Sweet Revenge by Rabbi Zell

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     As one who believes that it is difficult to restrain or even temper anger, I have always been one to dismiss the adage “revenge is sweet”. Until now. With the 82nd anniversary of Kristallnacht being observed this week, I believe that revenge, is very much in order, as we are summoned to recall a heinous event that would culminate in Hitler’s Final Solution, the Holocaust. Such revenge, must, however, be sweet revenge. Sweet revenge, I believe is the converse of tough love. Just as there are times where love must manifest itself in atypical ways to be effective, so too, are there times, when revenge must manifest itself in atypical ways to be effective. Kristallnacht, the precursor of the Holocaust, I believe, is one of those times.
     As one who believes that any and all atonement falls woefully short for the way Germany left an ineradicable stain on humanity, as it attempted to cleanse this world of Jews, I maintain that it is time for Jews, particularly those whose family members were persecuted, and in six million cases murdered, to mount a campaign of sweet revenge against Germany. I believe that it is repugnant for any Jew, to go through life with a chip on one’s shoulder, as a response for a horrific time period in our people’s past, which began with the breaking of glass of synagogues, business, and homes. I believe that the time has come to remind Germans of this generation of the unforgivable, dastardly acts of previous generations.
     The current pandemic notwithstanding, we are living in an age where any number of Jewish families in this country, elect to celebrate a Simcha, particularly a Bar Mitzvah, in Israel. In addition to celebrating in Israel, sweet revenge dictates that Jewish families, particularly families with a German past, where property and businesses were confiscated and family members were wiped out by the Third Reich, celebrate their Simchas in Germany as well. Let the descendants of Hitler’s War machine witness the success of the descendants of those whom Der Fuhrer and his loyal followers wished to eradicate from the face of this earth. Let the Aryans of today eat their hearts out! Let the joyous sounds of Jewish celebrations ring loud and clear. Let Das Deutsche Volk (the German people) see elegantly clad Jewish women walk out of luxury rental cars into elegant catering halls. Let Israeli music blast through the air, far louder than Deutschland Uber Alles was ever played. And let the aroma of kosher food assail the nostrils of the sauerkraut, blutwurst crowd. Let modern day ostentatious Jewish Simchas in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Munich, and other German cities, serve as a reminder to the grandchildren of those who served in the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe, that German superiority which shattered the air in November 1938 is being drowned less than a century later, by the sounds of Jews celebrating and reveling.       Reminding Germans that Kristallnacht was not what it was cracked up to be, is sweet revenge.
     As one who has participated in kosher escorted tours of Vienna, Prague, and Budapest, Scotland, and Ireland as well as Italy, I would very much welcome a kosher escorted tour to Germany. There are any number of sites of Jewish interest, such as Heiliger Sand, Europe’s oldest Jewish cemetery in the city of Worms, and the Neue Synagoge in Berlin that are well worth the trip. There is however a caveat. The kosher escorted tour must be first-class in every way. Let American Jews travel through Germany on luxurious motor coaches, preferably with large signs in German on the sides of the vehicles welcoming their Jewish guests. Eight decades ago, the  Omas and Opas of today’s generation lamely protested “We saw nothing”. Now it is time for their grandchildren to stand wide-eyed in amazement, as luxurious motor coaches roll through the streets of Munich en route to Dachau. Better yet, let them also hear the Partisan Song or similar Yiddish music of the Holocaust blare through the loudspeakers of the luxurious motor coach, as it makes its way to the Todes Lager or Extermination Camp. I have every confidence in the world, that the Germans will comprehend the Yiddish lyrics. Let Kosher escorted luxury tours break all record for tourism, as our response to the broken glass of Kristallnacht. The Third Reich failed dismally. Let us show them that hose with whom they were so obsessed, succeeded admirably.  Let das Deutsche volk (the German people) know that we Jews have “arrived”. That’s sweet revenge.
     Rav Archa Karchinaah (Talmud: Berachot 33a) points out, that “revenge” (Psalm 94:1) appears between two different names of the Divine. In his opinion, revenge if properly executed can be extraordinary. I cannot help but feel, that the revered rabbinic sage would wholeheartedly agree with, and even endorse sweet revenge.

Blood, Fire, and Pillars of Smoke by Rabbi Zell

True, two weeks have passed, since Jews throughout the world sat down to the Pesach Seder, with Haggadah in hand. Nevertheless, I should like to recall an all too often overlooked biblical quote in the Haggadah, that immediately precedes our recounting of the Ten Plagues. I do so because taken out of context, this biblical quote may very well have foretold, our bringing to mind as well as to heart the travesty of the Holocaust, mere days after bidding farewell to the Festival of Matzah. Blood, Fire, and Pillars of Smoke exclaims the prophet, Joel. Close to three millennia later, that threefold vision would evolve into an unfathomable nightmare, that was to plague the world – in particular the Jewish world – arguably making for the darkest period in our people’s history.
“For most Gentiles, Jewish meat is cheap, cheaper than beef, even cheaper than herring,” said the fictitious Ari ben Canaan (played by Paul Newman) in the movie Exodus. Ari ben Canaan could just as easily have substituted Jewish blood for Jewish meat, in that Adolph Hitler was obsessed with purifying Germany of Jewish blood. Accordingly, Hitler spared no effort and expense when it came to tracing Jewish blood. Aryan blood was pure. Jewish blood was debased and would compromise the purity of Aryan blood. With the passage of the Nuremberg Laws in September 1935, German citizens with three or more grandparents born as Jews were considered Jews irrespective of belief, practice, or having abandoned their religious roots. By law, any individual with three or more grandparents born as Jews, was no longer regarded as a citizen but would henceforth be defined as a stain on the German people, as well as their much-coveted culture.
To be sure, one can find both positive as well as negative statements concerning fire espoused by our rabbinic sages. Among the latter, we find: “The fire known to us in this world is one-sixtieth of the fire of hell (Talmud: Pesachim 57b). On November 10th and 11th Jews living in  Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland understood this statement only too well. It began with the burning of objectionable books. It didn’t take long for the fires set on Kristallnacht to spread to synagogues. And when those Jewish houses of worship erupted in flames, firefighters quickly arrived on the scene… to make sure nobody attempted to put out the flames. People – at least in our culture – appear to be mesmerized by burning buildings. Once upon a time in America, people would chase firetrucks to the scene of the fire, only to stand and watch. Apparently, it served as a form of entertainment.  Did the same hold true for non-Jews watching the “Fires of the Fuhrer”? Were they also entertained as they watched deliberately set fires engulf Jewish buildings, especially Jewish houses of worship?
Irene Safran, a survivor of the Holocaust met Josef Mengele, the German physician known for his barbaric and torturous medical experiments performed on Jews in Birkenau (adjacent to Auschwitz) in mid-1944. “Good afternoon, ladies. How are you? Are you comfortable?” he asked us cordially. “When will I see my little girl?” one woman finally mustered the courage to ask. “In a few weeks, don’t worry,” Mengele answered politely and pleasantly.  Of course, the sadistic Mengele meant that we’d see our loved ones in a few weeks when we joined them as we went up in smoke in the chimney of the crematorium.
No doubt, I am in the minority. But when white smoke emanates from the special chimney placed atop the Sistine Chapel, signifying that a new pope has been chosen, I cannot help but contrast it with the smoke rising from the “special” chimneys at Auschwitz. For Catholics, smoke rising from the chimney at the Sistine Chapel represents godliness; for Jews and hopefully, for the rest of mankind, smoke rising from the chimneys at Auschwitz represented nihilism. It was the prophet Joel, who horrifically envisioned the pillars of smoke at Auschwitz, as he foresaw pillars of smoke together with blood and fire.
The prophet Joel’s three plagues proceeding the ten plagues in the Pesach Haggadah provide for a striking contrast. The ten plagues were just desserts visited upon the Egyptians. The three plagues visited upon the Jews should have made mankind sick to its stomach. The ten plagues came from G-d. The three plagues were an affront to G-d. The ten plagues restored human faith in G-d. The three plagues caused G-d to lose faith in mankind. Come Yom HaShoah, let us make an effort to remember as well as to memorialize and help G-d rebuild His faith.

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Greet!
April 8 at 2pm.

Chef Paul Cooking Class
April 11 at 11am. Made sure you pickup all ingredients. The class is online with Zoom!

Eat!
April 12 at 2pm

Treat!
April 14 at 2pm

This program has been made possible by Israel Week 2021 Micro Grant funding of the Jewish Federal of Greater Dallas. 

Going Against the Grain by Rabbi Zell

Anglophones have an edge, come the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Thanks to the English Language with its plethora of aphorisms, Anglophones are able to describe Pesach as a Festival that goes against the grain. An integral part of the human race is the need to see that justice has been served. As such, our ancestors in Egypt would have every right to protest slaughtering a sheep or goat, daubing the doorposts and lintels with blood, and roasting that sheep or goat. What about the Egyptian taskmasters as well as those who engineered the entire system of subjugating and enslaving the Children of Israel? What about their just desserts? The slaying of the Egyptian firstborns was hardly comeuppance for a grave injustice committed against G-d’s chosen. Why are the taskmasters not receiving what is due them? Oddly enough,  never is heard a questioning word from the Children of Israel, as they carried out one of the first commandments handed down to them as a nation. Instead of harboring hatred, they were handling hyssop! Doesn’t such behavior defy human nature? Doesn’t such behavior go against the grain? But perhaps going against the grain was the primary requirement of meriting being delivered from enslavement. Perhaps true freedom is recusing oneself from retribution.
Although most of us are unaware or oblivious to the fact that once we became a nation, we were given a phrase word that was intended to mold our behavior as a people.  Nary a day goes past without “Zecher L’Tziat Mitzrayim” being brought to mind. “Zecher L’Tziat Mitzrayim” is translated as “in remembrance of exiting Egypt”. Those three Hebrew words go against the grain. We are neither enjoined to remember the slavery nor adjured to recall the suffering. Other than reading about the suffering of the Children of Israel in the Haggadah at the seder, rarely, if ever, do we give thought to the pain and suffering our people were forced to endure as an enslaved people. Human nature would have us dwell on man’s inhumanity against man. But because we are a people encouraged to rise above human nature and go against the grain, we do not dwell on suffering in Egypt, but rather exiting from Egypt. As G-d’s chosen, we are directed to dwell on liberation rather than subjugation. Perhaps this helps us to understand why in recent history, the government of Israel chose to accept the offer of reparations from Germany. Rather than become ingrained with bitterness and vindication, the government of the then nascent State of Israel knew that it had to go against the grain. Unlike individuals, we as a people, guard against being drawn into feuds.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood teachings found in the Tanach is the phrase “Vengeance is mine”. Over the centuries, that phrase provided much fodder to anti-Semites who were only too happy to contrast Judaism with Christianity, particularly when it came to divine behavior. While anti-Semitwas touted the benevolent behavior of their savior, they denounce the vindictiveness of the G-d of Israel. Little did those anti-Semites realize, that “vengeance is mine” is divine reassurance that we, the Children of Israel did not let injustices consume us. Ultimately, injustices against us will be addressed. G-d will choose the time, place, and method. And so it was, as far as punishing our Egyptian enslavers. G-d chose the time. It took seven days, the exact same amount of time G-d devoted to creating this world. It took place at a body of water. Just as redemption began at a body of water with an Israelite infant floating in a wicker basket, so too would redemption come to fruition at a (albeit different) body of water. As far as the method?
G-d repays in kind; G-d rewards in kind. The Children of Israel were able to go against the grain when they gained freedom, by occupying themselves with fulfilling G-d requests instead of settling all accounts with their enslavers. The Children of Israel were encouraged to go against the grain by focusing on the leaving from Egypt rather than the suffering in Egypt. G-d chose to repay and reward in kind by having the waters of the Sea of Reeds go against the grain and divide and save the fleeing Israelites only to come together again to drown the Egyptians. In doing so, the Egyptians were served their just desserts while the Children of Israel experienced a phenomenon that would last for all ages.

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Register here for one or all of the Greeting, Eating and Treating online classes. These classes are in celebration of Israel with the Jewish Federation of Dallas.

The online classes use Zoom. Dates are April 8, 11, 12 and 14. The April 11 cooking class with Chef Paul is at 11am. All other classes are at 2pm.

You can register for any or all classes. If you sign up for the Chef Paul Cooking Class, make sure to pickup all of your ingredients. Cooking classes online are really fun.

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Cooking Class Recipes

These are the recipes for the Chef Paul Cooking Class. The online cooking class is part our Greeting, Eating, Treating online classes in celebration of Israel, April 8-18, 2021.

If you have signed up for the online cooking class, make sure to pickup all of your ingredients. Chef Paul Cooking Class is a Zoom event you attend at home.

Disclaimer: While the ingredients are complete, these recipes may a little vague in some places. Chef Paul will provide details during the online class. Sign up today! Online cooking classes with Zoom are really fun! Let’s greet, eat and treat!

Chef Paul is Paul Nirens from the Galilee area of Northern Israel. Mr. Nirens runs a hospitality business named Galileat, providing “true grass roots cultural experiences, based around food, working closely with a wide variety of host families in the Galilee region of Northern Israel.”

Recipe 1: Pitta with Labaneh and Za’atar

This is a two-part recipe made with (1) dough and (2) topping.

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A Matter of Taste by Rabbi Zell

Rabban Gamliel deserves far more credit than he deserves. When he remarked: Whoever fails to mention these three items on Pesach, has not fulfilled his obligation: Pesach (the pascal sacrifice)
Matzah and Maror, he was on to something big. Aside from the fact that these three food items are commanded as “exodus foods” in the Torah (Exodus 12:8), Rabban Gamliel undoubtedly was aware that Pesach, Matzah, and Maror share yet one other feature in common. Having lived in an age of epicureanism, how could he have not. Just as contemporary society has introduced us to the notion of “comfort food”, it might very well have been that society in the days of Rabban Gamliel had the notion of “taste food”. Aside from sage, rosemary, and thyme – or onions and garlic if one is of Eastern European ancestry – there are far more basic tastes known to society. And it is specifically the Pesach seder that serves as a reminder of these basic tastes.
Maror serves as an excellent reminder of the excruciating back-breaking labor, forced upon our enslaved ancestors. Maror also serves as an excellent reminder of what it means to leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth. And leaving a bitter taste in one’s mouth is totally independent of physical enslavement. Leaving a bitter taste in one’s mouth is all about behavior and relationships. One can live in the freest society known to mankind and still experience being left with a bitter taste in one’s mouth. Disillusionment causes a bitter taste in one’s mouth. So too does lack of respect and appreciation. When you give someone the shirt off your back, only to receive a kick in the pants in return, you are left with a bitter taste in your mouth. If maror is the ultimate symbol of bitter taste, then maror is in no way limited to our ancestor’s Egyptian experience.
It should come as no surprise to learn that I do not watch Cooking Shows either on television or any other medium. Yet even I can tell you that it does not take seasoning or spice for one to ask: “What’s in the kitchen? It smells so good!”. Meat roasted over an open flame creates a flavor to savor. Just as the Torah commanded our ancestors to partake of a kid or a lamb at our farewell dinner upon departing from Egypt, so too did the Torah specify that our ancestors prepare that kid or lamb roasted over an open flame. Kid or lamb, whether boiled or stewed kid was unacceptable. Why was G-d so adamant that the entrée at the farewell dinner had to be prepared over an open flame? Perhaps to indicate that rather than see the repast solely as a dinner bidding farewell to slavery, the repast should also be regarded as a dinner welcoming freedom. If the maror left our ancestors with the bitter taste of enslavement, then the Korban Pesach or Passover sacrifice was designed to whet their appetite for the freedom that awaited them.
A good many of us in our society tend to be judgmental when it comes to the judgment of others. “He has absolutely no taste in women” we proclaim after female after female one befriends fails to meet our standards of acceptability. “She goes out in public, dressed like that! Where is her sense of taste?”, we ask incredulously. However accurate we may be in our assessment; our remarks are likely to achieve nothing more than tongue wagging. Tongue wagging was not on the list of reasons our ancestors were redeemed from Egyptian enslavement. Ideally, G-d wished to create a people who had no taste for bearing false witness, found gossip to be in the poorest of taste, and looked upon idolaters as tasteless worshippers when it came to deities. Few would argue that matzah qualifies as a tasty dish to set before the king. Eaten alone, Matzah has little or no taste. Symbolically, matzah with its bland flavor is a desired and necessary taste for participants of a divinely inspired society.
Pesach, Matzah, and Maror were more the menu of a Farewell Dinner of our liberated ancestors. Pesach, Matzah, and Maror are more than the three staples to be discussed at the Pesach seder. Pesach, Matzah, and Maror tastefully remind us of a society liberated from shackles unknown to any tyrant in our people’s history.

AS WE LIFT UP THE CUP

BY RABBI SHAWN ZELL

It has been long-established, that the four cups of wine correspond to four promises G-d gave to Moses at the Burning Bush. Because of this, they are referred to as the Four Cups of Redemption.
As meaningful and poignant as this is, one must admit that nowhere is there any mention of cups. Rather, the four cups are based on the following four terms: remove, rescue, redeem, and reserve. Earlier on in the Torah however, cups are mentioned four times in close proximity. It serves as a seminal event for our ancestors coming down to Egypt.
Joseph, a young Hebrew found himself in an Egyptian prison on trumped-up charges. Joseph’s cellmates were none other than the Pharaoh’s baker and Pharaoh’s butler. It was Pharaoh’s butler who told Joseph about dreaming that he was standing in the royal palace with Pharaoh’s cup in his hand. While Joseph processed such information in much greater perspective, I cannot help but feel that the butler’s dream has any number of times turned into our nightmare as a people. More than once, have we been deluded by a false sense of security, living in a foreign country. In the dream, the butler had Pharaoh’s cup in his hand. Just as the butler thought he was secure in his position, so too did we as Jews think that we were secure in our position. We let Jewish leaders of the community convince us that we had the leader of the country or the local governor eating out of our hands. What we failed to learn time and time again, was that as Jews, we dare not equate royalty with loyalty.
Pharoah’s cup is mentioned again in the same verse, a mere six words later. Only this time, the cup is not described as being in the hand of the butler. This time, the cup is described as being in the hand of Pharaoh. If history has taught us anything, we must be aware that it doesn’t take long for the political or even sociological climate to change against Jews, as the comfortable zone we thought were in as a people, slips from our hands. Before we realize it, the proverbial cup of wine we were holding is transformed into a cup of poison (Isaiah 51:22). Timewise, the distance between assurance and apprehension is often little more than a blink of the eye. Not long after Joseph was in control over Egypt, things got out of control for his descendants. No different than the dream of the butler, our history is one where the cup of wine, we were so certain was safe in our hand, suddenly finds itself in the hand of our foe, by sleight of hand.
Although we are Pesach mode, permit me to borrow a term that finds its origins in Yom Kippur. The Yiddish term “kapporeh hindle” (chicken that is used for the kapporeh ritual prior to Yom Kippur, where the fowl takes the hit instead of us) can best be translated as “whipping boy”. Throughout history, all economic woes and social ills have been palmed off on the Jews. When recounting the Ten Plagues, there ought to be little doubt, that regardless of the plague – lice, boils, darkness, etc. – Pharoah, in speaking with his people saw to it that blame was placed squarely on the Israelites. The third mention of the word cup in the butler’s dream, found in the very same verse as the other two, describes the cup as being in Pharaoh’s palm, rather than in Pharaoh’s hand. Among the reasons, that as a people, we ought never to let ourselves feel too comfortable, is that we have always been selected as the “kapporeh hindle” where we receive the proverbial “patch in ponim” (slap in the face)  where countries’ leaders palm off crises after crises, on Jews.
Possessive pronouns can prove to be problematic. Possessive pronouns are fertile soil for discussion and even argument. In the fourth and final mention of cup in the dream episode, it is Joseph and not the butler who makes use of the word. “You will soon place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand.” (Genesis 40:13). True, most if not all, understand “his hand” to refer to Pharaoh’s hand. The “rabbi” in me craves to interpret “his hand” as placing Pharaoh’s cup in the hand of the Divine. Ultimately, our people’s exodus would be G-d’s call, not Pharaoh’s.
Come the Pesach seder, let us, by all means, bear in mind the four terms of redemption found in Exodus 6:6 ff. Let us also reflect on the four cups pertaining to the dream of the butler of a previous Pharaoh. Let us never equate royalty with loyalty, let us never forget that we are an eternal people, subject to temporal havens, let us commit the Yiddish term “kapporeh hindle” to our collective memory, and let us await the day, when the Holy One, holds cup in His heavenly hand as He expresses gratitude for His people, liberated in body as well as in spirit.