I am going to guess that the history books of the future will contain the following paragraph:
“In the year 2020, a deadly pandemic spread across the globe. Schools closed, businesses shut their doors, and the economy suffered tremendously”.
And the Jewish history book might also include the following paragraph:
“For the first time in many decades, families were forced to be separated during the Passover Seder. Shelter in place orders caused children to be away from their parents and grandparents, and communities couldn’t celebrate together”.
Even though I live in the present, just reading this makes me feel sad.
Because I personally know so many people who are going to have a very different experience this Passover.
My parents in law.
Hundreds of friends and community members.
To make matters worst, for some of them, it’s going to be a lonely Passover. They will be celebrating alone. Even if they will cook the entire meal, no one will be there to compliment them.
I am thinking a lot about them. About their sadness, how painful it must be to be away from your loved ones.
My thoughts are taking me back to my childhood. Reading one of my favorite books, the one telling the stories of Chassidim in Soviet Russia.
Their bravery inspired me. Their determination to stay faithful to Judaism despite all prosecution, fascinated me.
Here is one of the stories.
“Simcha”, was a Chassid that was arrested because of his “counter revolutionary activity” (read: he dared to teach Jewish children Torah). He was sentenced to hard labor in the Gulag.
A few weeks before Passover, he started planning his “Seder”. He collected the small amount of daily allocation of Sugar so he can have a special meal for the night of Passover.
In the book, he described his experience.
“I took one piece of sugar and said: G-d, I don’t have any wine here! May this be as if I drank the first cup of wine!
“I took another one and said: G-d, no Matzah in the Gulag! Please accept this from me as if I eat Matzah!
“And Maror (the bitter herb)? Oh, I didn’t have to worry about it! We had bitterness all around us!
“I will never forget this Seder.” he concluded.
Reading his story left me in awe. This Seder, while lacking the typical Seder ingredients, sounds just so… pure, so holy, so connected.
Now, thank G-d, while our situation is nothing like being in the Gulags, celebrating Passover away from our loved ones is not fun.
But we can reach inside.
To look into our pure soul, that is connected to our pure G-d.
To look into our own purity.
And discover a new, deeper connection.
Yes, it might be painful.
Tears might be shed.
But when we drink the cups of wine, when we eat the Matzah and the Maror – –
Remember that G-d is right there.
Wishing you a happy, healthy and Kosher Passover.
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker