Thursday, April 3, 2014

Path to Passover :: Interview with Michelle Schiffman

This is my first interview in what I hope will be a short series to see how some women across the Messianic Jewish movement prepare for Passover. I first met Rebbetzen Michelle Schiffman when my daughter was still nursing. It must have been nigh on 6 or 7 years ago! (It's amazing how time flies when you compare years to a child's growth.) I learned quite a bit from what she has to say, and I am encouraged by her words. I hope you'll be encouraged as well.


Please introduce yourself, including the Congregation you attend as well as the role(s) you play. No role is too small :)
My name is Rebbetzen Michelle Schiffman. My husband and I are part of the rabbinic staff at Aydat Ha Derekh messianic synagogue in Fort Myers, Fla.  I focus on meeting  visitors and answering their questions. I also keep track of the schedule for the Talmud class we are currently holding  at the shul, and the Chavurah my husband and I host at our house once a month

How would you describe your level of Jewish observance? 
I consider myself Conservadox in general. I keep a kosher home but come from a Conservative Jewish background so I live my life with that perspective.

How long have you been celebrating Passover? Did you grow up celebrating it?
Even though my mom was Jewish I did not observe Passover until about 20 years ago. I remember going to seders but not cleaning the house of chametz, no.

What do you do to get ready for Passover? Please give me a brief description of your preparations. When do you start? How do you plan?
I start getting ready for Passover about two weeks ahead by changing my shopping list. I find that if I begin to leave items like bread, pasta, rice, etc., off the list it helps me when it comes to cleaning the house, and I also begin to plan what I will be buying for the holidays. We live in a one-story house with a tile floor so a basic mopping and vacuuming takes care of most cleaning on that end.  Our oven is a self-cleaning one so we clean it about a day before the holiday begins. Our toaster oven is covered and put aside in another area. When it comes to the non-Passover food , we do one of three things; give it to a friend in need, donate it to a local food bank, or put it in a separate part of the closet or our second freezer.  All of our dishes, pots, etc., are dishwasher safe so we clean them accordingly.

What do you and don't you eat during Passover? Do you follow a particular tradition?
Our tradition is to follow the Ashkenazi guidelines; no beans, no rice, no pasta, and no corn. We eat more fruit, vegetable, meat, and if we want to bake anything we use matza meal, or farfel.

Describe your seder. What is your favorite part?
We have a very relaxed seder with family and some close friends.  We use the Artscroll Family Haggadah, and everyone does the four questions together. One of the things that makes our seder special is that everyone brings something for dinner. It helps keep the atmosphere relaxed and makes everyone feel included. My favorite part of the evening is when we open the door for Elijah. It reminds me that we are always to keep our door open for guests.

Do you have tips on getting through eight days without bread?
I plan ahead as much as I can. There are certain things that are automatically part of our Passover. For example; matza pizza, matza lasagna, extra amounts of charoset. and we do buy kosher for Passover chicken wings. Many things that are available in the store are kosher for Passover. All it takes is looking. Also, there are tons of recipes online for Passover, including ones for vegans, gluten-free etc.

If someone were to come up to you never having kept Passover before, what advice would you give?
For those who have never kept Passover I suggest keeping things simple. Take out the obvious items; bread, yeast, baking soda, the typical types of flour, or flour based items. Cereal is out because it always has some flour product in it. Avoid spending money on kosher for Passover ketchup, coke, or cereal. It is much easier and less expensive to just take them out of the diet for a week. More fresh fruit, vegetables, and non-breaded meat fit in well with the holiday diet. Don't overdo it. Make friends with someone who has observed Passover before and get some tips from them. Go to a seder. Fellowship, enjoy and ask questions. Above all enjoy the holiday!

How does Passover fit in your spiritual journey?
For me Passover reminds me that G-d is always with me no matter what is going on. It is also a time when I take a look at myself and my relationship with others. It is very easy to get busy doing  ‘everything right” for the holiday and not see the needs of those around us. Here is the thing, what good does it do if our house is perfect but we have ignored those around us? Maybe there are new people who are going to be alone during this time, or don't have money for food, etc.  Caring for others should always come before anything else.  It’s a great time for removing the things that draw us aside from G-d and replacing them with ‘new growth”. Kind of a spiritual spring planting.

Thanks for dropping by! If you enjoyed this post, please share it with someone you know!

No comments:

Post a Comment