April 8, 2020
My friends, we’re in a narrow passage. We feel its anxious squeeze in the confines of our inhabited spaces, the limitation of our activity, our concern about future. For an increasing number of us there is the real stranglehold of respiratory illness. We don’t need to play-act the performance of Seder ritual to feel as if we were “there.”
Seder is meant to foster continuity, stitching together generations and perspectives with un-defended dialogue on the things that really matter. In our circumstance, desire to close the gap is literal. The advent of Seder during Covid-19 moves us to connect with loved ones who will not sit at the table, to connect more broadly, and to connect with more appreciation than ever before. This year we yearn for continuity from within rupture.
From within the plague, we see life-as-it-has-been brought to a standstill. It’s as if we were “there” – k’ilu haya sham. The Plagues brought a halt to Egypt’s exploits, propelling the survivors of Israel toward their future. After a protracted night of confined vigil, in thick Darkness, amidst Death, they took first steps forward, packing light for the journey. There were times they wanted to go back, but there would have been nothing worse than going back.
We have no choice but to brave this narrow place. With grace, we will squeeze through to a new-normal. Seder can be a threshold experience, a time to collectively dream the new world we’d like to emerge into. What does continuity mean to us, this year, as everything is changing? What moral code do we want to bring forward as we knit the old to the new? What bloated senses of privilege might we leave behind as we pack light for our own journey?
All around us flora is sprouting, budding and bursting forth, inspiring us with nature’s resilience even as we hold the sick and the dying in our hearts. The egg dipped in tear-water has never felt so perfect an embodiment of our experience.
Whether our Seder is grand or modest this year, let’s enact its rituals as expression of what is real for us, here and now. Let’s use the time to imagine a world we’re willing to fight for. Let’s raise our glasses to all that has lasting meaning. And may we emerge in the spirit of L’shana ha-ba b’Yerushalayim – with renewed hope.