I’d like to start off with a short and obvious statement: we’ve never had a Passover like this before.
This year, we will certainly be excused for adding a fifth question to the Passover seder, asking, “Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?” The coronavirus pandemic has quickly and forcefully changed all our lives and the lives of billions around the world – but Passover has and will always continue to be relevant in our lives because of three of its powerful themes: freedom, gratitude, and renewal.
The Passover story, which we are ordered to recount each year, is the story of the exodus from Egypt, the celebration of our freedom, and gratefulness to God for redeeming us. When the Jews were slaves in Egypt, we had no freedom. We were in bondage. This pandemic has many people feeling trapped as well: we are cut off from one another, and while we can still communicate with one another, it’s not the same energy as being in the same room or giving someone a hug.
We’re waiting, hoping, and praying for a way out. We’re praying for family and friends; praying for a resolution to a constantly evolving global crisis.
Pharaoh’s objective wasn’t just to enslave and subjugate Jews, but to have them forget about God as well. By keeping them occupied with back-breaking labor, the Jews wouldn’t have time to stop and contemplate and keep God at the forefront of their minds.
Newton’s law of inertia states that an object in motion will stay in motion. Let’s say you have a friend that you talk with all the time; it’s part of your routine and you’re unlikely to change it. Or, let’s say that you get a job that is incredibly stressful and incredibly demanding on your time. Your boss micromanages everything you do, and doesn’t give you credit for your work. You have no time to think and no time to breathe. And when you’re not at the office – all of your thoughts are work, work, work.
Instead of talking to your friend every day, perhaps now you speak a couple of times a week. After a while, as the work piles higher and higher, you only talk on the weekends. Then it becomes once a month. Eventually you lose touch with your friend entirely, and only talk once in a blue moon to say, “happy birthday” or a rare “how are you doing?” check-in.
Pharaoh drove a wedge in the relationship between God and the Jews. God, through Moses, helped to restore it. Our freedom from bondage gave the Jews a chance to think, a chance to breathe, a chance to finally reconnect with our friend and build up that old routine.
There are still things that enslave us to this day: work, our own self-image, the opinions of others, and so many more. Are you ever taking the time to escape from these things and simply breathe and evaluate what your priorities are in life?
Taking that much-needed time to think provides us with clarity about the way we should act and what’s important in our lives. The Passover story reminds of how we were freed from slavery in Egypt, and how our minds were freed as well.
From that redemption comes gratitude.
For everyone reading this that is still employed, has the pandemic made you more appreciative of your job? Many who are out of work are now struggling to pay bills and sort through their finances. Did you ever take paying rent for granted? Did you ever have a second thought before when going out to a restaurant with friends or ordering take-out or delivery? How about now?
As the world around us quickly changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, I hope we use this time to become more grateful for the things we have, especially the things we used to take for granted.
Those who live with family now get to spend more time together. That, in my opinion, is one of – if not the most – precious commodities we have in life: time. Once it’s lost, we can never get it back. Let’s make sure that we use this time wisely.
From a perspective of gratitude, it makes perfect sense to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt each year and sing “Dayenu” at the end. We must remind ourselves of what God did for us and how fortunate we are to lead the lives we do today. We humble ourselves repeatedly and give thanks to God during “Dayenu.” It would have been enough – but God bestowed even more gifts upon us.
“Dayenu” doesn’t stop with the exodus from Egypt. It continues with our journey into the desert and continues to this day with the gifts that we continue to enjoy in our lives. “Dayenu” should be an every-day attitude. We all have so much to be grateful for and we should express it more not only outwardly and aloud but internally as well.
That brings us to the theme of renewal. Various aspects of the seder plate, like the egg and greens, symbolize spring, and spring always brings with it a sense of renewal and revitalization. The flowers and trees that were barren and dormant during the winter burst into life. It happens every year like clockwork, just like the Passover seder. Both the holiday and the seder offer us the chance to rededicate ourselves and emerge with renewed energy.
This Passover, I hope you’re able to take time for yourself, to free your mind, appreciate the numerous gifts we have, and to rededicate yourself to self-improvement.
This pandemic offers us the chance to emerge as different people, as better people. We, as Jews, are resilient people. Let’s not just weather this storm. Let’s learn to dance in the rain.
Chag Sameach (Happy Passover)!
About the Author: Noah Niederhoffer (@NNiederhoffer) is a producer at SiriusXM and a graduate of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. He’s also a freelance contributor to The Washington Post and Washington Examiner. Originally from Atlanta, he now lives in Washington, D.C
The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.