A Weekly Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 4.2.20

Apr. 3, 2020


Dear Friends,


By this time the reality of home confinement has begun to settle in.  In this hour of crisis, we have all begun to accept with resignation the changes that have been forced upon us as individuals and as families.  As a community, we have also been making adjustments. We have effectively had to reinvent ourselves – or at the very least restructure ourselves – from the bottom up.  But now our main systems are in place, and “EMJC – The Coronavirus Edition” is up and running.


In this letter, I will cover the following topics:


  1. Selling chametz
  2. Upcoming events and services
  3. Some Torah


Dates and times for Passover services will be listed in a separate email after Shabbat.  Links to the Rabbinical Assembly Guide for Passover (information about preparing your house to be Kosher for Passover) can be found here:


Kashrut Subcommittee Recommendations for Passover 5780 in Light of COVID-19:



Rabbinical Assembly Pesach Guide:



Where the two might conflict, follow the first (Covid-19).


Selling Chametz

Here is a brief explanation of the practice (from the Rabbinical Assembly website):


Since ownership of hametz (bread and other leavened products) is not allowed during Pesah, ideally all hametz in one’s possession would be given away or destroyed before the holiday begins. Since this often represents a financial [or practical] hardship, the practice arose for people to store away their hametz before Pesah and arrange to sell it for the duration of the holiday. By filling out the [sale of chametz] form, you are appointing someone to arrange the sale on your behalf.


This year, as a practical matter, I am inviting the EMJC community to follow the following link on the RA website and sell their chametz through that means:




Simply follow the brief instructions, fill out the form, and hit “submit.”  If you have friends or neighbors who do not have a computer, you may fill out the form for them.  You can fill it out multiple times.


Upcoming events and services


Links to all services and events are below.



Kabbalat Shabbat Services

6:15 PM


Shabbat morning services – Shabbat HaGadol

9:15 AM

Please join us as we celebrate Zach Olveira becoming Bar Mitzvah.  Zach has prepared long and hard for this day, and as the first official Zoom b-mitzvah at EMJC, we hope you will support him by tuning in.


Saturday evening


7:25 PM


Sunday morning


8:00 AM



Masorti Conservative Judaism Presents: Global gathering for healing

12 PM (New York)

Featuring David Broza, Rabbi Naomi Levy, Joey Weisenberg, Cantor Azi Schwartz, and others


At a pivotal moment in our people’s history, we will come together in a manner different than ever before. 

Being unable to be together in person has been distressing and challenging for our community, but there is still enormous strength and power in our collective presence…even when that presence exists online. 

Join us as we break down the barriers our geographies can create and strengthen each other through prayers for healing and empowerment.


To log on via Facebook or YouTube Live, click here for links:




Israeli Poetry with Dr. Rachel Korazim

2:00 PM


Some Torah

I wanted to share with you an image that I presented in my remarks last Shabbat.  I began by referring to the mysterious keruvim –  the ‘cherubs,’ that sit atop the cover of the ark of the covenant.  We read about these keruvim at the end of the book of Exodus.  The Torah, the Hebrew Bible, and much of the later literature (Rabbinic, Midrashic, Kabbalistic, etc) are filled with references to angels.  I raised a number of examples of the roles that angels play in our tradition: they can be advisors (like God’s addressing the angels during creation – “Let us make man in our image…”); protectors (like the fiery-sword-wielding cherubs who guard the gates of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve); bearers of good tidings (three angels come to Abraham and Sarah to tell them of the birth of Isaac); guides (according to the tradition, an angel guides Joseph on his way to look for his brothers), and they can thwart evil (like the sword-wielding angel that prevents the pagan prophet Balaam from going to curse Israel).


I’m not someone who takes the idea of angels literally.  I think it’s a lovely literary image, and as characters in our biblical stories, the angels play a crucial role.  But I was reminded of a piece of liturgy that comes from the keriyat shema al hamita – the bed-time recitation of the shema – that did offer me a real image of comfort in these difficult times.  Much of the bed-time shema is concerned with God’s protecting us through the night.  The opening passage reads:


Praised are You, Lord our God, Sovereign of the universe, who brings sleep to my eyes, slumber to my eyelids. May it be Your will, Lord my God and God of my ancestors, that I lie down in peace and that I arise in peace. Let my sleep be undisturbed by troubling thoughts, bad dreams, and wicked schemes. May I have a night of tranquil slumber. May I awaken to the light of a new day, that my eyes may behold the splendor of Your light. Praised are You, Lord whose glory gives light to the entire world.


Following that, in addition to the first paragraph of the shema, are other prayers for protection; the theme of angels is prevalent.  We read of Jacob’s blessing his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe, in which he makes a plea to Hamal’ach ha’goel oti mikol ra – “the angel who redeems me from all harm;” there is another reference from Zecharia to the angel of the Lord who rebukes the Satan, the accusing angel.


Towards the end of the bed-time shema is a short passage that references the four archangels.  The Zohar talks about these particular angels: Micha-el is the protector of Israel, our advocate, who fights Samael, the accusing angel; Gavri-el stands at the left hand of God and is the revealer of visions and a guardian of Israel; Uri-el, is the angel of light and of repentance, the one standing at the gates of Eden with a fiery sword; and Repha-el, according to the book of Enoch, is “set over all the diseases and all the wounds of the children of men.”


Then comes the passage: 


In the name of Adonai the God of Israel:
May the angel Michael be at my right,
and the angel Gabriel be at my left;
and in front of me the angel Uriel,
and behind me the angel Raphael…
and above my head the Shechinah (Divine Presence).


I find this image of being in an angelic bubble to be extraordinarily comforting at this time – it’s been giving me a kind of fortitude whenever I can conjure it – it’s not an illusory image – I have no illusion that I’m not vulnerable to the many things that are preying on me – fears and anxieties, sickness, financial instability. But at the same time, that beautiful notion of being surrounded by forces that are my protectors, that walk with me, that defend me, gives me a sense of control in a time when I have none.  This is certainly what the liturgists who created the bedtime shema had in mind – sleep is a transitional state, somewhere between life and death – a time when we have no real control – it’s dark – evil lurks in the shadows – and the image of angels surrounding us in those hours when we are most vulnerable was meant to prop us up, to let us sleep, undisturbed by troubling thoughts, bad dreams, and wicked schemes, as the opening prayer says.


I offer that image to us all – if it gives us even a moment’s refuge, if it helps us power through a hard day, some bad news, the constricting feeling of confinement, then it will have been of value.  


May the angels go with you through your week, and may the Shechina always be above your head.


Shabbat Shalom – 


Rabbi Sam Levine

Kabbalat Shabbat 6:15 pm


Join Zoom Meeting



By Phone:

        +1 646 558 8656

Meeting ID: 668 013 793

If you need it: Password: 978210


One tap mobile



Shabbat morning service at 9:15 am


Join Zoom Meeting



By Phone:

        +1 646 558 8656

Meeting ID: 515 442 638

If you need it: Password: 736656


One tap mobile



Saturday evening services April 4 at 7:25 


Join Zoom Meeting



By Phone:

        +1 646 558 8656

Meeting ID: 914 922 808

If you need it: Password: 239365


One tap mobile



Sunday morning service at 8:00 am


Join Zoom Meeting



By Phone:     

+1 646 558 8656 

Meeting ID: 849 811 255

If you need it: Password: 121852


One tap mobile



Rachel Korazim’s class (2:00) 


Join Zoom Meeting (this link should take you right to the class):



One tap mobile +16465588656,,611336228# 


By Phone:

+1 646 558 8656

Meeting ID: 611 336 228