Saturday, March 31, 2018


The Priest: Halleluiah, Christ is Risen!
The Congregation: The Lord is risen indeed, Halleluiah!
You can hear and watch the rest of this Easter hymn (Jesus Christ Is Risen Today) on toutube

Facts Behind Passover Traditions

Passover is here again which means millions of observing Jews all over the world will be riding their pantries of all leavened breads and gearing up for a seder - or maybe two.

This year, Passover begins at nightfall on March 30th and ends on April 7th. The Jewish holiday is centered around the retelling of the Biblical story of the Jewish people being freed from slavery in Egypt. Every family has its own Passover rituals, which may reflect family tradition or the denomination of Judaism (some are more orthodox, others less traditional).

If you are new to this observance - maybe you have been invited to your first Passover seder, or maybe your church has decided to host one in advance of Easter - here’s a Passover primer for all your questions including the history behind it, what a seder is and why people do not eat leavened bread during the holiday.

Why is Passover Celebrated?

Passover commemorates the Biblical story of Exodus - where God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The celebration of Passover is prescribed in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament (in Judaism, the first five books of Moses are called the Torah). The holiday is often celebrated for eight days (seven in Israel), and incorporates themes of springtime, a Jewish homeland, family, remembrance of Jewish history, social justice and freedom -including recognizing those who are still being oppressed today. All of these aspects are discussed, if not symbolically represented, during the Passover seder.

Whether or not the Exodus actually happened remains unclear, and it continues to be a mystery that still confounds biblical scholars and archeologists alike.

Elon Gilad, who writes about history and language, told Haaretz that Passover traditions are actually the result of merging of two ancient festivals celebrating spring, one of nomadic origin and one from villages. “Not only does our modern Seder wildly diverge from the Passover of old: during antiquity itself the holiday underwent radical changes,” Gilad writes.

When is Passover?

Passover takes place in early spring during the Hebrew calendar month of Nissan, as prescribed in the book of Exodus. Exodus 12:18 commands that Passover be celebrated, “from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.”

Because the Hebrew calendar does not match up with the Gregorian calendar, the date of Passover (along with other Jewish holidays) changes every year. In 2018, Passover will take place from sundown on March 30 to sundown on April 7; seders will be held on March 30th and for those who do a second seder, March 31th.Passover dates for the coming years are: 
2018 - March 30th through April 7th
2019 – April 19th through 27th
2020 – April 8th through 16th
2021 – March 27th through April 4th
What is a Haggadah?
A Haggadah is a book that  is read during the seder that tells the story of Passover. The Hebrew word “Haggadah” means “telling,” and according to the book My Jewish Learning, Haggadot date back to the Middle Ages.
In contemporary Passover celebrations, relevant political or social justice themes have been incorporated into the seder. For example, Rabbi Arthur Waskow published the Freedom Seder in 1969, which discussed the Civil Rights movement and the women’s movement. And while there are myriad Haggadot to choose from to fit nearly all religious, age-specific, political or even satirical needs, the retelling of the Exodus is a key fixture in a Haggadah, along with the reading of the 10 plagues, the asking of the four questions, and explaining various Passover rituals, some of which date back 2,000 years, according to My Jewish Learning.
What is the Passover story?
In the (very) basic Passover storyline, the Pharaoh is fearful that there will be too many Jews living in Egypt so he institutes slavery and demands that male Jewish babies be killed. Baby Moses is saved by his mother, who floats him in a basket down the Nile river, where he is found and adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter. After killing a slave master, Moses flees into the desert, and encounters a burning bush of God revealing himself to Moses. God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and lead the Jews out of slavery.
Moses goes to the Pharaoh and asks that he let the Jews go free from Egypt. Each time the Pharaoh says “no,” God sends a plague down on Egypt (darkness, lice, boils, cattle disease, etc.). The tenth and final plague is the most drastic: the killing of the first born by the so-called angel of death. In order to protect their first-born children, the Israelites marked their doors with lamb’s blood so the angel of death would pass over them. Thus the name Passover, which is “pesach” in Hebrew. The Israelites were ultimately freed from slavery and wandered the desert for 40 years before making it to the promise land.

What is a seder?
The Hebrew word “seder” translates to “order,” and the Passover seder is a home ritual blending religious rituals, food, song and storytelling. Families hold a seder on the first and sometimes second night of Passover.
It is fundamentally a religious service set around a dinner table, where the order in which participants eat, pray, drink wine, sing, discuss current social justice issues and tell stories is prescribed by a central book called the Haggadah.
What are some key symbols of the Passover seder?
On Passover seder tables, you may see a partitioned plate containing small amounts of specific food.
This is the seder plate, and each food is symbolic for an aspect of Passover: A roasted shank bone represents the Pescah sacrifice, an egg represents spring and the circle of life, bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery, haroset (an applesauce-like mixture with wine, nuts, apples, etc.) represents the mortar used by the Jews in Egypt, karpas (or greens, often parsley) to represent spring.
Also placed on the table are three pieces of matzah - a cracker-like unleavened bread - that represent the bread the Israelites took with them when they fled Egypt, and salt water to represent the tears of the slaves. At your seat, you may see a specific wine glass (or kiddish cup). The Torah commands that (at least) four symbolic cups of wine be consumed during the Passover seder.
There may also be one or two extra kiddish cups at your table: One is a cup of wine for the prophet Elijah whose spirit visits on Passover. In some families, a cup of water is set out for Moses’s sister Miriam. This new feminist tradition symbolizes Miriam’s Well, which provided water for the Israelites in the desert; it also symbolizes the importance of women during the Exodus.
On the chairs, you may see pillows. This is because on Passover you are supposed to recline at the table as a symbol of being free.
Do not worry if you can’t keep this all straight. Because Passover is a retelling of a story to new generations, and due to the seder’s prescribed order, the Haggadah does a pretty good job explaining many key elements and symbols as you read along. There is even a specific section of the seder called the four questions, where the youngest person at the table asks about the different Passover symbols and the elders explain.
What are traditional Passover foods?

In addition to eating the foods represented on the seder plate (with the exception of lamb, which is not eaten) a Passover meal - that breaks up the two halves of the seder - is served.
The meal’s menu will differ depending on family tradition. Traditional dishes include matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, beef brisket, chicken and potatoes. Traditional Sephardic (Mediterranean and Spanish) Passover foods reflect a Mediterranean spin on the Passover dinner.
Why don’t Jews eat leavened bread during Passover?
Not featured during the meal are leavened foods made of grain known as “chametz.” Chametz is prohibited during Passover, so you won’t find any pasta, cookies, bread or cereal at the seder. (More traditional Jews will completely clean out any foods containing chametz from their home.)
This has to do with the story of Passover: After the killing of the first born, the Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go. But in their haste to leave Egypt, the Israelites could not let their bread rise and so they brought unleavened bread. This specific dietary requirement is spelled out in Exodus 12:14, “You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.”
To commemorate this, Jews do not eat leavened bread for eight days. While all Jews are required to abstain from chametz, Ashkenazi Jews are also prohibited from eating rice, corn or legumes - known as “kitniyot.” while Sephardic Jews eat kitniyot during Passover.
Any bread-like substance (cakes, dumplings, etc.) found at the seder will be made by combining matzoh meal, some sort of fat, and eggs to remain kosher for Passover.
If you want to bring something for the host, pick up an item from the kosher for Passover section of your supermarket, or stick to a bottle of kosher wine or flowers.

Foods That Make Your Pee Smell And Is This Good Or Bad

For many of us, it may seem a little gross to talk about, but our urine can actually tell us some important things about our health and the foods we’re eating. One of the factors to pay attention to is the way urine smells which can be related to our dietary choices. Here are a few examples.
1. Asparagus
This is probably the food most widely known for changing the way our urine smells. So how can we explain this phenomenon? Asparagus contains asparagusic acid, which the body converts into chemicals that contain sulfur. This is what causes the odor. The sulfur-containing molecules are volatile, meaning their boiling point is low enough that they can vaporize at room temperature. That means when we urinate, they convert to a gaseous state and we’re able to smell those gasses.
Some believe the odor is related to sulfur-containing fertilizers used on asparagus, as well. Moreover, it appears that some of us can smell the sulfur in our urine, while others cannot. Researchers are still trying to explain this, though it may be due to genetic factors.
2. Coffee
Have you ever had the experience of drinking coffee, then heading to the restroom only to have your urine smell - well, kind of like coffee, only stronger? Experts believe that this happens because coffee is a diuretic and it makes you need to urinate more frequently. As a result, the uric acid, chemicals and vitamins may be more concentrated in the urine, leading to a more pungent odor. Also, experts think that the insoluble oil released by coffee beans when they’re roasted may affect the odor of the urine, as well.
3. Alcohol
Like coffee, alcohol can have a dehydrating effect. This concentrates the compounds in the urine, which can sometimes impact the odor of the urine in a similar way. You may have noticed this after a night out with a few too many drinks. Yikes!
4. Garlic
Most of us are aware of the fact that eating garlic can lead to bad breath. But it can sometimes affect the odor of your urine, as well. This is the case because it contains methyl mercaptan, the same sulfur compound that causes smelly urine when we eat asparagus.
5. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are often viewed as a highly nutritious food. And that’s true! Many of us love them and others hate them with a passion. But whatever side you fall on, be aware that they can change the odor of your urine. They contain the same sulfur compound as both garlic and asparagus. It’s pretty nasty stuff - at least when it comes to smelly pee!
6. Salmon
Salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and has a number of health benefits. One of the potential downfalls, however, is that it may change the smell of your urine. This is because it contains vitamin B6. Keep in mind, this is a good thing, as the vitamin is an important part of a healthy diet. However, consuming large amounts of the vitamin may make your urine smell a little strange. Some people report having the same experience when taking vitamin B6 supplements.
7. Bananas
To many of us, bananas may seem like a pretty benign food. But, like salmon, they’re rich in vitamin B6. Therefore, they alter the odor of urine. This, of course, is more likely to happen if we eat larger amounts of bananas (or banana-containing foods) than if we simply eat a few banana slices on our oatmeal in the morning.
Is a change in urine odor a sign of health issues?
These are just a few of the foods that can impact the way our urine smells. There is significant evidence  both demonstrable and anecdotal suggesting that many more foods have a similar effect.
So, is it a good thing or a bad thing when the smell of our urine changes? The answer is: it depends. If it is simply the result of eating asparagus, for example, then it probably has little impact on our overall health and it is not something we should be concerned about.
However, in some cases, the odor of our urine may say something more significant about the state of our health. For example, a change in odor may be a sign that you have a urinary tract infection. It’s also believed that very sweetly smelling urine may be a sign of diabetes.
What about color changes?
Changes in the color of the urine may be benign. Not drinking enough water during the day, for example, can make the urine a brighter shade of yellow. Once you notice it, stay hydrated and you’ll be fine. Certain foods like beets can give the urine a dark, purplish-red appearance. This can be alarming since it resembles the color of blood. However, it’s completely harmless.
Sometimes a change in color may represent something about the state of your health. Urine that’s consistently dark in color, for example, may be a sign of hepatitis.
Oftentimes a change in the color and odor of your urine is simply a harmless side effect of consuming certain foods. However, if the odor persists, or if you’re concerned about it, speak with a medical professional.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Art of Retro-Deco Artist Tim Huhn

There is little personal information about Tim Huhn. His own Website has this biographical snippet and an art gallery site tells us this. 
Essentially, Huhn comes from up here in the Seattle area, was trained in California, worked in illustration for a number of years in the Los Angeles area, dropped that and moved to the central California coast, and finally relocated back there.
As for his art, Huhn is a very versatile and able to create his Art-Deco concepts extremely well. For example, he convincingly painted a number of images in the 1930's Modern style. These posters and mural-like paintings look as if they were created in the Art-Deco period. Recently, he seems to have shifted to tradition subjects and techniques in a highly skillful manner.
The Art of Tim Huhn

Facts about Easter

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion. Easter is the fulfilled prophecy of the Messiah who would be persecuted, die for our sins, and rise on the third day. (Isaiah 53). Remembering the resurrection of Jesus is a way to renew daily hope that we have victory over sin.
The Beginning of Easter
The early Christians began remembering the Resurrection every Sunday following its occurrence. In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea set aside a special day just to celebrate the Resurrection.  The problem with an official day was deciding whether the Resurrection should be celebrated on a weekday or always on a Sunday.
Many felt that the date should continue to be based on the timing of the Resurrection during Passover. Once Jewish leaders determined the date of Passover each year, Christian leaders could set the date for Easter by figuring three days after Passover.  Following this schedule would have meant that Easter would be a different day of the week each year, only falling on a Sunday once in awhile.
Others believed since the Jesus rose on a Sunday and this day had been set aside as the Lord’s Day, this was the only possible day to celebrate His resurrection.  As Christianity drew away from Judaism, some were reluctant to base the Christian celebration on the Jewish calendar.
Finally the Council decided Easter should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  Since the date of the vernal equinox changed from year to year, calculating the proper date can be difficult.  This is still the method used to determine Easter today, which is why some years we have Easter earlier than other years.
Since Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection, you would think there would not be room for paganism.  However, Easter is one of the holidays most intertwined with pagan symbolism and ritual.
The Meaning of the Word Easter
The origin of the word easter isn’t certain.  The Vernerable Bede, an eighth-century monk and scholar, suggested that the word may have come from the Anglo-Saxon Eeostre or Eastre - a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility.  Recent scholars haven’t been able to find any reference to the goddess Bede mentioned and consider the theory discredited. 
Another possibility is the Norse eostur, eastur, or ostara, which meant “the season of the growing sun” or  “the season of new birth.” The word east comes from the same roots.  In this case, easter would be linked to the changing of the season.
A more recent and complex explanation comes from the Christian background of Easter rather than the pagan.  The early Latin name for the week of Easter was hebdomada alba or “white week,” while the Sunday after Easter day was called dominica in albis from the white robes of those who had been newly baptized.  The word alba is Latin both for white and dawn.  People speaking Old High German made a mistake in their translation and used a plural word for dawn, ostarun, instead of a plural for white.  From ostarun we get the German Ostern and the English Easter.
The Origin and History of the Easter Bunny
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Easter?  As a Christian, the first image might be the cross or the empty tomb.  For the general public, a blitz of media images and merchandise on store shelves makes it more likely that the Easter Bunny comes to mind.  So how did a rabbit distributing eggs become a part of Easter?
There are several reasons for the rabbit, or hare, to be associated with Easter, all of which come through pagan celebrations or beliefs.  The most obvious is the hare’s fertility.  Easter comes during spring and celebrates new life.  The Christian meaning of new life through Christ and a general emphasis on new life are different, but the two gradually merged.  Any animals – like the hare - that produced many offspring were easy to include.
The hare is also an ancient symbol for the moon.  The date of Easter depends on the moon.  This may have helped the hare to be absorbed into Easter celebrations.
The hare or rabbit’s burrow helped the animal’s adoption as part of Easter celebrations. 
Believers saw the rabbit coming out of its underground home as a symbol for Jesus coming out of the tomb. Perhaps this was another case of taking a pre-existing symbol and giving it Christian meaning.
The Easter hare came to America with German immigrants, and the hare’s role passed to the common American rabbit.  Originally children made nests for the rabbit in hats, bonnets, or fancy paper boxes, rather than the baskets of today.  Once the children finished their nests, they put them in a secluded spot to keep from frightening the shy rabbit. The appealing nests full of colored eggs probably helped the customs to spread.
In Southern Germany, the first pastry and candy Easter bunnies became popular at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  This custom also crossed the Atlantic, and children still eat candy rabbits, particularly chocolate ones, at Easter.
The Origin and History of Easter Eggs
Next to the Easter bunny, the most familiar symbol is the Easter egg.  Like others, the egg has a long pre-Christian history.  Again there’s no certainty as to why it became associated with Easter. 
Many Ancient cultures viewed eggs as a symbol of life.  Hindus, Egyptians, Persians, and Phoenicians believed the world begun with an enormous egg.  The Persians, Greeks, and Chinese gave gifts of eggs during spring festivals in celebration of new life all around them.  Other sources say people ate dyed eggs at spring festivals in Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome.  In ancient Druid lore, the eggs of serpents were sacred and stood for life.
Early Christians looked at the connection eggs had to life and decided eggs could be a part of their celebration of Christ’s resurrection. In addition, in some areas, eggs were forbidden during Lent; therefore, they were a delicacy at Easter.  Since many of the earlier customs were Eastern in origin, some speculate that early missionaries or knights of the Crusade may have been responsible for bringing the tradition to the West.
In the fourth century, people presented eggs in church to be blessed and sprinkled with holy water.  By the twelfth century, the Benedictio Ovorum had been introduced authorizing the special use of eggs on the holy days of Easter.  The timing of this blessing would uphold the idea that Crusaders may have brought the tradition back. Even though eggs had been used previously, the Crusaders may have made the custom more popular and widespread.
In 1290, Edward I of England recorded a purchase of 450 eggs to be colored or covered with gold leaf.  He then gave the eggs to members of the royal household.
Once the custom became accepted, new traditions began to grow up around it.  Eggs were dyed red for joy, and in memory of Christ’s blood.  Egg rolling contests came to America from England, possibly as a reminder of the stone being rolled away. 
What about the Easter Egg hunt?  One source suggested that it grew out of the tradition of German children searching for hidden pretzels during the Easter season.  Since children were hiding nests for the Easter Bunny to fill with eggs at the same time they were hunting pretzels, it was only a small leap to begin hiding eggs instead.
The Easter Lamb
Of all Easter symbols, the lamb is probably the most strongly Christian.  Other than the fact that lambs are young animals born in springtime, it has no strong ties to pagan traditions.
The lamb comes from the Jewish Passover, where each family killed a lamb as a sacrifice.  When Christ became the Passover Lamb for everyone, the lamb became a symbol for His sacrifice.
(John 1:29) - "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
(1 Peter 1:18-21) - "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God."
New Clothes for Easter
New clothes have long been associated with the idea of newness and a fresh beginning.  The familiar custom of having new clothes for Easter probably began with early Christians wearing new white robes for baptism during Easter Vigil services.  Later, the custom expanded to everyone wearing new clothes in celebration of his or her new life in Christ.
Sunrise Services
The familiar sunrise service is a relatively new addition to Easter.  A group of young Moravian men in Hernhut, Saxony held the first recorded sunrise service in 1732. They went to their cemetery called God’s Acre at sunrise to worship in memory of the women who went to the tomb early on the first Easter morning and discovered it empty. Moravian immigrants brought the custom to America, with the first service in the United States held in 1743.
Easter Lilies
The Easter lily is another new addition to Easter celebrations. Throughout the years, painters and sculptors used the white Madonna lily to symbolize purity and innocence, frequently referring to Mary. This lily doesn’t force well, so nurseries could not get the flower to bloom in time Easter.
In the 1880's, Mrs. Thomas Sargent brought Bermuda lily bulbs back to Philadelphia. A local nurseryman, William Harris, saw the lilies and introduced them to the trade. A more practical consideration was that they were easy to force into bloom in time for the Easter season. From there, they Bermuda lily, now the familiar Easter lily, spread throughout the country.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Pictures From The Past, No. 6

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” was coined by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane in 1911. It’s a simple notion that applies to many aspects of our lives, but especially to historical photography. Sometimes, one simple picture can tell you more about history than any story you might read or any document you might analyze.

These photographs all tell stories about the historical figures or events that they represent. Once taken simply to document their present, they now help us witness the past. Many photographs only become iconic shots years later, once we understand their importance and historical context. From historical landmarks and famous people to the basic daily routines of the past, these pictures portray the past in a way that we can empathize with and understand more intimately.

Perhaps the wars, poverty, fights for freedom and little miracles of the past have lessons for us that we can use today?