1545 Bushkill Street
Easton, PA 18042
Phone: (610) 258-5343
Fax: (610) 330-9100
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Thursday, 7:25 am
Minyan

Friday, 8:00 pm
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Saturday, 9:30 am
Shabbat Morning Services

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BAS Rabbi's Message

Message from Rabbi Daniel Stein

April, 2011

Jewish tradition designed the Passover Seder to engage all of our senses at the most basic level. The foods we eat—bitter herbs, salt water, sweet charoset, savory meats—trigger the core of our taste buds. We hear familiar songs, watch as the middle matzah is broken and wine glasses and shank bones are lifted. And we touch—as we spill ten drops from our glasses, we commiserate with the pain felt by the Egyptians as they endured the ten plagues.

This ritual is based on a famous legend recorded in the Talmud: When the Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea, the Angels wanted to sing a song in praise of God’s triumph. God, though, was not interested in their song and rebuked them. “My handiwork is dying,” God said, “and you want to praise me?!” In response to this legend, the Talmud records that Rabbi Yose ben Hanina said: “Even if He will not rejoice, He allows others to.”

This tale especially resonates with me this year; I am writing this column just a few days after the earthquakes and tsunami that struck Japan. Today, nuclear plants continue to fail in the North of the country, and there is a sense of uncertainty about how the crisis will resolve. I know that when we sit down to our Passover Seder, Japan will just be beginning to pull itself out of this crisis. As I watched the remarkable image of the water traveling across fields, carrying boats and buildings, and making towns disappear, I was reminded of the story of the Exodus. Before the waters of the Red Sea crashed down on the Egyptians, it stood for the Israelites as a “wall, to their right and left.”

This Passover we also will likely discuss the continuing drama in the Middle East. We will talk not just of Pharos, but also of modern dictators and despots. We will pray for American soldiers, deployed now on three different fronts. Our Passover celebration of freedom this year will be colored by the very real fears of a rapidly changing world. We know that God is not rejoicing—how can we celebrate?

Jewish ritual understands these fears. It teaches us that the first step towards genuine joy is insuring for the needs in all of the community. Our celebrations take place in the presence of friends, and, if they are suffering, we cannot experience true joy. At Passover, we give maot chitin—literally, wheat money, to insure that all in our community can celebrate the holiday. In this month’s bulletin, you will notice that we are collecting maot chitin as part of the chametz-selling process.

I also wanted to suggest a few charities that might be of interest this season.

• The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley’s designated fund for Japan 100% of funds go directly to relief efforts in Japan

• The Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief The JCDF is perhaps the most collaborative organization in the Jewish world. In addition to relief work in Japan, the JCDF remains actively involved in Haiti and is prepared to handle disasters as they emerge.

• The JWB Jewish Chaplain’s Council In addition to endorsing Jewish chaplains, the Jewish Chaplain’s Council provides for the religious needs of Jewish military personnel. This includes planning Passover Seders for Jewish troops deployed abroad and providing Kosher for Passover k-rations.

If you would like more information on the charities above, please let me know. Hopefully, the mitzvah of providing for those in need this Passover season will serve as a corrective to the complicated emotions many of us are feeling this year. Giving, we are taught, is the first step towards achieving the true joy in our holidays. Dena and I wish you all a joyful and kosher holiday. As I mentioned last month, there is still space at our table for the first Seder, and we hope to see many of you for the second Seder at Bnai Abraham.

Best Wishes for a chag kasher v’sameach,

Rabbi Daniel Stein