A message from Rabbi Harry

Rabbi Harry 2

Dear Ones,

This Passover we find ourselves in a surreal moment in human history where all of humanity is huddling in isolation awaiting a “plague”. While I do not have any magical shamanistic rituals for our doorposts so the plague passes over our homes, I do have some advice to help us ensure that Passover is doable in a joyful and liberating way

First off, it is very grounding to finally be home at this crazy moment in history. I am grateful and proud to learn how we as a community have been reaching out and taking care on one another. I also want to thank Rabbi Matt for his leadership, his sensitivity and the way he has connected and cared for our congregation. There should be a rabbinical merit award for delivering pastoral care for a congregation that you are just getting to know during a pandemic. I also have a few words to share regarding Passover and Passover prep work.

This year it is paramount that we take care of ourselves. When our needs for self- isolation are in conflict with Passover, we must give way to leniency and make our collective health the priority. When it comes to using technology on a festival or even on Shabbat, my sense is that it is better to flip a switch and have the ability to connect to others in a prayerful way than to stay alone during this time of physical distancing.

Food and our food supply chain are precious. Ordinarily we get rid of a lot of perfectly good food before Passover because it was opened and used. This year I believe we need to save that food, put it aside until after Passover. Selling ḥametz does not have to only apply to good whiskey. Right now for many of us, life holds a lot of anxiety and that takes its toll on everyone.

The personal psychic energy needed to contain fear and allow for hope and presence takes up energy. Maintaining function in this altered reality takes energy. Video calls and meetings are remarkable ways for us to connect, and I am so very thankful we have this technology, but I also know that video connecting is different from face to face meeting and as much as it can lift us up it also can be draining.

This year I feel that in order to make Passover a meaningful experience we need to cut ourselves some slack. You don’t need to run to the grocery to buy parsley for karpas when you have broccoli in your fridge. Please think about the extra exposure to yourself and loved ones from simply grocery shopping and be creative with what you already have. RaeAnn and I love having big seders but as we know that anyone who does not live with us should not be present at our seder we realize that means we will need to find a way to make sure that our closest loved ones can be connected with us even if it means using a video platform.

This piece of advice is heavy. Please get your business in order. It is really important to have someone you trust with power of attorney and someone you trust who can be your medical director. It is important that someone knows where your passwords are and where you keep your important papers. The idea of this task for some may feel morbid. Sometimes people think that taking care of these kinds of issues brings on evil eye, this is simply not real. In my experience taking care of these life details felt remarkably liberating. If not now when?

Our remarkable shul offers us lots this year. There will be a virtual seder led by Rabbi Matt on the 2nd night of Passover, Thursday April 9 starting at 6 pm. If you do not have the wherewithal to make your own seder plate please email Mike Goldstein at mikecgoldstein@gmail.com and he will ensure you have a seder plate with all the various symbolic foods for the communal seder or for your own seder as well. If you need any meals during this time of isolation or if you need meals during Passover due to isolation, please let our Outreach Team know. Our shul kitchen maven Rani is preparing meals for Outreach that can easily get delivered to you. Know that I am now home and I am here for you. If you want to chat, if you want to learn some Torah, if you want to hear a good joke or about our recent amazing journey give me a shout. I’d love to connect.

The word plague in Hebrew is makah from the word to be hit or struck. A plague is generally the Biblical response to angering God; not a theology with which I am comfortable. When the plagues were coming down on mitzayrim we were sheltered and protected; we had a different status and different mazal, karma and fortune than the Egyptians. In this case we are dealing with a pandemic, I do not believe that the etiology of this crisis originates with God. In fact I find that kind of theology and worldview to be toxic and part of a poisonous pedagogy. The whole planet is in this together. No status, no wealth, no amount of followers on Instagram can shield a person. I do not know why we are experiencing this pandemic but I know that there are things I must learn from it, like how to pump up my kindness volume even when I am a bit scared. Remember that we humans on our planet are truly connected. Keeping my consciousness in the present moment helps me remain calm. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Choose life.

Rabbi Harry

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An inclusive, warm, and progressive Conservative synagogue in Victoria, B.C.

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