Shabbat Shalom ~ Shabbat HaGadol 2024

A HUGE Yashar Koach to Elijah and the Not for Prophets on their Sunday Klezmer concert to benefit the Kibbutz Re’im Resilience Fund. Thanks very much to the passion and dedication of WJC and band members Jerry Goldman and David Krenkel the concert raised over $4000 and provided a spirited and joyful afternoon for all. Great job! Have ideas for programming like this? Let us know and we’ll try to make them happen.

Dear WJC Family,

I know we are all looking forward to the Passover holiday with mixed emotions this year. There is the joy and comfort of gathering with family and/or friends for this special meal of freedom and redemption, of sharing ancient rituals and traditional foods.  But then there is the questioning and uncertainty – about celebrating with our family while the families of the hostages will have forcibly empty seats at their tables, about saying let all who are hungry come and eat while we know hunger is a serious problem all over the world and particularly in Gaza, about proclaiming the Messianic vision “Next Year in Jerusalem” when that version of Jerusalem shared peacefully among faiths seems so far off.

While this seder will inevitably be a difficult one, reflecting this difficult year, the seder ritual was built for holding this kind of dissonance. As I share in this week’s video link, the haggadah is a virtual symphony of dissonance – This is the bread of oppression – let all who are hungry come and eat – what kind of invitation is that? It sounds like, here’s some spoiled milk, take a taste. We celebrate the plagues and yet spill drops of wine, symbolizing joy, for the suffering of innocents. We famously ask Four Questions, but just as famously never really answer them. Heck, haggadah literally means “telling” and yet you have to dig pretty hard to tease out the actual Exodus story from the haggadah text. Perhaps all of that dissonance built into the seder is meant to ritualize the dissonance built into life, and remind us that it is still okay to separate out the beauty and holiness and sparks of joy from the darkness and muck.

We are all going to have to decide exactly how we will balance the current situation and our annual Passover customs. Is this a year to focus on the particularist, Jewish story of the haggadah or to highlight the universalist, human values it raises up? Is this a year to read the text of the haggadah as we always do to emphasize the constancy of our people through the millennia or to relate everything to the story of October 7th, the hostages, and the war? (The answer probably lies somewhere in between.) Each of us and each seder leader will have to make those decisions for their seder and for the group that will gather. Every seder is different and that in its own way, is beautiful.

If you are looking for special insertions for your own seder or if you are just curious to see what is out there, I have collected a few of the many resources being produced here. On this page you’ll find everything from the Zuckerman-Kulp Family haggadah that Rabbi Kulp produced from haggadot from Israel’s War of Independence to a beautiful and timely Dvar Torah from Rabbi Dr. Burt Vizotsky to the USCJ “Everything you need for Passover” resource page and the RA Guide for Passover Preparation (including kashering the house and what does not need a hechsher for Passover). Lots of resources – I hope they help you make the most meaningful and appropriate Passover you can. And if you want to speak with me about any of it, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

In a different sort of preparation for Passover, this Shabbat the remarks will be delivered by several participants from our WJC Civil Rights Journey. There is plenty in the history of this country, and in some ways its present too, that will make for interesting and appropriate seder discussion. We don’t have to travel to the Middle East to learn about oppression and intolerance.

And if you’ve already kashered your kitchen for Passover before Shabbat, fear not, Friday night we will have our annual “Shabbat Before Passover Community Dinner” including a Rhythm & Ruach service and Sisterhood Special Guest Speaker Marla J. Feldman, expert in Women’s Midrash and author of Biblical Women Speak: Hearing Their Voices through New and Ancient Midrash.

Lastly, please pay special attention to the Passover service times as they are a little different from our regular service schedule. For example, there will be no services on seder nights and the next mornings we will start services with Shacharit at 9:45am. And don’t forget Monday morning we will hold our annual Siyyum to exempt first born sons from the Fast of the First Born and our “Chametz Roast and Marshmallow Toast” for kids (of all ages)!

See you in shul,

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