Though future bulletins will hold more direct information about preparing for Pesach, the timing of the holiday this year deserves some attention well in advance.
The Festival of Freedom begins on Friday night, April 10, which means that the first seder is on Shabbat. In and of itself, that concurrence is not such big news. It is, instead, the second night which is a problem.
According to Jewish law, the second seder should not begin until dark, no matter which day Pesach occurs. I know that the stricture is not widely observed among our congregants and even among American Jews. Some would suggest a more liberal approach to the starting time for the second seder; the second day, after all, is an extension of the first for historical reasons.
However, when the first day of Pesach occurs on Shabbat, the second day is very different from the first. Shabbat should not be compromised for the sake of the festival. Cooking and other preparations, ordinarily permissible on weekday festivals, are not permitted on Shabbat.
A dozen years or so ago, Congress moved the starting date for daylight savings time to the first weekend in April. As a result, on the second weekend in April – our aforementioned holiday – Shabbat does not begin until 7:22, and does not end until almost 8:30. It is only at that hour that the second seder should begin this year.
Even those of you who conduct an abbreviated seder are bleary-eyed just thinking about how late you will be up that second night. And then, you are supposed to come to the synagogue for services the next morning! How will you ever make it by 9:30?
The answer is, you won't have to get up quite so early. Because of the later starting time for the seder, services will begin at 10:15am on Sunday, April 12 only. Because of the same daylight savings time, we have the flexibility to meet the time obligations of morning worship at what seems like a later hour. (Services will not last two and a half hours, however.)
Matters of kitchen preparation will be forthcoming. But as you begin to think about your preparations for discussion and explanation, consider the story at the beginning of maggid about the five rabbis who discussed the exodus from Egypt at such great length that their students came to them and said, "Masters! The time has arrived for the morning Sh'ma!"
I'll bet it was a Sunday morning.
Due to logistical complications, the first seder anticipated at the synagogue will not take place this year. Organizers are looking to next year.