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Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach from Rabbi Arnow 4/19/2024

Dear Kol Rinah Family,

There's a lot of info in this email, so read to the end this week! 

I got back from Israel last Friday, about 24 hours before Israelis went to their shelters under threat of attack from Iran.  While I was grateful to be home, I was so grateful also to have been able to spend time in Israel, listening, hearing, seeing.  

I'll be speaking about my experiences in Israel tomorrow morning at services.  

Here's the heaviness I'm feeling these few days before Passover:

The few days before Pesach begins always feel like a sprint, with a million things to do.  There's the cleaning, and kashering and moving stuff into and out of the kitchen. (Tammy does a lot of the shlepping.)  There's all the Passover food planning, buying, and cooking, and seder prep (including making the salt water, cutting the horseradish).  For days, the kitchen feels off limits, unusable--we're done with chametz in the kitchen, but not ready to use our pesach stuff and only eat "K for P."  

There's all the work at shul: selling chametz, a siyyum for the fast of the first born (see below), organizing services for all the yom tov and shabbat days, a congregational seder, sermons.  

When the first seder finally arrives, I usually feel a sense of peace, of freedom, finally, from the preparation, and like I'm living in a new, fresh space. The work of preparation feels like servitude; the conclusion of preparation is liberation.  

I wonder though, with the heaviness of hostages, with Israel and Iran still tense, with the security and humanitarian situations in Gaza no better, will I be able to recline at the seder table with people I love and have a normal, lighthearted, American seder?  

Here's a thought experiment for a moment: Imagine your seder was being livestreamed, and the hostages were able to see it.  What would they think of your seder?  Would they want you to focus on them more?  Would they want you to forget about them and enjoy Passover?  Would they want you to center the voices of their families, who are missing them? 

What might Gazans say about your seder?  What would they make of us talking about the plagues done to Egyptians, or about the line, "All who are hungry, let them come and eat?" What questions would they ask us? 

What would Israelis say about our seders?  What would sound or feel dissonant to them, and what would give them joy to see us doing? (And remember--there are so many different Israelis with so many different opinions!)  

Imagine your non-Jewish neighbors were watching your seder.   What might surprise them about it?  What might seem to them beautiful, heartfelt, unncessary, or hypocritical?  

What would a beloved, deceased relative or friend with whom you had spent seders in years past say about this year's seder? (How is this seder night different from all other seder nights?)  

You could even discuss these questions (or your own versions of them) at your seder.  

In the end, no one else is watching your seder.  I believe strongly that seders need to be for the people who will be at them, and no one else.  

But this thought experiment is one way of bringing voices to our tables that wouldn't otherwise be there, and of examining curiously and critically the (seder) choices we are making this year.  And as usual, there are no right or wrong answers.  Just a lot of questions.  


Tonight, join Karen Kern for Kabbalat Shabbat and ma'ariv at 6pm.  

Candle lighting is at 7:25pm.  

Saturday morning is Shabbat HaGadol, the "great Shabbat," which is what the Shabbat preceding Passover is called, taking it's name from a line in the Haftarah.  Services start at 9am.  I'll be leading a short Torah Talk at about 10:10am where we'll look at a couple of pieces from 
the numerous Haggadah and Seder supplements that have been produced this year.  (See more on this below.)  

Shabbat ends at 8:29pm.  

Passover is nearly upon us.  All the Passover info is here.  

A few highlights:
Monday is the 
fast of the first born, on which first borns are supposed to fast.  However, if you have a reason not to fast, you don't fast.  We're having shacharit in person at 7am that morning. 

In an amazingly convenient coincidence, I anticipate that I will be completing the study of a tractate of Talmud (
Masechet Beitzah, if you're curious) at about 8am, and celebrating with a festive meal after services (about 8:10am), and everyone in attendance of the completion ceremony for finishing a tractate of Talmud is obligated to join in the celebration by eating, and thus won't be able to fast.  

If you have not sold your chametz, and would like to make me your agent to do so, 
click here to fill out the form--please make sure to do so by 9am on Monday morning.  

If there is anyone who needs financial assistance purchasing kosher for Passover food, let me know--I'm able and happy to help. 

Passover, Seder and Haggadah supplements have abounded this year.  
Here's a curated, slightly annotated list of some that I thought would be interesting for you this year.  

Here's the full service schedule.  We are not having services Monday evening or Tuesday evening.  But we will have services at 9am Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, with Hallel, Birkat Kohanim, and, on the first day, Tal (the prayer for dew).  

For more and collected Israel information, see this page on our website, as well as the Jewish Federation of St. Louis's Israel Resources page

Every Shabbat and festival morning, we are still reciting a 
prayer for the State of Israel, a prayer for Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and a prayer for hostages.  

May the one who makes peace in the heavens make peace over us, and over all Israel, and over all who dwell in the world.  

Shabbat shalom, wishing you a meaningful Passover, and see you in shul,
Rabbi Noah Arnow

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Sun, June 16 2024 10 Sivan 5784