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“Let all who are hungry come and eat.” We traditionally say these words during our Passover seder, opening our doors to guests to share in this celebratory meal of freedom, but this year will be different. This year, we are fighting an invisible enemy whose shackles challenge us physically and emotionally. This year, we are practicing social distancing in order to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community. This year, perhaps more than in years past, the freedom our ancestors fought so hard to secure will feel different.
This year, as we prepare for Passover, I’d like to pose an additional set of Four Questions.
On this night, how can we keep ourselves and those we love safe?
We read in Exodus 12:3 that each household is commanded to take aside a lamb for their Passover meal. A large gathering for a Passover seder is more of a modern concept. The original observance was for each family to celebrate separately, as we must do this year. Abiding by the safety practices instituted by our government and medical professionals, our Passover meal should only be for our immediate family and those with whom we live. By doing so, we observe the sacred mitzvah pikuach nefesh, saving a life. The value of life is so sacred that it takes precedence over other mitzvot. Share your seder with other relatives and friends via Zoom or Facetime. Or, consider contacting your loved ones in advance of the holiday. Ask them what freedoms they hold most dear and incorporate their answers into your Passover seder. Just as the paschal lamb provided safety for our ancestors, these practices will provide safety for us.
On this night, where do I turn for help if this is my first time leading a seder or I need new ideas for my seder?
There is no shortage of wonderful resources online. Begin by exploring My Jewish Learning and Haggadot.com. Contact your Jewish Federation to find out what local resources and virtual seders are available to you. You can find national resources on JewishLIVE.
On this night, what if I don’t have all the necessary ritual items for my seder?
Judaism allows for substitutions and additions. If you don’t have a seder plate, make your own! This is a great opportunity to engage children or to be reflective as you prepare your own celebration. If you are missing a ritual item for your plate, draw a picture, build it out of Legos, find another creative way to represent the item for your seder. Think about what you can do to adapt or add to the rituals to create new meaning. Is there an item, like hand sanitizer, you wish to add to the seder plate to mark our current struggle for health and well-being during this modern plague?
On this night, how do I celebrate the freedom Passover holds so dear?
On this Passover, may we give thanks for the many freedoms that we do have, even in the midst of challenge. While we pray for the end of this pandemic and to reconnect in person, we remember the significant challenges our people has survived throughout millennia. Our independence may be temporarily restricted, but we should never cease to acknowledge the gifts of our personal and religious freedom and all the other blessings we enjoy in our lives. We will survive this, too.
L’shana Haba’ah- Next year in Jerusalem. Next year may all people be free.