Pesach in the Time of Coronavirus

A Ukrainian 19th-Century lubok representing the Seder table---Wikipedia: By Anonymous Folk Artist

I pulled two books off of my bookshelf: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and A Family Haggadah by Shoshana Silberman.

I wanted to study these two classics in preparation for my Seder speech.

Being a Boy Scout, I believed in their motto—“Be Prepared.”

So I had a month to work on what I’d say this Pesach in front of family and friends.

I had a month to wonder, “Will anyone arrive at my Seder wearing a N-95 mask?

As I pictured a Pesach table surrounded by mask wearers, I turned to page 32 of the Haggadah.

My eyes rested on the ten plagues.

I tried to determine where to insert this year’s plague into my seder.

I could have inserted the coronavirus early into the order, right after the Kiddush.

We wash our hands.”

How G-d commands us to avoid the transmission of disease to our family and friends by telling us to cleanse our hands in water and to not sneeze or cough on each other.

If I wished, I could have waited to the telling of the Passover story

“Why is this Passover night different from all other Passover nights?”

Mah nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot!

Well, on all others Passover nights we have “Four Questions” and this Passover we have “Seven Questions”.

The Fifth Question: On all other Passover nights we rinse our hands in a bucket of pure water.

Why on this Passover night do we vigorously scrub our hands in warm soapy water?

The Sixth Question: “On all other Passover nights no blessing is recited before we wash our hands.

Why on this Passover night do we add a blessing before we wash our hands that does not appear in our Haggadah?

We praise You, Adonai our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who makes us holy by commanding us to fight the spread of coronavirus by scrubbing our hands in warm soapy water.”

The Seventh Question: On all other Passover nights we discuss the ten plagues with our children: the wise one, the wicked one, the simple one and the one that doesn’t know enough to ask a question.

Why on this Passover night we add an eleventh plague—that of the coronavirus?

We fill our cups to remember the joy of the being able to leave Egypt and the joy of life before coronavirus.

We spill a drop of wine from our cups as we say the names of 11th plague—COVID-19 disease or the plague of coronavirus.

And as we conclude our 2020 Seder on this Passover night, we add the following prayer:

May our service be acceptable to You, Adonai our G-d,

And may we be granted the blessing of good health and of celebrating Pesach for many years to come.

May you grant us a vaccine and the medicines to sustain our lives.

And may you pass over our houses in this time of Coronavirus.

About the Author
South Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort is a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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