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how is this night different?

04/14/2022 08:56:14 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

A rite of passage that many children experience in Judaism is the first time they are called upon to chant the Four Questions in Hebrew. It is a source of great pride for the entire family to watch this young member of the family take their rightful place with every else at the table who has done the same thing over the generations. The moment is one that frequently leads to recalling when each of us chanted these eternal questions for the first time. It offers reassurance to the elders at the table that the next generation will continue on, growing a new link in the chain of Judaism that connects back in time 4,000 years ago to Abraham and Sarah, but to an uncertain future. While the Passover Seder has many memorable moments, the chanting of the Four Questions is certainly a highlight.

For some, if not many, this might be the first time that those dear to you gather for an in-person Seder since the onset of the pandemic. This may also be a bittersweet time, as there will be those no longer with us at the Seder. It can also be a joyous time, as the newest member of the family will be attending the Seder, proudly wearing a “Baby’s First Seder” bib. The march of time is most apparent at the Seder, which according to population studies, is the most frequently observed Jewish ritual. The night will indeed be different, but I want to turn the question on its head, and rephrase it for this year.

Perhaps the answer to the question is a very Jewish activity: asking a question. My question/answer that I offer is: How am I different this night? Two major sub-units weigh on my mind: COVID and Ukraine.

COVID. How has COVID impacted me? Do I value being alive more? Am I more appreciative of all of the front-line workers who risked their lives, many losing their lives, to see that my needs are met? Have I become more patient with people, or more impatient? Have I thought of the needs of others before my needs? Am I fully vaccinated, not only to minimize the potential harm of COVID, but to minimize potential harm to those close to me? How have I helped those who need help?

UKRAINE. How has the post-Holocaust mantra of “Never Again” informed my words and deeds? Do I sit back and watch the carnage feeling helpless, or do I find meaningful ways to help? Will I be silent and therefore condone the perpetrators as Elie Wiesel wrote, or will I do what I can to encourage that they be brought to justice for crimes against humanity? Will the history of the Jewish people inform my actions? When Ukrainian refugees seek a new home in my community, will I welcome them and help them through their trauma, or ignore them and suggest that it’s “not my problem”?

I am different on this night. How are you different on this night?

Thu, June 1 2023 12 Sivan 5783