Message from Rabbi Berman

Passover in the Time of Plague


Last year at this time we were already reeling from the changes wrought by the new plague, the novel coronavirus. We had one of our first Zoom get-togethers for last year’s Seder. Who would have thought that we’d need to be planning a second one? But the time is drawing nigh and I’ll be happy to see you on-screen as we look forward to liberation.


Purim, the holiday when everything turns upside-down, may not yet be past when you get this. (There is no extra month of Adar this year so both Purim and Pesach seem early.) We have adapted pretty well to an upside-down world, individually, from what I can tell when I speak to you (if you haven’t gotten a call lately, you will soon), and as a community. Livestream services and Zoom classes and get-togethers seem almost normal. Almost; not quite. I have enjoyed the rare occasions when we masked up and stayed two yards away from each other in person; the shofar blast for Rosh Hashanah and the parking lot Hanukah candle-lighting. But elbow bumping is no substitute for touch.


On the continuum between hugs and handshakes, camaraderie and kiddush, and total isolation, all is relative. Did you see the Internet meme I posted on our TBE Facebook page about the five Jews who changed the world? Moses said “Law is everything;” Jesus said “Love is everything;” Marx said, “Money is everything;” Freud said, “Sex is everything;” and Einstein, to get to the point, said, “Everything is relative.” [A lot of us have been missing our relatives.]


When I was younger, I had a friend who said, “I don’t get it,” all the time, even about things that were pretty clear, and I used to answer him, “No, you get it; you just don’t like it.” I kind of feel that way now about all the precautions that are keeping us apart. I don’t like it, but I get it. We have chosen the road of responsibility and we have responded to a difficult situation with compassion and courage, not only celebrating holidays and gathering for Thursday night Happy Hours, but gathering for shiva minyans time and again for all too many congregants we have lost and all too many others who have been bereaved and in some cases were not able to get to funerals for their loved ones. Even in cyberspace, we have been there for each other. In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Ancestors) Rabbi Tarfon says, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (2:21). We can’t solve the Covid situation. But we do what we can to get through it and keep our traditions as we can. And you know, we’ve done quite a bit, from last Pesach to the one coming right up.


There’s a lot we can do to prepare for the holiday without resorting to Zoom. We can kasher the kitchen and search for hametz and read up on theme of freedom without going online. With vaccinations happening, we can even shop with less anxiety, and ordering groceries still works too. If you have trouble finding Pesach necessities, let me know. Think about getting yourself a new Haggadah. There are fresh translations and interpretations every year. And then we’ll have a new and improved Zoom Seder on the first night. You’ll find details in these pages, and more as we approach the date.


The plague is not over and it will still be a while before we regroup joyously in the chapel. But we can see the way forward to freedom. There’s a Reopening Committee working on logistics so that the transition will be smooth. If you are like me and every now and again things seem stuck, take a deep breath, put on a mask (a fun one if you get this before Purim), and know that we are all doing the best we can. We will get through this, together as a congregational family, stronger, wiser, connected, and eager to come home.

Happy Passover,

Rabbi Berman and Family




Phone: 714-772-4720

Fax:     714-772-4710