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Shabbat Message from Beth David - April 3, 2020

The Passover of Imperfection / Rabbi Philip Scheim

We are about to enter one of the most sacred seasons of our year during a time of great global crisis that has affected all of us, and totally redefined, hopefully in the very short term, our spiritual community lives. Several have asked me questions as to the Seder night rituals this year, especially since our Sedarim, by necessity will be extremely small, with only those living in the same household sharing in the experience. Families used to dozens of family members and friends seated around the table, with multiple generations sharing the Festival together, are deeply distressed by the forced separation. Children not being with parents, grandparents not with grandchildren steals so much if not all of the Seder joy from us.

So what do we do? How do we manage the Seder nights this very difficult year? The first rule that I would offer for Pesach 5780: Do what you can, and feel no guilt for not doing more. Shopping restrictions make it impossible to prepare the multitude of Festival dishes as in years past.  Hope to return to an elaborate Seder next year, this year being more limited to the necessities. Obviously, we still rid ourselves of hametz and stick to what is kosher for Passover (see the Rabbinical Assembly Covid-19 Passover guidelines, linked on our website).

The second rule: Should you need to cut corners in the Haggadah recitations, or feel a need to do a dramatically shortened Second Night ritual, especially because of the sadness of so many of your loved ones not being around the table, again, feel no guilt. Do what you can. But here I can offer practical suggestions of what should not be omitted:

Seder essentials:        Kiddush

                                    Urhatz: washing of hands before eating green vegetable

                                    Karpas: blessing over and eating parsley or other green vegetable

                                    Yahatz: breaking of middle matzah

All of the above preliminaries take very little time and should be done.

In terms of the extended Magid, or narrative portions, here there is room to abbreviate, whether by skipping certain portions or doing portions silently. These parts, if possible, should be said:

-The introductory paragraph of Ha Lahma anya (“this is the bread of affliction…”

-The Four Questions (even if your Seder consists only of adults or seniors or just one person)

-The opening paragraph of the “answer” to the Questions, “Avadim Hayinu –We were slaves…”)

-The Four Sons/Children

-“V’hi She-amda – This [promise] is what sustained our ancestors and us…”

[The phrase-by-phrase Midrashic analysis of Biblical verses Deuteronomy 26:5-8 that follows can be read silently.]

-The enumeration of the Plagues

-Dayenu

-Rabban Gamliel and the three essential symbols (Pesach, Matzah, Marror)

[The first part of Hallel that follows can be done silently.]

-Rahtzah: The second washing, with the blessing “al netilat yadayim.”

-Matzah blessings, Marror, Korekh (Hillel sandwich).

Following the meal:

-eating of Afikoman, which obviously doesn’t need to have been hidden should children not be present.)

-Birkat HaMazon (can be done silently)

-Third cup of wine.

-Opening door for Elijah (if safe), Shfokh Hamatkha

[Remainder of service, including completion of Hallel and Nishmat can be done silently]

-Fourth cup of wine

-Conclusion: “Hasal Siddur Pesach…. The Passover Seder is complete…. Next Year in Jerusalem…”

Songs that follow are always optional.

Should you be unable, for whatever reason, to do all of the above suggested portions, again, abide by the principle of doing what you can. Some will feel invigorated by doing the entire Haggadah and singing all of the songs, others will find energy depleted and emotions at a point not compatible with extensive prayer – here there is no right or wrong. These are tough times.

I end my message with a citation from a  rabbi far to the right on the religious spectrum, from the Hasidic world, whose words deserve to be heeded during this most challenging Pesach season.

In a speech delivered in the context of Covid-19, a Hasidic leader, the Sanzer Rebbe, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Halberstam, addressing those who would feel guilt for not having been able to do the maximal Pesach preparations as in past years, said the following:

People are frightened and stressed, and naturally they feel pressured and may tend to lose patience at home and outside. In this situation along with the pressure of Pesach and all its preparations, which yields its own stresses, the primary behavior that we must accept upon ourselves is to be joyful and filled with simcha….I must state – and this is the primary message I want to get across – that although righteous Jews have been accustomed to devoting all their energy to preparing the house for Passover, this year must be different. I have a tradition that I received many times from my sainted father, z”l, that Pesach was not intended for making the house new once again or to do “spring cleaning” of all kinds of dirt that may have accumulated. What is required for Pesach is only removing chametz, and according to halacha, verbal nullification is sufficient. In fact, my father recounted that in the home of his grandfather, they would clean the house on the night before Pesach as they searched for chametz, and that was the entirety of the Pesach cleaning.It is our duty to ensure calm in the home. Pesach will be kosher with doing less. Do as much as you can calmly with no stress – and nothing more.

On this imperfect Pesach, when circumstances limit our observance, may our holding on to all the aspects of our tradition that we can handle at this moment be fulfilling, keeping us in readiness for that time, we pray, in the coming year, when we can return to unlimited celebration of what it means to be a Jew.


Shabbat Message from the President of Beth David:

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom on behalf of the Board, Clergy, volunteers and staff at Beth David. I hope that you and your family (close by, nearby and virtual) are managing well through this difficult time, and that you enjoy a calm and restful Shabbat.

A reminder that links to Beth David’s online offerings – from twice-daily services as well as lectures, discussion groups, demos, youth activities and more – are available online at www.bethdavid.com. All our services and programs are also available by phone. Please feel free to share links with family and friends, all are welcome. And if you have ideas or suggestions for future programs, please let me know.

Later this afternoon at 5:30 pm, please join us on Zoom in Welcoming Shabbat Together – last week we had over 130 people join in for Kabbalat Shabbat online! And this Sunday, April 5th at 12:00 noon ET, Masorti Olami (the international movement for Conservative Judaism) and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism present a Global Gathering for Healing, featuring David Broza, Rabbi Naomi Levy, and Joey Weisenberg. Please follow this link for information on how to connect by Facebook or on YouTube: www.uscj.org/globalgathering

One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 crisis are the countless acts of chesed (loving kindness) that we are all witnessing within our Beth David community and beyond:

  • Our volunteers, having reached out by phone to hundreds of our Members over the last few weeks, have referred several urgent calls to Toronto Jewish community organizations that support seniors who are alone, isolated, frightened and running low on Kosher food
  • Our Social Action / Tikkun Olam Committee donated four large boxes of medical gloves to North York General Hospital, which were personally delivered by our maintenance contractor Patricio Alfaro
  • Our Cantor Marshall Loomer, officiating at a graveside funeral this week, thoughtfully connected family members through the Zoom app on his cell phone so that they could participate virtually and support each other in their loss

It’s considerate and compassionate deeds like these and many more that make me very proud to be part of the Beth David community. I invite you to share other heartwarming stories of that have come your way, and we’ll add them to a special page on our website as a reminder of all the good that arises from challenges.

In the meantime, from my family to you and yours, Shabbat Shalom and Chag Pesach Sameach.

Andy Pascoe

president@bethdavid.com

Shabbat Shalom from Beth David

 

Shabbat Message from Beth David

March 27, 2020

Yesterday we welcomed the new month of Nisan, which, in the Hebrew calendar, is associated with celebration because of the great Pesah festival two weeks into the month. Throughout the entire month, the traditional Tahanun prayers are omitted  because they reflect sadness, contrary to the spirit of Nisan.

Yet getting into the expected Nisan mood is especially challenging this year, when COVID-19 prevents our gathering in person, at shul  for services, and denies us the opportunity to carry on with Shabbat or Yom Tov services. Most difficult is the necessary diminution of our Seders, preventing grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren not living in the same household from celebrating together. We enter the month of Passover more in a spirit of mourning than the celebration that our tradition, in normal times, expects.

But we have not sat idly by in somber resignation. Virtual minyanim every weekday, regular study classes, using the Zoom technology have brought many dozens of us together to pray, to learn, to know that we are still okay, nor losing faith in these difficult times, but using our faith to energize us as we look forward to a better tomorrow. As I advised those who participated in my online Pesah class, feel free to use technology to whatever extent you feel comfortable, to bring family together on the Seder nights.

Passover 5780 will become a story that will be shared at future Sedarim, when, God willing, a sense of normalcy will be restored. We will retell how we carried on during this year of struggle, and how we never relinquished the hope captured at the Haggadah’s conclusion, of Next Year in Jerusalem, of a future of dreams fulfilled, of the restoration of good health, optimism and opportunity, notwithstanding the trials of the moment.

With prayers for a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbat of comfort and healing for all.

Rabbi Philip Scheim

rabbi@bethdavid.com

*************************

Allow me to add to Rabbi Scheim’s insightful and reassuring comments, on behalf of the Beth David Board of Directors, Clergy and staff, a heartfelt Shabbat Shalom to you and your family.

We hope that you’re managing well under these unusual and challenging circumstances. Beth David is here to help in any way that we can. I’m very proud of how our Clergy, staff and volunteers are stepping up to offer online services (morning and evening each weekday, plus pre- and post-Shabbat), along with Torah study, lectures, supportive discussion groups, cooking and baking demos, programs for kids and more.

Links to all Beth David online activities can be found on our website: www.bethdavid.com. I invite you to attend and participate, and also please feel free to forward links to your family and friends within and beyond the Beth David community. All are welcome.

The response to our online presence has been tremendous. We had over 120 people join our Welcoming Shabbat Together on Zoom last Friday and dozens join our daily services and programs. Please click on this link to join our community this afternoon at 5:30 pm as our Clergy leads us again in welcoming Shabbat.

We are also working hard to reach out to all Beth David Members by phone, with over 500 families contacted to date. It’s so important to connect with our seniors, those who may be isolated for any reason, and anyone just feeling anxious or alone. If you have some time and would like to volunteer to make a few calls each day, please let me know at president@bethdavid.com.

A couple of additional points:

  • With Passover quickly approaching, our website includes information on Pesach preparation, including brand new and very helpful guidelines from the Rabbinical Assembly in light of COVID-19
  • Here is a link to UJA Federation’s COVID-19 page, which includes important information for the Greater Toronto Jewish community, in particular services and resources to assist the elderly and isolated, as well as volunteering and a warning about online, telephone and door-to-door scams
  • And finally, please send a photo of yourself or your family to our Ritual Director Michael Rubin (mrubin@bethdavid.com) as he is working to adorn all the pews in our Main Sanctuary and Chapel with our virtual presence.

Again, Shabbat Shalom from my family to yours, wishing you a peaceful and restful end to a busy week.

Kind regards,

Andy Pascoe

president@bethdavid.com

 

 

COVID-19 update March 16, 2020

Dear Beth David Community,

It has come to our attention that a member of our community who attended the Purim Megillah reading (but NOT the Purim Carnival) last Monday evening, March 9th has subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, having been exposed to the Coronavirus while travelling outside Canada sometime during the 4-5 days before Purim.

We have consulted closely with Toronto Public Health and have already communicated with the individuals with whom the Member was in close physical contact while at Beth David. They (and the Member) are now self-isolated and self-monitoring. Everyone else who attended the Megillah reading is NOT considered by Toronto Public Health to be a close contact and should continue – as should we all – with the well-publicized practices with respect to hand hygiene, social distancing, and self-monitoring for fever or respiratory symptoms. We will pass along any further information if it arises.

Although our doors are temporarily closed, our Clergy and leadership are available via e-mail or phone if you need to reach us (contacts below). Please continue to take good care of yourselves and your families and loved ones.

COVID-19 update March 15, 2020

As we continue to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, and in upholding the principle so central to our tradition of Pikuah Nefesh, of doing the utmost in any situation to preserve and safeguard human life, we find it necessary to take a very difficult decision.

As have many congregations in our community, effective immediately, Beth David is temporarily suspending all of our worship services, weekday and Shabbat, until the current risk is alleviated. Especially since a large percentage of our attendees are elderly, whose vulnerability and risk factor is high, we feel it necessary to do what we can to keep our community safe and as healthy as can be in these uncertain times. The mitzvah of preserving our health and that of our community far overrides the mitzvah of praying in a minyan, so the choice we are making, hopefully very temporarily, is in strict accordance with the highest values and traditions of our people.

Even with social distancing, we can still connect as a community. We have already announced some online classes and programs this week, with more to come – please check your e-mail and our website for details – and we will maintain contact with all of you, in particular with our most vulnerable congregants, during this hopefully very limited period of shut-down. We respectfully suggest that you avoid attending services elsewhere. If you or anyone you know needs assistance, please contact us at the e-mail addresses below or call the shul office at 416 633-5500.
With prayers for good health and strength as we face these challenges, and for a rapid return to public synagogue life that so comforts us as a community.

Andy Pascoe, President, president@bethdavid.com
Philip Scheim, Senior Rabbi, rabbi@bethdavid.com
Becca Walker, Engagement Rabbi, rabbiwalker@bethdavid.com
Cantor Marshall Loomer, cantor@bethdavid.com
Michael Rubin, Ritual Director, mrubin@bethdavid.com
Ian Borer, Executive Director, ian@bethdavid.com

Fri, 10 April 2020 16 Nisan 5780