Chag Sameach!

In this edition:

The Passover Opportunity - a message from Rabbi Debra

When the Soul Asks: "When Do We Eat?" - a Passover Webinar

Hidden Meanings in the Passover Seder - Special Free Audio

Online Passover Resources

Craig’s Corner, notes from the rebbetzin

An opportnity to learn

Be in touch

The Passover Opportunity
by Rabbi Debra Orenstein

It’s my joy to write to you at this season of freedom. As I clean out my worldly and spiritual chametz, as I type this message, as I even breathe at this time of year, I perceive that everything I do is supporting, through divine and communal energy, greater freedom for me and for others. I hope that you will take on that intention and seize this auspicious moment in the Jewish calendar.

Recently, my five-year-old son, Emmett, surprised me with an insight about the calendar. In thinking about Purim and Passover, he decided that they are “opposite” holidays. On Purim, he said, the king wants the Jews to go away, but they want to stay. On Passover, the king wants the Jews to stay, but they want to go.

This does not imply, as a relative laughingly suggested, that you can never satisfy the Jews. It teaches, instead, that each holiday has its distinctive essence and messages, which must be applied in their season and with wisdom. The essence of Passover, as Emmett implied, is to risk for the sake of freedom; to leave behind and let go; to move away, move out, and move on. The Lubavitcher rebbe taught that each holiday contains enough of its essence to last you a whole year. But the key is: you must tap in when the season approaches.

Sociologists estimate that 97% of American Jews celebrate some kind of Passover seder. Yet, how many of us would say that our seders have become more meaningful and engaging over time? How many would say we have found the right balance of family traditions and innovations?

I hope that the articles, links, and downloads provided in this newsletter will help you create a renewed sense of excitement around your Passover seder table. There is so much we can do to bring the holiday alive for ourselves and for others with whom we celebrate.

One simple exercise I am taking on this year is to push myself to ask four more questions. What have I not considered before, that I need to ask myself and those around the seder table this year? (OK, that’s one question down!) In all seriousness, we dare not take the familiar for granted. The familiar includes the holidays that come again and again, the friends and family we see regularly, the work we go to daily – in other words, frequent and constant blessings in life.

May you enjoy a kosher, sweet, and freeing Passover, full of new questions, new answers, and new passions.

Rabbi Debra Orenstein

Passover Webinar
When the Soul Asks, "When Do We Eat?"
- Spiritual Inspiration for Your Passover Seder

Sign up by clicking on the link above, and you can immediately access a 97-minute class, a 72-page study guide, handouts for your seder, and e-books about Passover from Rabbi Debra and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. All profits from this powerful package are donated by the rabbis to Debra’s home synagogue, Makom Ohr Shalom. It’s a wonderful way to learn some Torah, prepare for the holiday, and support Debra’s work.

Hidden Meanings in the Passover Seder

Exclusive advance preview for E-newsletter subscribers and webinar registrants: Listen to a special conversation about Passover between Rabbi Debra Orenstein and Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (28 min., recorded March 16, 2010). [AUDIO NO LONGER AVAILABLE. LINK TO THE WEBINAR FOR CONTENT. THANK YOU]

Online Passover Resources

The Holidays page on includes seder resources, inspiration, and practical tips for creating a meaningful and fun holiday experience. Articles include:
Making Seder with Children
Seder Solutions
Who Knows One? - an alternative version

Please share these links with friends and family.

Craig’s Corner, notes from the rebbetzin

The Exodus story is a good drama with a strong movie-thriller plot. Charlton Heston really brings it home in The Ten Commandments. It’s worth the rental, and so is DreamWorks’ flagship animation feature The Prince of Egypt. I’ve been to about forty-six seders, some led by friends, some led by family, some I’ve led myself. The story treads on familiar ground now: We were slaves – miracles happened – we escaped to freedom. But the question that resonates more strongly for me as I get older is: okay, freedom to do what?

Whether you accept the Exodus story as fact or view it as a metaphor, its message is undeniably powerful: What is important is not what you have freedom to avoid, what is important is what you have freedom to pursue, what you have freedom to take on. The covenant the Jews take on at Sinai is something they must be free to choose. Jews accept the moral law given through Torah as a choice of identity, as a recognition of the wrongness of the pain they have suffered, as an articulation of purpose in life.

Whether you come to Jewish identity from a traditional, spiritual perspective, from a secular understanding of the tribe’s survival and ability to thrive under pressure, or from somewhere in between, you define yourself as a Jew by acknowledging your choice to take on the covenant of moral Law. If you are a slave to a taskmaster, to mindless pursuit of material gain at the expense of those around you, or to so many other powerful temptations in the world, you are not free. You cannot choose – even what you know to be right.

So let’s celebrate our freedom again this holiday. Let’s enjoy the import of our freedom and the survival of our people. Lift all four glasses of wine with gusto. But let’s also keep our focus on the purpose of freedom, on protecting that freedom, on the choice we make when we call ourselves Jews, and on the responsibilities such freedom carries.

An Opportunity

You can carry teachings by Rabbi Debra and Reb Zalman with you in your car or on your mp3 player. Wherever and whenever you have time to listen, you can connect with your spiritual center.

Order her books & CD’s and feel yourself swept forward on your path toward choosing and living Torah.

Click on the CD's above for more information.

Be in touch

We hope you enjoy this Passover E-newsletter and the resources available on We’d love to get your feedback on what pieces have been especially valuable or helpful to you. If you have suggestions for future newsletters, please let us know.

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Thank you again for your subscription, participation, and all your good will.

Craig Weisz & Rabbi Debra Orenstein