APRIL 2018 


The Passover Seder is a universal Jewish ritual observed almost identically by Jews around the world, regardless of their affiliation or level or observance. It is the quintessential reliving of the quintessential Jewish experience. Over 500 people attended Community Passover Seders organized by the Jewish Russian Community Centre in 10 locations on March 30 and 31. The Seders provided people with the opportunity to experience a traditional Seder and observe the related mitzvahs and traditions – eating the matzah and recounting the story of the Exodus to our children – in a warm and welcoming environment with family and friends. The insightful guidance and explanations of the presiding rabbis enriched the Seder with added meaning and depth, while the camaraderie and singing enhanced the jubilant holiday atmosphere.


The first days of Passover are connected with remembering (and reliving) the Exodus from Egypt. The last days of Passover are more closely connected with the future redemption and the coming of Moshiach. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, instituted the practice of holding a “Moshiach’s Feast” in the closing hours of the Passover festival. One the years this feast evolved to include not only eating matzah, but also drinking four cups of wine (or grape juice), as in the Passover Seder. All JRCC branches hosted Moshiach feast events on the afternoon/evening of April 7, where dozens of people came to taste the unbounded, optimistic joy associated with the coming of Moshiach.


The long-standing custom of post-Passover challah baking known as Shlissel Challah, was celebrated simultaneously in five JRCC Branches following Passover last month. Though communal Challah baking sessions are organized throughout the year, and are a tremendous source communal blessing for those in need, the post-Passover challah baking is known to be especially auspicious for eliciting healing energy and sustenance. The custom usually involved a key - according to some versions the key is baked into the challah, some pierce the challah with a key, and some bake a challah shaped like a key. They “key” connection is that the channel from which heavenly blessings flow is often referred to as a gate - such as, the gates of mercy, the gates of healing, the gates of forgiveness, the gates of wealth, etc. Since we are asking that the gates of blessings be open, we symbolically connect a key to the custom, as if to say that this challah will serve as a key to open the gates of blessings for the Jewish people.


On April 17, the JRCC marked the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash, Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, with a special farbrengen (Chassidic gathering) at the JRCC@Rockfrod, complete with food, song and words of wisdom. One of the Rebbe Maharash’s best known teachings is the approach of “L’chatchila ariber” – elevating oneself above life’s challenges without hesitation. Indeed, that is one of the cornerstones of what a farbrengen gathering is all about – listening and supporting one another trough the challenges we face in living meaningful, spiritual lives, so that we may transcend those challenges together as we learn and grow from them. Stay tuned for upcoming farbrengens in the community.


As this issue of Exodus goes to print, the GTA Jewish community is gearing up for another amazing Lag B’Omer Family Celebration at Earl Bales Park on May 3. Organized by the JRCC together with Tzivos Hashem Canada and The Interactive Torah Education Centre, and generously sponsored by Natan and Flora Aronshtam, the annual carnival-like Lag B’Omer event draws thousands of people from different communities throughout the GTA and beyond for an afternoon of fun and unity. This year’s event features live music, and illusionist and magician show, rides, and carnival games, along with a children’s rally and parade, a bonfire, and lots of awesome food. by far the greatest aspect of the event is the mere fact that some many Jewish people from different backgrounds celebrated together – a tremendous show of unity that is very much in the spirit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, for whom the day of Lag B’Omer is established.