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Sermon: Parshat Tzav, 4/3/20

04/10/2020 09:30:50 AM


Rabbi Charlie

Tonight is Shabbat HaGadol – the great Shabbat, the Shabbat that comes right before Pesach/Passover. This is the night where traditionally the rabbi would explain all of the laws of Passover. Instead, tonight, I just want to focus on the word Pesach – Passover, instead.

When it comes to this virus – we certainly want it to pass over us. Although when looked at closely, the word Pesach may not actually mean Passover. It’s used to refer to the sacrifice. And it’s used to during the last plague – when there’s a Mash-chit – a destroyer. And it says that God will see the blood and “ufasachti” – which is usually translated as “I will pass over you” so that no “Mash-chit” will smite or destroy us.

But many years ago, my Bible Professor, Dr. David Aaron, taught that it’s the “Mash-chit” that is doing the destroying. So what’s God’s role? He argued that “ufasachti” could be “I will pass over you”, but it might be more accurately translated, “I will protect you”. The “Mash-chit” is the destroyer – the Angel of Death, if you will. And God is there to protect us. At moments like these, the idea of God, standing at our door, represented by our mezuzah, protecting us, providing shelter and safety and security – it’s a comforting notion.

Ok – so here’s what you do… this is what will keep you safe… just take a lamb and we’ll take some of it’s blood and make sure to get your doorpost really well. Here… Raymond is going to demonstrate…

Ok – maybe not… Look – there’s no magic wand we can wave, but we will get through this together. And for that reason, many of us need to find moments of comfort and shelter when we can. The words of Hashkiveinu, our prayer for shelter and protection, just seems to mean a little more these days.

One thing that really has given me a sense of comfort over the past few weeks are some of the ways that people have found to safely connect with one another while understanding need for and the reality of physical distancing.

I really loved hearing about a caravan of teachers in Santa Clara, California that drove by their students’ homes. The students came out to wave and cheer, the teachers honked their horns in a beautiful moment of solidarity.

Another inspiring story came from a man who delivered newspapers in Mercer County, New Jersey. While I didn’t know there were still people who delivered newspapers, he’s taken to delivering groceries in addition to papers. In talking with people, he found there was a need that he was able to fill. He said that it’s one of the most rewarding things he’s ever done. He and his family plan to continue delivering groceries to their community as long as necessary.

(both stories found here:

And I’ve also been inspired by our efforts to bring Passover Packages to our members. A team that includes Dana King, Barry Klompus, Nancy Finfer, and Jeff Cohen and many more volunteers are getting things organized so that every CBI member can get the basics for a Passover Seder. This is a difficult time – people have a lot to worry about. And for many of our members, the fact that this could be one thing they wouldn’t have to worry about – based on the feedback we’ve received, it’s meant a great deal to a number of people. Many thanks to those who are working with me to bring a real sense of comfort within our community.

As we pray for safety and security, we find comfort where we can. Please stay safe. Avoid gatherings, don’t invite people over for Seder, don’t go out unless you need to. The image of God protecting my door is a beautiful image. In addition to that sense of faith, we also have to protect ourselves. To close, I’d like to ask for God’s blessing upon us and our nation and our world:

For all:

יְבָרֶכְךָ ה' וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ.

יָאֵר ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶֽיךָ וִיחֻנֶּֽךָּ.

יִשָּׂא ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶֽיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם.

May Adonai bless you and keep you.

May Adonai look kindly upon you and be gracious to you.

May Adonai bestow favor upon you and give you peace.


Shabbat Shalom!

Fri, October 30 2020 12 Cheshvan 5781