Throughout our Jewish history, Passover was traditionally celebrated, with family and community Seders. This year, we find ourselves in a new predicament. We are fighting an enemy that cannot even be seen.
Our world has been brought to a halt with COVID-19. The coronavirus has shut down all schools, houses of worship, entertainment venues, eateries, and many workplaces. Confined to our own homes, we are realizing the physical barriers.
But the emotional and spiritual barriers shall not be severed. We now have time to focus on family and important life issues. Now is time to recalibrate our priorities, and bring the much-needed extra light to our homes and thereby illuminate the world at large.
If one small virus could wreak such havoc into our world, imagine what goodness can be brought in by each act of kindness.
The Holiday Candles
Passover begins with lighting the holiday candles, something done primarily by women, or men if there is no woman in the home. This year, Jewish women and girls were given the unique opportunity to light holiday and Shabbat candles three evenings in a row; Wednesday and Thursday for the Passover holiday with the blessing L’hadlik Ner Shel Yom Tov followed by the Shehechiyanu v’kiyimanu v’higiyanu lizman hazeh and Friday night with the Shabbat blessing of l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat. The number-3 signifies strength. Let us strengthen and brighten this world with our candle lights.
Ever since COVID-19 has intensified, people have been asking incessantly, “What do you think, Rabbi Shneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe would say? What would he tell us to do?”
I believe the Rebbe would surely have told us to keep strong and optimistic, follow all the directives of health officials and the government, and to seriously step up our spiritual game. The Rebbe would tell us as, he always did, that the only way to beat back darkness is to shed light. This year, we have the opportunity to light the holy candles three nights in a row. It’s integral that we light our candles as this SARS war is truly a battle between light and darkness and given a chance, light always wins.
When This ‘Passes-Over’
At the first Seder ever held, when the Jewish people were in Egypt, they were told to remain in their homes the entire night, while a plague raged outside. The next morning, they were led by Moses to freedom from the harsh Egyptian exile.
One fond memory is that of my father and of my father-in-law patiently waiting for all children to ask the Four Questions and then taking a few moments to repeat them on their own. This custom always piqued my curiosity. “Who was he asking?” They each would answer, “I am asking these questions to G-d, our Father in Heaven!”
This year at our Passover Seders on our own or with only a few friends, we ask, “Why, G-d, is this night different from all other Passover Seder nights?” Why are grandparents separated from their children and grandchildren? Why are widows sitting alone? Why are there people who have nowhere to go? Why, O why?!
I don’t know when we will receive an answer from ‘our Father in Heaven’, but may it be very soon and hopefully with such amazing revealed goodness, beyond anything we can imagine!
In the meantime, however, please allow me to suggest that we use these overwhelming circumstances to reflect on the incredible value of family, friends, and community, so that when this “passes-over,” we will appreciate it more than ever before.
In this light, instead of “social distancing,” let us refer to it as “physical distancing,” because, only our bodies can be “distanced” but our souls will always remain close. As Jews, especially on the Seder night, we are not alone and will never be alone!!
Wishing everyone here and around the world a Kosher, happy and healthy, and yes, even an uplifting, Passover!
About the Author
Rabbi Levy Zirkind is the director of Chabad of the Central Valley.