Crossing through barriers (Daf Yomi Pesachim 85)

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“Barriers are irrelevant with regard to prayer.”

We have been on a journey over the last weeks involving the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb on the eve of Passover.  The fire, the wood that is used to create the fire, and the type of wood are proscribed. Today’s Daf Yomi portion tells us that it matters where the Paschal lamb is eaten, which is inside the home. This follows the verse from Exodus (12:46) which states, “in one house shall it be eaten; you shall not carry out any of the meat from the house to the outside.” This precludes holding the seder outdoors, which might seem like a reasonable option if one wanted to recreate the original seder with an open roasting backyard pit.

We are provided with guidelines for determining what constitutes inside and outside. The space from the doorway inward is the former, while the space from the doorway outward is the later. A comparison is made with someone who is praying outside a doorway. We are that such a person cannot be included with those that are praying inside and counted toward the minyan. But Rav disputes this and repeats a teaching from Rabbi Yehoshua who said that “barriers are irrelevant with regard to prayer.”

The analysis of what constitutes the outer boundaries of a particular location is relevant to the virtual zoom world we live in today. Doorways are the gateway between our inner and outer worlds and as we are reminded in today’s reading, no one should allow a doorway – or perhaps a boundary of any kind – to prevent them from joining the community of prayer. On zoom, we are confined to the doorways of the little boxes on our computer screens, but we are together.

I spent years investigating synagogues in New York before I found my home base right before everything shut down from the pandemic last March. I was a member of a grand synagogues on the Upper East Side for a while but felt entirely anonymous. I wanted to find a place that was more eclectic, personal, and diverse.

I found my spiritual home in Romemu right before everything shut down last March. I was invited to what I was told would be a joyful Purim party at the temple and even then in early March, I was concerned about being in close proximity to so many people. I was only able to attend one service in person before the synagogue closed its doors, including the cancellation of the much-anticipated Purim party.

Somehow, the clergy of Romemu is able to cross doorways and bring us all. They have managed to create a sense of community through the services which are held virtually on zoom. The High Holidays were especially challenging, but the online service was poetic and quite beautiful. We were all in our little doorways on the screen, but there was a sense of breaking through barriers as we prayed together.

We are reminded each week by the Romemu clergy that we are separated by physical barriers only for today. Someday soon, we will be able to pray together again in the Upper West Side sanctuary. But for now, we have the words of Rabbi Yehoshua to remind us that the barriers are irrelevant. There is so much hope in those words that its worth repeating:barriers are irrelevant.

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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