? Passover Customs of the Jews of Afghanistan in Herat

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Home page News Archieve Passover Customs of the Jews of Afghanistan in Herat

Passover Customs of the Jews of Afghanistan in Herat

Moshoah. The institute for research on the Jews of Afghanistan. April 2012 issue, Page 6

Passover Customs of the Jews of Afghanistan in Herat

By: Reuven Kashani


They prepared for Passover an entire month

The day after Purim, while everyone was still enjoying the happiness of Purim, they began the Passover preparations. The excitement and noise in the Jewish homes and courtyards was big. The women took command because they were in charge of the housework. They were strict and careful in everything relating to cleanliness and Kashrut, in washing and cleaning every item, and they didn't leave one corner or crack not cleaned to the core.

Brass utensils were whitened by gentile craftsmen. The custom was that before the holiday these craftsmen would go from courtyard to courtyard declaring their crafts in loud voices. The cleaning of brass utensils was done for a handsome payment.

Back in the summer months still, the community heads would go outside of the city to buy wheat kernels to prepare the Matzah flour. The kernels were held in white sacks in the attics of the apartments and were guarded not to absorb any moisture. After Purim they the sacs were brought down and they would beat the kernels into wheat and pass it through a special sieve for Passover. Before Purim, the supporters of the community would rent from the gentiles a few flour mills. They would clean the grinding stones very well so that no flour would God forbid be found left over that was ground during the year, and they would grind the kernels into flour for the Matzahs.

The round and thin Matzahs were baked in ovens that were in the courtyards of the homes. There were families that prepared Matzahs on a large inverted frying pan called a Saj. The work of kneading and baking was done by the men.

The Haroset was prepared by the women using pomegranates, apples, almonds, nuts, dates, raisins, wine and special spices. During all the days of the holiday the men would praise the taste of the Haroset that their homemaker had prepared.

Passover eve and the intermediary days

As the holiday began, the women placed a large blanket on the floor so that everyone could sit comfortably. The seating order was according to age. At the head sat the men, across from them sat the women, and on the sides, the boys and girls sat. Every one receives a pillow for reclining.

After the Kiddush and the singing of "Ha Lahma Anya" ("This is the bread of the poor") with translation, a few of the family members would repeat the words "Ha Lahma" whereas the women would suffice with kissing the Matzahs. The person in charge of the Seder would declare in a loud voice the order of the Seder, such as: "Karpas", "Magid", etc. During the Seder, the children would bring water jugs (Iftabeh Slavcheh) for hand washing. After the dipping of the Karpas into vinegar and declaring "Yahatz", they would wrap the Afikoman in colored silk handkerchiefs, tie them onto the shoulders of the children and explain to them the reason for the custom, that this is the way our forefathers had left Egypt. They would instruct the children to guard the Afikoman not to fall asleep lest someone grab their Afikoman away from them. The children, from fear of falling asleep, would stay awake up to the end of the Seder.

When they reached the part of "Had we not left Egypt and had not made justice with them", all the participants would take green onions in hand, and when the reader would say "Dayeinu" ("Enough"), they would whip the long stalks of the onion onto the other's shoulders and say "Dayeinu", "Dayeinu" ("Enough", "Enough"), and everyone would try to whip more and more. The reason for this custom is unclear. One thought is that the whipping is intended to wake the children up so they wouldn't fall asleep.

The "Ma Nishtanah" ("Why is this night different from all nights"), the children would ask, and one of the participants would reply: "Because we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt", once in verbatim and once with a translation. Most of the Hagada was said by the youth, where the adults say the "VeHi SheUmda", "Shfoh Hamathah", "Hallel" and "Nishmat Kol Hai" and more.

The intermediary days of the holiday were meant for rest, Torah learning and visiting family members and community heads, what was called "Vini Holiday", where they would also go out to visit the gardens and streams surrounding the city.

The holiday foods were special and varied. On Passover they didn't bake cakes and didn't prepare sweets. They withheld from eating dairy foods and drank tea without sugar. The children received dates to sweeten the tea.

At the end of the seventh day of Passover they prepared the table like on Passover eve. On the blanket they placed a large water basin and inside they placed gold and silver rings and women's jewelry and covered it with kernels. In the evening they would do a lot of visiting and treats at family and friends until very late, and end with drink and songs of the holiday.

The Shemesh Avraham Family - David ben Avraham, Shalom Yitzhak Avraham, Moshe Avraham and the women in the family, 1927

(Provided by Jack Avraham)

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