Or Haneshamah - Ottawa's Reconstructionist Community

Chag Pesach Sameach!

purim 2017

From the Rabbi - Words of the Spirit

Holy Days, Holy Weeks, Holy Acts

18/04/17 09:23:50 PM

With the overlap of Passover, Holy Week and Easter this year, it is even more tempting than usual to look at the ritual, spiritual and communal similarities and differences between the two religions.

Ritually, the external forms of Judaism and Christianity diverge significantly, just as they do at any time of the year. However, the underlying spiritual meanings of several symbols within each tradition evoke similar resonance with the season. Spring, renewal, and rebirth – these echo at the Passover seder as well as Easter gatherings.

In a season fraught with global threats on a scale not witnessed in decades, it’s the communal similarities and differences that draw my interest this year. In general, the Jewish people lack a singular voice, or address, from which a seasonal message emanates. Congregational rabbis, denominational heads, local or regional federations and agencies – each may serve up a greeting or message targeted at their particular constituency. Even our political representatives take note and offer seasonal greetings, as they do for the Jewish New Year (and, despite its relative unimportance, Hanukkah).

And while it’s true that we might see such localized or fragmented communications within the Christian world, there is at least one world leader who sends out a message regarding global concerns, tied to this sacred season – the Pope.

In a message titled "To the City and the World," as quoted in an article from Reuters, Pope Francis evoked an image of God walking “beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes…. Repeatedly during Holy Week services, Francis has drawn attention to the plight of war victims, refugees and migrants. On Good Friday, he spoke of the 'shame' of humanity becoming inured to daily scenes of bombed cities and drowning migrants.”

This brings to mind the American non-profit HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, founded in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. Like JIAS in Canada, they are on the forefront of providing aid to resettling displaced persons from all across the globe. It is the sole Jewish organization pledged to assisting refugees whatever their location or situation. These agencies are our conscience, our “pope.”

In their supplement to the haggadah for 2017, HIAS invited us to make the connections between the story we were telling at the seder table with the plight of the 65 million currently wandering the planet in search of freedom and safety. To thematic with the rituals already in place – breaking the matzah, pouring the wine – they added a new component: the placing of shoes by the door, evocative of welcoming the prophet Elijah, yet also reminiscent of the quick get-aways of our ancestors.

of us are already directly engaged in responding “Jewishly” to the refugee crisis; we remain connected, as a congregation, to a communal response in Ottawa as a member of the Shalom Group. It’s prophetic work, it’s hands-on work, and it’s the ongoing work of redemption in which we need to engage.

- Rabbi Liz

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The Arrival of Our New Sefer Torah!

new sefer torahIn 2016 Or Haneshamah received a gift of a sefer Torah from congregation Kehillat Beth Israel. Read about this and our Hachnasat Sefer Torah celebration here.

Sun, 23 April 2017 27 Nisan 5777