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E-Newsletter, Pesach Beyachad!
April 06, 2020

A Zissen Pesach!

Passover arrives during a modern-day plague. What times we live in! What a wake-up call for all of us to cherish our freedom and use it well. This is a relatively brief e-newsletter, with a few, rich articles and links. In these complicated times, we’re keeping it simple! Wishing you a sweet, safe, and meaningful Pesach, -- Rabbi Debra Orenstein

In This Issue:

Seders During Pandemic - Advice & Resources From and Curated by Rabbi Debra.

Best Spiritual Practices - For Before, During, and After Passover.

Craig’s Corner - Notes from the rebbetzin.

Healing Prayers - Giving voice to our yearnings during this pandemic.

Calendar - Debra's upcoming online events.

Thank You - With gratitude to our subscribers.

Seders During Pandemic - Advice & Resources From and Curated by Rabbi Debra.

"The How" - How to Make Seders During the Pandemic - Link to Rabbi Debra’s timely article with information on conducting solo seders, micro seders, and seders by videoconference.

"What To Do and Why" - Seder Readings & Activities During the Pandemic: Rabbi Debra’s suggestions, in Seder order, for discussion starters and activities that connect traditional Haggadah readings and practices with what is going on in the world right now.

Hallel - During the toughest times, people often become more sensitive to small kindnesses and to sources of blessing and gratitude that they may have taken for granted. Screen this feel-good 3-minute video of thanks and praise even in the midst of Coronavirus. You can watch it before the Seders or, as your practice allows, during the Hallel section of the Seder.

Best Spiritual Practices - For Before, During, and After Passover.

• For a bit of humor and a lot of serious advice and encouragement, read Rabbi Debra’s article
"What Now? Top Ten Responses to Coronavirus."

• I read a snide but funny post. A man, presumably (but maybe not) living in Korea wrote: "Korea is the 3rd biggest-hit country from Covid-19, and we still have toilet paper. The moral of the story is: people are idiots."
I wouldn't go so far as to say that Americans have behaved stupidly across the board. Yes, some of us have hoarded and overstocked out of fear. But some of us have merely wisely prepared to stay in place. And, given the uncertainty in how the spread of the virus will play out, we can be forgiven for not knowing exactly where the line is between those two attitudes.

But even more than we need to stock up, we need to take stock. More than we need to go back again to the store, we need to restore. Restore our equanimity. Restore our love for our neighbors as ourselves. Restore civil discourse. Restore spiritual as well as physical wellbeing.

What can you do today that will be restorative for yourself?

What can you do today that will be restorative for someone else?

- Rabbi Debra Orenstein

• In response to the fact that many of our routines, tasks, and interactions have been stripped away, Rabbi Debra is releasing a series of short videos. The first one, on the topic of Meditation, is out now: Finding Meaning in Doing Nothing, Part.1

Craig's Corner, notes from the rebbetzin

The Superheroes

When I was a child I loved superheroes. I had a sizable comic book collection of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash. I would race home from school and turn on Spiderman and Iron Man cartoons. They were battling super-criminals or aliens bent on crushing the earth or mutants bent on subjugating humankind. And I could lose myself in the adventures, knowing these singular heroes would overcome their foes and set things right. I was safe. I didn’t need to worry. And I didn’t have to do anything myself. Then I grew up.

The modern superhero is largely a Jewish-created phenomenon. Stan Lee (Lieber), Bob Kane (Robert Kahn), Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster created comic heroes in the early & mid 20th century, and these characters have provided comfort and entertainment to millions. One might trace the evolution of such characters back to the folkloric Golem, a sort of super-hero creation brought to to life through the name of G-d to set right what ordinary people could not accomplish. Or, fundamentally, you could even go back to Moses, who channeled G-d’s mighty power through word and staff. Exodus tells the story of how the people were shepherded to safety and freedom by following this one chosen figure. It can be powerfully inspiring. But notice that the Haggadah never mentions Moses. Certainly, the world we live in today requires a narrative that doesn’t wait on a single hero.

Today there is no one super-hero who can push the virus back and set things right. Even Superman, even Moses himself, would be hard-pressed to figure out how to battle the evil Covid 19. And yet we can, together. We as a community can have a power that no superhero can. There are heroes around us now, no doubt. From local political leaders to medical professionals & first responders to those working at groceries. They are us, and we are them. And our “super” power is the ability to understand the intrinsic necessity our inter-dependence. We are “ehad,” one. The stranger, the neighbor, and the family can together do what even Superman can’t. That’s not a made up story. That is our story. At our seders this week that is a true Jewish idea we can discuss - even as distance may keep us apart.

As I think back to my childhood, I remember actually that my favorite Saturday morning cartoon was called Super Friends, in which the great superheroes hung out in a clubhouse together and fought the foes together, cooperatively. I think it was my favorite because even then I realized that any battle is easier to fight when you have a community.

Chag Sameach - Beyachad!

Healing Prayers - Giving voice to our yearnings during this pandemic.

There are many beautiful Jewish prayers, songs, and psalms for healing. To give voice to our yearnings during this pandemic, here are just two:

• The English translation of Hashkiveynu from the Mishkan T’filah prayerbook reads as if it had been written with the Coronavirus in mind:

Grant, O God, that we lie down in peace, and raise us up, our Guardian, to life renewed. Spread over us the shelter of Your peace. Guide us with Your good counsel; for Your Name’s sake, be our help. Shield and shelter us beneath the shadow of Your wings. Defend us against enemies, illness, war, famine and sorrow. Distance us from wrongdoing. For You, God, watch over us and deliver us. For You, God, are gracious and merciful. Guard our going and coming, to life and to peace evermore.

• I recommend Psalm 30, in Hebrew or English, especially for the lines:

Adonai, I cried out and You healed me. Adonai, you have saved me before from the pit of death.

While I was at ease, I once thought, “Nothing can shake my security.” Favor me, and I am a mountain of strength. Hide Your face, and I am terrified.

Unto You, Adonai, did I call, and unto Adonai I pleaded.

“What is to be gained from my death, from my descent into the Pit? Can dust praise You? Can it declare Your faithfulness?

Hear, Adonai, and be gracious unto me; Adonai, be my Helper.”You transformed my mourning into dancing; my sackcloth into robes of joy – that I might sing Your praise unceasingly and not be silent, that I might thank You, Adonai, forever.

Calendar - Debra's upcoming online events.

• On Sunday, April 19 at 10:00 AM Central Time, Rabbi Debra is conducting a seminar on "Practicing Gratitude When Times are Tough." via Zoom, in lieu of her live scholar-in-residence appearance at Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Milwaukee. To join, as space allows, please contact Debbie Intravaia at and write "Debra Orenstein" in the subject line.

• Over the summer, Rabbi Debra will be launching an online class in How To Change. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us.

• Now and for the foreseeable future, you can join Rabbi Debra on Zoom for services and programs at her synagogue through

Thank You - With gratitude to our subscribers.

In these tough times, we consider ourselves physically distant from all our subscribers, but emotionally and spiritually close. We send you love and healing! Please be in touch via e-mail with any comments or questions about the newsletter, the teaching CD's, Judaism during the pandemic, issues of slavery & human trafficking, or any resources on the website.

We always appreciate your reviews on iTunes, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

You can also invite Rabbi Debra to your community to speak, live and virtually. Please consult the Scholar-in-Residence page for more information.

Thank you for all your interest and support.

A Safe, Sweet, and Freeing Passover to All!

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