Warm greetings to you and your family from New Haven, CT! I hope you have enjoyed the beginning of a meaningful Pesach, and are feeling freer and freer with every crunch of matzah. I look forward to seeing many of you at services and at the Bat Mitzvah next Shabbat! In the meantime, here are some reflections on this week’s Torah portion, which is special for the Shabbat coinciding with the 8th and final day of Passover.

We read from the end of Parshat Re’eh this Shabbat, (Deut. 14:22 – 16:17) which unsurprisingly includes laws for Pesach and the other pilgrimage holidays (Shavuot and Sukkot). Yet more surprisingly perhaps, the portion delves into the topic of forgiving debts and releasing slaves. On Passover, just as we remember that we all went out from Egypt together, we consider how that experience demands all Jews treat one another as equals. In times of freedom and plenty, we must remember our brethren, and ensure that there exist “no destitute among you.” (Deut. 15:4) All members of our community are responsible for lifting up those whose basic needs otherwise go unmet.

Yet I believe that this teaching applies in the positive as well as the negative: We all have something worthwhile to learn from one another. All members of our community are worth listening to, and everyone deserves respectful treatment. This line from Torah aspires toward a time of radical equality, which aligns with the ritual at the end of Seder, when we open the door for Elijah and pray for a time of radical equality on Earth– not just among Jews but among all people. Passover is a holiday that reminds us at the soul level of the adage: No one is free until all are free.

And so, Passover teaches us to notice; to pay attention to those in our community in need. But also to listen and understand the experience of others. It is a perfect time for our Temple Sinai community to begin a short period of three months when congregants will be leading services, offering divrei Torah and (in six cases) become b’nei mitzvah. During my parental leave (and three-month period of my Jewish good-bye with the congregation), it is worth listening to what various members of our community have to teach us, too.

A few weeks ago, three adults in our community became b’nei mitzvah: Steve Myerson, Ignacio Montoya and Alexa Foley. (It turns out you don’t have to be twelve going on thirteen to experience this life-cycle event). Many of you were very moved, as I was, by what each of them had to teach. So, upon request, we’ve posted their words immediately below in this issue of News from Sinai. Those of you who missed it, I encourage you to read and learn from their inspiring interpretations of Torah and life experience. And, those who heard these teachings in person may want to read and digest their words on your own time. Each of one is very different and uniquely wise. As Pirkei Avot teaches, “Who is wise? –One who learns from all people.”

Wishing each of you a meaningful end of Passover, and a good few months of taking the time to learn from fellow members of Temple Sinai, newer and longer-term members alike. Come to the board-led service this Friday!

Chag Pesach sameach,
Rabbi Bair