There is a famous expression: “In life, you can’t control the direction of the wind, but you could adjust the sails of your ship”. Circumstances are given to us from Above, and we are not judged by the circumstances that are given to us, it is how we react and use the opportunity of each circumstance that either allows us to just survive or thrive.
There is a well-known story that brings out this point: Once upon a time, a shoe company sent two salesmen to Africa to determine the market potential for their products. One salesman was sent to the east coast of Africa, while the other salesman was sent to the west coast of Africa. Both the salesmen completed a basic survey of the target market and called back to the office. The salesman sent to the east coast of Africa reported: “No one here wears any shoes, there is no market for us here!”. The other salesman sent a message “No one here wears any shoes, there is a huge market for us, send inventory fast!”
There is no question that this years’ Passover celebration, and preparation, is unlike any other that we have experienced in our lifetime. While the usual preparations include making sure the kids are out of the home – so that the home can get thoroughly cleaned – and spending hours going around shopping, or finalizing travel plans to extended family or friends, this year, the children have been home for weeks, there are no unnecessary shopping trips and for many – for the first time – they will be making the Seder alone at home. There is a good chance that all synagogues will still be closed.
While many will be complaining that this Passover does not seem “real and regular”, and that truly “This night is different than all the other nights”, we should really take the time to see what unique opportunities are presented to us this year. We all must try to make sure that we are not missing the opportunities which are presented to us in these unique circumstances.
The following are a few thoughts and suggestions:
“It’s all about the children”. Passover is the unique biblical holiday that the true focus – and stars of the Seder – are the children. The Torah (Exodus 13:8-14) tells us:”And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, “Because of this, the Lord did [this] for me when I went out of Egypt.”…And it will come to pass if your son asks you in the future, saying, “What is this?” you shall say to him, “With a mighty hand did the Lord take us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
In a “regular” year, due to the (generally) strong Jewish family unit, the Passover Seder turns into a family social gathering. Whether the gathering is by our grandparents or an uncle and aunt, it is very difficult to focus on the younger children. They may ask the “four questions,” but after that they are hushed and kept quiet – or put to sleep – for the rest of the evening. This year, we have the chance to actually allow our children to shine. We can actually run our own seder, the way the seder should be: children-centered and -focused. With many parents working from home now, we can prepare special projects with our children and allow the Seder to be – less about the family social scene, rather – completely “children friendly”.
Our sages (Talmud Pesachim) teach us: “In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally had gone out of Egypt”. For many children, it is really hard to relate to the exodus. What does it really mean to be enslaved? What really is a plague? How does a plague shut down regular life and society?
Having experienced their world (schools, social interactions, etc.) change so drastically because of the spread of Covid-19, many of the above-mentioned questions become easier to relate to. The children have experienced a sudden “plague” that has changed their daily routine. Many are feeling constrained and “locked down” and are eagerly anticipating the ability to have the freedom to experience “regular” life again.
We really should use this opportunity to speak to our children about the future redemption of the Jewish people. Just as after the plagues in Egypt, the Jewish people were redeemed by G-d Almighty – through Moses – and eventually brought to Eretz Yisrael, the same is true in our times, leading us all once again to Eretz Yisrael and – instead of just announcing at the conclusion of the seder that “Next year in Jerusalem” – we should all merit to celebrate “This year in Jerusalem”!