Dear TEE community,

Spring is almost here and Passover is next week! With the temperatures warming and more of our community vaccinated, the end of our physical distancing is also getting closer. As I prepare my home for the holiday, I am thinking about hosting others there once again – realizing the pain of separation will make the reunion that much more joyful.

For many of us, the pandemic and consequent shutdown will have a lasting impact on our understanding of Passover. All of us have gone through a narrowing of our lives in various ways and are regaining a sense of freedom as lockdown restrictions ease. This past year’s experience has helped us become aware of countless aspects of our lives we took for granted. It gave us an opportunity to reflect on what is really essential and what routines need to change for us to be as healthy and happy as we want to be.

In addition to the inward growth which is an essential theme of Passover, the holiday is meant to encourage in us the empathy contained in the phrase from Exodus: “You shall not oppress the stranger because you know the soul of the stranger, for you were a stranger in the Land of Mitzrayim [lit:’confinement’].” The pandemic has exposed the callous treatment of those whose underpaid and underprotected labor is essential to our own wellbeing. It has also shown us the oppressive nature of a system which offers little or no support to working families when adults are suddenly unemployed or unable to work while caring for their children. Just as we must do what we can to maintain our happiness and gratitude once we regain the freedom of our previous lives, we must also be sure to retain our awareness of the suffering revealed at this moment so that we act to alleviate it.

At last year’s community Seder (and many others), we laughed at the question of “Why is this night different from all other nights?” This year, when we gather on the evening of March 28th, we will have the opportunity to reflect on our own experiences during this unique time in our lives. Just as the Haggadah takes us from enslavement to freedom, our celebration will be an opportunity for us to share our own stories of that journey as well as to read and sing the familiar words and songs of the ritual.

When I was growing up, my favorite job for our family Seder was to make the mini Seder plates that were set at each place, containing some parsley, charoset,* horseradish, and a boiled egg, surrounding a small dish of salt water. Baskets of matzah were also set near every seat. This year, to prepare for our community Seder, we can all have the pleasure of setting up these individual Seder plates, adding a shank bone, chicken bone, or beet for the symbol of the paschal sacrifice. Last – but not least – have a glass at hand and enough red wine or grape juice for the four cups. Our Temple Haggadah will be available on the website next week.

Finally, in preparation for the holiday, our Shabbat service on Friday, March 26 will center on studying texts about the meaning of Passover.

I look forward to celebrating this festival and this season of liberation with you!

Be well / Zei gesunt / Sano,

Rabbi Drorah Setel

*Charoset – Hebrew Spelling חֲרֹסֶת ; Alternate Spelling: charoseth, haroset: A mixture of fruits, nuts, spices and wine eaten as part of the Passover seder. Its color and consistency remind us of the bricks and mortar used by the Israelite slaves. For more, click here: charoset.