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Passover at ShirShalomVt and Beyond

04/11/2022 11:26:13 AM


Rabbi Ilene Harkavy Haigh

The view from here

I am honored, as always, to write for the Vermont Standard, though I’m never certain where the words and prayers of my heart might land. I do not use much social media and I am a bit old fashioned thinking about where my words might reach. I hope they might travel from our sanctuary on West Woodstock Road (Route 4) all the way past our friends in Quechee to the East and beyond Killington to the West. The wonder and beauty of our little stretch of land never ceases to amaze me. As the Ottauquechee rushes past us and as Passover approaches, I’ve been observing the ice that blocks the rushing waters of early spring. I’m in awe. Chunks of ice, still marooned on the banks, remind me of what it might have been like during the Exodus we are about the celebrate, when the sea parted. 

Spring is struggling to awaken the deeply fertile land as we dig out from winter. Passover is in some ways a celebration of that re-birth, not only in the foods we eat but within the season itself. The sharing of food plays a profound role in the celebration of this and many Jewish festivals.  Our seder this year will be at 6PM on Saturday April 16th in person and on Zoom.  Please see our website  for details.  We open our tables, that all that are hungry might come and eat. Many in our community are helping to expand on this commandment by supporting a cooking drive, preparing meals for 10 and dropping them off at the synagogue before noon on Sunday, April 24, for delivery to The Haven.  Please join us if you would like to participate. 

During the traditional Passover seder meal, Jews teach their children what it means to have been enslaved. We are reminded 37 times in the Hebrew bible that we were slaves in ancient Egypt and thus must care for the widow, the stranger, and the orphan. In our tradition, a full glass of wine represents complete freedom, but even as we celebrate our liberation during the seder, we spill  wine from our glasses to remind ourselves of the incomplete nature of this freedom, and of the cost to others as our freedoms were won. We remind our children and ourselves that as long as there are those who are not free, none of us is truly free.  

The events unfolding in Ukraine weigh heavily on our hearts during Passover this year as more than four million refugees pour into countries throughout Europe, and as countless more lose their lives. The horror story unfolding before our eyes in real-time is heart breaking. Our prayers are with those subjected to this cruel and worthless assault.

Passover is, above all else, a family holiday. In Woodstock, since many family members live far away, our sanctuary becomes our dining room. For the first time in three years, we will fill the space with the joy of being together, thrilled to be sharing our seder in person, tasting the bitterness of slavery and the sweetness of freedom and enjoying a delicious meal as we share our stories and sing familiar songs. We’ll have a Zoom connection, too, but our greatest effort is in the synagogue where congregants are already setting tables in the sanctuary and preparing matzo ball soup in the kitchen. Musician volunteers, meanwhile, are tuning guitars, violas, and vocal chords, delighted to bring the wonder and fun of music to our celebration. 

All of us, I believe, need to return from the exile of Covid. We need to be with our families and to reconnect with our neighbors and friends. Our personal and communal rituals help bridge our journeys from exile to the promised land, and so I pray that the holy days of Easter, Passover, Ridvan, and the Eid, or whatever ways you celebrate the re-birth of the natural world, might be for each of us a time of wonder and connection, a season of homecoming and sweetness. 

Wed, June 19 2024 13 Sivan 5784