March 18, 2021
Who would have thought last year at this time that we would be celebrating a second consecutive virtual seder? As confusing as life was near the beginning of quarantine and stay-at-home orders, we were at least hopeful that Covid-19 would be a thing of the past a few months later. Yet, here we are, once again not fully able to gather together. However, unlike last year, we can see an end in sight. The rollout of vaccines is ramping up and restrictions are easing. We sense a return to “normalcy” in the near future. At this moment in time, we are not quite where we want to be. We are actually in a liminal state, or in-between mitzrayim and the Promised Land.
Nevertheless, our Jewish tradition in general, and Pesach in particular, has great wisdom to share with us as we navigate this liminality. Let’s consider the seder song, Dayenu. Dayenu is our yearly reminder to never forget all the miracles in our lives.
If we are free to celebrate Pesach in the comfort of our own home, but not with friends and family—Dayenu! It would be enough.
If we are able to celebrate Pesach with friends and family, virtually, but not in person—Dayenu! It would be enough.
If we are able to celebrate Pesach, in person, with some friends and family, but not with the whole community—Dayenu! It would be enough.
You see, Dayenu is a reminder that we never forget all the small miracles in our lives. No matter the circumstances, our Jewish tradition teaches us that we are always able to seek a new reason to be grateful, a reason to say Dayenu!
What an encouraging message during such challenging times. As we begin to prepare for our festival of freedom by cleaning our homes and making family recipes, may we also work on cultivating an attitude where we express appreciation for each and every goodness that is bestowed upon us. I cannot think of a better way to get ready for Pesach this year.
I hope you will join your Beth Israel family for our second night community seder on Sunday, March 28 at 5:30 p.m. Andrea Shupack and I are looking forward to seeing you, even if it is through our computer screens.
If you would like to join our community, please reach out to the office for the Zoom and haggadah link.
Chag pesach sameach,
— Rabbi Joshua Samuels
Community Hanukkah Party
12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019
751 San Juan Boulevard
Celebrate with yummy food, Hanukkah-themed crafts for kids, the annual Dreidel Spin-off, Kesher class performances, music and singing, and by lighting the Hanukkah candles together.
Boxes of Israeli-made candles are $5 and 100 percent of proceeds support our community party. Purchase here.
4th Night for Others
5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019
Consider a break from presents in your house and instead shop for winter clothes for homeless youths, served by Northwest Youth Services. Bring the unwrapped items, plus your menorah (if possible), and dinner to share to our 4th Night celebration on Dec. 25, 2019. We will light candles as a community. Donated items (most needed are all-genders underwear, socks, winter shoes, coats) go to the nonprofit Northwest Youth Services, which serves homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth ages 13 to 25 in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. You can also shop on their Amazon Wish List, www.nwys.org/get-involved and ship items directly to the Northwest Youth Services office, 1155 N. State St., Suite 700, Bellingham WA 98225. Or consider donating Fred Meyer Scrip purchased through Beth Israel. We hope you’ll join us in this mitzvah.
Photos from Hanukkah’s past
Shavuot is a Hebrew word meaning ‘weeks’ and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Shavuot, like so many other Jewish holidays began as an ancient agricultural festival, marking the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. Shavuot was distinguished in ancient times by bringing crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Torah tells us it took precisely forty-nine days for our ancestors to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai (the same number of days as the Counting of the Omer ) where they were to receive the Torah. Thus, Leviticus 23:21 commands: ‘And you shall proclaim that day (the fiftieth day) to be a holy convocation…’ The name Shavuot, ‘Weeks,’ then symbolizes the completion of a seven-week journey.
Special customs on Shavuot are the reading of the Book of Ruth, which reminds us that we too can find a continual source of blessing in our tradition. Another tradition includes staying up all night to study Torah and Mishnah, a custom called Tikkun Leil Shavuot, which symbolizes our commitment to the Torah, and that we are always ready and awake to receive the Torah. Traditionally, dairy dishes are served on this holiday to symbolize the sweetness of the Torah, as well as the ‘land of milk and honey’.
Shavuot is celebrated seven weeks after Passover (when the barley harvest begins). These seven weeks are called the Omer and are counted ceremonially. This counting, called s’firat ha-omer, begins on the second day of Passover.The source for this practice is found in the book of Deuteronomy, “You shall count off seven weeks…then you shall observe the Feast of Weeks to Adonai your God” (Deuteronomy 16:9-10).The counting of the Omer takes place daily after the evening service.
Once the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the mitzvah of bringing the first fruits of the harvest was lost, the Rabbis were concerned that the observance of Shavuot might disappear. It was during this time period (2nd century C.E.) when the Rabbis determined that the revelation of Torah at Sinai coincided with Shavuot.
Recognizing that Shavuot has both agricultural and religious roots, the holiday is known by several different names: Shavuot, Z’man Matan Torateinu and Chag HaBikkurim.
Z’man Matan Torateinu translates as “the season of the giving of our Torah”; and Chag HaBikkurim means “the festival of first fruits”.
Content provided by URJ
Community Hanukkah Party
4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17
Bloedel Donovan Pavillion
Celebrate with yummy food, Hanukkah-themed crafts, a Dreidel Spin-off and Dreidel “drop,” Kesher class performances, music and singing, and lighting the Hanukkah candles.
Purchase Hanukkah candles online — 100 percent of proceeds go toward the Hanukkah party!
4th Night for Others
Consider a break from presents in your house and instead shop for a new toy or book for a child of any age to be given to the nonprofit PLLAY (Programs to Lighten the Lives of Adults and Youths — pllay.org). They provide women in need the opportunity to “shop” for their children this holiday season. Bring it to our Shabbat/Hanukkah service Dec 15. We hope you’ll join us in this mitzvah.
Here are recordings by Cantorial Soloist Andrea Shupack for Family Services:
Here are recordings by Cantorial Soloist Andrea Shupack for Rosh Hashanah Services:
Sim Shalom 1st version:
Sim Shalom by Julie Silver:
Hashiveinu / Return Again:
N’sim B’chol Yom
Mizmor Shir L’yom HaShabbat
Nishmat Kol Chai