As we continue to wander in an uncharted wilderness of caution and concern, we are called to meet so many responsibilities to ourselves and to others. I am moved by the dedication and caring exhibited by all members of the Shomrei community, professional and lay members, both. I am very grateful to be part of this strong and healthy community!
An additional challenge facing us is to prepare for and to celebrate the holiday of Passover (Pesach), the first of our sacred festivals. This is a time when we usually feel the full weight of our traditions, religious and familial. These traditions add special significance to our lives and special sweetness. We have invested much energy and creativity over the years to find ways to honor those traditions while we also add our creativity and add novel (- a word that has taken on a dark resonance these days!) customs, songs, insights and foods to our seder. After all, this is the Festival of our Freedom!
But this Passover is different from all other Passovers in our recent memory. We must get ready for this holiday while scrupulously respecting many life-saving constraints. And the end result of how we observe and celebrate the holiday will also be deeply affected. Our tradition recognizes such a circumstance as a time of difficulty – “sh`at ha-d’haq” – and many customary practices are legitimately loosened to meet this situation.
I wish to share some guidelines for preparing for Pesach this year.
Cleaning – In order to fight this pandemic, we have been urged to be especially attentive to keeping ourselves and our surroundings clean. Passover is already a time for intense Spring cleaning. But we need to focus our efforts and our choices. The widespread custom of covering all surfaces for food preparation and cooking is not advisable this year. A thorough cleaning of counters and tabletops is sufficient. These surfaces need to be able to withstand repeated cleaning over the next weeks. Additional materials need not be purchased or set up.
Chametz – The prohibition against eating or possessing chametz is in full effect, as always. Every effort should be made to use up chametz before the holiday. This may seem difficult to do when people are tempted to hoard supplies. If you need to stock up on some foods buy items that are Kosher for Passover, if possible. (But please see below, the next paragraph). What cannot be disposed of should be collected in one place and sealed away. That space and the chametz in it should be sold to a non-Jew for the duration of the holiday. I will be arranging such a sale and the form to authorize me to act as your agent is available from our Shomrei website and ShomreiWeek – http://shomrei.org/chametz
Foods for Passover – While chametz must be avoided during the holiday, there are other foods that many have customarily avoided, although they are not chametz. The broad category of “kitniot” – legumes and foods similar to grains – has customarily been forbidden by Jews of Eastern European heritage. But in order to ease shopping and to make it easier to have enough food for the holiday, this custom should be dropped for this year. So rice, corn, beans, peanuts, stringbeans, sesame seeds and their derivatives are fine. In addition, many foods can be bought without a stamp of “Kosher for Passover” if they are bought before the holiday. These include pure fruit juices, milk, butter, hard cheese, non-iodized salt, fish and meat, quinoa, fruits and vegetables – fresh and dried without added ingredients.
Shopping – Please shop wisely and only for what you really need. Minimize your time in stores.
Lists of Kosher for Passover foods – I recommend the information available at the website: kashrut.org.
Feast of the Firstborn – The Fast of the First Born, on the day leading into Passover evening, is an old custom, honored more in the breach than in actual practice. This year, in view of the health issues we face, no one should actually fast. Nevertheless, I will offer a brief “siyyum” – a celebration of the completion of a tractate of the Talmud, which traditionally exempts anyone attending from fasting. So please look at the Shomrei webpage for the “WEB” link for Wednesday, April 8, at 8:30AM.
Seders – Following strict health guidelines that are absolutely required by Jewish tradition and by any standard of morality, we must limit the number of people at our seder to a minimum. This is a particularly painful necessity, for so much of the meaning of the seder comes from our including family, friends and strangers at our table. It is shamefully outrageous that there are those who seek to dismiss these limitations in the name of serving God. God commands that even the Sabbath be violated if there is even a small possibility of helping to save a life. This is our hard reality.
For those for whom holding a seder seems difficult and daunting I can offer some assistance. We will discuss basic elements and strategies for holding a simple seder during these next two Sunday mornings, from 10 – 10:30. Please consult the calendar for how to tune in – http://shomrei.org/cal
Ideas and resources for families and children are being shared by our Shomrei Educational team. Please see their separate message.
On Monday March 30 and Wednesday April 1, from 9:30-10:30am, we are offering a limited amount of free Haggadah booklets which will be located outside the front doors (they will be in a bin) for those who may need. The bin will remain outside until they have all been claimed.
You may download free Haggadah materials at – haggadot.com.
And here is a link to a pdf of a simplified Haggadah – https://www.vbs.org/…/Upcoming%20Events/haggadah_2019.pdf
I will be streaming my personal seder on the first two nights of Pesach. Please consult the Shomrei website for the information and links.
The Jewish people have celebrated Passover throughout the ages, even in very difficult circumstances. Now it is our turn to join in this heroic and amazing tradition. Despite our confinement, we are capable of accessing our inner sense of freedom. That sense can never be taken away!
wishing you a Sweet Pesach!