04/11/2007

Got matzah? This rabbi has the spirit of Passover
By: Elizabeth Ellis , Staff Writer

REGION - When it comes to Passover, Rabbi Yossi Yaffe knows how to get just about everyone in the spirit.
After distributing over 400 Passover gift bags to shoreline families for the seventh year in a row, Yaffe, director of Chabad of the Shoreline, has once again proved his commitment to helping others grow in their Jewish heritage.
"We're based in Branford, but we serve all the shoreline towns," says Yaffe. "It makes [Passover] real so we can live and experience it, so it is not just abstract."
Passover, which began at sundown on April 2 and concluded at nightfall of April 10, is the remembrance of the time when the Jewish people escaped slavery under the Egyptians and started their journey into the wilderness led by Moses 3,000 years ago. The center of the Passover celebration is the Seder meal, which is performed on the first two evenings and is a remembrance of the last meal the Jewish people ate in Egypt.
"We eat unleavened bread because leavened represents the evil inclination of the ego that puffs itself up,' says Yaffe. "The unleavened, which we call matzoh, symbolizes humility and makes it that much more powerful."
A recent addition to the Passover bags is Shmurah, or guarded, Matzoh, that has extra dimensions setting it apart from the regular kosher manufactured matzoh. It is baked in Israel, and it is timed from the moment the flour touches the water until the unleavened bread is put into the oven to ensure that it will not rise.
"Hence the name 'guarded,'" says Yaffe. "Last year we gave bags out for 400 people on the shoreline, along with the matzoh boxes, which are very special since this matzoh is not easily found and not sold in the grocery stores."
Yaffe said Michael and Jo Ann Price from Chester and Dr. Ed and Linda Pinn from Old Lyme have sponsored the Shmurah Matzah over the past few years. Another addition to the Passover bag is a CD of various traditional Hebrew songs with the design cover being-what else?-matzah bread.
"People have really appreciated having that this year because it helps get them in the spirit," says Yaffe. "Also, if someone is new to the Seder they can listen to the CD and not feel left out. We also have handouts of the lyrics transliterated from the Hebrew."
The CD was created and manufactured by Yaffe's brother-in-law, Rabbi Chayim Alevsky, who lives in Texas. People also received a pamphlet that discusses the counting of the Omer, which chronicles the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, the celebration of when the Jews received the Torah, or the 10 Commandments.
"Every year we re-experience the journey of Passover," says Yaffe. "While Christians celebrate the forty days of Lent leading up to Easter, Passover is just the beginning of our journey."
Each day of counting is connected with an aspect of spiritual growth. Seven emotional attributes that are Chesed (loving kindness), Gevurah (justice), Tiferet (compassion), Netzach (endurance), Hod (humility), Yesod (bonding), and Malchut (nobility) arranged in various combinations create the 49 qualities that are examined during this time.
"The pamphlet we give out shows eight weeks of character development and how to apply it to real life," says Yaffe. "Our goal is to provide Jewish enrichment that people might be totally unaware of and try to expose people to a variety of customs."
One recent step towards outreach is Chabad's partnership with Tzivos Hashem, a Jewish organization in Brooklyn to bring a magazine called Jewish Shoreline Kids to the area starting this January.
"They allow us to personalize it by adding our own articles and events," says Yaffe. "We would like to add more local flavor to it in the future."
Tzivos Hashem was founded by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson in the fall of 1980 to bring Jewish education to children who could not afford to attend Hebrew school. Since his death in 1994, Tzivos Hashem strives to continue his passion of outreach to children with Jewish Shoreline Kids.
"This goes to all of the Jewish families on the shoreline, and we have a list of about 1800 names," says Yaffe. "It is glossy, full-color, and is getting great feedback."
The magazine allows kids to learn about their faith in a fun way, with such articles as ENN.com (Egypt News Network) that gives updates on "happenings" in Egypt during the time of Moses, a step-by-step guide to the Seder meal, and fun easy Kosher recipes to celebrate Passover in style.
"It reaches out to people in a new way," says Yaffe.
For more information, visit http://www.jewishoreline.org/