Pesach Yizkor 2021 5781

 Rabbi Philip Weintraub

Congregation B’nai Israel

April 4, 2021


Perhaps 97% of Israeli Jews and more than 70% of American Jews have a Seder.  While some may be more or less traditional, they come together with family and friends.  They eat matzah.  They dip vegetables.  They taste a bitter herb.  They tell some version of the Exodus story.  At least that is what 

normally happens.

Last year at this time, we experienced our first Pandemic Passover.  I was 100% sure that by Rosh Hashanah and definitely by THIS Passover things would be totally back to normal.  I was wrong.  This year has been decidedly abnormal, yet the rhythm of our Jewish calendar keeps us going. Last year I said:

This year may have been different, but I am not convinced that it was ALL that different.  Yes, our seders were physically smaller, but for so many, they were spiritually larger!  Suddenly, the journey from slavery to freedom felt incredibly relevant.  Suddenly, we all could taste the bitter tears and wonder with Dayenu, what would really be enough.  Having the privilege of speaking to so many within our congregation in recent weeks, I heard about people younger and older using technology to connect.  As we are doing right now, we had to make hard decisions about how best to observe our traditions AND connect to one another.  Using the guidance of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Committee of Jewish Law and Standards, we found ways of reaching out.  Our daily minyan on ZOOM has been vibrant.  I heard of so many ZOOM seders and now we are using Facebook to bring our sanctuary into your home.  None of these are sentences I could have imagined any other year.

In our weekly spiel, Joan Redisch shared how our zoom minyan has been a lifeline for her.  Having our services accessible to the community through these technologies have allowed participation from a wider network than we might otherwise have touched.  We have not missed a minyan in months.  When people travel, they login from wherever they are to participate.  While it has been challenging limiting attendance in the sanctuary, knowing that we were touching the lives of you all has been incredibly powerful for me.  As isolating as it was at times to lead a service in a mostly empty room, I knew that you were with us.

Looking at today’s Haftorah, I continue to find comfort.  I saw that we have been in isolation before.  We have been in times of loss before.  We have been in times of pain before.

Pesah Day 8


This translation was taken from the JPS Tanakh
ISAIAH 10:32 - 12:6

Chapter 11

1 But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

2 The spirit of the Lord shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the Lord.

3 He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the Lord:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

4 Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

5 Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them. . .

11 In that day, My Lord will apply His hand again to redeeming the other part of His people from Assyria — as also from Egypt, Pathros, Nubia, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coastlands.

As I read these words, I am not only looking to the time of the Messianic Age, or of perfect redemption.  I am thinking of the days ahead.  As more and more of us are vaccinated, hope for a fuller return increases.  Seeing families reunite with loved ones has been inspirational.  As we think of returning more fully, what have we learned in this time?

We have attempted new partnerships, done programming with other synagogues, invited teachers from around the world, experimented with outdoor activities, and even had our own Doc Rock perform for Purim.  We have celebrated and mourned, sung and danced, laughed and cried.

Yizkor is a time of memory.  In Florida more than 33,000 people have died from COVID-19, nationally more than 550,000 and worldwide almost 3 million have died from this disease.  That does not include the millions more who were sickened or had serious, long term consequences and damage to their lives and livelihoods.  While the US’ population is 4.25% of the world’s, we have accounted for nearly 20% of the deaths from this disease.  That is not an accomplishment to celebrate.  

[Insert story about Dad and Barry.

Mention Bob Barnum]

Before we turn to Yizkor, we dedicate the newest plaques on our memorial board.

My Yizkor sermon can be found at the 1:48:45 mark (one hour, forty-eight minutes and forty-five seconds).