Our Clergy’s Thursday Thoughts

The gift that keeps on giving

Posted on June 10, 2024

By Hazzan Jenna Greenberg.

Parashat Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbat before Shavuot, as it was this year. The sages connect these because Bamidbar literally means “in the wilderness.” And as we know, our ancestors wandered through the wilderness on their journey, from entering the land of Cana’an as a newly freed people, to Har Sinai, where Moshe revealed God’s Torah to them.

Parashat Naso, this week’s portion, therefore usually is read on the Shabbat following Shavuot, as it is this year. One of the greatest highlights of Naso is the priestly blessing, Birkat Kohanim. Also known as the threefold blessing, this ancient blessing was recited by the kohanim twice a day in the Beit haMikdash in Jerusalem while standing on a special platform known as a duchan…hence the origins of this practice being referred to as “duchening.”

From Num. 6:24-26, this ancient blessing reads as follows: 

The LORD bless you and protect you!

The LORD deal kindly and graciously with you!

The LORD bestow God’s favor upon you and grant you peace!

These holy words fall at the very center of the longest parasha in the Torah, Naso. Within the three lines, we find 6 powerful requests of God upon us: to be blessed; to be protected; to deal with us kindly; and graciously; to be bestowed with God’s favor; to be granted with peace.

When reflecting on the power of these holy words, the link that I see between Shavuot and Naso is our desire to help create the ideal holy relationship with God. After all, Shavuot celebrates the brit, the covenant, between God and the B’nai Israel. We are familiar with the golden rule from the holiness code in Vayikra: V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha; love your neighbor as yourself. In a way, this priestly blessing from our parasha is in partnership with this biblical understanding of how we should act in the world, to be holy, to bring more holiness to the world through our human interactions. We hope that, by trying our best to love ourselves and others, God will grant us these gifts outlined in this ancient blessing.

The golden rule is at the center of Vayikra, right in the middle of the Torah.

The priestly blessing falls in the very middle of Naso.

The Torah is ideally at the heart of our lives. 

As we journey from Shavuot to Naso this week, may we be reminded of the strength of God’s words in our lives, of the centrality of the gift of the Torah, the gift that keeps on giving. May our actions and the blessings within these five holy books bring us blessing, protection, kindness, graciousness, divine love, and peace.

Understanding Hosea: God’s Anger and Love in the Face of Betrayal

Posted on June 6, 2024

By Hazzan Jacob Sandler.

The Haftarah for Bamidbar comes to us from Hosea. Hosea prophesied in the 8th century BCE in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah and Amos in Judah. Similar to his predecessor in the North, Elijah, Hosea was deeply disturbed by the worship of Canaanite gods, like Baal. 

Elijah, we may recall, challenged King Ahab and the prophets of Baal and won over the people. But let’s face it: sometimes being Jewish can be hard and other practices can look so enticing…

Who among us hasn’t felt the FOMO (fear of missing out) of an amazing concert on a Friday night, or smelled crispy bacon and wondered if it was as good as the hype? Or maybe you were one of those kids who envied the Xbox your friend got for Christmas, while you got 8 presents each ⅛ the cost — a pair of socks, or a board game you had to share with your siblings… Perhaps you’ve found that eastern meditation and yoga are more spiritually exciting than your last Kol Nidrei experience. Or in recent months, it might just feel like being Jewish comes at such a high cost. 

But Hosea presents a bold, challenging, yet beautiful metaphor. The inspiration for Rabbinic interpretation of Song of Songs, is Hosea’s portrayal of God as a husband to the People of Israel, God’s consecrated wife. While Song of Songs reveals the young, new love between God and the Jews, Hosea is charged to call out the Israelites for their Idolatry, which is likened to adultery. 

But it’s a powerful image. The Torah is a ketubah – a written covenant and the ultimate expression of God’s ahava rabah/ahavat olam – God’s eternal great love for us. Our love languages are words of praise – prayer, psalms, hymns, quality time – observing Shabbat and festivals, exchanging gifts – korbanot from us, the new grain and oil from God, acts of service – the mitzvot and God’s protection, and perhaps the physical touch of tzitzit to our lips and a tallit around our shoulders like a kiss and hug – the warm embrace of God whose love is represented by the Torah and mitzvot symbolized in that very tallit. 

It’s so romantic. But Hosea’s prophecy is pointed, harsh and critical. The Israelites are called a harlot, “because she thought, ‘I will go after my lovers, who supply my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink” (Hosea 2:7). And putting aside the overt anthropomorphization that is required for the character of God to function, God is distraught. To be betrayed in this way by God’s own beloved. What would any person feel? Unfortunately I know people who have been cheated on in this way. Some report deep anger, resentment and pain. Their emotions reflected in God’s own response: “I will hedge up her roads with thorns and raise walls against her, and she shall not find her paths.”(Hosea 2:8) or “I will take back My new grain in its time and My new wine in its season, and I will snatch away My wool and My linen that serve to cover her nakedness.” (Hosea 2:11) God is like the betrayed who kicks the unfaithful partner out of the house, and takes back his sweatshirt and that tupperware he lent her. Some, in their anger, will lash out and hope that she and her lover will be punished. “And I will end all her rejoicing: Her festivals, new moons and sabbaths–all her festive seasons.” (Hosea 2:13).

But I’ve also known those who, despite this betrayal, remain in touch with the deep love which is the foundation of the deep pain. They’ve expressed a desire to work through the infidelity, to understand what it was about their relationship which was so broken it could result in such an act. They’ve sought help to move past this painful moment, because after all, they still love their partner. If their partner can renew the covenant of their love, and show real repentance, perhaps the betrayed can still take back their lover. 

And Hosea expresses this hope too, on behalf of God to the people. God seeks to be a better partner as in Hosea 2:16-17, “I will speak to her tenderly. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a plowland of hope.” Poetically, God says, “You will call [Me] Ishi (my husband), and no more will you call Me Baali (my master)” Baali also is a play on the name Baal of the Canaanite god, so it works on a lot of levels. 

God promises to take back the people, in love, saying, “I will espouse you forever; I will espouse you with righteousness and justice, and with goodness and mercy. And I will espouse you with faithfulness; then you shall be devoted to Hashem.” (Hosea 2:21-22).

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י לְעוֹלָ֑ם וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִי֙ בְּצֶ֣דֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּ֔ט וּבְחֶ֖סֶד וּֽבְרַחֲמִֽים׃

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י בֶּאֱמוּנָ֑ה וְיָדַ֖עַתְּ אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה׃

Those last two verses of our haftarah we say as we wrap the tefillin around our fingers, like a wedding ring between us and God. The dowry of our new relationship is not financial but paid in TzedekMishpatChesed and Rachamim – righteousness, justice, loving kindness and mercy. And with faithfulness, emunah. Then you shall be ‘devoted’ – literally V’yada’at – to know Hashem, and yes this can be taken in the biblical sense. 

Our haftarah reminds us that our practices, our traditions, rites and rituals are not to be spurned. We should learn from other cultures and be worldly people, and yet we should always remember who we are, as Jews, and our unique relationship as partners with God in making this world the best it can be. That is a responsibility and a privilege. And when we make mistakes, as we all will, we can remember that God will always take us back in love, when we strive to be our best selves in relation to God, God’s creations, and each other. 

Holiness wherever you go

Posted on May 29, 2024

By Hazzan Jenna Greenberg.

Parashat Behukotai begins with the phrase “If you walk in my laws…” 

A midrash from Vayikra Rabbah connects these words to a place in TaNaKh where King David describes walking to God: “‘If you walk in My laws’ (Lev. 26:3)–this is connected to what is written: “I have thought about my paths, and returned my feet to Your decrees’ (Psalms 119:53). David said: ‘Ribono shel Olam, every day I would plan my route and say: I am going to this place or to that home. But then my feet would bring me to a beit knesset, synagogue or a beit midrash, a study hall.’” 

According to this midrash, whenever King David laced up his sandals and tried to walk anywhere, his feet would take him to a holy place.

The Sefat Emet gives a different explanation of this midrash. He says that King David didn’t really wind up in a beit knesset or beit midrash every time he headed out for a walk. Rather, his feet took him to all sorts of places, but he was always able to find something holy to do in these places.

As incredible as it is to go to holy places, to discover holiness in places you might otherwise not expect it, is almost more awe inspiring. We all have the ability to bring holiness out into the world wherever we go.

To merge these two explanations into one, I was privileged to have the experience of journeying to the annual Cantors Assembly convention last week. While I anticipated it being a holy experience, I did not experience holiness the moment I entered the lovely but secular space of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Yet the moment I started seeing, singing and learning with colleagues and friends, I began to feel the sacredness of the space in which we were in…and not just because one of the conference rooms was called St Croix!

We all have the potential to bring the holiness we have within each of us into the places we enter throughout our lives. Whether that means having sacred moments in everyday spaces or coming to Beth El to experience our kehila kedosha, holy community, we all have the potential to walk, drive, fly, journey into the world, adding holiness wherever we go.

Parashat Behar – Why Do We Count So Much?

Posted on May 23, 2024

By Rabbi Alex Freedman.

This week’s Torah reading begins with lots of counting. Every week we count 6 days of work and then rest on the 7th, Shabbat. Parashat Behar goes further to say that in the land of Israel, we are to count 6 years of working the land and selling its crops. But the seventh year shall be one of rest for the land – a Shabbat, as it were – in which everyone may eat whatever the land produces. 

The Torah goes further when it says we must count 7 weeks of years – 49 years – and the next one, 50, is a special Jubilee Year. It is a year of freedom throughout Israel, when slaves go free and property is returned to its original owner. In other words, it’s a giant reset.

I noticed this year that we read these verses during the Omer, the 7-week period when we count the 49 days between the second night of Passover and the beginning of Shavuot. Put these together, and we need several clocks to keep all of these concentric circles going. Why is the Torah so concerned with counting days, weeks, years, and groups of years? 

Judaism seeks to maximize each day. It is fully aware that every day is a gift, every day precious. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was on to this when he opened his classic book “The Sabbath”: 

Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time. Unlike the space-minded man to whom time is unvaried, iterative, homogeneous, to whom all hours are alike, quality-less, empty shells, the Bible senses the diversified character of time. There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious.

It’s human nature to sometimes go through a pattern where the days run together and are hard to discern. Challenging though it may be, we must do our best to find differences between the days, both in what happens to us and how we respond. Judaism emphasizes personal growth, and growth means being at different places at different times, not being static or “same old, same old.” As Rabbi Marc Angel wrote: “We count our days to make our days count.”



Pride in Israel on Yom Haatzmaut

Posted on May 16, 2024

By Rabbi Michael Schwab.

As you likely recognize, this year has been the toughest year in Israel’s history since 1973, the year of the Yom Kippur War.  And thus it has been one of the toughest years for the Jewish people as a whole.  In fact, Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), commemorated on Sunday night and Mondaywas the most sad and poignant Israeli Memorial Day that I can remember experiencing.  At Beth El, we were privileged to have the young Israeli volunteers in the Shinshin program organize a powerful service that honored the thousands who died this year from terror or in battle.  Often during that service, tears fell from my eyes as I contemplated the devastating loss to so many Israeli families.  

And then, as Israeli tradition dictates each year, we began the celebration of Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut.  From the depths of sadness and contemplation of loss, we attempted to fill ourselves with gratitude and celebrate the amazing state which those for whom we just mourned, fought to create and preserve.  We celebrated Israeli culture through food, song and dance.  Together we brought joyous awareness to what a blessing the State of Israel is for us as a people and as individual Jews.  

And in the midst of all of the hatred and anger directed at Israel, Israelis and sometimes Jews in general, on Tuesday many of us in the Jewish community gathered together at Daley Plaza to participate in a public celebration of Israel highlighted by raising the Israeli flag alongside the flag of the United States and the City of Chicago in the middle of downtown.  The mood was both upbeat and serious as we celebrated Israel and Jewish life while denouncing Anti-Semitism, irresponsible, inaccurate and hateful criticism of Israel, as well as demanded that the world do everything it can to bring the hostages home.  Beth El brought two full buses of congregants to the rally and many more of our community members met us there.  It was a proud and wonderful moment.  

I am so blessed to be the Rabbi of this special and outstanding congregation.  I pray that Israel celebrates 76 more years and beyond.  Am Yisrael Chai!

“Do we believe in Ghosts?”

Posted on May 9, 2024

By Hazzan Jacob Sandler.

In this week’s parasha, Kedoshim, there are quite a few eye-catching moments but none quite so jarring as the last verse (Lev 20:27):

“A man or a woman who has a ghost or a familiar spirit shall be put to death; they shall be pelted with stones–their bloodguilt shall be upon them.”

We can discuss offline whether we feel capital punishment is ever appropriate, but I’m more intrigued by the Torah’s mention of those people who interact with ghosts and spirits. Surprisingly this is not the only mention of “Ovot” (ghosts) and “Yidoni-im” (familiar spirits) and the Torah is never particularly fond of those people who seek them out. It makes sense, on the surface, as God doesn’t want us consorting with other spiritual powers and forces which might lead us astray or else tempt us to idolatry. And perhaps in biblical times, it shouldn’t be so shocking that this was part of the wider cultural context. Soothsayers, diviners, sorcerers and necromancers were simply part of their lived reality. 

I’m reminded of an anecdote from my high school days. A kid in my class liked to go to abandoned buildings and hunt ghosts in his free time. I had the same reaction — “is this kid nuts? Ghosts aren’t real! Paranormal activity is just entertainment.” But I was fascinated by this particular classmate because his imagination rivaled mine and perhaps surpassed it. I wanted to see what was really going on, so when he invited me to tag along on a ghost hunting excursion in our hometown, I asked my mom if I could go. She said no (‘cause she’s a good mom) but not for the reasons I would’ve thought.

I assumed that skulking around abandoned buildings with a classmate who believed in ghosts was dangerous, or at least, irresponsible. However, my mother instead insisted, “you don’t want to get involved with spirits — they’re often more dangerous than friendly, and once you get one attached to you, it could be really difficult to get rid of it. Don’t go looking for trouble.” I was shocked. I took a beat and asked hesitantly, “Do we believe in ghosts in this family?” and she said, “oh yeah, totally! Spirits are no different than souls except that they got stuck here.” (Note: I’m paraphrasing from my memory – these are not direct quotes).

Putting aside the various reactions one might have to that discovery, my mom was intuitively in line with our parashah. Even today, I would suggest steering clear of psychics, astrologers and other magical people when seeking help or comfort — not only because their power is limited at best, but because part of what it means to be holy is that God is our go-to spiritual power. And how lucky are we?! We’re on a first-name basis with the Creator of the universe! This is what the Torah states just prior in Leviticus 20:26: “You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine.” Our relationship with God, as Jews, is unique and special. The Torah doesn’t deny that other means of spirituality exist, it acknowledges that they are out there, and may even seem compelling. To be a holy people means that we seek to emulate God’s own holiness, walking, as best we can, the path God set before us. It means accepting our heritage with pride and dedication — its lessons and values and the commandments of the Torah.

Letter to the Editor

Posted on May 1, 2024

By Rabbi Alex Freedman.

Over Passover, the Chicago Tribune published an opinion essay by Jill Gurvey with the title: “I am finally questioning the narrative about Jewish inheritance.” This writer describes how, although she was raised in the Jewish community to be a Zionist, the war in Gaza has caused her to see things in the complete opposite light now. She says: “And yet, many in the Jewish community are supportive of Israel’s assault on Gaza and have rationalized it as legitimate self-defense. How?” 

I actually think that’s an important question for Zionists to answer, because the answer is compelling and important to keep at the forefront. In response, I wrote a letter to the editor today, which may or may not be published. But I wish to share with you because I think the message is crucial for all of us. (And I encourage you to also submit your own letters to the editor whenever an essay shakes you).

I intentionally kept my response brief, as I believe shorter letters have a higher likelihood of being published and then being read. 

I noticed that Gurvey’s essay was published during Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom. And that informs my direct answer to her direct question.

1. Israel must fight to liberate the 133 hostages who are still being held captive in Gaza after 200+ days. 

2. Israel must defeat the Hamas terrorists in order to ensure that Israelis live freely and safely as Jews (and other faiths) in their ancestral homeland. 

3. Israel must be victorious against Hamas to liberate Palestinians from their tyrannical government that repeatedly puts their own citizens in harm’s way. Palestinians too deserve leaders who seek to build a state alongside Israel instead of trying to destroying it.

After writing this note, I was intrigued by how Passover’s theme of freedom was at the core of my response. Indeed, the Passover story is far too foundational to be discussed for only one week in the spring. Its lessons are true and enduring all year long for every generation. Without question, that too is a gift of our wonderful Jewish inheritance.

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood…

Posted on April 25, 2024

On the Shabbat of Pesach, we read from Megillat Shir haShirim, Song of Songs. From the collection of Ketuvim in our final section of the TaNaKh, this megillah is a romantic biblical poem that compares young love to gazelles frolicking in the field. So why is it read on the holiday of liberation? What is the connection between Pesach and Shir haShirim?

The other Megillot that we read on their various holidays have a very clear connection to the theme of those festivals. When it comes to Song of Songs, the connection is not quite as obvious. This megillah is traditionally understood to symbolize the love between God and the Jewish people. Passover is a celebration of the freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.

As with so much of Jewish tradition, there are several explanations to connect these two things:

  1. Spring is the season in which both Pesach and Shir haShirim fall. The text of this megillah paints that seasonal connection very clearly, with animals prancing across a pastoral landscape, flowers and fruits blossoming, and so many more vernal scenes.
  2. Song of Songs is a metaphor for divine love. As Rachel Scheinerman writes: “The saga of the Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent revelation at Mount Sinai is reminiscent of a larger-than-life love affair, complete with forced separation at the hands of a villain (Pharaoh), gallant rescue (the Exodus) and eventual marriage (entering into the covenant at Sinai).”
  3. Shir haShirim is seen as a midrash on the Exodus story, and even perhaps on the entire book of Exodus. With many references to apple trees in Song of Songs, there are some beautiful midrashim on this theme. Specifically, one that drew my attention is the following from Shir haShirim Rabbah: Rabbi Azaria points out that an apple tree takes 50 days to ripen — just as the Israelites received the Torah 50 days after they left Egypt.

May this spring festival, Chag haAviv, help to ripen our souls throughout these next seven weeks. And let us remember the words of Shir haShirim as a metaphor for our individual and communal relationship with the divine.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!


Reflecting on the Total Solar Eclipse

Posted on April 18, 2024

By Hazzan Jacob Sandler.

10 days ago, I had the pleasure of taking an early bus to Indianapolis to experience the Total Solar Eclipse in its full grandeur. I’ve always enjoyed stargazing, taking in the awesomeness of the universe and allowing the vastness of space to remind me of my relative smallness. It’s so fun to have those deep meaningful conversations (DMCs) at camp, where the starry sky is so unpolluted by city lights. But beyond that, I’m not usually a big astronomy nerd. I don’t go out with a telescope to see nearby planets and have no aspirations of being in astronaut. But on a whim, I decided to go check out the eclipse anyway.

I’m a pretty spiritual guy, and I had been speculating about what Jewish thought might say about the Eclipse. I had used my own mystical imagination and crafted a beautiful image of the moon passing in front of the sun, but if I didn’t know that I might see the 2-dimensional version as a unification of sorts. The moon represents the divine feminine – the Shechinah, receiving and reflecting the light of God, guiding the Jewish people and our calendar. The sun represents the divine masculine – Tiferet or the name YHVH – an aspect of God which is brilliant and gives light to the world. By bringing these two bodies in the sky together, we’d see a divine union of Tiferet and Shechina – similar to the metaphor of Lecha Dodi on Friday night which serves to bring together the Divine masculine and feminine in a marital unity. I had imagined that the sun rays peaking out from behind the moon’s shadow would appear to the ancient mystic as a crown of glory on the head of the Divine presence. I was so excited.

Then, on the bus, I did some digging. What blessing should I say? What do the sages have to say on this matter? 

It turns out most of the ancient world agreed that a night sky in the middle of the day was a bad omen. The Rabbis of the Talmud in Sukkah 29a discuss them.

Some say if the sun is eclipsed it’s a bad omen for non-Jews who use a solar calendar. If the moon is eclipsed it’s a bad omen for Jews who use the lunar calendar. Some say depending on the color it could mean war is coming or famine or both. An eerie thought given that we are already experiencing a war, but more eerie given Iran’s latest attack. But do I really believe that a predictable eclipse could be a sign of something I presume to be controllable by humankind? A thursday thought is no place to be untangling the issue of free-will or determinism, but it’s just a thought. 

The rabbis taught that the eclipse of the sun occurs on account of four things, On account of an Av Bet Din who died and was not eulogized properly [and the eclipse is a eulogy from Heaven]; on account of a betrothed young girl who cried out in the city [that she was being raped] and there was none to save her; on account of sodomy, and on account of two brothers whose blood was shed at the same time. 

Again, it’s a predictable scientific phenomenon, and therefore, the eclipse of the sun occurs on account of one thing — timing. But the image of the young girl screaming with no one to save her, is echoed in the screams of the hostages and those fighting to save them. And the image of two brothers whose blood was shed as one is reflection of the deep intimate connection that Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims and Christians, descendants of Issac and Jacob, or Ishmael or Esau… we’re all brothers. And if that’s not enough, we’re taught that Adam was the single ancestor to humanity so that no one can claim, “my ancestor was greater than your ancestor” which is to say, that the eclipse could be a reminder of God’s sullenness that we humans continue to spill the blood of our brothers.

Whether or not we modern scientifically educated Jews can ascribe such superstitious meaning to the Eclipse is debatable, but I do believe that as Jews, we can elevate even the most mundane activities to the realm of the holy through mindful awareness, gratitude and intention. So, we can see the eclipse as a celestial representation of what’s possible in God’s awesome natural world. Or, we can see the eclipse as an unsettling reminder that there’s work to do to make the world one of light – uninterrupted by momentary darkness. Because those 4 minutes in the sky were really cool, but these dark times in our world are indeed as frightening as an eclipse might have been in the ancient world. 

Blessed is the one whose strength and power fill the world, who made the works of creation.
Baruch SheCocho UGevurato Maaleh Olam v’Oseh Maaseh Beresheet.

After October 7th, Passover Should be Different This Year

Posted on April 11, 2024

By Rabbi Alex Freedman.

We all know from life experience that every big event requires preparation. Tests require study beforehand; interviews required practice in advance; and everyone who had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah knows that they can’t just wing it.

We all know this, and though it is tempting to procrastinate, we all accept this.

I want to suggest that the Passover Seder is truly an important event, and it too necessitates preparation. The Passover meal on the first and second nights is enjoyable because of who is around the table. But its purpose is essential: to have us imagine ourselves as slaves and then free people in the same night; and to identify who is not free in our own day, and what steps we must take to liberate them fully. This conversation does not merely happen on its own, but it must be prepared in advance. The Seder leader has a big responsibility in planning what parts of the Haggadah to lead, what pieces should be shared that are not part of the Haggadah script, and how to encourage others to participate in a meaningful way. This is not easy, and like other challenging tasks, advanced preparation raises the likelihood of success in the moment. 

“In every generation, each person must see themselves as if they personally left Egypt.” So we sing in the Haggadah. Almost always, we enter the Seder night from a place of freedom. We American Jews are fully free in our homeland, so the challenge is to imagine what it means to be not free. But this year is different because of October 7th. This year all Jews feel less secure than a year ago. This year there are over 100 Israelis who are being held hostage for the past 6 months and on Seder night. For the first time, it is frighteningly easy to feel we are not fully free. So long as the captives are being held in Gaza, none of us is fully free. 

In planning the Seder this year, please raise the topic of October 7th and the hostages. This year around the world, Jews are not slaves to Pharaoh, but we are not completely free, and we must talk about that. This year the place of the Jews in the world is different from every other year, and the Seder should reflect this: in conversation, in ritual (perhaps an empty chair for the hostages), and in tone. 

The Seder concludes “Next year in Jerusalem.” May all the hostages be returned home soon so Jerusalem and Jews worldwide can be whole once again.