Thursday, April 2, 2020

My Solitary Seder 2020

Solitary Seder Jewish Journaling in 5780 (2020)
Last year when I started this blog, little did I know that people all over the world would be having a Solitary Seder in 2020. Nobody could even imagine a global pandemic and its many consequences.

Today we do not have to use our imaginations. We are experiencing many horrifying aspects of the pandemic. In the midst of our collective horror, sorrow, grief and loss, here we are in the week before Pesach 5780. 

We are commemorating our freedom from slavery after plagues struck Pharoah and the entire Egyptian culture, as we read in Torah, and as we have rehearsed the steps in order (the word Seder means Order in Hebrew) annually since then.

The Jewish people, and in fact all people who choose to acknowledge Pesach, will be commemorating historic plagues during a current plague.

What is far more important than the plague is the freedom. The Exodus story is really about freedom, not about the plagues. The horror, sorrow, grief and loss in the entire Egyptian culture 3400 - 3500 years ago and our losses now are preliminary to Pesach. 

The Pesach seder is not merely a story or ritual to remind us of our past. The seder is an expression of our confident expectation of freedom from slavery, this night and in the future. 

Embodying our freedom is what we are doing, alone at home this year. No big family, congregational or local gatherings. 

It might seem ironic or backwards. Being stuck at home alone might not seem like a picturesque place to celebrate freedom.

I am here to say that's exactly how it is unfolding in my life. What I did last year before, during and after Pesach is freedom unfolding in my real, tangible, human life. Pesach is real. My Solitary Seder is working for me, and it will work for me again this year, as it will for other people all over Planet Earth who choose their freedom.


Part of the fun of journaling this year is finding and trying Pesach recipes that don't have to please anybody else. Yes! I can selfishly indulge in spicy food I love. 

Getting a new home in Hot Springs, AR right before national travel restrictions stopped my progress of packing and moving, I don't have my blender or food processor with me. So, today I concocted what I call Chunky Hummus. If we can do it with peanut butter, why not with chickpeas flavored by tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and cilantro? 

Nothing is stopping us... we can do it! Here is my Chunky Hummus today, my practice batch:
Solitary Seder Chunky Hummus
During this pandemic affecting Pesach prep, our seders and our eight days of Pesach, the Rabbinical Assembly has relaxed some of the usual restrictions on kosher food appropriate for Pesach. Very simply, it means rice, beans and corn may be consumed. Those three food categories are called "kitniyot" as described below.

Here is one section from their the Rabbinical Assembly website:

While the CJLS formally permitted Ashkenazim (who choose) to consume kitniyot in 2015, due to the unprecedented disruptions in the food supply, the CJLS encourages everyone to consider putting aside the Ashkenazic custom of eschewing legumes (beans and lentils) corn and rice, if only for Passover 5780 (2020).


Jumping from beans to prayer... As it turns out, all my printed prayer books and huge multi-volume Jewish Bibles are still in storage, too. They are packed and ready to move, but not yet here in Arkansas with me.

What I have, however, are my precious altered-book prayer books I made myself. Here's a photo of one of them, with pages I printed from the generous and lovely Kakatuv website, with permission from Pam, the webmaster. 

Solitary Seder Altered Jewish Prayer Book
The Hebrew, her transliterations and the English translations appear together, line by line, making it very easy to read with the sound of Hebrew and understanding in English. This level of speaking and understanding Hebrew prayer is working for me right now, thanks to Pam's generous work and over 15 years of consistent web hosting.

See more of my altered books and junk journals at  I can truly say that journaling with pen, paper, scissors, paste, markers and paint is my most powerful, prayerful activity in life. I started junk journaling in mid-2019, and I'll never be the same!

Journaling in words and in art gives my soul expression in these difficult and confusing times. Junk journaling sets my soul free.



Having studied with Rabbi Akiva Tatz through Jewish Workshops, I received an email invite for a special class today. It was mind-boggling because it connected the purpose of Pesach to plagues.

Here are some of my notes for our further thought and sincere reflection. They offer a timely, life-altering, mystical perspective on the traditional Jewish holiday of Passover and the plague in the world today:

* Humans are called "speaking beings."
* In Torah, the world was created with speech.
* Freedom of speech is the real freedom of the Exodus from Egypt. Freedom to speak in prayer and worship.
* There were 10 utterances that created the world, and later, 10 commandments at Mount Sinai. In between, there were 10 plagues.
* Those 10 plagues were the miracles that we actually commemorate on Passover, and what we are called to commemorate today. We have another plague today.
* The plagues are what converted the natural to the supernatural. The transition to belief in the natural world to belief in the one God happened through miraculous plagues.
* Passover is Pesach in Hebrew. Pesach means "the mouth speaks."
* Speech is the connection between the inner world and the outer world within each of us. We speak what is on the inside of us.
* The faculty of speech reflects the inner chamber of the heart and it can heal our heart and our world if we will only speak correctly.
* Pure speech opens up the channel of healing from the inner to the outer, from the natural world to the spiritual world. 
* Do the Pesach seder correctly (tell the Exodus story, including the plagues) and it's the cure for the plague today. 
* Doing the seder correctly means making sure to tell the children and the adults, maybe this year telling only ourselves, that the Exodus is really about the miracles. Rambam told us years ago that the miracles are what we should recall, the miracles of the plagues.
* Look at Exodus 9:1 to see that we were given, we are given and we will be given our freedom to worship God. 
* We are called to talk about exiting the natural and entering the supernatural realm of God, leaving the finite and entering the infinite.
* This is the real transition that is the true Exodus of the Jewish people for all time. We speak our prayers out loud. Our prayers are our worship. We were set free to speak our worship and our speech heals the world.
* Our words of prayer can heal the world now, this Pesach.

Solitary Seder To Infinity and Beyond!


For the first time, this year I researched and came to understand the meaning of Shabbat HaGadol, the Shabbat before Pesach.

A short summary is this - Shabbat HaGadol means The Great Shabbat. Each year it is the Shabbat before Pesach. It is the Shabbat during the same time period when the Israelites in the time of the Exodus were preparing by doing what God told them to do. They were obeying, even though they did not have anything in their awareness or their history to help them understand the specific instructions.  They were doing it anyway.

Solitary Seder Shabbat HaGadol 5780 (2020)

This is an example of what we're called to do today. We are called to obey, even though we have nothing in our awareness or our history to help us understand.

We are called to humble ourselves before our Almighty God, and to search our hearts and souls for whatever is in the way of genuine humility. That's it. It looks different for each of us, but we are heading toward the same ultimate goal - humility before our God.

Who or what have I crowned as King (corona) in this life? Money? Family? Career? Art? I am looking for my answer and asking for God's help. 

Right now, in this time before Pesach, we are called to look for the people or things we have crowned as King instead of God. 

Shabbat HaGadol helped propel me into and through this seach for chametz (leavening) inside me. What a privilege


What a thrill to have the Super Pink Moon, the full moon on April 7-8, 2020 shine in my bedroom window and wake me up. I awoke to the bright moonlight streaming in the window, directly on my face. That's a Pesach experience never to be forgotten!

Super Pink Moon Solitary Seder Pesach 2020


I love radishes, so it was truly a thrill to hear David Soloman talk about using a radish on the seder plate. And then I found this encouragement on as well:

The word “radical” comes from the Latin word, radix, for “root.” Etymologically, the suggestion is that for an idea, person, or thing to be “radical,” it must have the effect of uprooting the status quo altogether, therefore changing it fully. 
This same Latin root gives us the word “radish,” which of course is a literal root.
The radish on our Seder plate tonight symbolizes our radical potential as Jews to change the world. During this Seder, we have advanced the millennia-old story of our liberation from Egypt. But we have also discussed, intermittently through the evening, the ways in which our Jewishness can inspire us to change the status quo...  [prayer before eating the radish at seder]
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha'olam borei p'ri ha'adamah. 

Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the ground. 

Solitary Seder Radish For Seder Plate


This year, 5780/2020 the experience of Pesach has been significantly heightened for me. I made two Solitary Seders, on the first and second nights of Passover, and I'm looking forward to the Moshiach Meal on the eighth day, the final day of the eight-day holiday. Learning about the splitting of the Red Sea on the seventh day is also happening here.

What's different than previous years? I am alone, I read  more prayer in the 15 steps of the seder each of the first two nights, I am counting the omer each night after 8:00 p.m. since then and I will be making the Moshiach Meal as it was begun by the Baal Shem Tov, and sometimes called The Third Seder. 

The point of making another seder at the end of the final day of Pesach is to celebrate our redemption in the future, mirroring the first two days of Pesach when we celebrate our redemption in the past.

Earlier on the eighth day, very early in the morning of the final day of Pesach, everywhere but Israel which celebrates seven days only, it is customary to read Shirat Hayam - The Song of the Sea near a body of water. Here I am reading and praying, surrounded by the waters of Lake Hamilton on three sides of my new home!

Pesach will never be the same for me after my Solitary Seders this year, 5780/2020. 

Solitary Seder Elements 5780/2020

Monday, April 22, 2019

First Night Seder 4/19/19

Solitary Seder Jewish Journaling 5779 (2019)
Set in motion prior to my Solitary Seder (for two) this year, much learning from Rabbi Akiva Tatz and Rabbi Zushe Winner continues throughout the week. In two video classes, about one hour from each, there is so much to learn it could take me several Pesach weeks to absorb. 

My new favorite machine-made matzos from Streits! They are thin and crispy, making a little mess whenever I eat them. And I can't wait to eat them every day this Passover!

I had already created this graphic for Ner Echad's page on Facebook, not knowing my relationship with matzah would change forever after listening to R' Winner's talk, over and over:

I'd say the most personally significant portion of R' Winner's talk called The Kabbalah of Pesach are captured in the following quotes and screenshots:

* We want to be a vessel to absorb Hashem's blessings.

* What is the action? Be a matzah. Flatten your past and go forward. You don't have to understand it completely.

* The faith of a child is trust in his father. It is very simple. He's just an infant and he knows to cry "Abba."

* The first step is very simple: Recognize Hashem. Get our of your own mishigas - call Abba. Say, "Hashem, my Father, my God." It is very simple. It doesn't have to be deep philosophy. 

*That is the essential connection. And that is really our faith, the essential connection. And matzah makes that essential connection.

Rabbi Winner used the round, concave, shmurah matzahs to demonstrate his point. 

Rabbi Winner sent me looking for translations of his Hebrew words because I needed more understanding of his explanation about first becoming a vessel, and then becoming a moving vehicle. 

Thanks to Steve Morse's one-step translator I enhanced the following notes from the same video:

* Kaf Lamed Yud spells Kaylee which means, "vessel." First, be a vessel. Then, spelled backwards -

* Yud Lamed Kaf spells Yaylech which means, "to walk, go." That means moving forward on our own.

First, be a vessel and then become a vehicle and MOVE. We need first to hold, then to move from holding to moving forward.

Transitioning from vessel to vehicle is what we do when we absorb our education and then go out and apply it. 

Rabbi Winner said, "What is our whole purpose to be in this world? To be a mahalek [Mem Hey Lamed, meaning to move, step, journey, distance, manner, mood]. It's not enough to be a Kaylee, you have to also be a Yaylech... The ultimate goal is to be a Yaylech, to be a mahalek, to move forward in your life."

This is part of my Pesach learning this year, 5779. I am certain it will take me at least until the High Holy Days in 2019 to unpack it all. 

In addition, Rabbi Tatz gave me great food for thought with the following words, which I heard when I was driving home from a chiropractic treatment for a sore neck!!! This is the incredible, undeniable truth. I have had a stiff neck during Passover this year, requiring not one but two visits to the chiropractor. It cannot be a coincidence...

He said, in a video provided by Jewish Workshops, "The mouth is the organ of connection. It begins in the neck and it comes out of the mouth. Those are the structures of connection. 

So Pesach is the time when speech is limited [for slaves]. Pesach means, "the mouth speaks." The Rambam says the the thing you talk about is miracles. 

We're not talking about a redemption from one place to another, we're talking about a redemption from the natural to the miraculous. We're talking about a transcendence that cannot be put into words...

We're talking about the redeeming of speech, giving voice to the soul...

For everything you speak in this world there must be far more inside [of you]."

I will be adding to this blog because some of my Pesach experiences are still unfolding as the holiday comes to an end, and there is, indeed, far more inside of me to share.

Early on 4/20/19, first day of Passover 2019, looking at the full moon in the western sky from our yard in North Texas.

This is year I have not counted the Omer each day. But I just heard Rabbi Labinsky describe the Omer in a way that makes me much more interested in the 49-day practice. And so far, I've only heard his introduction!