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Passover lesson in Oklahoma: Don't be 'puffed up'

Rabbi Vered Harris at Temple B'nai Israel in Oklahoma City said spiritual significance abounds in the rule against eating leavened products at Passover.
by Carla Hinton Published: March 23, 2013

Each spring, a systematic cleansing takes place in many Jewish households and houses of worship.

This scrupulous ritual begins in the days and weeks preceding Passover, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the Israelites' redemption from Egypt.

The cleaning flurry is an effort to rid cupboards and homes of foods that are nonkosher for Passover. Foods that are not kosher for Passover are called hametz and they include foods made from five grains: wheat, barley, oat, rye and spelt.

“Depending upon a family's custom, they could turn over their entire kitchen,” Vered Harris, rabbi of Temple B'nai Israel, 4901 N Pennsylvania, said.

The Torah says any Jew in possession of hametz will be cut off from Passover.

One Passover Seder staple — matzah — is the only exception to the hametz rule and is considered kosher for Passover. Matzah, a flat unleavened bread often resembling a cracker, is featured prominently at the traditional Passover Seder, a ceremonial meal which includes special foods, prayers and rituals that help to tell the Israelites' redemption story.

Matzah is an integral part of the Passover meal because there was no time for dough prepared by the Israelite slaves to rise before they fled Egypt. There was no time to tarry, as the story chronicled in the Book of Exodus goes.

Harris, who became rabbi of Temple B'nai in July 2012, recently shared her first Passover-themed message as the temple's spiritual leader.

She said perhaps some Jews simply see the hametz rule as just refraining from leavened products. However, she said she prefers to interpret the holiday tenet in a more meaningful way.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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