Shabbat Ha-Gadol, A Ritual Before Pesach, and our Omer Spiritual Study Group

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

I wish you an early Shabbat shalom! The Shabbat which begins tonight is called Shabbat Ha-Gadol, “The Great Shabbat,” because it’s the Shabbat which comes immediately before Pesach. I hope you’ll join us tomorrow morning for services led by Rabbi Pam Wax.

Bedikat Chametz – Removing Leaven

On Sunday morning, the Hand in Hand families will be participating in the ritual of bedikat chametz, ritually removing leaven from the household. Heather and I will “hide” crusts of bread around the synagogue; the kids will find them, and using a feather and wooden spoon will brush them into a paper bag, which we will (safely!) burn in the barbecue grill outside after making a special blessing.

This is actually a home-based ritual, not usually done at the synagogue. If you’d like to do this at home on Sunday or early on Monday, here is a short-and-sweet ritual (one poem, plus the blessings) which you can download: Bedikat Chametz [pdf].

Also, if you’re looking for some different ways of thinking about the mitzvot of eating matzah and avoiding chametz, you might enjoy this blog post from last year: Chametz.

Counting the Omer – Spiritual Study Group

On the second night of Pesach, we begin Counting the Omer, a journey of counting the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation. In Jewish tradition this is a time for deep soul-searching and meaningful internal work, so that we can be wholly ready to receive Torah at Sinai once again.

I’ll be leading a spiritual study group during the Omer, which will meet in my office on Fridays at 3pm during the seven weeks of the Omer — starting next Friday, the Friday during the week of Pesach. All are welcome, though I’d appreciate it if you could let me know if you might join us, so I can print enough copies of the handouts.

No books are required for the Omer group, though if you are interested in picking up one or more good Omer resources, I recommend Rabbi Yael Levy’s Journey Through the Wilderness: A Mindfulness Approach to the Ancient Jewish Practice of Counting the Omer and Rabbi Min Kantrowitz’s Counting the Omer: A Kabbalistic Meditation Guide. And if visual art speaks to you more than does text, try D’vorah Horn’s Omer Series of paintings, available on beautiful printed cards for $36.

I wish you a sweet Shabbat ha-Gadol and a meaningful journey into Pesach, the season of our liberation!

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

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