You Should Know … Rabbi Chai Posner

Rabbi Chai Posner
Courtesy of Rabbi Chai Posner

Beth Tfiloh Congregation is getting by with a little help from its friends, and that includes Rabbi Chai Posner, 37.

Posner has served as associate rabbi at BT for a decade, and he will become senior rabbi in January 2022. Until then, he’s helping the community stay connected during this isolating time. For example, he held a virtual Q&A about Passover, March 26.

The Brooklyn, New York native now lives in Pikesville with his wife Rachel and four children: Roni, 11, Eliram, 9, Yair, 7, and Kayla, 5.

How are you coping with a virtual lifestyle?

Virtual life has been a challenge, but one I am embracing as much as possible. We’ve learned a lot about connecting with congregants through Zoom or Facebook.

There is something special about having so much time at home with my family.

The most difficult part is not being present for congregants in their difficult times — funerals, shivas, those who are sick in the hospital. We are doing the best we can to be in close contact, but it just is not the same.

What do you recommend for Pesach this year?

Simplify. Thank God we all love Pesach, and we often go above and beyond in our preparations. This year our focus needs to be on staying as calm and positive as possible under the circumstances. For people with children, they need to make things as stress free as possible for the kids. For older folks and others staying in their homes (which they should be!) we need to make everything as easy as possible.

What question did members ask most?

People are asking about which foods that don’t have specific kosher for Pesach certification they can use. People are asking about how to connect with their families for the seder, if they cannot be together this year. People who usually go away for Pesach but cannot this year are asking about how to make the seder and how to kasher things in their home.

What should people remember?

The most important thing to remember during Pesach this year is that it is a holiday of redemption. It may seem like it’s coming at the worst possible time, but it is actually coming at the best possible time. If we can follow the rabbinic suggestions to make preparations easier, we can instead focus on the deeper spiritual messages.

Pesach is a holiday of hope and promise. It reminds us that even in the direst circumstances, God is watching over us and redemption can be right around the corner. That is why we focus on the matzah. We eat matzah on Pesach because the Jewish people didn’t have enough time to let the bread rise. Couldn’t God have given them a heads up?

The message is that God specifically wanted to show that redemption can come in the blink of an eye.

Share a personal memory of Passover.

My special memory is of my zayde hiding the afikoman in his kittel so that we couldn’t take it and hide it from him.

Now, as an adult, my favorite part of Pesach is the seder on the first night. There is spiritual magic in the air. When all of the preparations are finally done, and we gather around and begin Kiddush, there is no feeling like that feeling. All of the firsts. The first bite of matzah. The first cup of wine. The first taste of charoset. It immediately transports me back through time.

I also love the second part of the seder. While many people don’t make it through after the meal, the second half, filled with song of Hallel and praise, is inspiring and uplifting.

What are your plans for Passover?

I’m very fortunate to be able to have Pesach with my immediate family. As hectic as it will be, there are so many people alone this year, and I am very cognizant of how blessed I am to be able to have my wife and children around me.

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