Finding Modern Meaning in the Passover Story

We tell the Passover story every year about us being slaves in Egypt and the hardships we endured. How can we really relate it to our modern lives? When I was in Israel, I visited “Women of the Waters”—the most beautiful mikvah I have ever seen, in Tzfat. On their website, www.tsfatmikveh.com, they shared Passover wisdom this way:

“The Kabbalah wisdom teaches us that anything holding us back, that enslaves us and blocks our unique divine light from shining, is called Egypt – (in Hebrew Egypt is called Mitzrayim, the narrow straits). Yes, whatever it is that distorts our clarity of vision and purpose, preventing us from feeling our true essence aligned, things like anger, sadness, jealousy, dependency on peer approval, impulsivity, resentment, laziness, desire to control, dishonesty, materialism etc. are all our modern day “enslavement”, these are all binding and imprisoning us from accessing our true selves and our personal miracles.”

How do we enslave ourselves by narrow minded thinking, prejudice, etc.? With Passover beginning in less than a week, now is a great time to think about your vision of your most free, creative, well “aligned” self.

Is there someone who helps bring out your best self? Why not send a Passover gift basket to that special friend? Feeling distanced from family, emotionally or physically? Vow to reconnect this spring, or even “attend” the family seder from a distance using Skype. Feeling enslaved by technology? Make Passover an excuse for a technology holiday – use the land line only until Passover ends. Looking for a closer connection to your community? Invite someone new to your seder, or offer a seat at the table to someone who just moved to town. If you live in LA, let me know – I know someone who moved there just last week and would really love and appreciate an invitation to seder!

In reaching out to others, we sometimes find more of ourselves. Think about how to navigate your way out of the narrow places, widen your horizons, and expand your expression of your true self during this time of wonder.

 

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Seder Plate 101

The Elements of the Seder Plate

seder platePreparing the seder plate can get to be a little rote – we’ve done it so many times before. We don’t think too hard about it, we just follow the printed directions on our seder plates! But in case you need a little reminder of why we’re really doing “all this,” as it says in the Hagadah, here’s a brief lesson in the elements of the seder plate.

1. Three matzot.

They’re actually meant to symbolize the three castes of Jews: Priests, Levites, and Israelites. Then there’s also the three measures of fine flour Abraham told Sarah to use for the matzo. Finally, Abraham and Sarah were visited by three angels. So three is a big Passover number!

2. The lamb shank.

It represents the sacrifice that was made the night before the Jews left Egypt. After that, a sacrifice was made every year in the Holy Temple on the afternoon before Passover. Can you imagine that sacrifices were made in the temple? Hard to conceive of today!

Passover seder plate3. The egg.

It symbolizes the holiday offerings people brought to the Holy Temple. It’s also a symbol of life and renewal, of course.

4. The bitter herbs (maror).

Our forefathers were plenty bitter during their enslavement in Egypt, and this is our reminder of their suffering.

5. The Charoset.

This delicious treat is meant to symbolize the mortar and bricks the Jews made during slavery in Egypt. Apples, nuts and wine make a tasty reddish “mortar” – good thing there was no concrete back then or who knows what charoset would have to be made of!

6. The root vegetable.

We place a non-bitter root vegetable on the seder plate to remind ourselves of the arduous work the Jews did as slaves.

eclectic Passover seder plate7. The lettuce.

It’s actually also a reminder of the bitterness of slavery. When Pharaoh first deceived the Jews into working for him, he was not so harsh. But eventually the Jews became entrapped in cruel slavery. The symbolism is that the lettuce leaves are sweet, but if you left Romaine lettuce to grow, its stem would eventually turn bitter and hard. So remember, use Romaine, not iceberg!

If you’re invited to be a guest at the seder this year and you need a Kosher for Passover gift, a seder plate is a wonderful Passover hostess gift that will always be appreciated. Many families put more than one seder plate on the table, especially when there’s a large group. So bring along one of our beautiful seder plates, or add to your own collection!

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Win a Passover Gift with our Kosher for Passover Dessert Contest!

kosher for Passover cake

With so many unique and meaningful traditional foods that must be prepared for the seder (like charoset and gefilte fish), kosher for Passover desserts are one part of the seder menu where we can get a little more creative. We want to know what you’ve tried in your own kitchen that’s been a hit Passover dessert!

Enter our Passover Dessert Contest!

Challah Connection is giving three wonderful kosher for Passover gifts to the lucky winners submitting our favorite, most creative Passover dessert recipes.

Have you made your own gourmet version of chocolate covered matzo perhaps? Maybe you’ve kicked that recipe for Passover sponge cake up a notch or two, or created your own version of the traditional Passover raspberry roll cake? Please share your success!

Win a Passover Gift as a Prize, or Send It to your Seder Hostess!

RULES: By Monday, March 18th, post your kosher for Passover dessert recipe in the comments section of our blog or email it to Jane@challahconnection.com along with any other interesting facts related to your recipe. If emailing, include subject line: “Passover Dessert 2013.” Recipes will be judged based on creativity, originality and ease of use. Winners will be announced on March 20th. If you are a winner, we will email to notify you and at that time get your name and shipping address so we can send your prize.

First Prize:

Our delicious Savory Nosh Basket for Passover, a value of $119.99.

 

 

 


passover macaroons gift basket

Second Prize:

A sweet Passover Candy and Macaroon Platter, a value of $39.99.

 

 

 

 

Passover cookies gift basket

Third Prize

Schick’s Assorted Kosher for Passover Cookies, a value of $14.99.

 

Prizes will be shipped to you or a recipient that you choose (US shipping only).

We can’t wait to choose and share some wonderful, creative kosher for Passover dessert recipes with you.

 

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Shiva Gift Giving Frequently Asked Questions from Challah Connection


Sending a sympathy or shiva gift is certainly one of life’s most difficult tasks. What makes it difficult is our own unease with death combined with a feeling of helplessness—“how can I truly help?” This is particularly so when the death is a tragedy. But as we all know death and even tragedy is part of life.

Here at Challah Connection, we have been helping gift givers send shiva and sympathy gifts for over 10 years. This experience combined with our own mourning for loved ones we have personally lost, makes us particularly well versed in this sorrowful area.

Following are some of the most commonly asked questions by both Jews and non Jews alike, who are attempting to console those in mourning with a special gift.

What Is Shiva?
Shiva is the 7 day Jewish mourning period. During shiva, friends and family visit those who are mourning as an act of support and friendship. Visitors, along with the mourners sit, nosh (eat) and through conversation, celebrate the life that has ended.

When Is Shiva?
A shiva schedule is typically announced at the funeral or obituary. Although shiva is 7 days, many mourners shorten the period. Shiva is never on Shabbat, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. The first Shiva typically begins after the funeral, which is often followed by the burial. Funerals often start between 11am – 2pm and are around an hour. The burial is on average, another 2-3 hours depending on the distance of the cemetery from the funeral (often in Synagogue or Funeral Home). First shiva can begin anywhere from 4:30pm to 7pm and doesn’t usually last past 9 or so.

I am going to the shiva, to make a shiva call, what should I expect?
Shiva is a sad occasion but you should not feel nervous or uncomfortable. Just being there is enough; you need not worry about saying the “right” thing. If not sure what to say or how to act, it’s best to say little. However, you can never go wrong by being supportive and helpful: “Anyone need a drink?” “Can I help clean up?” “How are you feeling?”

What should I bring to shiva?
Bring food that can easily be served and shared. Avoid food that requires work on the part of the mourners. Kosher cookies, cakes, candies, nuts are all welcome at shiva as long as they are crowd pleasers and easy to serve.

I am far away and can’t go to shiva, what should I do?
Send a card or food-a shiva gift basket. Never send flowers! Shiva gifts should be foods that are well liked by many (don’t forget young kids, if they are part of the mourning family) and easy to serve. Our 3 most popular shiva gifts are Sympathy Comfort Gift Basket, Sympathy Essentials and Caring Conversation Shiva Basket.

When should the gift arrive?
Ideally, the earliest your gift should arrive is the first day of shiva, which is usually the day of the funeral and burial. Shiva gifts are welcome anytime during the shiva period and even beyond (see next question).

What if I have missed the official shiva period, should I still send a gift?
Although the official shiva period is over, the family will still be receiving visitors and food will be needed to feed them. Sending a gift at this time is completely acceptable and shows your care.

What is your best selling shiva gift basket?
In order of popularity, our top 3 most popular shiva gifts are Sympathy Comfort Gift Basket, Sympathy Essentials and Caring Conversation Shiva Basket. Also very popular is our Sympathy Dried Fruit and Nut Tray, Thoughtful Condolence Basket, Baklava Assortment and more which you can see here.

How Do I Choose A Gift?
All of our shiva gifts are time tested and we know that shiva families truly appreciate them. Your choice should be based on your allowable budget (don’t forget shipping), any personal preferences you may have and/or any dietary restrictions of the shiva family that you are aware of. We are always happy to help you make your selection.

Does My Shiva Gift Need to be Kosher?
Sending a kosher gift is a recommended. Even if the mourners are not kosher observant, it is quite possible that some of the attendees are. Shiva is not a time for inconvenience or difficult moments. At Challah Connection, all of our shiva gifts are certified kosher. Most of our foods are certified with high level certifications including OU, OK, STAR K.

Do You Carry Glatt Kosher Shiva Gifts?
Most of our foods are certified with high level certifications including OU, OK, STAR K, which are suitable for those who require the highest level (Glatt) kashrut. If you require such a basket, please let us know and we will be sure that only foods of the highest certification are included.

What Should the Gift Message Say?
For most of us, this is perhaps the hardest part of sending a sympathy or shiva gift. Often, we try to convey too much into the message. Keeping your message simple is key. Following are some of our most frequently used gift messages. Feel free to use as is or with your own personal touch. Don’t forget to sign your name!

-With heartfelt sympathy
-Our thoughts are prayers are with you during this difficult time
-We are so sorry for your loss and send our warmest condolences to you and your family
-May [name of deceased] be a blessing to all who knew him/her
-May G-d comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem

Where should the shiva gift be sent?
Shiva very rarely takes place at a funeral home (actually we have never heard of this happening). Shiva usually takes place at the home of a family member. This is where the shiva gift should be sent.

How should I address the gift—to my friend? To the entire family?
While you may have a specific friend or colleague in mourning, it is a nice gesture to address the gift to the entire family. For example, instead of Ms. Suzie Miller, The Miller Family.

If you are sending a gift to someone who is staying with friends or family, you can address it as follows: The Miller Family, c/o The XYZ Family.

Any questions? Need help placing your order? Please call us at 866-242-5524 or email: service@challahconnection.com.

©2013, Challah Connection, Westport, CT. All rights reserved.

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Select a Unique Passover Gift Basket that Lasts

Whether you’re an invited guest for a Passover seder or you want to spread the joy of Passover’s spirit of freedom, a beautiful kosher for Passover gift basket will mark the holiday that heralds springtime! We have a wonderful selection of gift baskets for Passover brimming with delicious treats and staples for the holiday: chocolate covered matzo, Barton’s almond kisses, and Passover nut platters among them. Maybe this year you want to send a special piece of Judaica they’ll use and appreciate now and for many years to come?

Send some Passover Judaica as a Hostess Gift

Passover PlateThis is truly a piece of Passover Judaica to treasure: A beautifully painted Passover tambourine celebrating Miriam’s role in the exodus. This version of Miriam’s timbrel has vivid, lively colors and is a functional tambourine that makes a wonderful, musical addition to your seder. Created by artist Betsy Teutsch, this tambourine is a  professional Remo percussion instrument that can be hung in the home and taken out for joyous celebrations! BUY $97.99

Miriam’s Cup for your Seder Table

Miriam's cup   Send your daughter, your mother, or the wonderful hostess who invited you to the seder a beautiful Miriam’s Cup to grace the festival meal’s table! Not only is it the perfect hostess gift for Passover, but it’s wonderful for any girl celebrating her bat mitzvah this year, or that special young woman starting a household of her own. BUY $45.00

A Special Elijah’s Cup

elijah's cup passover This silver plated Elijah’s cup is wrapped with decorative wire and small colorful beads. Why not make it a Passover gift for your grandson, your son, or that special nephew? Who says it’s only the hostess who should get a hostess gift for Passover, anyway? Bring one to your seder host!  BUY $47.00

A Unique Haggadah as a Passover Gift

unique Passover haggadahThis is a unique Passover gift anyone would love to receive. The Hamsa is thought to bring good luck and protection. Here, it becomes the backdrop of a beautifully different Haggadah. Send this unusual Passover gift and make an artful impression that will inspire and extraordinary seder. BUY $19.99

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Passover: Create more Freedom at your Seder

One of my friends’ fathers jokes every year that “Passover is a holiday where we celebrate freedom by enslaving women in the kitchen.” Okay, so he’s got a point! But isn’t all this preparation for the seder an example of true freedom, when you really think about it? Are we really “enslaved” in the kitchen, or there by choice?

It may not always feel like “freedom” when you’re busy in the kitchen for days on end making matzo balls and chicken soup and polishing up your seder plates. But it’s also a labor of true love: love of family, love of tradition, and yes – love of freedom.

Of course, on the flip side, we are also free to choose not to do certain things on Passover! Preparation for Passover seders and the week of keeping kosher for Passover can be quite tiring. Here are some ways to lighten the load of seder preparation. Or maybe you’re going to a seder instead of hosting this year? Bring them one of our beautiful kosher for Passover gift baskets and be their favorite guest.

Let Us Deliver the Passover Dessert

kosher for passover desserts

You’ve arranged for all the other parts of the seder meal – why not leave dessert to us?

This Kosher for Passover gift basket includes a box of Matzel Toff – matzoh covered with delicious toffee and enrobed in chocolate. Plus the nostalgic Barton’s chocolate Almond Kiss candies, Seder Maven Passover macaroons, assorted cookies, and dried apricots. There’s even herbal tea and honey to top it all off after a fulling meal and scrumptious dessert. BUY NOW $179.99

kids activities for Passover

Keep the Kids Entertained

You can’t be watching them when you’re trying to serve the matzo ball soup, but you can give them some activities to keep them occupied!

Send a Passover gift basket for kids packed with holiday fun. A coloring book, crayons, masks and stickers – what more could they need? Keep the Lollycones hidden till it’s just about dessert time, then break them out while hot coffee and tea is being served – the kids are bound to stay put and stay safe! BUY NOW $49.99.

Passover seder hostess gift

Arrive Prepared with a Kosher for Passover Hostess Gift

Invited to a seder this year? Not sure what to bring as a hostess gift that’s kosher for Passover and delicious? We’ve got you covered, and you don’t even have to bake anything.

Bring some Renanati Cabernet Sauvignon in an elegant gift box and tin of Barton’s Almond Kisses, cello wrapped together and tied with colorful raffia. It’s a simple, elegant hostess gift for anyone hosting a Passover seder. BUY NOW – SPECIAL PRICE! $62.50

Share Ideas for a Simpler Seder

What are some things you do to prepare for Passover that others could learn from? Please do share your ideas here, so we can all learn some ways to make a seder without feeling like we’re “enslaved in the kitchen.”

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On Purim, “Anything Goes”

When Purim Gets, well, …. Rowdy!

I love how Purim is the one holiday where it’s permitted to be downright rowdy in synagogue. So much merriment is allowed, it’s just plain awesome. In fact, the Talmud actually says (according to the JewishEncyclopedia.com) that “one should drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish ‘Cursed be Haman’ from ‘Blessed be Mordecai'”. Now that’s a holiday!

Even rabbis can get a little meshuga on Purim. One of my friend’s rabbis develops an elaborate Purim skit complete with crazy costumes every Purim. It packs the synagogue! Last year, he dressed in drag and he and the congregation’s cantor did a skit entitled “The Real Housewives of Shushan,” the city where the Purim festival is held in the Book of Esther! That’s the cantor on the left (feasting on hamentashen), and check out the rabbi in the red dress!

Send Some Merriment in time for Purim

Purim gifts for kids

Help them imbibe ’till they can’t distinguish Haman from Mordechai! Or send your favorite little one a crafty Purim Party. Our website has great ideas and packages to choose from, including hamentashen, award winning rugelach and our finest babka.  Maybe you’re making hamantashen at home this year? Check out our delicious hamantashen recipe. What will you do this Purim to let your hair down and get a little meshuga??
Purim gifts wine baskets

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Have a Purim Celebration with Homemade Hamentashen!

Purim Hamantashen Recipe to Make and Share

Purim is on Sunday, February 24th. This is the time to plan your Purim celebration! Everyone loves Hamentashen cookies, and with the recent snowy weather this is the perfect time to spend time in the kitchen whipping some up! Here’s an easy recipe for Hamantashen that you can fill with whatever kind of sweet fruity fillings you like. You can box up some of these and send them as a homemade Purim gift basket. Or, leave the baking to us and send a sweet Shalach Manot gift basket through Challah Connection!

DOUGH: Makes enough for about 24 cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature (or use additional butter)
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice or milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash (optional) and coarse sugar (optional)

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. Combine the butter and shortening in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until light and pale, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, mixing until thoroughly incorporated. Beat in the orange juice, and then beat in the vanilla. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in two additions.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently a few times just until the dough comes together. If the dough is very sticky, knead in another tablespoon or so of flour. Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm enough to roll. (The dough can be refrigerated overnight. If necessary, let stand at room temperature briefly to soften slightly before rolling out.)

4. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. On a lightly floured surface, working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out as many rounds from the dough as possible; gather up the scraps and reserve. Spoon a generous 1 teaspoon filling into the center of each round. Fold three sides of the dough over to form a triangular pastry, leaving a little of the filling exposed in the center, and pinch the seams to seal. Transfer to the baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between the pastries. If desired, brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Combine all the dough scraps and roll out to make more pastries.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pastries are lightly golden around the edges. Transfer the pastries to a rack to cool completely. When cool, drizzle with chocolate, if desired.

Click here for Filling Recipes!

Invited to a Purim Party? Or Sending One?

Send some Purim joy with our celebratory Shalach Manot Purim gift basketshamentashen, award winning rugelach and our finest babkaOrder by February 15, 2013 for on-time Purim delivery and take 10% off your order of $60 or more.*Order online or call 866-242-5524 to place your order. If you have ordered from us in the past, we have your recipient addresses.

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“Where’s the Hamantashen, Bro?”

My son Sam’s college buddy actually posted this question on his Facebook page last year. I guess it’s an official tradition that not only will Purim gift baskets for kids in college mean gifts for MY college students, but also for their friends of any religion!

Purim gift college care packageNow that Sam has graduated, I’m thinking his old college buddies will seriously be wondering “Where’s the Hamantashen, Bro?”! I love thinking about the fact that wherever they’ve all flown off to, his college friends will now know just a little bit more about this fun Jewish holiday – even if they don’t “celebrate” it themselves. Now they know the delicious Jewish treats of Purim:hamentashen, challah, babka and black and white cookies in particular!

I can’t believe Sam’s undergrad years are already behind him. I do have to admit that I miss packing up the  Purim Baskets for not just my son, but with his fraternity brothers, classmates and friends in mind as well. The posts and tweets they’d send after chowing down on a mountain of hamantashen always made me smile and often chuckle.

Purim Gift College Students Shalach ManotIt really is true that time flies, so don’t delay getting your shalach manot in the mail to your college students and, of course, their hungry friends as well! Before you know it, they’ll be graduating and bringing those great Jewish traditions with them out into the world!

You can put together your own Purim Gift or choose one of my personal favorites shown here. Happy Purim!

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Celebrate Tu B’Shvat

Celebrating Trees on Tu B’Shvat

Tu B’Shvat is celebrated by planting trees and eating fruits and nuts. It’s a bit too chilly here in the US to plant trees right now, but we can surely celebrate with some delicious kosher gift baskets of fruits and other delicious treats!

Marking “The New Year for Trees”

Why a new year? Because the Torah says fruit from Israeli trees can’t be eaten during the first three years of the tree’s life. The fourth year of fruit is set aside for G-d, and then in the fifth year the tree’s fruit can be harvested and eaten. The fifteenth day of the month of Shvat is used as an arbitrary date to begin counting those years, even if the tree was just planted a few weeks before that date.

Fruit Baskets are the Perfect Tu B’Shvat Gift

kosher gift basket Tu B'shvat fruits

Send your friends and family a special Tu B’Shvat gift basket with 4 pounds of fresh fruit in a lovely keepsake wicker basket! It includes cashews, unsalted peanuts and truffles to enjoy with that delicious fruit bounty. This gift basket shouldn’t be in transit more then 2 days. BUY $74.99

kosher gift basket nuts dried fruit Tu B'ShvatSend California’s Best Natural Treats

Here’s an elegant idea for this Jewish holiday: share our elegant wooden crate filled with 5 of California’s finest gems; dates, pears, pistachios, turkish apricots and Berry Blossom Trail Mix. We know California isn’t Israel, but this kosher gift basket is certainly in the spirit for Tu B’Shvat! BUY $44.99

gluten free fruit basket Kosher giftA Gluten Free Gift Basket Option

Looking for a gluten free gift basket? We love this kosher gift basket that’s centered around fresh fruit and also adds in some gluten free treats. Our all-natural Chocolate Rugelach that is not only gluten free, but also dairy free, nut free and soy free. An accompanying tin of Torie and Howard Organic hard candy is gluten free as well. BUY $79.99

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