L’Shana Haba’ah – The Coming Year
Pesach is a holiday of hope. Our enslaved Israelite ancestors despaired of a better life. Even after Moses appeared on the scene with his assurance that God had sent him to liberate them, the message fell upon deaf ears because “their spirits were crushed by cruel bondage.” (Exodus 6:9).
Following the 10th plague, our liberated ancestors began a journey to the Promised Land where they would live in freedom and peace. Yet all did not go well on the march. Time and again there were new dangers and frustrations: at the Red Sea, with the ever-present concern about water and the unchanging diet of manna, which they regarded as “miserable food.” (Numbers 21:5)
Life’s ever-present cycle of despair and hope is captured in the startling passage, “In every generation enemies rose up to destroy us, but the Holy One Blessed be He saved us from their hands.” It’s a stark reminder that life be it for nation or individual, is never a constant flow of happiness and joy. Inevitably failures and setbacks darken every life. Yet we humans are endowed with amazing adaptability to find the will and strength to move from darkness to light.
This year of the coronavirus plague, the night of Passover will be different. Illness, quarantine, isolation and social distancing dictate that the seder, the wonderful family reunion of three or four generations seated around the table, will be sorely missed. Many will forge virtual togetherness via Zoom or Skype; others will celebrate with spouses or live-ins; and far too many are destined to celebrate a solo seder.
In this dark and difficult period plagued with illness and death, with isolation and loneliness, with devastating economic impact, may Elijah’s cup with its faith and assurance of tomorrow’s better day bless us with the strength and forbearance now demanded of us. L’shana haba’ah, next year and in years to come, may we celebrate our seders as we have in the past.
Rabbi Arnold M. Goodman is a senior rabbinic scholar of Ahavath Achim Synagogue and was its senior rabbi from 1982 to 2002. He now lives in Jerusalem.