A Letter to Eliyahu Hanavi

14 Nissan, 5780

Dear Eliyahu, 

I am writing to you because you play such an important part in our Seders, and I’m worried what you are going to say when you join us this year. 

Ever since that time you questioned our People for not living up to our side of the covenant with God (1 Kings 19:10), it has been your role to witness every occasion on which we do live up to our responsibilities.  And so you join our families at every Brit Milah and every Pesach Seder, as we celebrate our timeless commitment to God and God’s covenant with the Jewish People. Your presence is a reminder that we are living up to our side of the bargain, and that the redemption, with God’s help and our hard work, is just around the corner. 

You may be confused or even upset as you visit our homes this Passover. Families seem to have forgotten to join together, and many are celebrating Seders all by themselves. You may, in fact, be the only guest many will share their Seders with, and all of us, you are likely to be the only non-immediate family member at the table. 

Please do not worry. You see, our extraordinary community has taken superhuman steps this year to save lives by not joining together as we normally would. We are in the midst of a time when gathering together endangers ourselves and others, so we have chosen to celebrate the covenant with God differently than usual in order to save lives. God’s covenant with the Jewish People is based on life and we affirm that covenant this year by affirming our commitment to the preservation of life. 

You have seen other Seders during difficult times in the past. You were there, during the Shoah, as our grandparents prayed that the Chametz they had to eat would allow them to live long enough to eat Matzah in the future. Remember?

This year brings us unique opportunities as we create new rituals and tell new stories that we will be able to share with others in the future, even as we remember those who have passed on, and miss those from whom we are physically distant. 

But don’t worry. And maybe even be a little proud of us for how hard we are trying. We will still sing your song and so many other songs as we recount the Exodus story late into the night. And wherever we are, you will be with us: in hospital rooms and around emptier-than usual tables, your presence brings us hope and a closeness to God and to all Jews past, present and future.

It is our sincere hope that next year we will celebrate together with you in a rebuilt Jerusalem. But if not, we pray that our efforts now allow us to join together with our families and friends as we celebrate in good health, speedily in our days.  


The Jewish People

This letter is based on prayers said by Jews as they ate Chametz on Pesach during the Shoah, and is dedicated to all who are on the front lines fighting COVID-19.

About the Author
Rabbi Yonah Berman lives in New York City, where he teaches Torah, is a proud father and husband and tries to make the world a better place one act at a time.
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