Category Archives: Pesach

Save the Date: Second Night Community Seder


Don’t miss our Second Night Community Seder!

Tuesday, April 11, 6pm

$21 for adults, $9 for kids

if you can donate more, please do, so that all who are hungry can come and eat

Please RSVP to the office by April 3.

(And if you’re a Facebook user, feel free to also indicate that you’re coming on the Facebook Event Page!)

Shavua tov! Looking forward to the remainder of Pesach and to a bar mitzvah.

Shavua tov – a  good week to you! And chag sameach, a joyous festival. I hope that everyone’s Pesach has begun with sweetness.

CBI is both part of the ALEPH Network, and affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism. As a Reform-affiliated community, we observe seven days of Pesach. (All communities in Israel do the same. Outside of Israel, Conservative and Orthodox communities observe eight days of Pesach… but at CBI for the last several years we have followed Reform custom of observing a seven-day festival of Passover.) Therefore, following Reform custom, we’ll divide the Torah portion Acharei Mot into two halves, and will read from the first half this coming Shabbat as we celebrate the bar mitzvah of Jeremy Guy, and from the second half the following week.

Please join us on Shabbat morning as we call Jeremy Guy to the Torah as a bar mitzvah! If you’re looking for commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:


May this week of Pesach be meaningful and sweet for all of us!

As we move from Pesach to Shavuot, we enter into the journey of counting the Omer — the days which connect our festival of liberation with our festival of revelation. If you’re looking for Omer-counting resources, there are a few more copies of Rabbi Rachel’s Toward Sinai: Omer Poems available at the synagogue. There are also a variety of places online where one can sign up for daily Omer teachings via email or Facebook — I especially like the Omer teachings at A Way In at Mishkan Shalom.

Don’t forget to register for the Shavuot retreat at Isabella Freedman! As members of an ALEPH Network community we receive a substantial discount; include the registration code VELVETEEN and you’ll get a $150 discount on that retreat.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Save the date: second-night community seder on April 23!


If you already know that you can join us, please RSVP now so that we can get an early head count and an early sense of how many people to prepare for. Thank you!

Save the Date: A Very Harry Potter Purim!

A New Design

And while we have your attention… mark your calendar for the second-night community seder at CBI on Saturday, April 23 —

and for the amazing Shavuot retreat at Hazon, June 10-13, at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in northern Connecticut!

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Pesach!

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Shavua tov — a good week to you! This is a special week indeed, because it culminates not only in Shabbat, but also in Pesach, the festival of our liberation.

At Pesach we gather to retell the story which is most central to who we are. “Once we were slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Holy One of Blessing led us forth from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm…” The haggadah teaches that in every generation, one must see oneself as though one had personally been liberated — not just our ancestors once-upon-a-time, but also us, even now.

Every year someone asks me whether I think our people were actually, historically, slaves to a Pharaoh in Egypt. I suspect we probably weren’t — at least not in the way that our story indicates. But to me, that question misses  the point.

What’s important to me is that this is the story which we have told about ourselves for thousands of years. This is the story around which Jewish peoplehood coalesced, the story that makes us who we are. Once we were enslaved, and now we are free. Once we lived in constriction, and now our hearts know expansiveness. Once we labored under cruel conditions (whether enslavement to a Pharaoh, or grueling credit card debt, or the emotional straitjacket of grief) and now we are given the opportunity to let our hearts open and to feel ourselves free.

I love Pesach not only because I love the songs (though I do!), not only because I love the foods (though I do!), not only because I love my memories of childhood seders with my extended Texas family (though I do!), and not only because I love the fact that this is a dinner party centered around storytelling, poetry, and song (though I do!) I love Pesach because its message speaks to me anew every year.

Where have you felt enslaved in the last year? And what changes would you need to make — in the tangible practical world, in your emotional world, in your mind, in your spirit — in order to experience freedom as we ring in Shabbat and Pesach this Friday night?

If you’re in need of a free, downloadable, printable haggadah for the first night of Pesach, you’re welcome to peruse The Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah for Pesach.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat and Festival morning services which I will lead. We’ll sing the usual prayers of Shabbat, plus the celebratory psalms of Hallel, and during the oneg (joyful kiddush) we’ll delve into a Torah study text about Pesach.

And join us on Shabbat evening at 6pm for our Second-Night Community Seder (which I will also lead.) Please, if you are joining us and have not yet RSVP’d, let the office know today! And please sign up for one of the many volunteer opportunities which happen around the seder; contact Steven Green and Rose Ellis to volunteer, or reach out to us at the synagogue office.

Wishing you joy in our journey toward liberation,

Rabbi Rachel


Two weeks until Pesach! Please RSVP.

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh (New Moon of the month of) Nissan, which means the first seder is two weeks from tonight!  If you are joining us for our second-night community seder at CBI on Saturday April 4 (information below), please RSVP to the office today if you can, so that we can appropriately plan for ordering the kosher chicken which will be our main dish.

We welcome RSVPs also for two pre-Passover experiences. Jen Burt will be leading a workshop in baking your own matzah in the CBI kitchen on Monday March 30. Making matzah is super-easy — all you need is flour, water, and a very short period of time! — and we’ll make some matzot for our home seders and perhaps also for the synagogue seder as well. If you’d like to join us for baking matzah, please let us know.

And on Wednesday April 1, Jen Burt will be making homemade gefilte fish in the CBI kitchen. Have you ever wanted to learn how to make gefilte fish from scratch? (Hint: the real thing feels, and tastes, entirely different from the stuff one gets from a jar!) If you’d like to join us for making gefilte fish, please let us know that too.

Wishing everyone blessings as Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh approach!

Shabbat shalom and chodesh tov,

Rabbi Rachel


Shabbat, unplugging, and four weeks until Pesach!

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Deep thanks to all who joined us for our wonderful Purim festivities — especially to Jen Burt and her family for the amazing decorations! If you missed it, you can catch some glimpses in Len Radin’s lovely photoset on Flickr.

Perhaps you noticed the brilliant full moon last night. Purim always falls at full moon… and so does Pesach. Believe it or not, the first seder is four weeks from tonight. (Which means that four weeks from tomorrow will be our second-night community seder at CBI; I hope you will join us!)

Pesach is the time when we delve most deeply into our people’s central story of liberation. But every Shabbat we get to glimpse that liberation a little bit. Tonight we enter again into our weekly taste of freedom, a chance to stop doing and just be.

This Shabbat is special for a few reasons: one is that we’ll be honoring Bill Levy and Karen Kelly tomorrow with a special aliyah to the Torah and a celebratory kiddush, and another is that this Shabbat has been declared a National Day of Unplugging. (Click on the link to read all about it.) And, of course, this Shabbat ushers in the month leading up to Pesach, which for many of us is a favorite Jewish time of year.

Tradition holds that during the month before Pesach, one should study the laws of Passover in order to be wholly prepared for the coming festival. My friend and teacher Rabbi Arthur Waskow has re-imagined that tradition, and is using the month between Purim and Pesach to share daily teachings (from different rabbis, artists, writers, and more) about Pesach and the earth.

His intention is to revitalize our anticipation for Passover and our connection with the planet we call home. You can read those daily teachings at Purim => Pesach… where, as it happens, today’s featured teaching is by me — Shmita and interconnection.

Whether or not you choose to turn off your electronics this Shabbat (or any Shabbat), I hope that this Shabbat brings you the gifts of peace and joy.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel