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Rabbi's Passover Message

Wed, 4/8/20 - 10:46am


Rabbi Lisa Eiduson

Dear Members of Congregation B'nai Torah,

Today's blue skies and gentle breezes reminds us that Passover is coming. Without the sounds of traffic and travel, and without the noise and distractions of the usual work week, there is a hush of quiet that is reminiscent of the day before Passover in Israel. I don't know if there are more birds singing this year, or if I am just able to hear them more clearly. 

How ironic it is that Passover, the high point of the Jewish year, coincides with what experts believe to be the apex of the pandemic that we know as COVID-19? Jewish history and human existence is replete with ironies and paradoxes. As we pray for our own health and strength and that of our loved ones, we nevertheless count our blessings as members of a religious and cultural tradition that is at once universal and particular. And, there is no better holiday or observance during the year that fuses the universal and the particular more seamlessly than Pesach - our Festival of Freedom. At the same time that we recall and remember the historic Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egyptian bondage -- as if we, ourselves, were there -- we call to mind the universal yearning for freedom that is still incomplete. And we know deep in our souls that as long as one person or one group of people yearns for freedom that none of us is truly free.

This means that as a particular people with a unique and individual history and experience that our lives as Jews are only meaningful if we reach out beyond our own homes and stories to others along our journeys. That is, our mission as a people -- as the Jewish people -- is only possible to the extent that we transmit our messages through our lives as "a light to the nations." 

Tomorrow evening, we will sit around seder tables -- real and virtual. We are limited physically this year; we cannot reach out to others with hugs or embraces. We will miss the crowded seder tables where there is always room for one more person or one more family. Passover this year challenges our creativity, our powers of innovation and our ability to continue to celebrate in the face of illness, fear, and uncertainty. We need to find ways to touch one another spiritually while observing the social distancing that is so important to keeping ourselves and others healthy. 

I suggest that this year, even as our ability to reach out to others feels curtailed and limited, that we endeavor to reach in. We each have a responsibility to our tradition and to one another to gather our individual and collective strength so that together we can help bring hope and healing to others who suffer. Passover teaches us that the Exodus story was and remains a prototype of bondage and freedom in every age. For in every generation and in every corner of the world there are still those who are imprisoned in their own metaphorical "Egypts" - the "mitzrayims" -- meaning those "narrow places" that restrict and restrain us from authentic freedom. 

At a time when many of us feel vulnerable and alone, we can live the truth of our Festival of Freedom by seeing ourselves as agents of hope, connection and change. As we celebrate Pesach beginning tomorrow evening and in the week to come, let us be empowered by the hope that we and those we love will be treated gently through this juncture, and with the knowledge that the darkness of this crisis will pass and that morning will come again. 

In order to enhance your seders and fortify your spirits, I share with you a beautiful prayer written by Cantor Lisa Levine especially for Passover 2020. Also attached to this message is a wonderful video produced by the Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts in Israel. For me, the sound of the music and the sight of these gifted young students offers hope and confidence in a better, kinder future for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

From our home to yours, Joe, Rosie and Carly join me in wishing each of you a Zissen Pesach - a sweet Passover.

-Rabbi Lisa Eiduson


Passover Video

Click HERE for link to Video from Thelma Yellin High School for the Arts, Israel (Mendelssohn, Psalm 42)

Prayer for Passover 2020

Source of Blessing:
Our lives are in turmoil
our hearts heavy
help us to cope
with this modern plague
we are worried for our families,
we are concerned for our communities,
our world is on the brink. 

Bless us with strength.

Source of Mercy: 

We pray for courage
to stay strong
for those in our care,
and for ourselves.
We pray for insight
to act in loving ways
to keep our communities safe.

Bless us with strength.

Source of Hope:
We pray for those
who are at greatest risk
vulnerable and scared
isolated and lonely,
and for those heroes
leading on the front lines
who keep us alive and fed.

Bless us with strength.

Source of Life:
Throughout history
our people has faced plagues,
forced expulsions, slavery,
exile and extermination.
We have walked in narrow places
wandered many deserts
Sustain us now,

Bless us with strength. 

Source of Love:
We celebrate our fortitude 
our shared history
the traditions which
have gifted us the DNA,
spiritual armor
to overcome
this modern imprisonment.

Bless us with strength.

Source of Healing:
We give thanks for the gifts
sometimes taken for granted
our homes, our families,
friends, communities,
We are blessed to connect with
technology and computers.
May we honor this sharing.

Bless us with strength.

Source of Courage:
Quell our anxiety,
keep us safe
help us continue to pray
sing and study
We see the light of redemption
Just beyond the horizon.
Let us virtually join hands
and march together
towards the promised land.

Bless us with freedom. Amen.

~by Cantor Lisa Levine, April 2020

Wed, March 22 2023 29 Adar 5783