Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Challenge of Bravery

Braving the Red SeaAs Abq Jew mentioned just last year (see Swimming With Nachshon), we Jews remember the bravery of Nachshon ben Aminadav as we observe the Seventh Day of Passover.

On the Seventh Day of Passover - the anniversary of the day when this glorious event happened - we again read the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea and the ensuing celebrations.

Nachshon ben Aminadav
Nachshon ben Aminadav          David Brook

While everyone who has seen The Ten Commandments knows that Moses and his staff (including The Holy One, Blessed Be He) parted the waters of the Red Sea - we Jews also remember Nachshon, who was the first to step in when the Egyptians were chasing us.

And Nachshon didn't just stick a toe in. He continued walking until the water was up to his neck. Then and only then did the Red Sea part, allowing us Children of Israel to cross on dry land.

Crossing the Red Sea

Nachshon’s name has become synonymous with courage and the will to do the right thing, even when it’s not popular. Even when it's dangerous. Even when ...

Allan J McDonald
Mr. McDonald recounts the 1986 Challenger launch in 2016.
(Francisco Kjolseth / Salt Lake Tribune)

Allan J McDonald died earlier this month, and Abq Jew could not let his passing go (at least, on TV news) almost entirely unnoticed.

If you don't remember his name: McDonald was the senior on-site representative of his company, contractor Morton Thiokol, who refused to sign off on the January 28, 1986 launch of the Challenger space shuttle over safety concerns.

Superb obituary writer Emily Langer wrote in The Washington Post:

Allan McDonald, engineer and whistleblower in the Challenger disaster, dies at 83

Allan J. McDonald, a rocket scientist and whistleblower who refused to sign off on the launch of the Challenger space shuttle over safety concerns and, after its explosion, argued that the tragedy could have been averted had officials heeded warnings from engineers like himself, died March 6 at a hospital in Ogden, Utah. He was 83.

Mr. McDonald was in Cape Canaveral, Fla., at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where the Challenger was set to take off. He oversaw the engineering of the rocket boosters used to propel the shuttle into space. Among colleagues, the New York Times reported, Mr. McDonald had a reputation as one of the most skilled rocket engineers in the country.

It was unseasonably cold in Florida, with weather forecasts predicting that temperatures might drop as low as 18 degrees Fahrenheit in the hours before the Challenger was scheduled to lift off. That cold snap became the crux of vociferous debate among Mr. McDonald and other engineers, Morton Thiokol executives and NASA officials about whether the mission should go forward.

Citing the cold, Mr. McDonald insisted that takeoff be postponed, according to accounts of the deliberations that later emerged in news reports. A critical component of the rocket booster was the O-ring, a rubber gasket that served to contain burning fuel. Because of their composition, O-rings were highly vulnerable to temperature drops, and engineers warned that their effectiveness could not be guaranteed below 53 degrees Fahrenheit. 

“If anything happened to this launch, I told them I sure wouldn’t want to be the person that had to stand in front of a board of inquiry to explain why I launched this outside of the qualification of the solid rocket motor,” he would later testify.

Protocol required the senior engineer to sign off on the launch. When Mr. McDonald refused, his supervisor signed for him. The Challenger lifted off at 11:38 a.m. on Jan. 28 and disintegrated approximately 72 seconds later, its remains streaking across the sky.

“My heart just about stopped,” Mr. McDonald later said in a public lecture, according to the Commercial Dispatch of Columbus, Miss. 


President Ronald Reagan convened a high-level commission to investigate the catastrophe. Ms Langer continues:
Mr. McDonald was present at a closed session of the commission — watching from what he called the “cheap seats” — when he heard what he considered misleading testimony by a NASA official about the debate leading up to takeoff.

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘That’s about as deceiving as anything I ever heard,’ ” Mr. McDonald said in an interview aired on NPR. 
“So I raised my hand. I said, ‘I think this presidential commission should know that Morton Thiokol was so concerned, we recommended not launching below 53 degrees Fahrenheit. And we put that in writing and sent that to NASA.’ 
I’ll never forget Chairman Rogers said, ‘Would you please come down here on the floor and repeat what I think I heard?’ ”
Allan J McDonald Testifies
Engineer Allan J. McDonald testifies before
the presidential committee investigating the
Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986.
(Charles Tasnadi/AP)

And what, Abq Jew hears you ask, was Mr McDonald's reward for his honesty, bravery, and dedication? Alas, Ms Langer tells us:
Mr. McDonald was demoted at Morton Thiokol after his testimony, then reinstated after Congress moved to end the company’s federal contracts if he was not returned to his job.

“I really expected to be going out the door,” he later recalled. 
“And I would have, if it had not been that the presidential commission and certain members of Congress found out about it and really read the riot act to the management of my company. That saved my job, frankly.”
And then?
After his reinstatement at Morton Thiokol, Mr. McDonald played a principal role in a redesign of the booster rockets. He retired in 2001 as a vice president at the company. 
With James R. Hansen, he wrote the book Truth, Lies, and O-rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster (2009) and spoke frequently to scientific, corporate and government audiences about the role of ethics in professional life.

He often cited an aphorism with particular resonance for him. 

Regret for things we did is tempered by time.
Regret for things we did not do is inconsolable.
Challenger Crew

There is more. There is also the story of Bob Ebeling, reported shortly before his death in 2016 by The Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz:
For more than 30 years, Bob Ebeling carried the guilt of the Challenger explosion. He was an engineer and he knew the shuttle couldn’t sustain the freezing temperatures. He warned his supervisors. He told his wife it was going to blow up.

The next morning it did, just as he said it would, and seven astronauts died.

Since that tragic day, Ebeling has blamed himself. He always wondered whether he could have done more. 
His daughter, Kathy Ebeling, said he had even entertained bringing his hunting rifle to work  Jan. 28, 1986 to threaten NASA not to launch — that’s how certain he was that the shuttle was going to explode.
Ebeling spoke to NPR for the 30th anniversary of the Challenger explosion. He sadly recalled the day and described his three decades of guilt.
“I think that was one of the mistakes that God made,” Ebeling told NPR. “He shouldn’t have picked me for the job. But next time I talk to him, I’m gonna ask him, ‘Why me? You picked a loser.’ ”

But listeners didn’t hear a loser. And they sent hundreds of e-mails and letters to NPR and directly to Ebeling telling him so ....

His daughter, reached at their Utah home, said she’s been reading him the letters. Engineering teachers said they use him as an example of good ethical practice. Professionals wrote that because of his example they are more vigilant in their jobs.

But there was one person that made him finally start to believe he wasn’t to blame.

Allan McDonald, who was Ebeling’s boss, reached out after the NPR interview aired to tell him that he had done everything he could have done to warn them, including calling Kennedy Space Center to try and stop the launch.
Nachshon by Mordecai Colodner
Faith at the Sea of Reeds
Mordecai Colodner

As we observe the Seventh Day of Passover,
et us remember Nachshon's bravery.
And may we live up to the example he set.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

It's Pesach 5781!

Passover Is Almost Here: A time when we used to gather with friends and family, to celebrate our Holiday of Freedom.

Passover Corona

This year, Pesach will be different.
Again. One (אי״ה) last time.

Wait better

And here's why.

Because the Jewish Federation of New Mexico and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque have combined with the leadership of New Mexico's delightfully diverse Jewish community to create

Virtual Seder

One Community: Many Voices
A Virtual Seder for Passover 5781 / 2021

Where you will find a wonderful playable and/or downloadable Video Seder that highlights different synagogues, groups, and leaders from our community leading the Seder. This way, you can watch the Seder at your table and at your chosen time. And where you can download the attached Haggadah with the Seder to follow along and participate.

Way better

To cheer y'all up, Abq Jew below provides a video from ABBA's 2016 Reunion. That was five (5) years ago. They probably look even older now. Those were the days.

Times of joy and times of sorrow
We will always see it through
Oh, I don't care what comes tomorrow
We can face it together
The way old friends do

And to further cheer y'all  up, Abq Jew below provides a video from The Seekers' 2014 Farewell Tour. That was seven (7) years ago. They certainly look even older now. Those were the days.

Rocking rolling riding
Out along the bay
All bound for Morningtown
Many miles away

And to really, really cheer y'all  up, Abq Jew below provides a video from the 2002 Grease DVD Release Party. That was nineteen (yes, 19) years ago. They certainly look way older now. Those were the days.

You're the one that I want
You, ooh, ooh, honey


Want more videos?
Abq Jew here thoughtfully provides three (3) of the classics. 
What would Pesach be without them?

1. Google Exodus: Best. Passover. Video. Ever.

2. Passover Rhapsody: Second. Best. Passover. Video. Ever.

3. The Passover Prank. Best. Passover. Prank. Video. Ever. For parents who (especially) miss their kids on Pesach. 

Who know that Skype and Zoom are never enough.

As the Seders approach, Abq Jew must remind us all
(he must! he must!) that Good News, Salvation and Comfort
are just one (1) Pesach visitor away.

?אחד מי יודע
Tonight Could Be The Night!

At our Pesach seders
we Jews have been opening our doors to Elijah for thousands of years.

We still believe that Elijah the Prophet will return tonight
and announce the Coming of the Messiah.

When that happens, our first question will be:

Did Elijah remember to send out a press release?

If he did — you may learn the Good News in a few days or weeks.
But you can always hear about Salvation and Comfort at &
Your guide to Jewish life in Albuquerque and beyond

A Zissen Pesach, Albuquerque!
Chag Kasher veSameach, New Mexico!

Monday, March 15, 2021

A Santa Fe Love Song

A Nusbaum Seligman StoryYes, Abq Jew loves to tell stories. Especially stories that connect people, and especially stories that connect people to their past. Which is how and why he manages to find so many long-lost relatives on his Family Tree.

Back in 2019 (see Blood, Spit & Years)Abq Jew told his Old Grandad's Beachwood Beechwood family story, and showed how he developed his wonderfully interesting and terrifically entertaining Not Strictly Genealogy Methodology.

God loves stories

Wait it gets better

Abq Jew is honored and thrilled for you, his loyal readers, to meet Amy Bess Cohen, his ... well, for now, let's just say cousin. Amy is a mere 14 steps away on Abq Jew's Family Tree. And ...

Amy is the great-great-granddaughter of New Mexico Jewish pioneers Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum Seligman. Whose son, Arthur Seligman, was the first Jewish Governor of New Mexico.

Seligman Bros
Etching of Santa Fe showing the Exchange Hotel
and Seligman Brothers store on the Plaza

Yes, those Seligmans.

Now, Abq Jew knew about his family connection to Amy Bess Cohen for - well, only a couple of years. And he knew she was a writer (and a very good one), having read her first novel, Pacific Street.

Pacific Street is a fictionalized, captivating - yes, that's the word - account of the lives of Amy's grandparents Isadore and Gussie Goldschlager. Which began in Iasi, Romania - just like Mrs Abq Jew's family (see Remembering the Iasi Pogrom).

But Abq Jew didn't find out about Amy's Santa Fe connection until she posted this on her Facebook page.

I am excited to announce the publication of my second family history novel, Santa Fe Love Song. Like my first book Pacific StreetSanta Fe Love Song is a fictionalized account of the lives of my family members, this time my great-great-grandparents Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum. 

Bernard was a young German immigrant who became a pioneer on the Santa Fe Trail. He fell in love with the American West and with a woman back east. How he reconciles those two loves is part of the story told in my new book. 

Let's start with Arthur Seligman, the man in this photograph.

Arthur Seligman
Governor Arthur Seligman

Wikipedia tells us:

Arthur Seligman (June 14, 1871 – September 25, 1933) was an American businessman and politician. He served in several offices in New Mexico, including mayor of Santa Fe and governor.

Governor Seligman

Seligman was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory, the son of Bernard and Frances Seligman.

Bernard & Frances Seligman
Bernard & Frances Seligman

Abq Jew was also excited by the announcement of Amy's new book. Why? Because - 

Since Abq Jew's cousin Amy is related (very directly) to our beautiful state's first Jewish governor, so is Abq Jew!

This not to belittle Abq Jew's relationship to Bernard and Frances, who are famous in their own right. Yes, our relationship is rather distant, and involves more luck and good timing (which is to say, marriage) than blood. 

In fact, Abq Jew is closer to Billy Joel (11 steps; see Fame, Fortune, and Four Wives) and Ronnie Gilbert (also 11 steps; see Starting With Aunt Bea) than he is to Amy Bess Cohen (14 steps) or Governor Arthur Seligman (17 steps). 


After more than 10 years living on the West Bank of the Rio Grande, Abq Jew has achieved a goal that he had only dreamed about. For, to use a term that the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society will surely understand, Abq Jew now has yichus!

Amy Bess Cohen
Author and Illustrators

So let's talk about Amy's just-published family history novel, Santa Fe Love SongSanta Fe Love Song's Amazon page tells us:

Bernard is torn between two loves---his new home in Santa Fe and a woman who lives in Philadelphia. How will he resolve the conflict? As a young Jewish immigrant new to America in the 1850s, he finally felt at home after traveling the Santa Fe Trail and settling in Santa Fe with his older brother. His travels across America introduced him to his new nation and challenged his sense of himself and what it meant to be a man. 
But then he met Frances while traveling back east. Could he convince her to leave the comforts of a big city, a large Jewish community, and her family? 
And if he did, would she be happy? Bernard and Frances are characters inspired by real people, the author's great-great-grandparents. and their story is based on her research of their times and their lives.

Wow. What a story. Torn between the Land of Enchantment and the mishpocha back east? Abq Jew suspects - no, Abq Jew knows we've all been there.

Want to know the facts about European Jews coming to New Mexico? You can start with Henry Tobias's A History of the Jews in New Mexico - as Amy did - and move on from there. 

Want to know what it felt like? What Amazon said about Amy's first novel is even truer here:

In this novel, the author takes you into their world and their minds so that we can all experience what their lives must have been like.

Seligman Stone

Here is what Amy's novel idea means to the rest of us. You know - in practical terms.

No footnotes

Although Amy does provide an epilogue, a postscript, acknowledgements, and a dedication. However - 

If you want to know everything Amy Bess Cohen knows
about her family, you have to read her blog

Amy's Brotmanblog (yes, Amy is also a Brotman) is packed with records, documents, photographs, interviews, and personal recollections from her years (yes, years) of genealogical research. 

That's where the footnotes are.
That's where Amy's Genealogy Methodology resides.
And that's where Abq Jew found most of the photos in this blog post.


Genealogy is not just about obtaining names, dates, and documents; it’s about finding meaning in the past and learning from the lives our ancestors lived. - Amy Bess Cohen

Nusbaum Washington

One more thing

Amy visited New Mexico a few years ago, and wrote:
Our days in Santa Fe were a wonderful blend of history, art, architecture, and family history. 
They call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment, and Santa Fe is an enchanting place even if you have no family ties to the place.  
But for me, it was more than that. 
Although at times it was hard to imagine what is now very much a tourist-filled place as the old settlement of native Americans, Spanish and Mexican settlers, and then later Anglo settlers like my ancestor, when I could time-travel in my mind to the years when my great-great-grandparents and their children roamed those same streets around the plaza, it was quite magical, and yes, enchanting.
Youve Got Yichus

Thanks Amy

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Together With Her Money

Tsuzamen Mitn Gelt: Abq Jew wishes an XXXL Mazeltov! to American novelist and philanthropist Mackenzie Scott, who has recently re-married after her 2019 divorce from - you, know, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. 

And who is also noted for being one of the world's richest people (her net worth is about $62 billion). Since her divorce, she has reportedly given away more than $4 billion of her fortune. With plenty more that she is planning to give.

Mackenzie Scott Dan Jewett

Mackenzie Scott's new husband, Dan Jewett, is a high school chemistry teacher. Which should give us all some small hope that - with A Little Bit of Luck - a better life is achievable. 

As Kohelet tells us:

Race Not Swift

Or, as Bubbe always told your Mom and Dad (you see what good that did):

Marry Rich Marry Poor

Time to cue If I were A Rich Man. This time, the Zero Mostel stage version from the 1965 Tony Awards. (Click here if you insist upon the Chaim Topol film version.)

The couple's marriage was announced joyfully via their page on The Giving Pledge, a campaign to encourage extremely wealthy people to contribute a majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Where Dan writes:

It is strange to be writing a letter indicating I plan to give away the majority of my wealth during my lifetime, as I have never sought to gather the kind of wealth required to feel like saying such a thing would have particular meaning. 
I have been a teacher for the majority of my life, as well as a grateful student of the generosity of those around me. This has meant doing my best to follow their example by passing on resources of all kinds—from time, to energy, to material possessions—when I have had them to give. 
And now, in a stroke of happy coincidence, I am married to one of the most generous and kind people I know—and joining her in a commitment to pass on an enormous financial wealth to serve others.
Mackenzie Scott and Dan Jewett are not, as far as Abq Jew or anyone else can tell, MOTs. (FYI - neither is Fiddler on the Roof director Norman Jewison. Go figure.) And, Lord & Taylor knows, they don't need any financial advice from Abq Jew.

Or advice about charitable donations.


The word tzedaka derives from the Hebrew word tzedek, "justice." 
Performing deeds of justice is perhaps the most important obligation Judaism imposes on the Jew. "Tzedek, tzedek you shall pursue," the Torah instructs (Deuteronomy 16:20).
Justice Tzedek

If you were at Nahalat Shalom for Klezmerquerque 2011, you surely remember hearing Yosl Kurland of the Wholesale Klezmer Band sing Tsuzamen Mitn Gelt, a traditional song in the form of a Yiddish double alphabetical acrostic.

But if you a) missed Yosl's Erev Shabbos performance; or b) don't remember hearing him - Beth Cohen and her husband Randy Edmunds performed an (alas) abbreviated version of this song for the Abq JCC's June 25 Virtual Coffee.

    Tsuzamen Mitn Gelt ~ Together With Your Money

Az nit keyn emune tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe arbetstu af der velt?
     Without faith, together with your money,
     what good is it to work in the world?

Az nit keyn bine tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe bistu af der velt?
     Without understanding, together with your money,
     what good is you're being in the world?

Az nit keyn gemiles kh'sodim mitn gelt, vos-zhe geystu af der velt?
     Without acts of lovingkindness, together with your money,
     what good is it to go in the world?

Az nit keyn da'as tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe darfstu di gantse velt?
     Without wisdom, together with your money,
     what do you need in the world?

Az nit keyn hakhnosos orkhim mitn gelt, vos-zhe helft dir di gantse velt?
     Without welcoming, together with your money,
     what can help you in the world?

Az nit keyn vatrones tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe vilstu af der velt?
     Without generosity, together with your money,
     what do you want in the world?

Az nit keyn zkhus tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe zukhstu af der velt?
     Without merit, together with your money,
     what do you seek in the world?

Az nit keyn khesed tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos far a khies hostu af der velt?
     Without righteousness, together with your money,
     what delight do you have in the world?

Az nit keyn tahara tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe toyg dir di gantse velt?
     Without purity, together with your money,
     what use are you to the world?

Az nit keyn yoysher tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe yogstu zikh af der velt?
     Without justice, together with your money,
     what good is to chase yourself through the world?

Az nit keyn koved tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe khapstu di gantse velt?
     Without honor, together with your money,
     what good is it to grab the whole world?

Az nit keyn lamdones tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe lebstu af der velt?
     Without learning, together with your money,
     what good is it to live in the world?

Az nit keyn mitsves tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe makhstu af der velt?
     Without God's commandments, together with your money,
     what good is what you do in the world?

Az nit keyn nemones tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe narstu zikh af der velt?
     Without trustworthiness, together with your money,
     why do you make a fool of yourself in the world?

Az nit keyn savlones tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe sapetstu af der velt?
     Without patience, together with your money,
     what do you gasp for in the world?

Az nit keyn anove tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos vestu entferen
      af der emeskiker velt?
     Without humility, together with your money,
     what will you answer in the true world?

Az nit keyn peyres tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe pravetstu af der velt?
     Without fruits, together with your money,
     what good is celebrating in the world?

Az nit keyn tsedoke tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos fara tsil hostu af der velt?
     Without charity, together with your money,
     what goal do you have in the world?

Az nit keyn kedushe tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe kvellstu af der velt?
     Without holiness, together with your money,
     what is there to be proud of in the world?

Az nit keyn rakhmones tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe raystu zikh af der velt?
     Without compassion, together with your money,
     what do you aspire to in the world?

Az nit keyn Shabbos tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos-zhe shmaystu zikh af der velt?
     Without Shabbos, together with your money,
     what good is bustling in the world?

Az nit keyn Toyre tsuzamen mitn gelt, vos fara terets hostu af der velt?
     Without Torah, together with your money,
     what is your justification in the world?


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Pesach on Saturday Night

And Egg Matzos for Shabbos: We Jews love Pesach (Passover). Absolutely love it. Whether we go the full Kosher-for-Passover route or simply taste the matzah and horseradish and drink the wine - we Jews love Pesach.

And this year - after a 13-year hiatus - we Jews will begin our love affair with Pesach with a rare event that happens only so often. That makes Once In A Blue Moon seem frequent. Abq Jew hereby advises you, his loyal readers -

Streit's Egg Matzo

Make sure you've got Egg Matzo!


Why? Because this year
Saturday Night Fever
Pesach begins on a Saturday night!

Abq Jew hears you, his loyal readers ask:

What's so special about this?

To which Abq Jew answers:

There are three (3) things you'll notice immediately. (And a fourth thing you've always wondered about that comes up during the Seder.)

1. Bedikat Chametz 
Bedikat Chametz takes place on Thursday night and Friday morning.
Bedikat Chametz OU
Why? Because the day before Pesach - when we would ordinarily burn the chometz - is Shabbat. No starting fires (or transferring flames) on Shabbat!
2. Fast of the Firstborn
The Fast of the Firstborn (or a Siyyum) takes place on Thursday morning.
Why? Because the day before Pesach - when the 'firstborn who open the womb' might ordinarily fast - is Shabbat. No fasting on Shabbat (except on Yom Kippur, of course)!

Fascinating fact: This is a logical AND operation. Which means -

  • If you're a firstborn who was delivered via C-section, you don't have to fast because you didn't 'open the womb' - even though you're the firstborn. 
  • If you're a secondborn to a mother whose firstborn was delivered via C-section, you also don't have to fast because you're not the firstborn - even though you 'opened the womb'.

And note: The other best way to avoid fasting for the Fast of the Firstborn is to instead hold a Siyyum - a public celebration over completing a portion of Torah / Talmud study.
3. Shabbat Meals
The Shabbat meals - both evening and lunchtime plus, believe it or not, Seudah Shlishit - may involve ... wait for it ... challah.

Why? Because you've got to have 'bread' for it to be considered a meal, so you can make HoMotzi, so you can bentsch Shabbos.

Therefore, defying all logic, you can serve challah right up to about 12 noonish on Saturday, as long as you keep it separate, on a separate dish - or better yet, on a paper plate.

Yes, this is in spite of the fact that you have already performed Bedikat Chametz, burnt the chametz, and publicly announced that any chametz remaining in your possession is 'ownerless property, as the dust of the earth'.

Thank G-d Judaism doesn't have to make sense! 

Wait better
The Rabbis, in their finite but still immense wisdom, thought hard and found a workaround. You guessed it!

Egg Matzo!

How, Abq Jew hears you ask, does Egg Matzo provide a workaround to what is clearly and plainly a contradiction?

Here's how: At the First Seder, we are commanded to eat Matzo lechem oni, poor-man's bread, the 'Bread of Affliction.' To prevent us from jumping the halachic gun, the Rabbis forbade us from eating lechem oni during the hours just before the First Seder. 

Here's the clincher: Egg Matzo - because that delicious egg has been added to enrich the flavor - is NOT 'Bread of Affliction'. But it is (if you've shopped carefully) Kosher for Passover!

Wait Worse

If you think Pesach on Saturday night is Moshe Kapoyre now - you should have seen in Temple times. Here's a story from the Talmud.

Hillel the Elder

Hillel Knows Some Things

The Pesach offering - we all remember the Pascal Lamb, don't we? or is Abq Jew putting Descartes before the hoarse? - had a strict time limit. 

It had to be slaughtered bayn ha’arbayim (at twilight) - and it had to be totally consumed by midnight. Which naturally raised the question:

What to do if the 14th of Nisan falls on Shabbat?

The Mishna says: The following acts necessary for the sacrifice of the Pesach offering supersede the due observance of the Sabbath: The shechting, the sprinkling of its blood, the removal of its kishkes, and the burning of the fat with incense.

The Gemara tells us: The rabbis taught: The Halakha in the Mishna was not known to the Religious Authorities.  It once happened that the 14th of Nissan occurred on a Sabbath, and they did not know whether the Passover sacrifices superseded the due observance of the Sabbath or not. In other words:

Zevachim before Pesachim, or vice versa? 

The rabbis looked around for a man who knew the Halakha, and they were told that there was a man who had recently come from Babylon, called Hillel of Babylon, and who had learned under the two greatest men of that generation, Shemayah and Abtalyon. Hillel would probably be able to solve the problem. 

They sent for Hillel and asked him: "Do you know whether the Passover-sacrifice supersedes the Sabbath?" and he answered: (condensed version) “Sure it does.”

But they insisted upon his basing his assertion upon some actual text. Which Hillel promptly provided, showing how the Torah's use of the word biMoado (at its appointed time) proved that Zevachim and the Passover offering may supersede the Shabbat offering.

When the rabbis heard this, they immediately put Hillel in charge. 

Whereupon Hillel began to reproach them, and said:

Why have you put me in charge?
You should have been taking advantage of
the learning of the two great men of
your generation, Shemayah and Abtalyon.

Paschal Lamb

Everyone knew that Passover Pilgrims were forbidden to carry their slaughtering knives to the Mikdash on Shabbat. So the Religious Authorities asked  Hillel:

What is the law if a man forgot to bring the
shechting knife on the day before the Sabbath?
Hint: No carrying knives or anything else in public on Shabbat.

Hillel not-so-famously answered:

I have heard the Halakha but have forgotten it.  

And famously continued:

Leave this, however, to the Israelites themselves,
for if they are not prophets they are descendants
of prophets, and they will know what to do.

The next day, Hillel saw that those who brought sheep as a sacrifice had the knife thrust in the wool of the sheep, and those that brought goats as a sacrifice had the knife stuck between the horns. 

Hillel then (amazingly) remembered the Halakha covering the case and exclaimed:

Thus is the tradition which I have received
from my masters Shemayah and Abtalyon.

But Hillel's remembering brings up the much larger question:

Forgetting Memory

How Could Hillel Or Anyone Else Forget?

How was it possible that, among the thousands of Passover Pilgrims who had assembled for the holiday, they could not find a single person who remembered what had been done the last time Passover followed Shabbat?

Answer #1: Blame it on God. The Talmud says: God caused the people to forget in order to make Hillel's achievement appear more impressive, and to facilitate his rapid rise to leadership.

Answer #2: Let’s do the math! Pesach on Saturday Night. How often, one wonders, doesn't one, does this happen?


Abq Jew first became aware of this question in 1977, when he was privileged to study Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary with now-Rabbi but then 'only' Professor Judith Hauptman

Back then - there was, you will recall, no Internet and no Google, although there was now-Rabbi Burt Visotsky, the genius who lived down the hall - Abq Jew did the research using a [printed hardcover of the] 150-Year Jewish Calendar.

And discovered that there were regular intervals of 3, 4, 7, 13, and 20 years between instances of Pesach on Saturday night. As Wikipedia tells us today:

While the coincidence of the Eve of Passover and Shabbat can occur as often as three times in a decade, it is also possible for as many as 20 years to pass between two instances. 

The percentage of the Eve of Passover on Shabbat occurring is 11.5%. 

During the 20th century, the Eve of Passover fell on Shabbat 12 times: in 1903, 1910, 1923, 1927, 1930, 1947, 1950, 1954, 1974, 1977, 1981, and 1994. 

In the 21st century, it has occurred three times: in 2001, 2005, and 2008. Future occurrences in the 21st century include 2021, 2025, 2045, 2048, 2052, 2072, 2075, 2079, and 2099.

Passover 2021

So ... 

Do you remember where, when, and with whom you celebrated Passover in 2008? In 2005? How about in 2001? Which version of the Haggadah did you use? And whose child, now likely Married With Children, asked the Four Questions?

Taking ancient life spans and 20-year gaps into account, it seems entirely reasonable to Abq Jew that living memory of what to do when Pesach begins on Saturday night might fade.

Which brings us to:

The Fourth Thing

The Fourth Thing
You've Always Wondered About

You will find the Fourth Thing You've Always Wondered About right there in the Passover Haggadah. On page 25. 

Haggadah Goldberg

It's in the blessing right before the second cup of wine, which is based on a Mishnah in Pesachim.
Blessed are You, G-d, our G-d, King of the universe, who has redeemed us and redeemed our fathers from Egypt, and enabled us to attain this night to eat Matzah and Maror.

So too, G-d, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, enable us to attain other holidays and festivals that will come to us in peace with happiness in the rebuilding of Your city, and with rejoicing in Your service [in the Bet Hamikdash].

Then we shall eat

Note: if the festival is on any day except Saturday night say:

of the sacrifices and of the Passover-offerings; 

if the Seder is on Saturday Night say: 

of the Passover-offerings and of the sacrifices

whose blood shall be sprinkled on the wall of Your altar for acceptance; and we shall thank You with a new song for our redemption and for the deliverance of our souls. Blessed are You, G-d, who redeemed Israel.

In other words: Through the liturgy, we recognize that 

The Passover-offering supersedes the Sabbath.


You know - just like Hillel said.

Hillel Sandwich
Here, Hillel. Have a sandwich.

Passover Shopping