Rabbi’s Corner

Daily Minyan Update – Now Online!

Earlier this week, the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) put out new halakhic guidelines for virtual minyanim during this crisis.  Under normal circumstances (may we speedily return to them!), a minyan must be composed of 10 adult Jews in the same physical space. But in our current sha’at hadechak (crisis situation), they have offered a few different options of how to proceed. Congregation Beth Shalom will resume our daily minyanim at their usual times (weekdays at 7am, Monday evenings at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 9:30am), meeting virtually on Zoom. For details on participation and a link to join, click here.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom

Dear Beth Shalom,

I am writing from Jerusalem to wish you a Chag Sameach.  We have been having a wonderful sabbatical, busy engaged in Israeli society and seeing as much as possible (until everything came to a standstill a couple of weeks ago).  Like you, we will be having our seder without guests around the table this year. (On the bright side, we have enough room now to recline at the seder – though we prefer a crowded table).  It will definitely be a different Passover and not the one we expected to have this year in Jerusalem. We are grateful for our health and are doing well. And while we are across the ocean from you, in some ways our lives may be very similar with many hours on zoom, figuring out how to exercise in the living room, lots of time reading the news and trying to understand what is happening and what changes to expect next.  We’re holding particularly close in our hearts people who are sick, or facing anxiety and depression connected to the current pandemic, or worried about their ability to pay rent or mortgage or having money for food, or any number of other stresses caused by the current reality.

During this time of tremendous fear and limitations, I have been touched by a number of things taking place in Israel to deal with Corona and its overlap with Passover.  The municipality has called everyone they have deemed to be older or vulnerable and assigned them their own nurse and offered to bring groceries to them. The local youth group has launched a go-fund campaign for groceries for seniors and is going grocery shopping and delivering groceries.  The youth groups have found a way to hold their 3 day pre-Passover hiking trips (an annual tradition) through Zoom. Yesterday, I had someone meet me outside my apartment building to pick up my chametz as part of a project to deliver chametz to Arabs facing food insecurity. And later today, I will be bringing my leftover chametz from bedikat chametz (searching for chametz) to a special collection can the city is distributing and picking up in the morning to burn the chametz for the city (as a way to prevent individuals being outside and gathering to burn chametz).  And the story I find most amusing is El Al planes having several emergency flights to deliver eggs to help offset the local egg shortage, given the prevalence of eggs in Passover cooking. I understand some eggs have even gotten to fly first class.

The mishna in Pesachim 10:4 teaches that we are to tell a story at the seder that begins with genut (degradation) and ends with shevach (praise).  It tells us the arc to follow but doesn’t tell us what the story is.  The Talmud shares with us two stories that are included in the haggadah that follow that arc.  The opinion of Rav tells of going from idolatry to faithfullness to God and the opinion of Shmuel tells of going from slavery to freedom.  And within the haggadah itself, you can find other examples of this journey from degradation to praise – including journey from yachatz (broken matzah) to nirtzah (joyous singing), or eating karpas dipped in salt water to feasting and being able to invite others to share our food (in ha lachma anya).

The mishna was apt in understanding how easy it is for us to focus on the negative and knowing that the negative is part of our story.  But the greatness of the freedom from Egypt and all narrow places is that we get to leave degradation and not only experience better lives but to have that awareness and be grateful.  We can gain hope and transform ourselves from knowing shevach (praise) is always possible and within our reach.

This year seems like an easier year to identify with the negative and genut.  But we need to not stop there but to get to shevach and I am grateful for the mishna’s reminder of the journey we are supposed to take at the seder.  (And perhaps every day). So while it is easy to complain and be bothered by all the current restrictions and fears, I am hoping to experience a form of liberation this passover, with being able to name not just the traditional, preformatted list of things for which I am grateful in the song Dayenu, but add much more to this list, singing out in true praise for the wonders and blessings I enjoy.

One part of the seder that has always left me a bit perplexed is near the end of the seder with the opening of the door, the pouring of the cup of wine for Elijah and our summons for him to come.  Do we really think he will come? (Or at least the real Elijah and not someone dressed up as him). Why are we inviting him and pouring him wine if he is not really coming?

The biblical Elijah is a zealous and stern prophet, decrying idolatry.  The rabbinic Elijah (and continuing in Jewish folklore) is a miracle worker, often appearing in disguise and disappearing after his mission is done, bringing money, food, help and compassion to those in need, often when they least expect it.

Why do we recall Elijah at this point in our seder?  While there are many different scholarly opinions of how the tradition developed, I want to suggest that perhaps the ultimate act of being free, and of expressing gratitude is us being able to follow the lead of the rabbinic Elijah: showering kindness, compassion and support where it is needed.  And perhaps we invite Elijah – as a call to the Elijah potential in each of us, calling on us to act and reach out to help someone else. And perhaps our door is open, summoning us to start now, and to have us ready to take the first step. This year, in our current isolation, with so many who are sick, afraid, alone and in need, there are many who would benefit from us following Elijah’s lead.

Last year I ended my seder with saying “L’Shanah Habaah B’Yerushalayim – Next year in Jerusalem,” and my wish has come true.  This year I plan to end my seder saying “L’Shanah Haba’ah B’vriut b’chol haolam – Next year, with good health all over the world” – may this wish also come true, and with great haste.

Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Jill Borodin

Prayer

Seder Resources

  • If you are planning to be alone for one or both seders, this guide may be a useful resource for creating a meaningful experience.
  • If you will be alone for one or both seders and would like to join a virtual seder hosted by CBS community members, please contact Rabbi Rose by 7pm on Tuesday 4/7. 
  • The Rabbinical Assembly put out a video seder that you can watch here and follow along with.
  • More Passover resources including online haggadot, information about kashering, divrei Torah, music, videos, and more can be found here.

Selling Chametz

Since owning chametz during Passover is not permitted, you can appoint Rabbi Rose to be your agent in selling it to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday.  The form to do so can be found here.

Yizkor

Yizkor (the memorial prayer) is usually recited on the last day of Passover.  Since we will not be meeting on the last day of Passover this year, we will be reciting Yizkor at our virtual daily minyan on Tuesday, 4/14.  Minyan begins at 7am; Yizkor will be at about 7:25am. Contact Rabbi Rose for the Zoom invitation

Counting the Omer

This year, as time perhaps feels more fluid than usual, the ritual of counting the omer and marking each day from Pesach until Shavuot feels particularly powerful.  We begin counting on Thursday night, 4/9, at the second seder.  You can find an omer calendar with this year’s dates and transliteration here, and creative (if more ambitious) ideas for making your own omer counter here.

Shir HaShirim

Our usual custom at Beth Shalom is to chant a few chapters of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) on each of the Yom Tov days of Passover. Since we won’t be meeting on those days this year, we’ll be chanting it virtually during Chol HaMoed- join us to listen to this beautiful text celebrating the arrival of springtime and the presence of love in the world.  Contact Rabbi Rose for the Zoom invitation for Sunday 4/12 at 11:00am.

Communal Havdallah

Join us for communal havdallah, led by Deb Arnold, on Saturday night, April 11 at 9pm.  Contact Rabbi Rose for the Zoom invitation.

A Passover Prayer in the Age of Coronavirus

From Rabbi Noam E. Marans, AJC

Why is this night different from all other nights? Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?

On this Passover, when a pandemic threatens our collective health on an unimaginable scale, we are called to respond with the power of our humanity, with the Divine spirit implanted within us, with our legacy of hope and determination to prevail.

We pray for the at risk, the isolated, the stricken, the mourners.

We pray for those who have dedicated their lives to keeping us healthy-doctors, nurses, health-care workers-and all who sustain our hospitals and health-care institutions- existing and makeshift-operating under trying circumstances.

We pray for the first responders-police officers, fire fighters, military personnel who have been marshalled to the cause-all who are responsible for the safety of our communities.

We pray for our elected officials, who can save lives with wise leadership.

May God bless all of our public servants and watch over them.

On this Passover, when so many are separated from one another at a traditional time of being together, we reach out to one another with renewed love and compassion. When someone is missing from our Seder table, we tell their story as if they are with us. When there is personal sadness, we respond with communal solidarity, empathy, and fortitude.

On this Passover, not “all who are hungry can come and eat” and not “all who are in need can come and celebrate Passover.” In response, we commit all the days of our year to a heightened awareness of Passover’s values-to freeing the enslaved, to feeding the hungry, to sheltering the homeless, to supporting the poor. We rededicate ourselves to rekindling

and cherishing our Passover traditions for all the years of our future, when light will overcome darkness, when health will overcome infirmity.

Dear God, “Spread over us Your canopy of peace . . . Shelter us in the shadow of Your wings . . .Guard us and deliver us. . . Guard our coming and our going, grant us life and peace, now and always.”

“This year we are slaves, next year we will be free.”

Guidelines for Praying without a Minyan

When praying without a minyan, a few modifications are made to the service.

Friday night: Kabbalat Shabbat is recited in its entirety as usual, omitting Mourner’s Kaddish at the end.  In Maariv, we omit barechu, all kaddishes, and the bracha achat me’ein sheva (the blessing that begins after the vayechulu paragraph and continues through mekadesh hashabbat, pages 47-48 in Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals).  We add “El melech ne’eman” before shema.

Saturday morning:  We omit barechu, all kaddishes, kedushah, and the repetition of the amidah (both shacharit and musaf).  We add “El melech ne’eman” before shema.  The Torah service, from ein kamocha through etz chayim is omitted (except for ashrei), but you are encouraged to read the Torah reading and Haftarah in English or Hebrew from a chumash.

A Prayer for Healing and Community

By Bobbi Binder (sister of CBS member Lori Safer)

At a time when we would like to come together as a community, to pray for those getting sick, to pray to protect those who may get sick and to pray for the caregivers of our society, we are being asked to do just the opposite.

We pray to you God, that you accept our prayers as individuals as if it were one prayer being said by all of us, together, standing side by side. We hope that that the strength of everyone can be gathered to form one prayer from all of us.

Dear God, protect us, shelter us and keep us strong during this very difficult time. Help those who are more isolated to know that the community is out there for them and help them to understand that they can and should reach out to ask for help. We pray for a speedy end to the spread of this virus and that when we all do come together as a community, it is with a better understanding of what we can accomplish together.

A Prayer in place of Kaddish

From Siddur Kol Koreh

From a halakhic perspective, the mitzvah of preserving life supersedes the mitzvah of reciting kaddish as a mourner or in commemoration of a yahrtzeit.  Yet the fact that the technical requirement is overridden does not provide the emotional or spiritual fulfillment that many people receive by reciting kaddish in the presence of community.  To help fill that gap, here is a Kaddish LeYachid, a kaddish prayer for an individual to recite alone, without a minyan.  It is attributed to Rav Amram Gaon (a 9th century Babylonian sage).

Livestreamed Options

While Beth Shalom is not streaming Shabbat services, if it feels comfortable for your practice, here are links to some Conservative options in our time zone.  Please check their websites to confirm times:

Celebration

Here are just a few suggestions of ways to bring a sense of joy and celebration to Shabbat while we’re physically separated:
  • Sing joyful songs at the Shabbat table
  • Read a good book
  • Take a walk (and look for the beautiful flowers that are beginning to blossom!)
  • Invite a few guests, to the extent that you feel comfortable
  • Play a game
  • Take a nap

Connection to Community

  • As you prepare for Shabbat, you might consider cooking and freezing some extra food that you can deliver to someone who may need it later.
  • Please check in on your friends and neighbors, especially those who are at higher risk.  In addition to concrete needs, many people are feeling the emotional effects of being socially isolated- even just a phone call to say hello and Shabbat Shalom goes a long way.
  • As always, your rabbis are here for lifecycle emergencies and pastoral care.  If you need support, or are concerned about other members of the community, please do not hesitate to contact Rabbi Rose.

BimBam Video Parsha of the week:

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