Today, April 6th, 2020 (12th of Nissan 5780) we here in Israel received the ruling that starting on Passover night from 6.00 pm until 7.00 am Friday,(for two nights) no one is permitted to leave their houses. The ruling is to prevent the continued spread of the Coronavirus but as fate would have it there was a similar decree given by G-d himself through Moses for the children of Israel on that Passover night so many millennia ago.
It was only for one night but what a night it was? HaShem decreed that we were to stay in our houses and not to go out until morning. As we come into our houses, with only the people who live under that roof, whether there are many or few or even just one, the sense of that Passover night will be somewhat as intense as that of the original night of deliverance and liberation. We are living this Passover under a plague.
Exodus 12:22,23, Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your houses until morning. I’ve always wondered what that felt like. What thoughts the people might have had. “Will we be protected, will the destroyer pass over our houses?” ”What will life be like when this night is through?” “What can we expect in the morning?” They had seen so many incredible things in the period leading up to that night. G-d had fought for them. But even knowing all that there still must have been a bit of fear.
In the Exodus story, there is a significant emphasis on staying in the house. On that night it was more than ever before a place of protection, a place of solidarity for a united people. But the house is not just a physical place, it represents all those under the covenant. The house of Israel, a family.
Exodus12.24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. The word translated “lasting” is the Hebrew Olam, which is mentioned in the Tanakh more than 430 times in reference to time. A lasting ordinance referred to an ongoing command. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ Then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our houses when He struck down the Egyptians”.”Then the people bowed down and worshiped”. The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.
I take “stay in your house” to mean many things, such as do not deviate from the covenant, be loyal to G-d and his ordinances, and to Israel, the people, and the land. As Rabbi Akiva taught us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the most important rule in the Torah.”
This year we show our love for our neighbor and our reverence to G-d’s command by honoring his ordinance to stay in the house. It will not be easy to carry out on our own something we usually do with family and friends, but it can be done without sadness and with intensity. With today’s circumstances imagine as we read the Haggadah that we are living that night at that moment with the command to stay in our houses. Today our present-day situation requires it. I believe we will achieve an insight, fervor, and depth of Kavanah like never before as the flame of these commands burns deeply within us, to fully appreciate it and get the true sense of that night, we have to stay in the house.
Have a happy and contemplation Passover