A Covid Passover
This Passover begins our second year of living with COVID. The seder offers an opportunity to acknowledge this reality through its many symbols and rituals. Allow me to offer a few examples. When we eat a green vegetable dipped in salt water, it reminds us of the tears of our ancestors in Egypt. This same water also reminds us of the tears that have been shed due to Covid.
When we raise our matzah and say, “All who are hungry – let them come and eat.” This can lead us to collect tzedakah that is given to those in need. At Congregation Etz Chaim, we have raised funds to help hungry children in the community in addition to supporting the Kosher Food Pantry at JF&CS.
The Four Questions ask: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” This might be an excellent moment to talk about how much has changed over the past year and what people expect the next year to be like. This conversation goes well with the theme of Passover, “We were slaves; now we are free.” Indeed, are we free from Covid or not? This could be the point to acknowledge the scientists, medical personnel and all those who have worked on creating vaccines, that has allowed us to think about being free from Covid. These heroes all deserve mention at the seder.
The Ten Plagues represent a fine time to memorialize those who have been lost to Covid or are the “long-haulers,” who are still fighting against this virulent plague. Before the seder meal, most people make a “Hillel Sandwich,” which is supposed to include more sweetness than bitterness. Our wish is for a much sweeter year to come than the one past.
After we eat our Passover meal, we offer thanks for our food and then say the Hallel prayer. One of the most poignant verses is, “This is the day that God has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This verse symbolizes our attitude: Despite the viciousness of Covid, we will persevere; we will, as Jews and Americans, make it through the pandemic. We will embrace our future with compassion, hope and the steadfast Jewish belief in the value of every day.
Have wonderful seders and a meaningful Passover.
Rabbi Albert Slomovitz is associate rabbi of Congregation Etz Chaim, assistant professor of history at Kennesaw State University and founder of the Jewish Christian Discovery Center.