D’var Torah: April 29, 2016

Dear Friends,

How do you end your Passover observance?

Jews around the world conclude the observance of Passover with all sorts of chametz….pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, cake and cookies, enjoying leavened food in all its riotous forms. How do you mark the end of Passover? A quiet jaunt to a nearby Italian eatery? A gluten fest at home or to a local diner or deli? Do you gather with friends or family? For Reform Jews, this year the end of Passover falls tonight, Shabbat Eve. For the rest of the Jewish community who observe Passover for eight days, it ends tomorrow night, Saturday night.

This week, jewishlearning.com instructs us about Mimouna. Mimouna is a formal observance of the end of Passover for the Jews of North African descent. They take the party to a whole new level! This observance includes a celebratory feast, with festive dress, special foods and music. Mimouna is a traditional festival celebrated by Moroccan Jews at nightfall on the last day of Passover and throughout the following day until sundown. Families open their homes to the public as they host a celebration involving family, friends, neighbors, and food. A family’s kitchen table features many different cuisines including assorted fruits, vegetables, eggs, cakes, sweet meats, milk and wine, butter, honey, jams, and the popular pastry called Mufleta. Since the celebration coincides with the last day of Passover breads, cakes and leavened breads previously prohibited from being eaten during Passover are particularly present in the celebration. Mimouna is a time to celebrate luck and good fortune as well as the start of the spring season. Foods eaten symbolize fertility, joy, abundance, success, health, and prosperity.

Well, that certainly is a party! How sweet it must be to have a beautiful gathering like that planned in advance, lying on the horizon, as you enter the Passover week. How rich the memories of that gathering must be. Mimouna celebrations were community affairs with families opening the doors to friends and neighbors. And because Jews were not allowed to own flour during Passover, in North Africa they relied on Muslim neighbors to supply the ingredients for making the pastries and cakes. This sharing across religious lines was thought to be a blessing for the spring growing season, a sign of good things to come.

Even after Jews were forced to leave Arab lands, Jews from Morocco, Tunisia and other North African countries brought this tradition to their new homes in Israel, Canada, France, South America, and the United States.

The end of our Passover observance is anticlimactic in relation to our start. Of course! How can you possibly begin to compete with the richness of the Seder with its foods and traditions? However, I think that I would like to plan something a bit more celebratory for the end of Passover for next year. The festival of Mimouna has got me thinking about enjoying something a bit out of the ordinary and festive with friends and family.

Please share with me your end of Passover traditions at cantorfrank@rtrny.org.

Shabbat Shalom,

Cantor Arlene Frank