I have bad news which I think will turn into good news.
The bad news: I had a difficult week. Then it became a week of soul-searching. What did it really mean to stand at the edge of the Sea – not as a playful reenactment but in our real lives, the entire human species in a real crisis? Was a formal Seder by Webinar the best way to do it, especially when almost all the participants would have to be silent all the time? Wasn’t that the opposite of a real Seder anyway?
So the upshot has been that – at first very sadly and then cautiously more pleased -- I decided to cancel the major Webinar Seventh-night-of-Pesach Seder.
The good news: I worked with Rabbi Shawn Zevit (lead rabbi of Mishkan Shalom, a strongly progressive Reconstructionist congregation in Philadelphia) to plan out a way to provide you with the rich song, poetry, wisdom that would have been part of the Seder with far less strain on me and our staff and a good deal more opportunity for many of you to explore your own journey to freedom.
Just to explain my own experience: The intense work needed in a short time to get the Webinar prepared left me exhausted. The Webinar framework and the plan for an actual Seder was what felt like intense pressure. The system required getting the mass Webinar site up and running, actually writing an Haggadah, repeating several outreach mailings and even more pressing, arranging a kind of symphony orchestra of poets, singers, wisdom-teachers, meditators to come in on cue for the Seder itself -- all in less than a working week remaining.
And – even worse – this system required everybody except a few designated leaders to be silent.
BUT –we have figured out a new way of celebrating the seventh night of Pesach without exhausting us AND offering you more opportunity for discussion. I think it may actually fit better the new world we are in.
What we came up with was this:
We will work with the people I had asked to embody some special role in the Seder. We will set up a Zoom session of just that group, and a few more, that evening (Tuesday, April 14) as just a small virtual community. We will share our songs, chants, poetry, teaching with each other. That won’t be a “Seder”: it will be a way for us to think and feel emotionally and spiritually connected, though physically distant. It won’t need detailed planning and cue-ing; it will be an informal conversation.
The event will be recorded, for distribution subsequently. It might take a few days to post it, but this year of all years we will be standing at the Seventh Night for weeks more – at the edge of the Sea with Pharaoh’s army behind us, insisting that we go back into our accustomed habits of servitude with onions and garlic – and the unknown ahead of us, the free and Beloved Community that we can choose to create.
The Webinar framework would have kept practically everybody muted anyway, and we were imagining only brief minutes between presenters for conversations at your homes. This new format will mean you get to listen to the whole informal conversation, pause it wherever you like, and have your own conversation at home as long as you like. If you are living alone, you can phone or Skype or Zoom a friend and share. We will welcome your comments by email.
Meanwhile, I invite you to draw on
https://theshalomcenter.org/3-eco-responsive-inserts-your-seder-if-you-wish That link takes you to three eco-responsive inserts for your own Seder in this Year of the Plague: A kavvanah (focus) for lighting the holy-day candles; a review of the biblical plagues, the plagues of today, and the “counter-plagues” that we could create; and a new biblically rooted climate-conscious way of greeting the Prophet Elijah as we invite him to our Seders, based on an old prophetic vision with a very present meaning.
We will be back to you very soon.
Blessings for a profound Passover and a real Wilderness journey in all our lives. May we learn the painfully transformative lesson of the Coronavirus Pandemic: Nostalgia cannot heal us: Only a new world, the Beloved Community, can. -- Arthur.