This Shabbat, Shabbat Hachodesh, the Maftir reading (Exodus 12:1-20) recounts the instructions from G-d to the Israelites on the eve of yetziyat mitzrayim (leaving Egypt). This huge transition from slavery to freedom is accompanied by anticipation and anxiety for the Israelites as they are about to set off as a free people for the first time in hundreds of years. Following the account of what the Rabbis call “pesach mitzrayim" (literally: the Egyptian Passover), the reading goes on to describe Pesach as we know it today – a time in which we remember the exodus from Egypt and the many generations that came before us. The Torah reading serves as a wake up call for communities across the world that Passover is quickly approaching and preparations for the holiday must begin. This call may induce feelings similar to those of the Israelites. We are filled with excitement and anticipation for the holiday that is on its way, accompanied by some anxiety about all that needs to be done in the coming weeks.

Last year at this time, the weeks leading up to Passover were full of uneasy feelings for me. I spent the semester studying abroad in Copenhagen and would be heading to Milan on a class trip during the first days of Passover. Though I was excited to spend time in Italy, I became more and more nervous as the trip approached about how I would celebrate Passover in a foreign country (especially one filled with so much enticing chametz). I contacted a Rabbi in Milan who was able to set me up with a community Seder to attend.

When I arrived at the Seder the Italian Haggadot and foreign language surrounding me were overwhelming. I began to feel homesick knowing that my family and community were so far away. This feeling began to dissipate as soon as the Seder started. I was relieved to hear Hebrew and familiar tunes and was in awe of how quickly I felt connected to this unfamiliar Jewish community. Despite being thousands of miles away from home, the Passover traditions and ritual of the Seder helped me feel comfortable and connected to this community.

The countdown to Passover is accompanied by another one – the countdown to Kayitz (Summer) 2014. With only 81 days left until the first buses depart for Conover, excitement and anxiety for the summer are building. For new campers and returning campers alike, we might be unsure about what is in store as we enter a new aidah. Being at camp is a place away from home but we find comfort in the shared zmirot (songs), tefillot (prayers), sporting events, plays, and peulot tzrif (cabin activities). As we prepare for Pesach and prepare for the summer ahead, I hope everyone finds comfort in the communal Jewish experiences that they share.

Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov (Have a Great Month of Nissan)!