Shabbat Shalom ~ Vayakhel – Pekudei & HaHodesh

Dear WJC Family,

This Shabbat is known as “HaHodesh” (The Month). It is always the Shabbat that immediately precedes (or sometimes coincides with) Rosh Hodesh Nisan, the beginning of the new month of Nisan. Why do we have a whole Shabbat dedicated to announcing this particular month? Well, the observance of this Rosh Hodesh is explicitly commanded in the Torah, in fact, some would argue (including the Torah commentator Rashi) it is commandment #1 of the 613 in the Torah. It is also a reminder to us that Passover is just two weeks after Rosh Hodesh Nisan and we need to start getting ready.

The days flying by as we approach Passover is a popular topic of conversation, and lamentations, in our household this week. I know we are not the only ones! I think we are all wondering what Passover will look like if we cannot gather, even with our closest family members with whom we have spent so many seders in past years. And many who have always been guests at sedarim are worrying about suddenly needing to lead a seder for their immediate family.

This Passover is not going to be quite like any other in our lives. We need to name that, and allow ourselves to grieve for what we will be missing. However, one of the key ways to manage the extreme changes to our lives due to the coronavirus situation, in general, is to look with gratitude at the things we do have. It is something we’ve been practicing during our 7:00pm community time on Zoom and I know it’s been helpful for me and for others. I think this is how we need to approach Passover too.

While making a seder at home with our immediate families may not be our ideal, Jews over the years have made seder under much worse circumstances. I believe there is an opportunity for us to make very powerful and meaningful seders this year, whose lessons and impressions will stay with us for life. To help us prepare, we will offer a series of pre-Passover Zoom sessions focusing on preparing our homes for Passover, preparing to make a seder, and a “Great Seder Share”─a chance for those who are used to hosting and leading seders to share their favorite seder ideas with each other and with those less experienced at seder hosting. Look for times and descriptions in the “weekly events email” on Monday. The sessions will be recorded so you can refer back to them.

Speaking of reasons to be grateful, though we are all practicing physical distancing, there are still lots of opportunities for us to gather together, and people have been taking advantage of them. Keep your eyes out for more opportunities like Men’s Club Scotch and Study on Sunday night 8:30-9:30 ( and much more in the works (including a partnership with the great teachers at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem to provide us with some great, in-depth learning!)

One concern of many has been an opportunity to say Kaddish with a minyan. You may remember my friend Rabbi Ben-Gideon from Greensboro. He participated in my installation. His shul is still convening a physical minyan with ten people that you can connect to with Zoom. If you connect, you can say kaddish with the minyan there and it is halachically effective. Here is the information for the minyan:

A very wise old friend reminded me of an important piece of wisdom. She wrote, “The opposite of depression isn’t happiness; it’s purpose.” That is why it is so important to participate in mitzvot right now─that is our purpose! A very important mitzvah we undertake every year: WJC’s SOJAC (Social Justice Action Committee) does a Food Drive for Project Ezra ensuring that impoverished Jews in the Bronx have Passover food. This year obviously we cannot do a regular drive. Project Ezra has suggested an alternative called Direct Relief. $75 is their estimate of the cost of a full supply of Passover food; sending a check for $75 will take care of one person for all of Passover. Please mail checks made out to Project Ezra (write WJC in the memo line) to this address:

Project Ezra
387 Grand Street, Ground Floor
New York, NY  10002
Remember, please write from “WJC” in the memo.

Just like last week, we have a variety of Shabbat offerings before and after Shabbat. This week they will feature Rabbi Sam Blustin, a candidate for our assistant rabbi position. On Sunday we will also host a Sermon and Q&A session with him at 10:00am. See the links here. All sessions will be recorded in case you can’t make it live.

One addition this week, open to anyone with preschool-aged kids: at 10:00am Friday join us for ECC Community Shabbat. Check that out here.

My D’var Torah for this week’s portion Vayakhel-Pekudei is about how we can use Shabbat to give us a Real Rest from these crazy days at home: Watch link here.

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