Perhaps, this year, the question we should be asking at Seder is:
ׁ?מה נשתנה הפסח הזה – Ma nishtanah haPesach hazeh?
Why is this Pesach different from all other Pesachs?
With the COVID-19 pandemic there are some obvious answers.
• Going out to buy Pesadik foods will give us pause. Some will go and shop. Some will have others shop for them. Others will shop online.
• Many families separated by distance can, for the first time, share Seder online.
• For the first time, families separated by distance can share Seder online.
• During Yizkor we will also remember those who died from this plague.
But there are other answers as well. Torah teaches us that if someone is in a state of ritual impurity s/he can bring the Pesach sacrifice on Pesach Sheini (a second Pesach) – 14th of Iyar. Perhaps then we can wait to celebrate Pesach and move our Seders to Thursday evening May 7th, the 29th day of the Omer. But if the plague hasn’t abated would we need a Pesach Shlishi (third Pesach) or even a Pesach Rvi’i (fourth Pesach).
I am going to take a different path this year and follow an example of our ancestors. My household will have Seder on 14 Nisan as we do every year and “keeping Passover” for the proscribed week. Then we are going to follow the example of our mystic tradition and have Lag B’Omer style celebration. This celebration may not fall on the actual date for Lag B’Omer, tMonday night May 11. But, as soon as we are freed from our self-isolation, we should have a grand celebration. Picnics, campfires, singing, and Israeli Dancing.
Yes, we will mourn those who died from COVID-19. We will also celebrate those who heal and survive. We will remember the lessons we learned. Lessons on how to handle a future challenge like the one we face now, and lessons on how to transform our traditional synagogues into the synagogues of the future.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ).