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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

A Post on Parshat Vayakhel and ANU the Haggadah

This is a double post. The first, on Parshat Vayakhel, is one of my favorite posts from a few years ago. It is about the beauty of those who volunteer on behalf of the community. The second post, located under the poem on VaYakhel, is about a project that I am working now which you might find interesting. Both are on the theme of community and the benefits of being part of a supportive community.

POST ONE- The Poem for Parshat Vayakhel

Parshat Vayakhel caps off a number of parshiyot on the theme of the Mishkan, the portable dwelling place of God. Parshat Vayakhel asks those with talents to contribute to the building of the Mishkan. Keeping in mind that talents is a very broad term, fast forward through Jewish history, where the mishkan becomes the synagogue and those talents expand to the daily maintenance of the synagogue. It is those people with talents that keep the synagogue running.

 For many years I worked at synagogues and it is a memory of a special congregant who year after year came in a to check and quietly change the lightbulbs in the synagogue that prompted this poem, which is combined with the prayer for the congregation. I am dedicating this to him along with many others who have inspired this tribute. You know who you are. We wouldn't be here without you.

For Denis and for Linda, for Larry and for Richard, for Donald and for Marcy, for Simon and for E.S. and for HS.

For Those

מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֲבותֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקב. הוּא יְבָרֵךְ אֶת כָּל הַקָּהָל הַקָּדושׁ הַזֶּה עִם כָּל קְהִלּות הַקּדֶשׁ.

For those who come in early and open the doors.

For those who make sure the Torah is rolled to the right place.

For those who change the lightbulbs,

dust the prayerbooks, polish the silver, fix the broken doors.

For those who hand out candy to the children.

 הֵם וּנְשֵׁיהֶם וּבְנֵיהֶם וּבְנותֵיהֶם וְכָל אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם.

For those who create programs to keep people together.

For those who worry about financial viability.

For those who recall the past and plan for the future.

For those who make the annual reports and lead.

וּמִי שֶׁמְּיַחֲדִים בָּתֵּי כְנֵסִיּות לִתְפִלָּה. בְּתוכָם לְהִתְפַּלֵּל.

For those who remember traditions.

For those who innovate.

For those who dedicate.

For those who sponsor.

וּמִי שֶׁבָּאִים וּמִי שֶׁנּותְנִים נֵר לַמָּאור וְיַיִן לְקִדּוּשׁ וּלְהַבְדָּלָה וּפַת לְאורְחִים וּצְדָקָה לָעֲנִיִּים.

For those who teach.

For those who learn.

For those who stand guard.

For those who greet.

For those who lead and for those who follow.

וְכָל מִי שֶׁעוסְקִים בְּצָרְכֵי צִבּוּר בֶּאֱמוּנָה.

For those who beautify.

For those who launder.

For those who scrub and clean.

For those who cook and bake and serve.

For those who organize and those who participate.

הַקָּדושׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יְשַׁלֵּם שכָרָם וְיָסִיר מֵהֶם כָּל מַחֲלָה וְיִרְפָּא לְכָל גּוּפָם וְיִסְלַח לְכָל עֲונָם

For those who give their money.

For those who give their time.

For those who give their energy.

For those who have ideas.

For those who implement those ideas.

. וְיִשְׁלַח בְּרָכָה וְהַצְלָחָה בְּכָל מַעֲשה יְדֵיהֶם

For those who read the torah.

For those who blow shofar.

For those who build the sukkah.

For those who lead the prayers.

For those who make a tenth.

For those who say amen.

For those who sing.

For those whose voices raise us up.

For those who show up.

עִם כָּל יִשרָאֵל אֲחֵיהֶם. וְנאמַר אָמֵן:


The Translation of the Yekum Purkan/Mishebeyrach*

He Who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will bless this entire holy congregation together with all the holy congregations, them, their wives and their sons and their daughters, and all that belong to them. Whoever dedicates synagogues for prayer, and whoever enters them to pray, and whoever donates lamps for lighting, wine for Kiddush and Havdalah, food for wayfarers, charity for the poor; and whoever occupies himself with the needs of the community— in a faithful manner— The Holy One, blessed is He, will pay them their reward, remove from them all sickness, heal their entire body, pardon all their iniquities, and send blessing, and success upon all the work of their hands, together with all of Israel, their brethren, and let us say, Amen. (Translation from Sefaria)

Image courtesy of Wix


POST 2. The Project-

For the past month I have been working, along with a group of more than sixty artists, poets, writers and friends on a community Passover Haggadah. The project is called,


ANU means us. It is a simple word which means inclusivity and community. The ANU projects divides the Haggadah into small segments and those parts have been assigned to more than sixty people who have contributed their thoughts and reflections. Together they form a creative chorus of voices in this eventful year of 2024/5784. These "voices" include paintings, paper cuts, dances, songs, poetry, short stories, Divrei Torah, recipes, reflections, stories of Passover pasts, movie reviews and more. Together they tell more than our ancient narrative, expanding it La'zman Hazeh, to this very time.

This week I will share an entry with you. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do. As we approach Passover I will continue to send you updates on ANU. This entry is written by Dr. Simon Levy and recalls memories of his seders as a child in Morocco.

Simon Levy was born in Casablanca and lived in Morocco for 20 years before leaving for Europe and the United States. He was a co-founder in 1986 of Beit Sasson, The Sephardic Congregation of Newton, Newton Centre, MA.

Passover in Morocco in the Early 1960's

Before getting to the Haggadah, and in order to appreciate the setting for the Seder table, it is important to highlight unique features of a typical Moroccan household I grew up in in the early 1960s:

  1. There is no space to save hametz food, so all hametz has to be disposed off prior to the start of Pessah. The concept of “Sale of Hametz” is non-existent in Moroccan households.

  1. Matza is made & baked the day prior to Erev Pessah, so it is not available for purchase until the morning of Erev Pessah. It is sold in a bundle of 1 Kg, loosely wrapped in Kraft paper. 20 to 30 such bundles were brought home by our father, Z’L, by bicycle, his only mean of transportation.  The matza was square with holes (similar to today’s matza), but thick and extremely hard. It rarely broke during transportation! [February 2024: I recently bought some matza at Costco, some 8 weeks before Pessah. That would have been unimaginable when I was growing up]

As a kid, I associate the Seder table & reading the Haggadah with wearing a new pair of pajamas. Each kid got a new pair. This meant being comfortable at the table, but also no risk of staining our holiday cloth before going to services the following day.

The Haggadah was read in Hebrew, but had instructions in Judeo-Arabic. My mom didn’t read Hebrew so all the instructions were given in Judeo-Arabic (a mix of Arabic, Hebrew & Spanish) by our dad. The Haggadah we used had instructions in Judeo-Arabic written in Hebrew. [Similar to written Yiddish?]. We all read together the whole Haggadah while our dad would narrate key passages to our mom.

Two unique features of the Moroccan Seder:

  1. YACHATZ (breaking the middle matza): The Seder leader (always our dad) breaks the middle Matza while chanting in Judeo-Arabic:

Haq’da Qssam L’lah lb’har âla tnass l’treq di‘khrzeu zdoud’na min massar, âla yed sid’na oun’bina moussa ben amram haq’da n’khrzeu min had l’galouth. Amen ken yehi ratson.

This is how Hashem split the sea in twelve paths (?!) when our ancestors left Egypt at the hand of our leader Moses ben Amram. May we also get out of this “galut”, amen kenn yehi ratzon.

The largest half of the Matza is then “hidden” under the tablecloth (to be used as Afikomen at the end of the meal); the other half goes back in the Seder plate.

There is no “Search for the Afikomen”.

  1. Before reading the Haggadah, it is a Moroccan custom for the Seder leader to raise the Seder plate over the head of each person present at the table while chanting:

Bibhilu Yatzanu MiMitzraim Ha'Lahma Hanya Bene Horinu yalala

In haste we left Egypt, a free people. This is the bread of affliction, yalala

Bibhilu is the favorite part of the Seder for our kids & grandchildren.

 The anticipation for the meal was palpable. To save time and in preparation for the soup, the first course, the children would carefully break the matza into the soup bowl. As soon as the soup was served, the matza would typically absorb all the liquid and swell, reaching a giant mound! We would quickly gobble as much as we could, but invariably, none of us could finish the bowl. 

Simon Levy

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