2020 – The Pandemic Pesach

Pesach/Passover 2020 will go down in the annals of history as a unique event.

The Coronavirus pandemic put an effective stop to millennia of Jewish ritual and tradition surrounding the family-oriented customs of this wonderful festival so rich in meaning and history.

Pesach is the festival when among other things, we remember the plagues that were inflicted upon the Jewish nation’s enemies – at the same time as a dreadful viral plague is today afflicting all nations throughout the entire world.

True to Jewish custom, no challenge is regarded as insurmountable, but rather as an opportunity.

So too Pesach 2020. In a marked departure from custom, Jews the world over stayed within their own nuclear families to celebrate this festival – there was none of the longed-for traditional gathering of the extended family to celebrate together as in millennia past. Here in Israel, in particular, this was done by legal decree – the police actually imposed a sixteen-hour curfew to prevent people from moving around on Pesach to prevent the spread of the virus. But by and large that curfew wasn’t really necessary – sound common sense dictated that people stayed at home and celebrated alone in their small nuclear families.

Only they didn’t. Because from the balconies of every apartment block, from the gardens of every private villa throughout the land, people left their dining rooms to sing together – yet separately, each remaining with the safe confines of their own homes – the traditional songs of Pesach.

The nation of Israel locked down, each family in its own home – yet all those families, all “am Israel” (“the people of Israel”) – uniting together in song and prayer at the same time. In Petach Tikva, Yavne, Haifa, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva, Eilat, Afula. Separate, yet firmly welded together in age-old tradition and unity.

Pesach 2020 was the Passover festival that

celebrated humanity in the most trying of times.

The Jewish nation has a history of coming together in adversity. The Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 is a dreadful threat, it has cost and is still costing countless lives the world over. It is no respecter of religion, ethnicity, politics, national borders, social status or financial wealth. In Israel, like every other difficulty that has been thrown in this young nation’s path, the pandemic was seen as a challenge rather than an obstacle. Because every problem merely opens the door to potential solutions to that problem – solutions waiting to be identified, discovered, created, fine-tuned and implemented.

Pesach 2020 was very different in Israel. Just as it was in Jewish communities the world over, where depending on religious affiliation some communities even held their traditional Pesach “seder” online via Zoom, instantly uniting distant family members through the wonders of the Internet.

The Coronavirus pandemic reminds us all that we may sometimes feel lonely, but that when push comes to shove, we do not have to be alone – we can pull together, think creatively, act with empathy, perhaps even bend the rules a teeny-weeny bit to make things work. Because ultimately life is not about blind dogma, it’s about celebrating and nurturing humanity.

Pesach 2020 was the Passover festival that celebrated humanity in the most trying of times.

Hopefully we will all take a portion of this humanity with us as we continue with our lives for the rest of the year.