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Don’t Pass Over This Message – and the meaning in these latter days of the holiday
April 23, 2019

A Zissen Pesach 2019!

Dear Friends,
While this year’s Seders are behind us, we still have lots of Passover opportunities ahead of us:

• Chol hamoed (intermediate days of the holiday);
• Final holy day(s) of the holiday;
• Yizkor (the communal memorial prayer on the last day of Passover);
• Mimouna (a delicious way to end the holiday, per Sephardic custom);
• Family, friends, and farfel.

Here are two ways to add meaning to your holiday:
1) Connect with the essential message of Passover.
2) Choose love.

Details and how-to’s follow.

1. Connect with the essential message: We were slaves; now we are free.

Hence, the challenge: What will we use our freedom for?

One righteous use of freedom is to protect others from becoming enslaved. In fact, that is what one group of former child slaves is doing right now in Haiti.

Perhaps you have heard that all the money raised over Passover 2019/5779 by the Passover Project will be donated to the The Survivors of Restavèk Network. “Restavèk” is the term for child slaves in Haiti. The fact that there is a specific local term for child slaves tells you that there is still a part of the culture that practices and accepts enslaving children.

Some of the best advocates for ending child slavery in Haiti are adults who were enslaved as children. They have passion, experience, and unassailable expertise. To use biblical language, they “know the soul of a restavèk,” and they speak with persuasive moral authority, educating people of all ages, whether would-be traffickers, potential victims, bystanders, or “upstanders.” In the process of helping others, they also find great healing and meaning for themselves. To learn more, download this flyer:

2019 Passover Project Haiti Flyer

To donate, click here:

Free the Slaves

2. Choose Love.

It’s easy in the face of cruelty to respond with anger and despair. With so many outrages in the news, we are primed now, more than ever, to lash out in frustration and fury.

The Haggadah validates that feeling, to an extent, by including the recitation of Shefoch Hamatcha, a prayer added in the wake of the Crusades. “Pour out your wrath,” it pleads to God, on nations who choose not know You and who would destroy Your people. It’s normal to be enraged by people who deny the holy and devour the innocent. But notice that Shefoch Chamatcha properly assigns the ultimate power of justice and vengeance to God. As God declares in Deut. 32:35, “Vengeance and recompense are Mine.”

In addition to Shefoch Chamatcha/Pour Out Your Wrath, there are parallel texts, dating from at least the 19th century and going back as far, perhaps, as the 16th century, which ask something very different of God: “pour out Your love.”

Shefokh ahavatekha al hagoyim asher yeda’ukha
V’al mamlakhot asher b’shimkha kor’im
Pour out your love on the nations who know You
And on kingdoms who call Your name.

Or, as Rabbi Leopold Stein wrote in his Seder Ha’avodah, published in 1882:
Shefokh ruhakha al kol bassar
Pour out Your spirit on all flesh.

It’s so easy to be angry and to overflow with bile. We have so many good reasons and excuses.

But it is much more healing and empowering to pour out love.

During these last days of the holiday, here are three ideas of how you can do just that:

• Pour out your love onto those who were at your Seder. It’s only been a few days, but I am sure you had more to say to at least some folks. Did you fully thank your guests or your hosts? Express appreciation for a clever afikomen gambit or a funny story? You can call someone just to say, “I am glad we were together” or “I love you.”

• Pour out your love onto a local organization that means something in your life. Stop by the police department, library, or synagogue office with good wishes and a basket of fruit or kosher-for-Passover treats.

• Pour out your love onto a stranger. Knock on the door of a neighbor you haven’t met. Lead the “welcome wagon” at work for a new employee. Contact to find out how you can use your time or money to help new immigrants and refugees. Visit to pour out your love to children in danger of enslavement in Haiti and the adults who love them.

Because your body is, as Rabbi Stein implied, a container for God’s spirit.
Because love is a better choice than anger or neglect.
“Because you were a stranger in the land of Egypt.”

May the remainder of the holiday be loving, healing, and freeing for you and for those whose lives you touch!

NEWS! In June, Rabbi Debra will begin an online class in Positive Psychology and Religion: Theory and Practice. If you would like to reserve a place in that class, RSVP here.

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A Sweet and Freeing Passover to All!

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