Is there any more powerful symbol of the drama, history, complex theology and moral imperative of the Jewish people than Pesah (Passover)?
Pesah begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan. The first two and last two days of this eight-day festival serve as holy bookends, days in which we celebrate the joy of freedom with community in the synagogue. To express our miraculous exodus from Egypt, we include Hallel (celebratory psalms) in our Passover liturgy. On Shabbat Hol Ha-Moed Pesah, we read from Shir HaShirim (Song of Psalms), an allusion to the love affair between God and God’s people that has endured since Sinai.
From the Hebrew verb which means to ‘pass over,’ the word Pesah alludes to the final and most terrifying of God’s plagues against our ancient oppressors, when the angel of death “passed over” the dwelling places of the Israelites and struck down the first born sons in every Egyptian home.
Of course, Pesah itself is more than a retelling of history at our Seder tables, where we gather each year to eat matzah (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs), tell stories about Pharoahs and redeemers, explore the psychology of four children and drink four cups of wine. To celebrate Pesah is to live history—to see ourselves, as the Haggadah instructs us, “as if each and every one of us” were freed from the bonds of slavery.
The richness of our observances and traditions enables us to live this reality more fully. The process of cleaning out our homes in preparation for the holiday serves as an opportunity to shed our attachment to the material excesses to which we have grown accustomed. By avoiding hametz, or leavened food products, and instead eating lehem oni, the “bread of affliction,” we readjust our senses to tastes much more humble and simple. By opening our homes and our pantries to the poor, we reaffirm the charge given to us by God to ensure that no one again suffer the misery of oppression and poverty. As we welcome Elijah to share in a cup of redemption, we savor a hint of the future redemption of not only the Jewish people, but all people.
Shabbat and weekday services at B’nai Jeshurun are particularly beautiful during Pesah filled with Hallel and the reading of Shir HaShirim. Typically there is a Community Seder on the second night of Pesah and, on years when this is not offered, BJ provides meal matching to help members find Seders to attend. BJ also offers a variety of resources to help plan your Seder, prepare your home, give to the needy, and enliven this powerful celebration of freedom with song and prayer.
Sunday, March 31 | 10:30AM | Middle Room
Are you getting ready to lead a Pesah seder and need help choosing a haggadah? Not sure what a haggadah is or how to find the right one for your seder? Perhaps you already have a haggadah you usually use, and are looking to add meaning through supplementary readings and reflections. Join Rabbi Adina Lewittes after morning minyan for a pre-Pesah breakfast where we will compare different haggadot and explore creative ways to enjoy a text that will guide and inspire you and your seder guests.
Contact Sarah with any questions.
Sunday, April 7 | 2:00-4:00PM | Sanctuary
Join us for a BJ/SPSA gathering to learn about mass incarceration. This will be an afternoon of learning and song grounded in the themes of Easter, Passover, and freedom.
This inaugural educational forum is sponsored by Panim’s BJ/SPSA Racial Justice Committee. This event will feature remarks from the BJ/SPSA clergy, music with Shira Averbuch, and discussion with Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the Alliance of Families for Justice, among others. The forum will broaden our understanding of the systemic, political, and personal issues that impact mass incarceration. Join us in our effort to strengthen our alliances with others committed to ending abuses in our criminal justice system.
There is no fee for this event, but sign-up is required and donations are welcome. Snacks will be provided.
Tuesday April 9 | 7:00PM | Chapel
Passover can be complicated and difficult for those of us who are bereaved. Join members of our community in drawing support and comfort from one another and our shared tradition. This event is facilitated by Hazzan Ari Priven and Rabbi Michael Boino (BJ’s Coordinator of Pastoral Care and Support) through the Jewish Board’s Partners in Caring program. Email Michael, or call him at x238, with any questions.
Thursday, April 11 | 7:00-8:30PM | Community House Room 411
Prepare for Pesah by joining Rabbi Adina Lewittes to study some of Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik (the Rav)’s commentary on the Haggadah, which will enhance your seder table discussions and enrich your Jewish learning.
Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, known simply as the Rav, is one of modern Judaism’s most important thinkers. He was the leading talmudist and philosopher who guided modern Orthodoxy’s relationship with the realities, promises, and problems of the 20th century. Beloved teachers of such important leaders as Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, Rabbi David Hartman, and so many others, the Rav combined rigorous talmudic analysis with deep philosophical exploration in his teachings about Jewish religious life and the universal human experience.
Registration is encouraged, but not required.
Through Wednesday, April 17 | During Community House Open Hours | Sanctuary and Community House
Looking to get rid of your hametz before Pesah? There’s no better way to cleanse your home and give back than by donating your food to our partners at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger (WSCAH). Through a supermarket-style food pantry, WSCAH alleviates hunger and creates a culture that promotes self-reliance and works for change.
All food donations are welcome. Feel free to drop off items in the designated boxes at the Sanctuary foyer and the Community House entrance.
For more information, contact Larissa.
Through Thursday, April 18 | Various Times | Various Locations
Traditionally, avoiding hametz has meant getting rid of all hametz in your possession. Considering this can cause major financial hardship, as well as food waste, a custom was developed to sell the hametz to a non-Jewish person. Once again, Rabbi Roly Matalon will be your agent for selling hametz.
Sign up by Thursday, April 18 at 12:00PM.
Friday, April 19 | Following Morning Minyan | Middle Room
All are welcome to join Rabbinic Fellow Margo Hughes-Robinson as she leads us in the completion of a volume of rabbinic literature. All firstborns in attendance are then permitted to eat and break the Fast of the Firstborn.
Saturday, April 20 | Various Times | Various Locations
We are looking for Seder hosts who are able to open up their table to members of the BJ community on the second night of Pesah.
If you are interested, please email Kristen.
Saturday, April 20 | Various Times | Various Locations
Are you looking for a seder in a friendly home where you can eat, schmooze, sing, and celebrate Pesah with fellow BJ members?
Spaces are limited, so sign up now to be hosted for a wonderful seder on the 2nd night of Pesah.