EAST LONDON AND ESSEX LIBERAL SYNAGOGUE
A Community with a New Song – ק’’ק שיר חדש
The building is closed; but our community is very much open!
7th April 2020 / 13 Nisan 5780
When the current Liberal Judaism Haggadah was being compiled and written, my late father fought hard to ensure that the passage and prayer relating to Pesach 1944 be retained (you can find it on page 22b). This year, more than any, I’m grateful that he did. However bad our situation, however fearful we might be, we ought to remember that it is not as bad as theirs back then, in the midst of the Shoah. They based their prayer enabling them to eat chametz during Pesach on the biblical text “And ye shall live by the commandments, not die by them…”
We, too, this year, must base our decisions on this principle from the Book of Leviticus. We need to safeguard our own lives and the lives of others; we need to act responsibly as we prepare for Pesach and not make unnecessary trips out for matzah or maror or anything else Pesach-related. Instead, we can, in our hearts and minds, clarify that we are observing the ultimate Jewish priority – to choose life whenever and wherever we can. We say to each other “L’chaim – To Life!” when we share a drink at Kiddush or other times.
The Thursday night moments of applause for the carers risking their own lives to save others – in hospitals, care homes, or ill at home – are meaningful appreciations of this principle. And when I say ‘carers’, I include the cleaners, porters, IT and other technicians who keep the machines going, administrators, therapists, healthcare assistants, home visiting carers and all others who are part of the vast health and social care system that we have learned (I hope!) not to undervalue.
We are in the midst of a health emergency and we cannot plan too far ahead, but we can keep two Jewish principles in mind as we look to the future. The legend of King Solomon’s ring, inscribed with the three Hebrew words “Gam zeh ya’avor”, which means “This, too, shall pass.” In the midst of good times, Solomon was to look at his ring and remember not to get carried away to excess. Equally, during a period of torment or turmoil, he was to look at the ring to help calm his anxieties – this too, shall pass.
Secondly, at the end of every Pesach seder, we conclude with the words “Next year in Jerusalem, next year in a world redeemed”. We always conclude with an optimistic thought and tone – as Rabbi Abraham Heschel said, “In spite of my better judgement, I am an optimist!”
The vast majority of us will come through the current crisis. We will comfort and support all those who have been or will be bereaved during this time. We have already learned as a community that funeral services can be differently as meaningful via Zoom as when we all gather together. We can make the best of the situation and still support the bereft, the sick, the lonely, the anxious, the isolated.
I am overwhelmed by the number of people within our community who have stepped forward to help in so many different ways. It is humbling to see so many people acting with kindness and compassion to help others, whether by hosting our “Elevensies” coffee break chats, running quizzes, organising other activities, phoning others, shopping or assisting those who have to remain in their home, hosting our services and looking after our online safety, and so on and so forth. Between Pesach and Shavuot, between us, we will do more and different things to embrace every person within our community so that we come through this time together. If you’d like to help, notify Sam via email or phone Stewart on 07745 790869.
If you are not already part of our Facebook group, please do join it. If you’d like to offer anything to help us develop and grow during this time (a hobby you can enthuse about, a family history of interest, an object that has a fascinating story, and so on), please let us know by email or phone.
“Mah nishtanah halailah hazeh…” How is this night different from all other nights? This Pesach will be different from others. Let’s make it memorable for nice reasons, for special moments where we laugh and smile together as families, friends and community. Let’s make marking the Omer period from Pesach to Shavuot one where we count our blessings and bring blessings to each other, until, as the Queen put it “we meet again.”
Chag Pesach Sameyach,
Rabbi Richard Jacobi
Rabbi Richard Jacobi MA BA(Hons) email@example.com
Emeritus Rabbi David Hulbert MA MSc
Life President Peter Benscher
Administrator: Samantha Ly
Registered in England & Wales No: 10089003
Registered Charity No: 1171254