Special Sephardic Traditions
By SHIRLEY CHICOREL BEHAR
Sephardic Jews, who trace their
ancestry to 15th Century Spain and
Portugal, have unique holiday
traditions that sometimes differ from
those practiced by their Ashkenazi
Syrian Jews prepare for
Passover on "Shushan Purim" by
cleaning up all the "hametz"
(unleavened foods) left over from
the Purim seuda (meal).
Weeks before Pesah the women
begin to prepare the rice for the
Passover meals. (Rice is forbidden
for use on Pesah, according to
Ashkenazi tradition.) Rice, which is
neither "hametz" nor kitniyot
(beans), nevertheless, has to be
examined carefully to see that no
wheat is between the rice. This rice
is a staple food among the Syrians
for the entire Pesah.
The day before Pesah (Erev
Pesah) is also known as the Fast of
The First Born (Taanit Bekhorot),
and this is stringently observed by
the Syrians. Every male and female
first born attend the Shachrit service
on Erev Pesah. They are then
released or free from fasting if they
participate in the seuda shel mitzva.
The Fast of the First Born is
considered so important that the
first born come from all over the city
and from out of town to participate
in the service and ceremonies.
The meal of Syrian foods is
served, featuring rice and kibbe, a
torpedo-like shape made out of
matza meal filled with meat.
Some Syrian Jews recite the
Had Gadya at the conclusion of
the seder, and sing it in Arabic or in
the old Ladino, both of which are
found in the Haggada.
On the last night of Pesah,
following the Arbit for Motzaei
Pesah, the men take several stalks
of wheat and they symbolically beat
each other with it, greeting one
another with the salutation Sana
Hadra (May you have a green and
The baking of the matza in
Morocco was done on the 14th of
Nisan, Erev Pesah. The food eaten
on this day was limited to hard-
boiled eggs and cooked potatoes.
The Moroccan community
A very special L'Chayim
focuses on the 40th anniversary
of the State of Israel. Learn —
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of the Jewish state through
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FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 1988
forbade the use of rice and dried
beans kitniyot on Pesah. Fresh
green beans were permitted.
It is the custom to take the
special Passover plate, on the first
night of Passover, and raise the
"plate" to pass it over the heads of
everyone in the household while
reciting, "bibehilu yatzanu
mimizrayim ha hahma aniya benei
horin." (We were once slaves in
Egypt and this is the bread which
we ate and now we are free men.)
The Yahaz (breaking of the
three matzot) is done in a different
fashion. The middle matza is broken
into two pieces to look like the
Hebrew letter "heh." While the
matza is broken the family sings in
unison a song in Arabic about the
Almighty who split the Red Sea into
12 paths when our ancestors left
Egypt under the leadership of
Moses, the son of Amram.
After the reading of the
Haggada, the haroset is taken and
placed on five spots (as five finger
spots) on the doorpost of the
entrance of the house near the
mezuza, to serve as a protection
from evil. These spots are seen
through the year.
Judeo-Spanish Jews prepare for
Pesah one month before the
holiday, immediately after Purim. In
Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), they say:
"Purim lanu, Pesah en la Mono" or
"Purim is come and before you turn
around Passover is here."
Two types of matzot are
prepared: "Thick" ("boyo") and
"thin" ("maniuo") used for cooking
and soaking in water.
In Turkey, a special document
to "sell the leaven" to a non-Jew is
followed, which is a relatively new
procedure, since long ago, this was
not followed in the old country.
On the 14th of Nisan, hametz is
forbidden. The traditional food is
"Bimuelos de matza" (deep fried
matza). These are accompanied by
eggs and vegetables.
The delicacies of Passover
include: "Matza Mojada and
Bimuelos, Prasa Fuchi or Sungato
(leek patties), Megina or Mina
(meena) a meat pie or spinach pie.
The matza meat pie is a special
main dish of Passover for
Sephardim. The special drinks are
"raki" (an alcohol drink from dried
raisins). Although there is no
prohibition against kitniyot (beans),
the Judeo-Spanish do not eat rice
on Passover because of the
necessity to check through the rice
to make sure there is no grain
mixed into it.
Shirley Chicorel Behar is the
daughter of the founders of the
Sephardic community in Detroit.
Fill the blanks and unscramble the circled letters to solve the puzzle
Food we don't eat for Passover
The youngest child
asks the four
The Passover symbol for Mortar
Matza is sometimes
Another name for soda
The Hebrew equivalent of Yarmulke
Used for Karpas on the Seder Plate
Consumer's Guide To Haggadot
The following Haggadot will
enrich the Passover holiday
celebration. Take time to select a
set of Haggadot.
Haggadot For Table Use
Passover Haggada: The Feast
of Freedom. Rachel Anne
Rabinowicz. This Haggada was
published for the Conservative
A Passover Haggada: The New
Union Haggada. Herbert Bronstein.
(Also known as the "Baskin
Haggada" after Leonard Baskin who
made the drawings.) The Haggada
of the Reform Movement.
The Passover Haggada. Morris
Silverman. Particularly good for the
A Feast of History Passover
Haggada. Chaim Raphael.
The New Haggada. Mordecai
In Every Generation: A Family
Haggada. Shoshana Silberman.
This is an excellent volume for the
novice seder maker and for seders
with very young children (comes
with a cassette of songs).
The Haggada As Art
The Passover Haggada. Nahum
N. Glatzer, ed. Text with notes.
Israel Passover Haggada. Rabbi
M. Kasher. Text with extensive
Let My People Go Haggada.
Mark Podwall, ed. Introduction by
Theodore Bikel. Illustrations.
A Feast of History. Haiim
Ben Shahn's Haggada. Ben
Rabbi Israel Lipkin Salanter
was most meticulous in the baking
of matza for Passover. To make
certain that everything was done
according to the strictest
interpretation of Jewish law, he
personally undertook to supervise
One year the rabbi was
bedridden and unable to go to the
baker. He instructed two pupils to
go in his stead.
As the pupils were about to
depart for their assigned task, they
asked their teacher:
"Is there anything special
'which we should watch?"
"Yes," the rabbi replied. "See
that the old woman who does the
mixing is paid sufficiently. She is a