The moon shone red on Passover — Thanks Obama

MoonLast night was not just a full moon, but a blood red full moon, which brought the crazies out.

Right-wing website World News Daily headlined the event with the warning: Move over Obama: The ‘pen and phone’ that really count.

Here’s their problem. In his State of the Union address, the president said he would issue executive orders to break the deadlock in Congress. Well, God doesn’t like that. How does WND know? Because the moon was red last night in a totally predictable and explainable astronomical event that happens with some regularity.

And while we’re being bat-shit crazy, we might as well bring in the Jews, especially since this week is Passover.

WND quotes a Pastor Mark Blitz who said, “I believe the moons are like flashing red warning lights at a heavenly intersection saying to Israel as well as the nations they will be crossing heavenly red lines, and if they do, they will understand as Pharaoh did on Passover night 3,500 years ago that the Creator backs up what He says.”

So, I’m not sure if the good pastor is equating the lunar eclipse to one of the 12 plagues that is part of the story of Passover. If so, were any cattle or first-born harmed during this lunar eclipse? Or is he calling Obama the Pharoah and if so, why can’t the president just tell Congress to act or he’ll bury them in the pyramid he’s building for himself.

—  David Taffet

The five Four Questions, or: Why do we only drink Coke from Houston on Passover?

Passover

Passover celebrates Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea allowing the Jews to escape Pharoah in Egypt and shlep across the Sinai for 40 years

Each year, lots of people look forward to getting mad at me over my annual “I hate Channukah” posts. While Hanukah is my least favorite Jewish holiday, Passover is my favorite.

I love the two nights of Seder — a dinner with a service — with family and friends, the constipating food, the terrible singing and The Four Questions.

Every Seder begins with The Four Questions:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

On all other nights we eat leavened products and matzah. Why on this night do we eat only matzah?

On all other nights we eat all vegetables. Why on this night do we eat only bitter herbs?

On all other nights, we don’t dip our food even once. Why on this night do we dip twice?

On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining. Why on this night do we only recline?

If you’re counting, that’s actually five questions, but that’s one of the things I love about the holiday. Another thing I love about it is that during a traditional Passover Seder, those questions are never really answered. (I’ll answer them below).

Passover is the quintessential Jewish holiday because it’s about asking questions. In Judaism, we learn never to accept something because a rabbi or teacher says it. We always question, and I love questions.

Like when anyone asks me, “Do you always answer a question with a question?” I invariably respond, “What do you mean?”

But I digress.

If it were me writing the Passover Haggadah (the book used for the Seder service) instead of Maxwell House writing it, I’d ask different questions.

Like: Why have more copies of the Maxwell House Haggadah been printed than any other Haggadah in history?

Because in 1934, Maxwell House noticed there was a drop in coffee sales during Passover. To encourage sales during that week, the company printed and distributed copies of its Haggadah free.

Why did coffee sales drop? In the original Hebrew, the Torah instructs that during Passover, we can’t eat legumes (string beans, peas, lima beans, things like that). Some languages don’t differentiate between the words legume and bean. In my grandfather’s Ukranian dialect, apparently, that was the case, because I grew up with no coffee or chocolate — both from beans, but not legumes – during Passover.

The good folks at Maxwell House wanted to make sure we knew there was a difference. The Maxwell House Haggadah remains in print, and this year, they came out with a new, gender-neutral version of their Haggadah to keep alive the true spirit of Passover — a time to remember which companies make huge profits stamping kosher for Passover on some boxes and doubling or tripling the price.

Another Passover question for a modern Seder should be:

On all other nights we drink Coca Cola bottled anywhere, why on this night do we only drink Coke from Houston?

The Torah bans a number of grains. Coke is normally made with corn syrup. Now, obviously corn wasn’t a banned grain since it’s native to North America, but it was never declared kosher for Passover, either. So the Houston Coke Bottling plant makes a kosher for Passover version by substituting sugar for the week. Stock up if you find some. It’s much better than regular Coke.

Speaking of grains, the Orthodox rabbis declared quinoa, a grain from South America, kosher for Passover this year for the first time. So even though we have to give up spelt, rye and barley, we can now substitute quinoa.

Some business news just last week might prompt us to ask this Passover question at this week’s Seders: Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?

Because on all other Passovers, we ate Manischewitz products, and last week, Mitt Romney’s old company Bain Capital bought the food division. The crappy, sticky, sweet wine is made by a separate company.

Us Jews are funny about our kosher food. I don’t know how to explain it to Christians who are fine with Irving Berlin and other Jews writing all their Christmas music sung by Barbra Strisand and Neil Diamond, but Mormon matzo? It just didn’t sit right with me, and that’s the only Passover brand Kroger on Cedar Springs carries. I went to Whole Foods and bought imported, organic, whole wheat Aviv brand instead.

So happy Passover and the answer to the five Four Questions that this night is different from all other nights because we do the things listed in the other four questions. We eat matzo to remind us of the Jews not having time to let the bread rise before making their exodus from Egypt. We eat bitter herbs to remind us of the hard labor in Egypt. We don’t really know why we dip twice, but ask any rabbi and they’ll give you some ferkackta answer. And we recline to symbolize freedom from slavery.

—  David Taffet

Easter week (and Passover) schedules for some local congregations

EasterCathedral of Hope

5910 Cedar Springs Road

“We are getting ready for Holy Week, where we will feature most of our traditional services, plus a new contemporary Easter service on Saturday evening at 5,” said CoH spokesman Phoebe Sexton. “I’m really excited about the Saturday service (called “Easter Extra”); it will feature Angie Landers (recent Voice of Pride winner), Scott Ayers, our own Voices of Hope and Gospel Choir, plus Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson and Rev. Dr. Dawson B. Taylor will preach in a new format. (The service will still be between an hour and an hour and 15 minutes.) We hope to offer an option to those with busy Easter Sundays, either with family, Easter in the Park or something else (there are some pretty fabulous brunch options out there.)”

Schedule:

March 24 — Palm Sunday at 9 and 11 a.m.
The Way of the Heart: “Unceasing”
Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, preaching
Our indoor labyrinth will be set up for walking and meditation in the Interfaith Peace Chapel from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday evening (I can get you specific hours later today).

March 27 — 5 p.m.
Community Dinner ($10 at the door, $7.50 if you register online at http://www2.cathedralofhope.com/lenten-suppers — the food is amazing)

March 27 — 7:15 p.m.
Service of Anointing and Healing
Christian Clichés: “If You Have Enough Faith…”
Minister Todd Scoggins, preaching

March 28 — Holy Thursday at 7:15 p.m.
The Way of the Heart: “The Servants’ Entrance”
Rev. Dr. Dawson B. Taylor, preaching

March 29 — Good Friday at 7:15 p.m.
Featuring the Cathedral of Hope Sanctuary Choir and Orchestra

March 30 — Holy Saturday at 5 p.m.
Easter Extra: A Contemporary Easter Worship Service
Featuring Angie Landers, Scott Ayers, Voices of Hope and the CoH Gospel Choir
Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson and Rev. Dr. Dawson B. Taylor, preaching

March 30 — 7 p.m.
Congregacion Latina Easter Vigil

March 31 — Easter Sunday at 9 & 11 a.m.
Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson, preaching

March 31 — 1 p.m.
Congregacion Latina in the main sanctuary

Celebration Community Church

March 24 — Palm Sunday at 9 and 11 a.m.
Since we have many denominations represented at Celebration Community Church, we thought we would share a bit of background. The symbolism of Palm Sunday, is expressed in Zachariah 9:9 — “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The riding of a donkey, based on ancient Eastern tradition, is considered as coming in peace, whereas riding a horse was considered wanting to come in waging a war. Therefore, Jesus wanted to symbolize he was coming as the Prince of Peace. Palm branches, in ancient times, represented goodness and victory. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds lined his entry with palm branches. On Palm Sunday, we distribute palm branches and enter the church waving them as we remember His triumphal entrance.

March 29 — Tenebrae Service at 7 p.m.
Be sure to join us for Celebration’s annual Tenebrae service. This very moving step in the procession to Easter is one of our most meaningful services. Tenebrae is Latin for “darkness” or “shadows”. As you arrive for the service, the sanctuary is joyfully alight; however, as the service progresses, the lights are extinguished until total darkness envelops us. The service will be presented by Reverend West and the Music Department. Tenebrae is on Good Friday, March 29th beginning at 7:00 pm.

March 31 — Easter Sunday
Sunrise Service at 6 a.m.
Breakfast at 7 a.m.
Services at 9 and 11 am
Our Easter season tradition continues at Celebration Community Church on Easter Sunday, March 31st. Be here to worship at our Sunrise Service beginning at 6 am, in the Rose Garden (weather permitting) followed by Easter breakfast in the Fellowship Hall at 7am. Our 9 am and 11 am services will be identical and we hope you can join us for one or all three services. We look forward to seeing you during this Easter season.

Our Lady of Consolation Old Catholic Church

Interfaith Peace Chapel
5910 Cedar Springs Road

March 24 — Palm Sunday at 10–11 a.m.

March 28 — Holy Thursday at 7–8 p.m.

March 29 — Good Friday at 6:30–7:30 p.m. with Stations

March 30 — Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil at 7–9 p.m.

March 31 — Easter Sunday at 9–10 a.m. in the downstairs chapel

Congregation Beth El Binah

March 26 — Second day Passover Seder
Community seder led by Rabbi Steve Fisch at Resource Center Dallas on March 26 at 6:30 p.m. $45 for members and $65 for non-members. Email to make a reservation because the event is catered

—  David Taffet

Passover, a time to celebrate Charlton Heston holding up his rifle and parting the Red Sea

Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea

Passover began Monday at sunset with the first of two Passover Seders — the word means order but it’s a service performed at the dinner table because it isn’t Jewish if it doesn’t include food.

Beth El Binah, Dallas’ LGBT Jewish synagogue, holds its congregational Seder tonight. It’s my favorite holiday, but you can’t do something Jewish without complaining so here goes.

The holiday, the most important festival on the Jewish calendar after the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. Lots of great gay themes in Passover — the end of slavery and oppression are what the festival celebrates.

But here’s where me and Passover have a little bit of a problem.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Sarah Palin, Westboro Baptist Church, The Advocate’s gayest cities

1. Sarah Palin released a video statement (above) this morning in response to the Tucson shooting, saying her decision to put rifle crosshairs on a map over Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ district had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the incident at all. How could it have, right? But why so defensive then? And what better way for Palin to address a shooting that targeted Giffords, who’s Jewish, than by using an anti-semitic metaphor? Palin says those who link the tragedy to her violent rhetoric are committing “blood libel” — which refers to an accusation from the Middle Ages that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood to make matzoh for Passover. Palin is right, this incident was more about mental illness than rhetoric — until you consider the fact that the ones spewing the rhetoric are mentally ill. (Politico)

2. The governor of Arizona signed emergency legislation to prohibit Westboro Baptist Church from picketing within 300 feet of the funeral for a 9-year-old girl who was killed in the Tucson shooting. The legislation was initiated by openly gay State Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Tucson, who said this: “I’m a strong advocate of the First Amendment and the bottom line is this, Fred Phelps and his group of people can still spew their hate if they want. They just don’t get to do it close to the families that are grieving. They have to be farther away.” (ABC 15)

3. The Advocate lists Minneapolis as the gayest city in America, and Texas is shut out of the top 15. Have we mentioned that The Advocate sucks?

—  John Wright

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Actually, they ARE written in stone
Actually, they ARE written in stone

Tonight is the first night of Passover that celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and freedom from slavery. Jews all over the world gather for the Passover Seder (dinner and loooooong service at the dinner table) that bgins by asking the four questions:

Why is this night different than all other nights?

Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread or matzoh, but on this night we eat only matzoh?

Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat only bitter herbs?

Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once, but on this night we dip them twice?

Why is it that on all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we eat in a reclining position?

And yes, I know, that seems like five questions, but they’re called the Four Questions. Answers are never really given in the Hagaddah, the Passover prayer book.

Well, tonight I go to my gay Seder and we ask my more relevant questions:

Why on this night do we only drink Coke bottled in Houston while on all other night we drink Coke from any bottling plant?

Answer: Because the Houston bottling plant makes a version of Coke without corn syrup. Corn is a forbidden food on Passover.

Why is corn forbidden on Passover?

Answer: Because the Bible tells us that we cannot eat wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye. So according to rabbinic logic that includes corn and also rice if you are an Eastern European Jew, but not of Mediterranean origin.

Why did the Jews go for the theatrics of parting the Red Sea rather than just walking around.

Answer: We knew we’d be in the movie business. They didn’t have any problem walking there in the first place. There was no Suez Canal in the way.

40 years? Really? Cairo to Jerusalem is the same distance as Dallas to Houston. Made it in 4 days on my bike.

Answer: Moses left Egypt without his GPS and without his bike.

And now you know why I’m not invited back to very many Seders.

Happy Pesach (Passover).

—  David Taffet