This is as difficult a year to celebrate Pesach as any of us born after WWII has ever known; but this year is not an anomaly in Jewish history. We’ve known as a people years of suffering before that the Haggadah itself documents in Midrash, rite, ritual, and song. As we do every year, we ask especially now what is the meaning of Passover.
The traditional Haggadah has a statement inserted during times of great oppression that calls upon God to “pour out Your wrath” upon the enemies of our people who caused us such suffering. Many modern Haggadot, however, deleted this reference and replaced it with “pour out Your love” upon Your people and all peoples, especially upon those suffering from oppression, illness, and want.
That being said, it’s entirely appropriate for us to be angry at those federal, state, and local government officials who have been derelict in their duty to follow the advice of medical experts and scientists who early on advocated taking aggressive steps to stem the tide of this pandemic and thereby protect, as much as possible, the well-being of our citizenry. Though many of our nation’s governors, mayors, health-care professionals, first-responders, and community leaders have stepped up to protect us, history will judge harshly those who failed to be the leaders we so desperately need.
Our Seders should include prayers for the healing of every person across the globe who is ill with this virus. Here is the shortest prayer in the Hebrew Bible (Numbers 12:13) that Moses offered on behalf of Miriam who had been struck with leprosy – “El na r’fa na la – Please God heal her.” We can put it into the plural for all those afflicted – “El na r’fa na lahem – Please God heal them.”
This year our Seders likely will be the smallest gatherings we’ve ever experienced. But we can still celebrate our festival of freedom and renewal, be grateful for our families, friends, and tradition of hope, and say dayeinu – that may be enough.
Hag Pesach Sameach.