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Passover Pandemic Gives New Meaning To Freedom

Yesterday felt like Spring, a beautiful sunny day with all the colorful flowers in bloom, and a great day for a much needed walk after cooking and cleaning.

Then as the sun began to set, the clouds rolled in, the sky grew darker, and right on cue, the rain came down, watering the bright green grass, yellow forsythia bushes, and pink magnolia tree that are the first to blossom in our yard. As we sat down to dinner, I remember last year when it thunder stormed on the first night of Passover and I was convinced God sent the plague of hail to make sure we were doing the Seder during the coronavirus pandemic, even as the patio furniture blew over. This year, a mist of rain came through the open window, and it felt soothing, refreshing, cleansing, like a new beginning.

So, what does the rain have to do with Beano sitting in the chair? Nothing. I just like writing about nature. But last night as I was clearing the dining room table, I found my fluffy toy poodle making himself comfortable—and at the head of the table no less. He knew this night was different from all other nights. The point of this post is not Beano, although he looks awfully cute and innocent, but the special pillow behind him. I made this pillow with Sari in 2002 (I always dated our art projects), and we used puff paint to decorate all the symbols on the Seder plate—egg, parsley, bitter herb, horshradish, charoset, shankbone, and some scribbles. I appreciate the comfort of this pillow more each year, as I get older and my back needs the extra support, but also for its meaning. When the cousins were young, I used to go all out with the Passover props, the 10 plagues, even a silver magical Elijah’s cup that featured a hidden button to drain the wine in a bottom compartment and make the liquid disappear. The reason for the pillow is because on Passover we remember when we were enslaved in Egypt, and at the Seder we recline like royalty because we are free. The person to the left of us pours our wine, and we lean when we say the blessing over the fruit of the vine.
FREEDOM means something different today than it did to our ancestors thousands of years ago as they wandered the desert for 40 years. The journey itself from Egypt to Israel caluculates to take about a year and a half, explains my son at the dinner table, but the path to spiritual freedom that the Israelies were on, this takes much longer.
Today, we may be physically free, but mentally we are entrapped by many things…money, jobs, social media, mental and physical health, insecurity, other people’s expectations, entitlement, climate change, crime, violence, politics…and, as this covid pandemic has blatantly exposed, corrupt inequalities in education, health care, and basic human rights. These important ideas are hard to digest, as we pile sweet charoset and a dab of horshradish on matzo to eat, but these conversations need to be ongoing. We owe it to ourselves and our children to understand where we came from and what role we play in the modern Exodus story. As we enter the second night of Passover, may we find ways to free ourselves from whatever burdens us, and also do what we can to help those who are still suffering.
And the Seder ends, L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim, “Next year in Jerusalem,” meaning next Passover may we find ourselves, and our fellow humans, in a better world that we share.