As we set the tables and make final preparations, there is only one last borderline esoteric ritual left for Jewish communities throughout the world. Figure out how to get firstborn sons from having to fast the morning before Passover starts.
Let’s back up. Among the minor fasts spread throughout the year including one before Purim in remembrance of Esther’s instructing the people of Shushan to fast and another after Rosh HaShana commemorating a political assassination in the 5th Century BCE, there is one that takes place right before Passover with the curious distinction of a built-in loophole to get out of it.
The ‘minor’ Fast of the Firstborn naturally emerges from a ‘minor’ tractate of the Talmud called Soferim that states “The firstborn fast on Passover eve in recognition of the miracle that the firstborn were spared during the 10th plague, namely the slaying of the firstborn.” Another interpretation is that firstborn children throughout the world feel some type of kinship and more than being saved, the fast is one of solidarity with the Egyptian firstborn who perished in the plague.
Either way, nobody actually wants to fast on Passover Eve. The rabbis thus came up with the idea that if there happens to be a festive meal where it is a commandment to eat, well then the firstborn shouldn’t be excluded and so they would be permitted to ‘break’ their fast. The most classic and easiest to plan of these scenarios is finishing a tractate of Talmud.
To be clear, this workaround DOES NOT apply on Yom Kippur. Furthermore, although the idea of manufacturing a method to not fast on a fast day may seem silly and limited to some Ultra-Orthodox Jewish fringe, Reform and Conservative Judaism have pushed this particular fast more than anyone since it represents “the clearest example of a fast with a moral, social action message: concern for life, even lives of enemies and oppressors.”
If you are the oldest in your family, the JCC has you covered. A member who has finished learning a significant portion of Tractate Sanhedrin, no mean feat, will go through a ritual called a siyum/completion tomorrow morning at 8am which will be followed by a festive meal of your own making. If you’d like the link for the Zoom, reply to this e-mail. To all you firstborn who blazed the trail and worked those parents down so that those of us lower in the birth order could benefit, we salute you.
Passover Day 1
Thursday, April 6th
Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach
Saturday, April 8th
Friday, April 14th
No dinner on account of the kitchen being turned back over to chametz
Shabbat Parshat Shmini
Anniversary of Amos Sitbon’s Bar Mitzvah
Saturday, April 15th
Yom HaShoah Commemoration
Remarks by Israeli Ambassador Gilad Cohen
Monday, April 17th 7:00pm at the JCC
If you have an idea for an event or a topic you would like to share with others, please visit our website.
The JCC office and kitchen staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty answering your messages, e-mail’s, phone calls, voicemails, WhatsApps, etc. every single day with no break since before Purim to make Passover at the JCC and especially the Seders a reality. Examples of bad behavior include:
1) An e-mail sent in the wee weekend hours marked “Urgent” in the subject line with the lovely signoff of “Please answer immediately!” (note that your horseradish order is not urgent but we appreciate the please I guess?)
2) Accommodating impossible seating and allergy (ok not an allergy but a strong preference) requests on very little notice
3) A reckless, if not proud disregard for the concept of deadlines
When you see Izaki-san, Lena, Ayako-san and Tal, please thank them for their selfless dedication in ensuring Passover at the JCC 5783 will be our most exceptional yet. A special debt of gratitude is reserved for Ozawa-san who although he knew he was leaving at the end of March did everything in his power to set us up for success including staying into the night on his last day at the JCC.
We are ready to make the minyan for services on Thursday morning, April 6th at 10am but we need your help. The community has managed to successfully hold services for every weekday festival since 2021 and we want to keep the streak alive with your participation. Come join us for a rousing holiday service, Torah reading and short to nonexistent sermon. Even better, come back again on Saturday morning, April 8th at 10am for more of the same.
Yiddish Club with Jack Halpern: Monthly meetings have been taking place for quite some time in-person at the JCJ. Please contact Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. All levels are welcome, from beginner to advanced. Much more than just language, the club enjoys exploring Yiddish culture as well.
Next Year in Jerusalem!
Passover First Days and Shabbat Chol HaMoed
Candle Lighting Passover Day 1: 5:47pm
Candle Lighting Passover Day 2: 6:45pm
Candle Lighting Friday night: 5:49pm