Shep Englander — Federation Journal
As in Other Times in History, This Passover is One of Perseverance
Much of our strength as a people depends on gathering to share traditions, celebrations and support. For most of us, this is the first Passover when we cannot gather. During this disruptive, alarming time, we need to prioritize community health over community gathering. But we can draw strength from thousands of years of Jewish history in which Jewish celebrations occurred during other alarming times.
We have managed to maintain the annual retelling of our liberation from slavery in Egypt even while we survived the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the horrors of the Holocaust. Today’s struggles are very different, but as was true during those years, this year’s will not be a Seder only of celebration, but also one of courage and perseverance. For Jews, the Seder transports us from our current reality to a better future we envision as a people. This year that message is particularly salient.
The Passover story offers wisdom that is strangely relevant today. Our ancestors wandered in the desert, struggling in total uncertainty. They demanded a quick journey to the promised land, yet they roamed for 40 years. They learned that humans do not control everything and that wisdom requires finding meaning in the journey. This ancient story suddenly feels modern.
Our Passover seders will look very different this year. Most will be much smaller. Some will include computer screens tiled with family members and friends remotely joining around our tables. In some areas, some Seder foods are scarce. Many will not be able to be guests and will have to cook their own Seder meals for the first time.
We will innovate. We will adapt. We will create new traditions. And through it all, we will maintain the strength of community. As we have done for thousands of years, we will end the Seder with the traditional prayer of what we hope to come, “Next year in Jerusalem.” This year, our commitment to a future restored also represents a future in which full health and the opportunity to gather together will be restored.
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