Featured Video – The Last Seder In The Warsaw Ghetto- By Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l is a heart-wrenching story about a Jewish boy who asks his father Ma Nishtana at the last Seder in the Warsaw ghetto who adds the question – why is there so much pain in the World?
I originally coined this phrase to the Grinch who stole Purim which was celebrated in the shadow of COVID-19. When my wife pointed out that by now we have not yet phoned, wished everyone a Happy Pesach, this year it seems so hard to be enthusiastic about Pesach. So, now I can say the Grinch who stole Pesach.
Normally, we are excited by the Pesach Plans, the Seder, the Tiyulim (Trips), getting together with friends, family, grandkids, but this year it is hard to be excited.
So, let’s explore how we can find some inspiration.
There is a custom to not only ask Ma Nishtana, the 4 questions but for everyone to add their own Questions. So, here are a few.
- In what way are freer this year than last?
- What do we know for sure?
- Why are so many good people dying in this Pandemic (I.e why do the good suffer?)
- Where is God in this Pandemic? Where was God in the Holocaust?
- Is our faith weakened or strengthened from this Pandemic?
- Why did the Jewish people need to be enslaved ie suffer hardship and then redeemed or saved?.
I am shocked when I look at the above questions. Much too serious, too much to contemplate.
So, let’s explore some possible answers.
In what ways are we freer this Pesach?
Freedom from worrying about tomorrow
Freedom from going to work, worrying about the next buck, paying the bills, and knowing that is not in our control.
Freedom to be spiritual (and free of excess Materialism)
We plan and live for the big things in life such as Weddings, and obsess with all the details and materialism and then all we all left with is 10 people. We imagine a big Funeral, Shiva where our lives are eulogized. And then this happens.
Freedom to think about Life, what is important – Faith, Emuna, and God
We have to believe that Hashem is running the world and this is for the good. Just as we accept the Holocaust and the state of Israel, was God’s hand, so is the virus which does not distinguish between good and bad.
So many questions, so much sadness, so much time to think.
There is a silver lining. God has reset the world. He is sending a clear message that it is time to pause, stop, reframe, re-assess, giving us a 2nd chance to start over again.
A time of contemplation, reflection. Time to focus on our Souls, the fragility of Life and Families. A lot of these answers can be seen by a careful study of the Talmud which coincided with Daf Yomi – Shabbat 31 which talks about having the correct priorities in Life – being faithful dealing in Business, and learning Torah which needs to be accompanied by a fear of God. Shabbat 32 gives many reasons for an untimely death.
There has been quite a lot mentioned that the original Pesach we were commanded to stay in our homes with God “passing over” the homes of the Jews when he was killing the firstborn sons of Egypt.
In a recording, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z’l prophetically said to give us strength “ You know sweetest Friends. On Pesach, we need a House. We need a House. What happened on Pesach? On Passover, Hashem passed over the Houses. So, we have a House. I just to bless all the people that that do not have a house that a miracle will happen by Pesach and that they will have a house, a little window, and door.
I want to end with a blog I found while spring cleaning when I went through a lot of old papers, and I came across a Pesach Blog from 2014 by Aryeh Ben David entitled “How does hopelessness taste?”
He concludes his Blog with this Prayer of Hope.
“Passover’s message is the birth of hope. Even though we believe that a situation is utterly unsolvable, bereft of hope, and not even worth praying about, nevertheless, somehow, in a flash of a moment hope can reappear.
The taste of matza has prevailed for centuries. So many times we have lost hope. And then, in a moment, hope returns.”
Whilst this Pesach will be far from perfect, with many people by themselves, we need to give appreciation to the health workers, police and army personal who may not have a Seder at all.
Wishing you all a Happy and Kosher Pesach