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. Continue reading A message from Rabbi Harry
To see the Pesaḥ Edition of Koleinu, click here…
With regret, Congregation Emanu-El will not hold a communal seder this year. We cannot hold such an event and sustain the recommended distance between people, nor can we manage with our space constraints to serve food for so many except as a buffet, which again is unsafe in these circumstances.
The Board, Rabbinic and Administrative staff are making this decision now, rather than waiting to see if things improve, for several reasons:
- We want to ensure the health of our members. A communal seder presents numerous risks better avoided.
- Cancelling early gives people time to make alternative plans with family and friends.
- There are costs involved that we can avoid by deciding now, before they are incurred.
We know that this will be a disappointment to many, particularly to those for whom the community seder provides their main opportunity to observe this mitzvah. We will endeavor as a community to find ways to connect meaningfully and safely during this holiday.
Saturday, April 27, 2019 — As the Passover Festival draws to a close on Shabbat, April 27 we have the opportunity at our Yizkor service to remember loved ones no longer on this planet with us. The Yizkor ritual offers us powerful moments for public memorial at those times through the year, like the Passover Seder, when our loved ones may be missed acutely. By invoking the names and memories of loved ones while introspecting on how we can live out their values through mitzvot and tzedakah and by praying for the safekeeping of their souls and memories, we connect with and support them.
The Torah instructs (Deuteronomy 16:20) that Israelites making pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem for one of the Festivals are not to arrive empty handed, that it is a time for righteous giving. Thus it has become a tradition at the holy days to give tzedakah in memory of loved ones. Another tradition is lighting a 24 hour yahrzeit candle known in Hebrew as a ner neshamah (soul candle) reflecting the teaching in the book of Proverbs 20:27 that the “soul of human is the candle or lamp of God”.
People often ask should they participate in Yizkor if their first year of mourning is not over. Although fading memory is not a paramount issue within the first year of mourning, Yizkor is a great opportunity to be held in the embrace of the community and publicly mourn. People also ask when the service will take place. Yizkor happens in the morning service after the Torah service.
I hope you are experiencing a liberating and joyous Passover. I look forward to seeing you at the end of the festival as together we remember people we love.
Friday, April 19, 2019 at 6 pm — As in years past, this is a family-friendly affair and we expect to have congregants and guests of all ages. Rabbi Harry Brechner will lead us through the Passover Haggadah with his special flair, wisdom, and good humour. The evening shall be a joyous, festive and memorable occasion. Continue reading Reserve your seat for the Emanu-El Community Seder
Thursday, March 29 9:00 pm to midnight — Bdikat ḥametz is a ceremony of searching for leavened bread, instituted in order to ensure that not even the smallest particle of ḥametẓ remains in the house during Passover. The biblical injunction, “Even the first day shall ye put away leaven out of your house” (Ex. 12:15), was interpreted by the rabbis as referring to the eve of Passover, i.e., the 14th of Nisan. The ceremony of bdikat ḥametẓ takes place on the 13th of Nisan (or the 12th if the 13th should be on a Friday). It follows the Ma’ariv prayer immediately after nightfall and before any other kind of activity is undertaken. The ceremony is preceded by the blessing: “Blessed art Thou O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who hast sanctified us by Thy commandments and commanded us concerning the removal of the leaven.”
By the light of a wax candle, with a wooden spoon and a whisk made of several chicken or goose feathers tied together, the master of the house searches every corner in the house for stray crumbs. Every room into which ḥametẓ may have been brought during the past year has to be searched. Since a blessing must never be recited without good reason, a few crumbs of bread are deliberately left on window sills and in other obvious places. The ceremony of bdikat ḥametz takes precedence even over the study of Torah on that evening. If the husband is not available, the ceremony has to be performed by the wife or another member of the family.
The kabbalistic school of R. Isaac Luria hid ten pieces of bread for bdikat ḥametz. Leaven to the mystics symbolized the ferment of base desires and evil impulses which had to be purged. Upon completion of bdikat ḥametz, the leaven collected is put away in a safe place and the master of the house recites these words: “May all leaven that is in my possession, which I have not observed, searched out or had cognizance of, be regarded as null and be common property, even as the dust of the earth.” On the morning of the 14th of Nisan, no later than 10 A.M., the leaven is burned and a similar Aramaic formula is recited. This observance is called Bi’ur ḥametz – the removal or the burning of ḥametz. The laws concerning bdikat ḥametz are codified in Shulḥan Arukh (OḤ 431 to 445).
From Encyclopedia Judaica
Friday, March 30 at 8 am — If you are a firstborn, it is incumbent upon you to fast on Erev Pesaḥ as a sign of thanksgiving for the sparing of your ancestral peers. Also, for those who are not firstborn but have an oldest child who is not yet old enough to fast, it is appropriate for you to fast on their behalf.
Instead of fasting, you may join us at the synagogue on Friday, March 30 at 8 am for davening and a wonderful siyyum to follow. What is a siyyum you ask? A siyyum is a completion of a considerable amount of Torah learning. The completion of a tractate or an order of Mishnah mandates a special celebration where some of the beautiful pieces of learning are shared – and of course you cannot have a Jewish celebration without food – so food is a central component of the siyyum.
According to Jewish law, the joy of a siyyum takes precedent over the fast of the firstborn – so if you are a firstborn and want to avoid this fast, come to the siyyum, have some breakfast and enjoy some great learning.