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Eyes Wide Open!

March 24th, 2019

This year for Pesach, I have been very inspired by my friend Billy Jonas‘s song, “Eyes Wide Open.” I figure, how are we going to journey from our “narrow place”* (our Mitzrayim, hebrew for Egypt) to a life filled with open opportunity, abundance, flexibility and expanse without our eyes wide open?

Billy sings:
You got no idea where to go – what to do
No idea what will pull you through
No idea – well it’s up to you
To keep your EYES WIDE OPEN

Cuz there’s a miracle – waitin’ in the wings
There’s a miracle, gonna make you sing
There’s a miracle – just one thing:

Check out the song!!


*”In Hebrew, Egypt is called Mitzrayim. According to the text on Jewish mysticism, the Zoharthe name is derived from m’tzarim, meaning “narrow straits” (mi, “from,” tzar, “narrow” or “tight”).”
-From “Self Liberation” by Lesli Koppelman Ross, originally published in Celebrate! The Complete Jewish Holiday Handbook

How Do You Wake Up?

March 24th, 2019

This year for Pesach, what will YOU do to wake up and open your eyes to the miracles in your life? 

     When the people of Israel crossed through the Red Sea, they witnessed a great miracle. Some say it was the greatest miracle that ever happened. On that day they saw a sight more awesome than all the visions of the prophets combined. The sea split and the waters stood like great walls, while Israel escaped to freedom on the distant shore.  Awesome. But not for everyone.

Two people, Reuven and Shimon, hurried along among the crowd crossing the sea. They never once looked up. They noticed only that the ground under their feet was still a little muddy –like a beach at low tide.

“Yucch!” said Reuven, “there’s mud all over this place!”
“Blecch!” said Shimon, “I have muck all over my feet!”
“This is terrible,” answered Reuven. “When we were slaves in Egypt, we had to make our bricks out of mud, just like this!”
“Yeah,” said Shimon. There’s no difference between being a slave in Egypt and being free here.”

And so it went, Reuven and Shimon whining and complaining all the way to freedom. For them there was no miracle. Only mud. Their eyes were closed. They might as well have been asleep. (Exodus Rabbah 24:1)

Excerpt from The Book of Miracles, A Young Person’s Guide to Jewish Spiritual Awareness by Lawrence Kushner, one of my favorite teachers.  Re-printed with permission.  (Jewish Lights Publishing)

Rabbi Kushner teaches us that “to be a Jew means to wake up and to keep our eyes open to the many beautiful, mysterious, and holy things that happen around us every day.”  Celebrating Pesach offers us an opportunity to witness and take part in our daily miracles.  Whether big or small, honoring these moments will help us make our way from dark to light, constriction to expanse, personal slavery to freedom.  

Click HERE for ways to celebrate Pesach in your home!



An Interactive Script to Re-tell the Story of Passover

March 24th, 2019

DOWNLOAD PDF of Script:  ShirLaLa Passover Story Script

An Interactive Passover Story Script
by Shira Kline

 Notes for the Narrator:

  • This is a completely interactive experiential re-telling of the Pesach story for an early childhood audience and their parents.
  • When you see a word all in caps, this is a word you wait for the audience to say with you.  They know these answers because they understand the implied clues.  They may also recognize the answers as lyrics from a song or are familiar with the story.
  • Ideal room set up with ample open space, parents and children sitting together on the floor, so that you can move in and out of the group, and so that you can all boogie (of course).
  • Children and adults are called on to play different roles.  At times you will narrate the dialogue and other times you will cue the storytellers to say lines. Throughout the story, I address the audience as “you,” “we,” “storytellers,” and/or I “role” them in a character and call them by this name.
  • Musical accompaniment on the guitar is very helpful as it layers the story with a soundscape, creating a soundtrack for the story.  Try a range of strumming styles from dramatic loud tremolo to light and gentle picking.
  • Songs that I use to tell the story are highlighted in blue with sources when I have them.
  • Stage directions” are in italics, these are often meant to be ad-libbed.  Use your whole body to tell this story!

SONG: Everybody Has a Story (Craig Taubman, www.craignco.com)


A long long long long long… Storytellers, help me out with the “long long longs”
(gesture to audience, play sounds effect on guitar) “…long time… AGO! Our great great great great… We need a LOT more of these “greats!” (elicit more “greats”) Our great grandmas and grandpas were living in Egypt, smooshed together in a narrow place where they could barely look this way or that.

SONG: All I Wanna Do (CD: It’s a Kid’s Life, by Imagination Workshop)

(Interrupt the song with:)  But the new King Pharaoh was always in a bad mood making his bad mood face (elicit bad mood faces) and saying “NO! NO! NO!” I want you to do everything MY WAY!”  (return to the song, interrupting intermittently with King’s Pharaoh’s “NO! NO! NO!”)

They didn’t get to go to playgrounds, they didn’t get to eat ice cream, they didn’t get to play with their friends and buy new clothes, they were stuck in this place. (This is my way of inserting the translation of “Mitzrayim,” the Hebrew word for Egypt, which means “Narrow Place.”)  

They had to work all day and all…NIGHT!  When it was dark and when it was …LIGHT! Whooooo it’s hot out here in the ….DESERT.  Well, we got a lot of work to do so everyone take out a big heavy hammer (mime taking out a giant hammer and swinging over your head, quickly moving back to the guitar to emphasize each bang with a loud strum in the key of the song) and…BANG!   BANG!  3 bangs… BANG BANG BANG!  (act out this entire song)

SONG: Building Cities (CD: ShirLaLa Pesach, Song by Shirley Cohen) OR Bang Bang Dig Dig (CD: Seder Song Revival, Song by Elana Jagoda)

We were slaves and it was hard!!

But there was one young man (Identify a child who is paying close attention) probably just a bit older than you (addressing this child) who said, ‘ This is terrible!! I can’t even!  No, This is awful.  I gotta get outa here.’   (at this point, I’m not expecting this child to repeat these lines, rather I’m narrating the story and engaging each audience member personally)

And he left!
(guitar accompaniment takes on “mysterious” sound, minor chords perhaps, to introduce this new, strange character and foreshadow his upcoming bravery.)

He went up into the hills.
(Gesture with the neck of guitar, eyes and arms guiding everyone’s imagination into the hills of Midian.)

And here, he stayed.  He became a….   SHEPHERD! He took care of….. SHEEP!  Storytellers, we need lots of sheep now.  “Baa baa baa!” And there he was tending to his sheep one fine day
(Gesture for more “baa baa.” Guitar accompaniment switches to light gentle picking for us to imagine a calm and peaceful life up there in those hills)

when suddenly… (guitar chords change to reflect something new, a question coming)…
(Point directly towards a spot in the center of the room) What’s that over there? (Elicit these answers from the audience.)


To Download the Complete Script, click HERE  ShirLaLa Passover Story Script

Happy Pesach everyone!  For talking points on the story and plenty of activities, printables and recipes please visit ShirLaLa’s Blog Sameach.

Passover Foods – The Way To My Heart

March 24th, 2019

PesachBonBons.gifAll my life I’ve heard people say, “I hate Passover, you can’t eat ANYthing!” And I’ve always shaken my head and said, “You need to come over to my house.” Passover is straight up my favorite holiday because the food is SO GOOD! A large part of my Jewish identity was clearly formed by the gustatory traditions for each and every holiday of the year. My mom went to town creating our family’s food rituals mixing her Hungarian roots with a heavy handed cup of her love for Sephardic food. She also had the task of cooking almost entirely meatless menus for my vegetarian family.

To this day, every holiday throughout the year has a specific set of dinner entrees, side dishes, noshes, and desserts. But none more than Pesach! It’s always been a goal of my mom to make the holidays extra special by creating a wonderland of delicious and memorable foods. During Pesach she keeps the cupboards stocked with Pesadig candies and chocolate from Israel. As a child, when there was a birthday party to attend during the holiday, she sent us along with our own amazing treats. This also really helped to curb the difficulty of going through the American Easter holiday season with all the Easter baskets piled high with (non-Pesadig) chocolate.

Let’s see, a typical Passover day’s meals might include:

Breakfast: photo-1
The Grown-up Breakfast. This is broken up matzah in a bowl with coffee and warmed milk and sugar carefully poured over it. A Hungarian tradition. My brother, sister and I still cannot understand why any grown-up would choose this over the best pancakes every invented.

The Kids Breakfast. Matzah meal and egg white pancakes, each one a puff of love served with pure maple syrup – special for Passover.

Matzah Brie. Now every family has a different recipe, my mom’s is a loose scramble of sliced carmelized onions, whipped eggs, salt and pepper, and quickly soaked matzah broken up into large pieces so it stays crunchy.
Moroccon Omelet. Diced potatoes, carrots, parsley and garlic baked into an egg omelet spiced with tumeric, salt and pepper.
Lotsa Matzah! with a spread of cheeses and salads. Steamed artichokes left over from the artichoke petals served at seder with my mom’s home made mayonnaise – special for Pesach. My mom usually ate cottage cheese toped with diced fresh carrots, scallions, tomatoes and cucumbers so she could splurge on one whole matzah liberally spread with sweet butter and sprinkled with kosher salt. I can still picture her face as she prepared this exceptional treat for herself.

Oh yes, and the U-Bets chocolate milk! Growing up, chocolate milk was a special treat reserved only for Shabbat (no wonder I love Shabbat so much) and on Pesach we always had the jar of U-Bets Chocolate Syrup which lasted far longer than the holiday but just was not as interesting or appealing after those eight days. Special for Pesach: Brown Cows, a yummy drink of chocolate milk mixed with soda water.

Frequent refrigerator raids for matzah brickle (see below), chocolate covered strawberries or whatever other left overs we could slice off or dig into.
Compote. A sweet dish of cooked dried fruits in their own thick syrup. One time she poured chocolate into paper muffin cups, creating chocolate shells and served the compote in those! I’m telling you, my mom holds nothing back when it comes to holiday food prep!
More Matzah! with anything you can imagine on top, especially leftover charoset from the seder.

Matzah Ball Soup.
Now my mom always makes two kinds of matzah balls. One for my dad, the traditional heavy German “cannon ball” matzah balls, a recipe passed down from his great-grandmother. And the 2nd kind is a lighter mixture based on a Hungarian recipe mixed with chopped almonds, parsley, fresh ginger and soda water. Also, because of the vegetarians at the table, French onion soup (no cheese) replaces the more traditional chicken soup.
Kubeh (KU-beh)! This one we would fight over. One of the few exceptions of meat in the house, this is a Sephardic treat of thick breaded (matzah mealed) dumpling stuffed with spiced ground lamb and fried.
Edam Cheese and Spinach Souffle, my sister’s and my favorite.

IMG_0181The Brickle. Quite possibly every chocolate lover’s fantasy, the brickle is a delectable sheet of broken up matzah, topped with toasted almonds, topped with home-made caramel, and topped off with a swirl of milk and dark chocolates.
The Seven Layered Matzah Cake. 7 matzot soaked in wine and layered with a sauce of chocolate combined with rasberry jam, egg, butter, and brandy. One year, I completely O.D.’d on this cake and haven’t really been able to eat it since.
Fresh Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate
Coffee Flavored Meringues
(most of these can be made non-dairy to go with the seder meal of lamb.)
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Pecan Bonbons. These may be a little over the top, but what else is a holiday for? They are pecan halves filled with butter cream laced with brandy, topped with a pistachio, and then dipped in chocolate.

Door’s always open, come on over!

Four New Questions – The Passover Challenge

March 24th, 2019

Every year, our children learn to sing the “Four Questions”. The Haggadah is actually filled with questions for the young and old alike. Let this holiday dinner (seder) be the opportunity to let all question run free. Sometimes it’s hard to address children’s questions on abstract topics and the harder parts of our history. This is the Passover challenge.

Four New Questions

When you’re discussing these questions, whether just with your children or with many generations and voices at the seder table, be sure to share your voice as well. The Four New Questions speak to the whole human story, adults and children alike. And then, please share your voice with us. We look forward to hearing about the new insights this discussion brings to your Passover experience.

1. What does it mean to be free?

The Hebrew word for Egypt is “Mitzrayim.” In English, it means “narrow place.” What are the narrow places in your life? How do you know when it’s time to get out?
Do you think this has anything to do with the spring cleaning that many families do in preparation for Passover? Or the new spring season that bursts out of a long winter?

For young children, the concept of “free” may mostly be related to free time and free play (when they can choose whatever activity they like as opposed to structured classroom time). You can continue the discussion by asking how those times feel different from the rest of day? Can you imagine, if you never had free play?

Older children are ready to talk about America: The Land of the Free. What kinds of things make us “free”? Free to be you and me! This is a great time to talk about tolerance and justice. Are there still slaves in the world today?

How would your life be different if you weren’t free?

What freedoms are you most grateful for?

Our ancestors were heading to Israel, the land of milk and honey. What does freedom taste like to you?

Every year we read in the Haggadah that every one of us should think of ourselves as having left Egypt. Why is it so important to remember and retell this time in our mythology?

2. What would you have taken with you out of Egypt?

AKA: What is most meaningful to you?

Imagine packing a bag of the most meaningful and important things in the world to you.

What will you pack for comfort?

What will you pack for nourishment?

What will you pack for pleasure?

What will you pack for joy?

What will you pack for memories?

This can become a study in chametz – the “puffed up” non-essentials in life.

3.Have you ever taken a leap of faith?

Not long after the Israelites finally left Egypt, the Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army to chase them down. But that was only the beginning of this new drama. They had just reached the Sea of Reeds! How were they to cross? What would happen to them? With the Egyptian army rushing up from behind and the great Sea of Reeds spread out before them, what were they to do?

What would you do?

Here’s one legend from the Babylonian Talmud:

“When the Israelites stood by the Sea of Reeds, each tribe was unwilling to be the first to enter the sea. Then sprang forward Nachshon the son of Aminadav from the tribe of Judah and descended first into the sea… the sea saw Nachshon and fled.”

The story goes, that Nachshon, impatient and perhaps without faith in Moses, stepped into the water. Trusting that God would help them, he walked right in to the depths until it reached his chin. Then he started to pray. Words that we use in every service “Mi Kamocha ba’Elim Adonai…!” Who is like you, making wonderous miracles (now would be a good time for one. Right now!!!)… and when the water filled his mouth and he could only gargle out the prayer, then THE SEA PARTED!

A beautiful story of faith, trust, and courage.

What or who do you think gave Nachshon that courage?

Did you know that four-fifths of the the Israelite slaves stayed in Egypt? (At least according to Rashi.) Now why in the world would they do that?

Would you have left Egypt (the known/familiar) and taken a risk?

For what kinds of things do we need courage? Can you think of some examples of when you were the first person to try something new?

Describe a time when you had to do something you were scared to do, but you did it anyway.

Who are the modern day heroes and heroines that have leapt headfirst and changed the world?

What kinds of risks do we take every day?

Why is it so hard to try something new?

4.  What miracles have you seen?

The Sea of Reeds parting is considered to be a magnificent miracle. One of our best! Do you believe in miracles?

A story from Exodus Rabbah:

There were maybe a million people crossing the Sea of Reeds that day. It took all night long. Two people, Reuven and Shimon were deep in the crowds moving across the land. Where the waters had parted, the earth was wet and soft. Reuven and Shimon took one look at the ground and said, “YUCK! It’s all muddy here! My sandals are getting dirty! Back in Egypt we had mud and bricks. Here it’s just mud and water. And it’s even worse! This is the wettest mud I’ve ever seen in my whole life! This is worse than Egypt!” Reuven and Shimon did not look up to witness the miracle.

What does it take for us to see a miracle?

What miracles, little and big, can we see every day if we are paying attention?

A Parent’s Passover Preparation

March 24th, 2019

A note from my Mom, Barbara Kline

Preparing for Pesach begins my spiritual journey for this holiday of freedom and renewal. That means cleaning up a storm. Articles such as "25 Ways to a Quick Passover Changeover" from Jewish Living published eons ago, rev me up for the task. As I clean each room from top to bottom, re-arrange shelves of books and photos, separate out the chametz from my pantry, and change my dishes and cookware, I feel a sense of freedom from clutter, material and spiritual. Boxes of chametz sit on the pantry floor waiting to be consumed before the holiday. By the time my kitchen is ready for preparing Pesadig goodies (I always start with the charoset), my multiple lists taped to the cabinet doors checked off as I complete each task, (And I never take these listst down until right before Seder when all that’s left is one sheet with the menu and another with the timed schedule for getting everything on the table. Even so, two years in a row I left the matzah out of the matzah kugel!) I know I’m ready to welcome everyone to the table, feeling renewed and grateful that we made it to another Seder. I sit back and enjoy the tumult of the evening, our table crowded with family and friends, and laden with food lovingly prepared by my children and me.

I try to prepare as much of the food as possible before the family arrives to join in. That includes the charoset, soup, matzah balls, artichokes, eggs, and compote. Once we’re together, everyone has a task. We all dice the veggies for the Israeli salad Shira always make the meringues and chocolate cake. Aliza and Shira and I’m sure this year Aliza’s three and a half year old daughter Ela will dip whatever needs dipping into chocolate. The girls assign Avi and Bradley jobs in all areas including running to the store for a last-minute, forgotten ingredient.

Setting the table has its own ritual. Kiddish cups determine where we sit and every year we play musical Kiddush cups as we change our minds as to who will sit next to whom. Fresh herbs adorn each napkin and pots of herbs decorate the table. Lots of laughter accompanies all.

The entire week is imbued with the special flavors of Pesach. We hate to see it end.

Practice the Four Questions with ShirLaLa

March 24th, 2019

Practice the Four Questions!

Click here to sing along with Shira..

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And check out this new iPhone app to learn the 4 Questions!


A Child’s Passover Preparation

March 24th, 2019

I smile at my memories of Pesach as a child. . . counting the books in the shelves as I dusted, the mysterious search for chametz with the candle and the feather, sitting at the big grown up seder following attentively as he led us through the journey challenging everyone with questions and queries, negotiating with my dad over the afikomen (for world peace of course), the hilarious drunken singing at the very very very end of the seder night "An only kid an ONLY kid" we sang with such drama, chocolate candy bars, matzah cake, fluffy pankcakes. . . What a great holiday for a child. So much to do!

Spring Cleaning
We knew it was the season when we started eating beans and grains at every meal, coming up with more and more creative ways to eat up our chametz. And then the deep spring cleaning began. Each one of us had a very specific job assignment in addition to cleaning out our bedrooms. My favorite job was addressing the rows and rows of bookshelves. I was to take out each and every book, dust it and put it back in. I remember letting the subjects and titles of the books swirl around in my imagination where I made up stories and songs to entertain myself.

B’dikat Chametz
As we got closer and closer to the 1st night Seder, the tables filled up with our regular dishes to be exchanged for Pesach dishes, Haggadot out of the attic, and the yummy smells of Pesach food filled the house. The night before Pesach, we did a big b’diKAT chaMETZ. This is the official and final "Search for chametz." As the youngest in the family, I hid about 10 pieces of bread (the very last in the house in this point) throughout a few rooms. Being a savvy and adventurous child, I had an excellent sense of bread hiding places. Then my family would gather, with a small paper bag, a long feather, a wooden spoon, and a tall candle. First my dad would lead us in the blessing,

"Blessed are you God, Rule of the Universe, who makes us holy with the commandments, and commands us to remove the leaven."

And then, by candle light (at least thats how I remember it) my family searched for the hidden bread. When someone found a piece they called out and every gathered around for my dad to pick up the chametz with the feather and spoon and brush it into the paper bag. Eventually we would always have to resort to the "hot and cold" game for searching and usually I would actually forget where I hid all of those little pieces. But we would get them all eventually. And then with all of the chametz in the bag my father would declare,

"Any kind of leaven which remains in my possession that I have not seen nor removed or about which I do not know shall be regarded as non-existent and considered as the dust of the earth." Mishneh Torah: Hilkot Hametz u-Matzah 2.1-3; 3.6-7

Oh the drama! And the fun! I’m very excited to follow this tradition with my young niece and watch her join in the excitement.

Pesach Hebrew Coloring Page – Pesach (Passover)

March 24th, 2019

Celebrate this wonderful holiday with all of your senses!
Listen to the story…
Taste our sweet, bitter, and salty history…
Smell the springtime…
Touch the flat, crunchy matzah…
See your friends and family around the seder table!

Click here for a Seder Plate coloring page

Click here for a Seder Plate coloring page

Pesach Hebrew Coloring Page – Haggadah

March 24th, 2019

There are many many different kinds of Haggadas. What does yours look like?

Click here for a Haggadah coloring page

Click here for a Haggadah coloring page