Pandemic Seder Questions

The navy gave us an incredible gift. With just two hours notice my son was on his way home for the Pesach Seder. Crazy and unexpected, we were all thrilled to be only one short in our nuclear family for what ended up as, yes the smallest ever, but one of our best. As planned, at exactly 830 we stepped outside and bellowed out our Four Questions – joined by most of our neighbors, and most of the county. We heard echos of people singing all across our town. Chills. An only in Israel moment doesn’t begin to express the intensity, the gravity, surrounding the experience. Celebrating the miraculous comeback of the Jews in Israel is enough, dayenu.  Living here is electric, akin to the final game of the 04 Red Sox, but on a daily basis. Add in the narrative of Pesach, the plagues of then, the plague of now, questions of bewilderment.

One caveat from the Navy though. I had to get him back to his base right after the holiday, and nobody is allowed to leave town. Meticulously locked in my house for almost a month, it was bizarre to even sit in the car. I set out for my 40 minute drive south, a ride that was never less than an hour and a half with regular traffic, and certainly closer to two right after a holiday. Knowing Israeli’s are not the most compliant when it comes to rules, I wasn’t sure  what to expect. I saw only two cars on my ride South, and none on my way back. None. We are talking Raanana to Ashdod on the 4, passing through the most populous part of the country, but yet I was the omega man, completely alone. Hats off to us, we are managing this thing well. It gave me pride, confidence, and of course another pang of emotions. Why was this ride different from all other rides? When am I going to see my son again, and when will I see my other son?

I dawdled at the gate while we waited for his shipmates, not wanting to let him go. I turned his life upside down when he moved here at 14. My adolescence was a cake walk compared to his, and it is absolutely my fault. I didn’t cry, but literally bawled at the ceremony when he finished his medics course — and now I am dropping him off, at the height of this pandemic, knowing he is responsible, like a doctor on call, for all the others on his boat.  Just wow, he has so risen to the task, made me so proud, but it is not about me. Its his trajectory and his questions to write.

I tried to to breath deeply on the drive home, through my improvised face mask (One of many alternative uses for a knit kippah  btw). Halfway home I decided to heed a nature call, I mean there was absolutely nobody on the road.  I was in the middle of the highway flanked by huge skyscrapers, well lit, and eerily quiet. A short pause on my lonely commute, in what is essentially a global pause, I stole a few moments to take it all in. My place here, our place in the world, our misunderstood tiny country,  and even smaller diaspora. We are so often at the center of the action, the beacon of our planet, or its chief scorn, Israel can never just be. Yet here we are, in a time where the world pauses. A rare chance to breath, get perspective, focus, be grateful, and plan.  The congruity of the Pesach narrative, that of today’s complicated and complex wonders, tinged by the joy of a surprise homecoming – all seems oddly to make sense.  Our same questions every year at the Seder beget more questions. That is the intention. Why is this time different from all others, an easy question for today. But what further questions come up from the state of the world today, and how will we answer them going forward. It could be epic.

About the Author
Ken Milman moved to Raanana from Los Angeles with his wife and four boys in 2013, his daughter joined a couple years later. On the rare occasion he is not working abroad, or trying to convince his boys to go on some extreme adventure, you can find him biking, sailing, beekeeping, spearfishing, or tasting rare whiskeys and olive oils with friends.
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