Jewish Journal a few years ago.  It is so deep and rich with meaning, so beautiful, that I am printing that story here (the link no longer seems to work.)

How beautiful and woven with richness is our tradition!   May we all have opportunities to share these traditions and always add new ones to our families, as well!

Pesah blessings, my friends!

The Jewish Journal
April 21, 2005
The Blessing of Bibhilu

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

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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Delicious Delicacies…the Flavors and Foods of our Heritage

IMG_2400What is the thread weaving together the Rue Tigrane Pacha in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria, Shah Street in the cosmopolitan city of Teheran, and the Puerta de la Mar in the Old Town of Rhodes, once a part of Turkey and now a part of Greece? And what do ‘cahk’, ‘toot’ and ‘ashuplados’ have in common?

These are the tastes and the neighborhoods we once called home. “Cahk” is an Egyptian egg and sesame biscuit, “toot” a Persian marzipan delicacy shaped like white mulberries, and “ashuplados” are meringue clouds from the Island of Rhodes. These recipes and recollections, along with other multi-cultural delicacies, make up the new Sephardic Heritage Cookbook, produced by the Or Chadash Sisterhood of Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Los Angeles. The Sisterhood originally produced a cookbook in 1971, which has sold several thousand copies throughout the world over the past 40 some years.

Since that time, Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel has grown, evolved and become home to a growing number of Jews from throughout the Ottoman lands and the Middle East, as well as new generations of young families drawn to the warmth and vibrancy of the community. Each group has brought with them a cultural and culinary tradition that together create a beautiful ‘salad bowl’ of diversity that makes Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel such a rich and enriching place to call home.

The ‘Cookbook Group’ has been meeting for the past five years, sharing recipes and traditions from Turkey, Morocco, Rhodes, Iran, Israel, Curacao, Egypt and South America. Our diversity makes us unique – bringing new flavors and traditions to the table; always marveling at the similarities we share.

The new cookbook, replete with or stories and photographs of delicious delicacies, is a volume that all collectors of ‘Sephardica’ will want for their library……and ‘foodies’ and cooks of all backgrounds will want in their kitchen. Get a copy for yourself – and get a few for gifts!

Enjoy cooking ….and may your hands always be blessed!

~Bendichas Manos, Marcia

You can purchase them online at Books are $32 each + shipping (buy 3 or more and receive a 10% discount on books.) {Can be shipped anywhere in the US for an additional $5/copy}

Passover – Pesah 2012

With Pesah just around the corner, we have received requests for favorite holiday recipes. We are reposting with pleasure some of the more requested ones. Take a look; click on the various links, enjoy this special holiday time. Let us know how your cooking adventures turned out and please feel free to share family stories with us. We’ll look forward to posting many of them. More to come!

Happy Cooking!

~”Bendichas Manos”

Passover Megina – Meat Quajado (originally posted April 16, 2011)

One of the staples of our seder meal is a Megina, sometmes refered to as “mina”, or a “meat quajado”. My mom’s is made with crumbled matzah mixed in giving it a quajado like consistency once cooked, and able to be cut into and served in squares. The “mina” version is often made with layers of soaked and softened matzahs and constructed more like a meat lasagna. I am sharing the recipe as my mom makes it for our family and as she has taught it in community cooking classes. This is one of those dishes you can customize to your liking, adding different spices for a differnt flair ( think cumin or ‘ras el hanut’ or even cilantro instead of parsley, to name a few). This version is made with ground beef, although ground turkey could be substituted. Let us know what you think!

My Mom’s (Kaye Israel) Recipe for Passover “Megina” (meat casserole) {sometimes called Quajado de Carne or Mina}

2 C chopped onions
2 lbs ground meat
2 tblsp oil
1/2 tsp pepper (to taste)
1 tblsp salt
1/4 c parsley, chopped
10 eggs
1 C farfel (soaked in warm water, and squeezed dry) or 4 sheets matzah (soaked in warm water, squeezed dry and crumbled)
touch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Brown meat with onions in oil; transfer to bowl and allow to cool. Add salt, pepper, parsley and farfel (or matzah). Add 2 beaten eggs at a time until 8 eggs are mixed in.

Grease 9 x 13 inch pan (pyrex type) and heat in oven for 2 – 3 minutes. Pour mixture into pan. Spread remaining 2 beaten eggs to top of mix. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve. Delish!!!!

I am including this link, complete with some pictures, of one of our favorites, my mom’s Keftes di prassa.

What Seder would be complete without Haroset. Here is my cousin Sarita’s recipe.

We have some delicious dessert recipes in our community. Check out our recipes for some of my mom’s best: ashuplados, mustachudos (a nut confection) , masa di vino (wine cookies), and marochinos ( almond macaroons ).

I have also added the link to the beautiful Moroccan custom of “Bibhilu

Finally, a link to Yehoram Gaon’s recording of one of our favorite Ladino Pesah songs, Un Cavritico .

As with all things Passover…..enjoy the opportunity to be with family and friends. Document your family recipes and traditions, cook together, enjoy the time. With each dish we serve and each traditional song we sing, we recall lovingly those family members who are no longer with us, whose recipes and memories are present at our table, and whose names we mention at various time throughout the evening (and throughout our many family gatherings).

As we retell the Passover story, so too, we retell our family stories. I love the fact that our sons, now in their 20’s, “know” and talk about family members, several who passed away years before the boys were born…..but whose life lessons and stories are still very much a part of our family gatherings. Memories live on!

We would love to share some of your family stories with “Bendichas Manos” readers…..please feel free to send them on to us! Most important, share them at your seders. This keeps our histories and our stories alive!

Some final Pesah recipes, links and “The Blessing of Bibhilu”

A final post before Pesah. First, some links for desserts for your Seders or for during the week. Our previous posts for “marochinos” (almond macaroons), “mustachudos” (nut confections), “masa di vino” (wine cookies) and “ashuplados” (merguines), are always winners!! This year, as well, I want to share with you some great finds from some of the favorite blogs I follow.

I’m looking forward to trying this “Passover Raspberry or Strawberry Tart” by Jamie Doueck, posted on ‘The Jewish Hostess’. Also, “Matzah Toffee with Almonds”, posted on ‘Serious Eats‘ looks delicious and divine!! As always, my friends, Linda Capeloto Sendowski, is always cooking up something fun and special at ‘the Boreka Diary’ Finally, from ‘the Jew and the carrot’, a compendium of great Passover recipes from some of the best the web has to offer. Take a look and see what’s going on in the world of Passover food bloggers!!

One more tradition for Passover to mention again. My cousin Avi Abikzer, whose family is from Morocco, introduced the tradition of lifting the Seder plate above the heads of each family and reciting a blessing called ‘Bibhilu‘…. “Bibhilu yatzanu mi’mitzrayim” (in haste we came out of Egypt). {in this clip, Avi and Leah’s son, Evan, passes the plate over the heads of the guests as his father recites the Bibhilu blessing}

At synagogue yesterday, a friend asked if we have this custom, and I responded that it was introduced to us and we adopted it. She told me that they do it at her Seder table as her husband’s family came from Turkey, and it was their custom there.

A few years back Rabbi Daniel Bouskila wrote a story which appeared in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal titled “The Blessing of Bibhilu“. Perhaps it is a tradition you might choose to bring to your table.

Wishing you a joyful and meaningful Pesah, and good times with family and friends!

~”Bendichas Manos!”

Keftes di Prassa con Carne AND an Egyptian Leek Mina

I posted the recipe for Kefte di Prassa (leek patties) earlier this week. The recipe is as my mom has made them for all the years I can remember. Morrie Y. Angel has asked for a recipe that includes meat. Although we’ve never made them this way, I recall a year that Lenora (di Morris) Mizrahi (z’l) made them with meat and brought them to our Seder. I called her daughter, June Grossman, to see if she could share the recipe. She referred me to her sister-in-law, Sue (di Edward) MIzrahi. Sue took out her cookbook, and found the recipe (“handwritten on a gin rummy score sheet of Morris and Lenora…. incidentally Lenora won that particular nightly game by 36 points”). These are family heirlooms! Here is Lenora Mizrahi’s recipe for Keftes di Prassa con Carne as shared by Sue:

10 medium leeks
2 large potatoes boiled and mashed (approximate 1 cup)
1 lb ground beef
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp salt
pepper (to taste)
1 tbs chopped parsley

oil for frying

Soak and clean leeks well. Cut leeks into 1/4 inch pieces and boil in water until soft. Boil potaoes until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain well. Add leeks and mashed potatoes and mix well with ground beef. Add eggs, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Form into patties. Fry until golden brown. Remove from frying pan onto absorbent paper towels (on top of brown paper bags).
Can be frozen and then reheated.

*MW: I asked Sue how long she warmed them when removing from the freezer. She responded: “When I would ask Madre how long to cook them she would say…”Ija, you’ll know,” but I don’t…I just guess each time and hope for the best!!!”

A great recipe….and memories of a great lady!!! Thanks, Sue, for sharing the recipe (and stories!).


In addition, I am linking a blog I enjoy called “the carrot and the jew”. There was a posting this week by Elizabeth Alpern where she writes about an ‘Egyptian Leek Mina’, a variation on our Pesah megina. Looks yummy! Check it out and perhaps, try something new this year!

Lots of cooking going on! Enjoy. “Bendichas Manos!”

News Update….New Direction for the Sephardic Educational Center

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!!!

Visit us on Facebook at “SEC”   Online at :

Mimouna….a celebration marking the end of Passover

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.

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 Continue reading