A Passover Message from Rabbi Berkman

Dear Friends,

My heart is with you as we approach Seder night. I miss gathering with you and being together in community in-person, to learn and celebrate, to share our joys and our challenges, to find strength and laughter and kindness and love in our connections to one another. I am glad we have found other ways to connect during this strange and frightening time, and that we all have the support of our strong and loving community.

On the 7th day of Pesach (observed as the concluding day of the festival in the Reform Jewish tradition), April 15th at 10 am, I will be leading a service over Zoom which will include some of the beautiful songs of Hallel (psalms of praise recited on festivals) as well as a Yizkor (memorial) service. I hope you will join us.

I am so glad that many of you will be joining with family and friends this Passover in virtual/electronic ways, and that many of you will join our TOS virtual communal seder led by Rabbi Schaefer and Josh Cohen this evening. No matter how you observe the holiday, this Passover is different in profound and difficult ways. My blessing for each of us is that we will experience a new and different kind of meaning, and through that, a new and different kind of joy, this Pesach. In other years, for most of us, relating and remembering the travails of our ancestors has been abstract, for never have most of us experienced a communal crisis on this level. We have certainly experienced moments of communal pain and hardship as part of the Jewish, American, and human communities, but this particular global emergency, in its severity and its duration, is new for us. How to celebrate our freedom tonight in the days ahead when in so many unexpected and unsettling ways, we are in Mitzrayim (the Hebrew word for “Egypt” which also means “the narrow place, the place of constriction”)?

Perhaps the freedom we can connect to and celebrate on this night is the freedom of knowing now on such a visceral level that when so much else has fallen away or been taken from us, what remains is connection to those we love, and to our shared stories and traditions, and our shared value of building a world on love, compassion, and justice. What will outlast us when we leave this earth is exactly what is still with us now as we navigate our new reality. We have the freedom to choose a life of connectedness, even when the possibilities of in-person connection have been stripped away. There is a deep freedom and joy in letting go of everything but the essential, and bringing our focus to one another as we recognize more deeply that this life is so precious and so precarious. What remains, always, is love, and connection to community both past and present.

Here is a link to a beautiful reading you may wish to use for personal reflection or at your seder table.

May you find sweetness, joy, and freedom this Pesach.

Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Berkman