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What do we miss most?

04/07/2020 10:55:01 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Every Rabbi, and most likely everyone who will be participating in the Passover Seder, will find the opening question of the Four Questions very powerful this year: How is this night different from all other nights?  There will be an immense range of answers, from the serious to the sublime, from the humorous to the hallucinogenic. Obviously it will be different, but that does not mean unfamiliar. The matza will still be there, that simple yet complex food. The ones that you have been hunkered down with these past weeks will be there. For those of you sufficiently skilled in technology, and comfortable using it during the Seder, other important family and friends in your life will be there, albeit well beyond the suggested six-foot distance.

The wealth of resources on the Internet are just staggering. There are instructional videos outlining how to run a Seder, recordings of Passover melodies, a wide range of Haggadot available for free download, sites to create your own Haggadah, supplemental readings covering a vast range of subjects (including my own readings), Afikomen hunts, recipes galore, and inspirational messages of hope. I just typed the words “Passover Seder” into Google search, and in .58 seconds, nearly 11 million results came up.  11 million!  That defies description.  However, there is one thing that you cannot type into any search engine: the physical presence of family and friends at your Seder table.

We can lament the negative aspects of self-quarantine, but I prefer to see it as an opportunity. I think that there are many lessons that we are learning from staying at home, and the most important is the valuable time of self-reflection that leads us to recognize what really matters: human contact. A warm embrace, a handshake, a high-five, a cup of coffee with friends, a casual dinner out, an impromptu schmooze in the market – these are what we miss.  Everything else is nice in its’ place, but they just don’t matter. Human contact does. Interactions at the office, in the synagogue, at the ballpark, and just happenstance are what we miss the most.

Imagine a few decades ago under the same conditions. We would not be able to see and hear family and friends through any one of the communication applications on our computers or smart phones. The telephone alone would be our soul source of communication with the outside world, and it was a rotary device for some.

The parallels between our current state and the first Passover are remarkable, with overtones of freedom and plagues. To me, the most powerful is the opening paragraph of the Magid section, which is the telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. It begins in Aramaic with the words Hah Lachma Anya, this is the bread of affliction. The paragraph concludes with Hashata Avdei, Lashana Haba-ah B’nei Chorin: Now we are enslaved.  Next year may we be free.  More powerful words I cannot utter.

May all of us recognize the blessings that we have in our lives, and may we in short order be free to leave our homes unmasked and ungloved, able to begin whatever the new normal of our lives will be.  Make no mistake about it, for our lives have been inexorably altered.  Next year may we be privileged to host or attend a Seder surrounded by family and friends in person.  I wish each of you A Zissen Pesach, a sweet Passover.   

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780