R. David’s Food for Thought: Four Questions for Pandemic Passover

Welcome to the runway to Passover! Coming up full speed ahead are preparations and feelings of unreadiness (what’s “ready” nowadays?), anticipation of days ahead and memories of past Passovers with loved ones. Many of us feel sad that the pandemic still physically separates us, and many of us yearn for normalcy after a pandemic year of drama.
It’s been a year. Who imagined that last year’s first-ever Zoomseder would herald this year’s first-ever second Zoomseder? If last year’s Passover was unique as the pandemic began, this year’s Passover is unique as the pandemic continues.
This Passover really is different. Our Passover tables will be what we ourselves order, make or make do with. We’ll gather digitally, for just the second time in history. (It’s two too many, and we’re grateful that technology makes it possible.) We’ll bring to our digital space both familiarity and fatigue. And honoring the covid-19 context, we’ll ask participants to support a social justice initiative to assist New York’s most vulnerable respond to the pandemic for themselves and their loved ones.
At the same time, this Passover will be much like others that came before. In the unbroken flow of centuries, we’ll retell the timeless story. We’ll sing, eat and drink. We’ll celebrate the journey of freedom, and we’ll yearn to gather renewed in the place of wholeness for ourselves, our loved ones and all humanity.
Most of all, together we’ll ask questions. We’ll ask tradition’s Four Questions that begin with “Why is this night different from all other nights?” And we’ll add our own questions; after all, Passover honors both ancestral history and our call to free today’s bound. That journey continues, and it’s on us to continue it.
In the Haggadah’s spirit of “One who enlarges the telling is praiseworthy,” I share here the four questions calling me into this year’s pandemic Passover journey:
1. How will we prepare for a post-pandemic future while still under lockdown? Can we summon the foresight and courage to see that world into being, and begin leaning into it now, even if it feels far away and the thought of it tugs our hearts?
2. How will we strengthen community bonds while still physically apart? Can we lean into small offers of care – the unsung hero calls, texts, emails, letters and errands we offer each other, friends and strangers alike – even if we’re fatigued?
3. What will our “freedom” mean before all are free from the ravages of social and economic inequalities that heightened the pandemic’s pain? The pandemic showed how truly connected our human community is: what happens beyond our line of sight can impact us all profoundly. How will we evolve attitudes, charitable giving and social connections accordingly?
4. How can we harness our vulnerability, and our resilience, to nourish our spirits? The pandemic showed both the limits of our control, and the boundlessness of our ingenuity and potential. How will we keep these lessons front and center for us as Jews and people of spirit?
Those questions are mine; maybe they’re yours – or maybe you have others. Bring them to our seder. Bring them to your Passover. Bring them to your springtime. Bring them to your spirit heeding the timeless call of freedom anew.
Here comes spring. Happy Passover / chag sameach.
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