Perhaps this year we have a new question to ask at the seder. How is this Passover different from all other Passovers?
On all our other Passovers there were no pandemics, but on this Passover, COVID-19 plagues the world. On this Passover we feel a plague of scarcity, with a shortage of ventilators, protective gear and hospital beds. We also feel the plague of darkness. In Egypt, according to one interpretation, the plague of darkness was not literal. It was a plague that resulted in people not seeing others, and therefore, not responding to one another’s needs. By the time the ninth plague hit, the people had stopped reaching out to check in on one another’s welfare and to offer assistance to their less fortunate neighbors. No one played their part to help mitigate the situation. Instead, they lived their lives as if each person was solely dependent on themselves, independent of anyone else in society.
Social distancing is a way of caring for one another. However, we must remember that it is not the only way to care for one another. There are other ways to help and to reach out to offer assistance. We can still be responsible for one another even as we remain apart. We should all be encouraged to continue to reach out to friends and family during this trying time. Our sacred texts remind us of our obligation to be aware of others even as we take care of ourselves. As it is written in the Torah, “If, however, there is a needy person among you…do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8) Additionally, Passover and the weeks leading up to it are an opportunity to give maot chittim, gifts of sustenance to people in need. Please consider a donation through Shaarei Tikvah or by contributing to a charity of your choice. Some suggested sites are below. Perhaps this year in lieu of feeding the guests we would have invited to our seder, we instead make a donation in their honor.
We are feeling social distancing greatly with the nearing of Passover, which is usually a time when many gather with friends and family or join together in community sedarim. At the seder, we remember a time when we were slaves in Egypt, unable to celebrate our religion as a free people. We gather with multiple generations of our families to practice the special customs that we have enjoyed together every year. Often it is one of the only occasions when the whole family gathers together. And it seems unfathomable that we currently won’t be able to celebrate in this way.… Read more