by Meira Weber
April 14, 2020
“If you hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and you do all that is proper in His eyes, and you listen closely to His commandments and observe all His statutes, all the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you, for I, the Lord, heal you.” Exodus 15:26
The Passover holiday is defined by its themes of redemption and protection. On the first night of Passover, the Seder night, we do not simply commemorate the Exodus from Egypt – we re-live it. We re-experience the slavery and the redemption, the splitting of the Red Sea and the trek through the desert to receive the Torah from Mount Sinai.
This re-living of the Passover story is a monumental event in the Jewish calendar, and every year, families convene to celebrate together. One of the most important parts of the Seder is conveying the Exodus story to the children, as if we ourselves had gone through the trials of slavery and the triumphs of redemption. Familial bonds are so strong on Passover, as we renew our connection to the past and remind ourselves about the final redemption to come. Generations will gather around one table, from grandparents down to grand- and even great grandchildren, united in the telling of the Passover story, united as Jews and as families.
I am blessed with two sets of grandparents who are, thank God, alive and well. For the last few years, all four grandparents have joined us at my parents’ Seder, where we sing and go through the Haggadah together, sharing pieces of Torah insights. But this year, we won’t have any of that. This year, the Seder will be quiet – just my immediate family. It already feels emptier, lonelier – and imagining my grandparents conducting their own Seder alone fills me with sadness. But with the virus still in full force, threatening us from outside our walls, we have no choice but to retreat inside, follow the rules for social distancing, and keep ourselves (and others) safe.
As the situation outside grows darker, I’ve been thinking more and more about how thankful I am to God for keeping me and my family safe. I keep going back to the verse from Exodus 15, where God tells the Jewish People: All the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you. And I feel gratitude to God well up inside me.
On the night of the Tenth Plague, God commanded through Moses that the Jewish people stay in their homes and spread the blood of the Passover Sacrifice on our doorposts and lintels. By staying indoors and marking our homes we would be protected from the Plague. So the Jewish People stayed inside, and the Tenth Plague – the Death of the Firstborn – passed over us.
The coronavirus does not discriminate. Jew or non-Jew, we are all vulnerable. But we are only vulnerable outside.
Inside, we are safe. We must listen to the words of our health-care professionals, who are speaking with God’s voice when they tell us how to protect ourselves. Today it is not sacrificial blood but hand sanitizer and face masks that will keep us safe.
We are in the midst of a plague. The virus will not leave us unscathed, and it will be a different world when it has passed us all by. But we can do our part. I will do my part. I will have my Passover Seder with only immediate family. I won’t leave the house for the usual hikes and trips that Israelis are so fond of during the Passover break from school.
This is a time of uncertainty. But I trust in God, and I remember his promise to us in the desert: all the sicknesses that I have visited upon Egypt I will not visit upon you. God is still protecting us, and just like He redeemed us from our bondage in Egypt, so too will He lift us out of this. God willing, I will have my own addition to the redemptive story of Passover to tell my children – a tale of another generation of God-fearing people who stayed indoors when they were told to and allowed the plague to pass over them.
May we all be blessed with a safe and healthy Passover!
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