The Community Connection
Passover is a chance to embrace hope
We’re reached another milestone in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as people of faith here and around the world start our second round of major holidays being impacted by health restrictions.
The world’s Jews began their annual celebration of Passover on Saturday night. The eight-day festival continues through April 4.
For the second consecutive year, many people are adjusting their observance of the holiday.
The holiday begins with the seder, a ceremonial dinner traditionally held in people’s homes with large gatherings of extended family and friends. Due to Passover’s connections with Easter and related Christian observances, it’s often treated as a great opportunity for interfaith fellowship.
But for one more year many families are keeping their celebrations small out of respect for public health guidelines.
Passover celebrates the exodus of the Israelites from ancient Egypt as recounted in the Bible. Jews are commanded to retell the powerful story of redemption each year at the seder.
A year ago many observed that the pandemic added a certain resonance to the holiday. After all, plagues are at the center of the story. The sense of dread so many of us were feeling was quite reminiscent of the Bible account. And the difficult circumstances reinforced Passover’s message of cherishing our freedom.
Though the pandemic still is having an impact on how the holiday is observed, things are quite different now than they were last spring.
While it’s imperative that we continue to practice caution until conditions allow a full return to normal life, there’s considerable cause for optimism. A year ago it still wasn’t clear exactly what we were dealing with or how long it would take to resolve. It seemed quite unlikely that we would have effective vaccines in a matter of months.
Now the end of the health crisis is in sight. This year the pandemic lends a different resonance to Passover and the upcoming celebration of Easter. Both are spring observances that emphasize rebirth and hope in a season associated with the promise of bright times ahead.
Passover, like the Christian observance of Holy Week, strikes a balance between recounting tragic events and celebrating triumph. That’s certainly appropriate at this time when we mourn the horrible events of the past year while looking forward to better times.
The retelling of the Passover story makes clear the suffering the Israelites endured in slavery. There’s also sorrow associated with the plagues that befell the Egyptians.
Seder participants are told to regard it as if they themselves were among the slaves who had been freed thanks to God. That’s in the service of the holiday’s ultimate message of hope, joy and gratitude.
Even if our holiday celebrations aren’t what they normally would be, this is a time to express gratitude. That’s easier said than done. The Bible recognizes this key aspect of human nature in its telling of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and subsequent wandering in the desert. People who witnessed one miracle after another on their behalf still managed to find plenty of reasons to complain and be defiant.
Today we have people proudly sharing their negative attitudes despite tremendous advances in the fight against COVID-19.
That doesn’t mean folks have to agree with every public health decision made over the past year. But with vaccines showing great promise in finally helping to put an end to this ordeal, it’s irresponsible to discourage people from getting immunized or suggest that we should act as if the pandemic is over. We’re not there yet.
Despite their travails and missteps along the way, the Israelites did get to enter the promised land.
We will as well. In the meantime, keep taking responsibility and focusing on hope and gratitude.