Jews have an interesting leitmotif running through the Passover Seder, conveying its meaning while telling a story that explains the longevity of the Jewish People, and a lesson for all humanity – particularly as the world confronts COVID-19.
Perhaps the most recognized Passover question is “Why is this night different from all other nights?” In answering that question every spring over 33 centuries, the Jewish People have forged an identity founded on grit, perseverance and resilience, passing it on to successive generations.
This year, Jews – and all humanity — may be tempted to lament our current affliction, asking, “Why is this year different from all other years?” After all, we’re living through such an extraordinary moment characterized by mass confusion and anxiety, and mind-boggling social distancing and isolation.
But the truth is, Jews have observed Passover under even worse circumstances, including more fatal pandemics, wars, dispersion, blood libels, pogroms and of course, the Holocaust. Covid-19 may be novel, but fear and danger aren’t. Out of our suffering and collective vulnerability, the Jewish People have repeatedly rescued blessing from curse.
This year, though we have never been more separate as we shelter in place, we have actually never been more united, for the world joins us in affliction and “mitzrayim” (confinement). As with these other difficult moments in human history, we can have faith that eventually, this plague too shall pass.
One day soon, this crisis will be over, and together we will have to work to repair a broken world, by embracing the stranger – particularly those whose suffering is most often ignored – and by being kinder to those who are too often taken for granted.
We remember God’s promise to Abraham: “I will bless you and you will be a blessing.” It’s within our means to use our God-given souls to make a life of goodness, responsibility and love so that our lives are indeed blessings to the world – especially in the wake of COVID-19!
May it be so.