Dear Heschel Families,
As we prepare for Pesach we are reminded of the verse in the Haggadah: “In each generation, a person is obligated to see themselves as having personally gone out of Mitzrayim.” Mitzrayim is the name of Ancient Egypt – but it also means “narrow places” – from the word ‘tzar’ which we may recognize from the word ‘tzorot’ / ‘tsoris’ – troubles. This year has certainly had its share of ‘tsoris’ and of the feelings of being constricted and constrained. Perhaps, the obligation to imagine leaving the narrows of ‘mitzrayim’ is the obligation to both recall and imagine freedom; to acknowledge, despite our ‘tsoris’, the freedoms we all still have, and the freedoms to come.
Emmanuel Levinas calls Judaism a “Difficult Freedom,” because it is a freedom that requires self-discipline, acceptance of laws, and adherence to teachings. It is not a wild, unfettered freedom. This Pesach we are challenged to maintain more laws and restrictions than we might wish. Once again, we find ourselves unable to gather in large Seders as we once did, and as we hope to again, shanah haba’ah (next year!). When we sing “Dayeinu” – “it would have been enough…” we remind ourselves that although we do not have all the freedom we wish, we still have much to be grateful for.
This week Parshat Vayikra teaches us about making “offerings” which are also “sacrifices”. This year, while sacrificing the joy of our large Pesach gatherings, we have the opportunity to offer, through our actions, greater assurances of health to our families and our community.
Important COVID-19 Health Message
Kol HaCovid, a group of top Jewish medical professionals in Toronto, issued an urgent warning to community members about the dangers of the growing variants of COVID-19.
“Recently, while COVID-19 cases are stable or only slightly rising, we are seeing a dramatic increase in much more transmissible and deadlier variants of concern,” explained Kol HaCovid. “These variants now represent almost half of cases in Ontario—including clusters within the Jewish community. The vaccine rollout is bringing some hope, but far too few Torontonians have been immunized to let down our guard.”
The rapid spread of these variants is a real danger. To protect lives and the public, it’s crucial that we celebrate Passover strictly with only those in our immediate households.
Please review recommendations from Public Health here for how best to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Avoid all non-essential travel, which includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature.
There is a mandatory 14-day self-isolation for anyone returning from travel outside of Canada. Please advise the school if you are required to travel outside of Canada.
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. The new COVID-19 variants of concern may spread more easily. It is more important than ever to carefully follow these public health practices:
- Limit trips outside of the home. Only go out for essentials such as shopping for food, health care visits, walking the dog, outdoor exercise, going to school, child care, or work.
- Do not visit friends or family in other households, even if you live in the same building.
- Connect with friends and family by phone, social media, or online.
- Home care, support workers, and emergency repairpersons are permitted.
- People living alone may join one other household for companionship.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,