Join Rebbetzin Heller and Climb the Steps of the Seder

22 03 2010

In this Torah class, Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller teaches about a  new look at the order of the Seder. Hashem’s order is the order of redemption. True redemption is not being enslaved to anyone, even to one’s self. It is absolutely necessary to stop seeing only ourselves, so that we may experience Hashem. Visit our Pesach page to see more inspiring classes for Passover:

Jewish Calendar III (Pesach-Shavuot)

Unraveling The Haggadah: History of the Haggadah #1

16 03 2010

Unraveling the HaggadahBased on a shiur by Mrs. Chana Prero

The Haggadah holds a coveted place in every Jewish library and has been reprinted in hundreds of editions throughout the centuries. What is our earliest source for the Haggadah? Who put it all together?

Rav Kasher explains that the basic text of the Haggadah was codified by the Anshei Knesset Hagedola, but it is not the complete version we have today.

The Gemara in Pesachim cites a disagreement between Rav and Shmuel about which negative point in history the Haggadah should begin with. The fact that there was still discussion about this in the time of the Amoraim hints to us that the text was not fully established. The Avudraham writes that originally there were two versions, one by Rav and Shmuel and another by Abaye and Rava. The compiler of the Haggadah combined these two versions into the text we use today.

Rav Amram Gaon, who died towards the end of the ninth century, wrote a siddur, which included the Haggadah. Approximately sixty years later, Rav Sadyah Gaon wrote another siddur with a Haggadah. These are two of the earliest texts we have on the complete Haggadah. Rav Kasher
posits that the text of the Haggadah was established during the Gaonic period. He quotes a letter by Rav Natronai Gaon, a contemporary of Rav Amram, who writes strongly against those who followed a different text of the Haggadah. The letter states, “These blasphemers do not follow
our custom.” The fact that it says “our custom” and not “the Rabbis’ custom” suggests that the Gaonim established the text and not the Ammoraim or Tannaim. He conjectures that just as the seder of Hallel and the blessings on the four cups of wine were instituted by the Gaonim, they also
agreed on the text of the Haggadah.

If you look closely at the Haggadah, you can see that it is comprised of selections from the Mishna, Gemara, and Midrashim. Although the actual Haggadah text may have been put together during the Gaonic period, most of its sources are from an earlier era. “Ha Lachma Anya” was written
during the Babylonian exile. We know this because it was written in Aramaic, the spoken language in Bavel, and it mentions the enslavement of the Jews and their hope for the eventual redemption.

The source of Mah Nishtana is a Mishna in Pesachim. The question about the roasting of the korban pesach is not relevant in exile so it was left out of the Haggadah. Avadim Hayinu is mentioned in the Gemara Pesachim in which Rav and Shmuel argued over which negative point to begin the
Haggadah with. We recite Hallel hagadol which includes Hodu and Nishmat. Tannaic and Ammoraic sources both point to the obligation to say this on the Seder night.

The songs at the end of the Haggadah were mostly added during the Middle Ages. This is the least important section of the Haggadah. The essential part, when we fulfill the actual mitzva of sippur yetziat Miztrayim, begins with Avadim Hayinu. Here each of the sections in the Haggadah are explained and include verses in the Torah upon which they are based. They discuss our suffering and redemption, which are intrinsically connected.

The actual mitzva is to verbally express our subjugation and redemption.

This year as we sit at the seder once again, let us pray to for ultimate freedom and eternal redemption speedily in our days.

Chometz: Moving Beyond Self

9 03 2010

In this Torah shiur (class) on the holiday of Pesach, Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller speaks about the meaning of chometz, the deeper role of the Halachot (laws) pertaining to it, and how one can internalize the lessons of removing chometz and move beyond ‘self’.  This Torah class is available online in streaming video and for download in mp3 and ipod video formats:

Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei: The Cloud of Glory

8 03 2010

In this Parsha class on Parshat Vayakhel and Pekudei, Mrs. Chana Prero discusses the cloud of glory that rested on the Mishkan, and analyzes the last verses in the Book of Shmot.  This class delves into the commentaries in a clear and simple manner, and does not assume any prior knowledge of Hebrew.

‘Should Children be Rewarded for Doing Chores?’ Rebbetzin Heller’s Response

5 03 2010

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on

Is it wrong for me to reward my ten-year old with prizes for helping around the house and watching the baby? Am I raising her level of expectation in gashmiyut that way? If so, what alternatives do you recommend?

ANSWER: It’s a marvelous idea to reward your daughter for helping. Much better than having to spend money on a counselor to find out what to do with a child who is not cooperating. Certainly you shouldn’t expect a ten-year old to do things for purely altruistic reasons. However, be careful not to reward her completely consistently. From time to time, ask her to do small chores or errands and don’t reward her for it. This way when you do get her something, she will see it as a prize or reward and not as payment. As she gets older, at around twelve or thirteen, try to reward her less frequently and steer her more towards kavod. Eventually she’ll reach a point where she herself will realize that it’s foolish to expect a reward constantly, especially for chores that she would be expected to do in any case.

NEW COURSE!! Galut Mitzrayim: Lessons for Today

4 03 2010

Galut Mitzrayim: Lessons for Today
The Egyptian Exile and Redemption are a prototype for all future exiles and redemptions. Rabbi Hershel Reichman weaves together ideas from both Chassidic and Lithuanian masters of philosophy, shedding light on our current struggles, and providing insight on how we can use the galut experience to actualize the final purpose of the Jewish People and the world.
Teacher: Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Check out the first class:

Parshat Ki Tisa: Two Covenants

2 03 2010

In this Torah shiur (class) on Parshat Ki Tisa, Mrs. Chana Prero discusses the brit (covenant) between Hashem and the Jewish people at Har Sinai vs. the brit that took place after the chet ha’egel (sin of Golden Calf).  This Torah class is available online in streaming video and for download in mp3 and ipod video formats: