We know this Passover will be different from all others in our lifetime. We know that the recitation of the plagues will feel all too close to home. We know we will feel different having smaller Seders
or none at all. But how can we let Passover transform us, uplift us, carry us through this time of physical distancing and trauma?
Each year when I read about the Israelites’ complaints during the wanderings after their freedom from Egypt, I find myself frustrated or annoyed. They repeat over and over: “Were there no graves in Egypt that you leave us to die in the Wilderness?” And their cravings (from Numbers): “The people had a craving, and they also wept once more, and said, ‘Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge; the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now, our life is parched, there is nothing; we have nothing to anticipate but the manna!’ ”
This year, as I scour the Internet for toilet paper, I find myself having more empathy for the kvetching Israelites. The truth is, they were frightened. Everything they knew was gone. They were likely hungry too and resource deprived. Fear is a natural response to the uncertainty and the difficult conditions around us. There is nothing wrong with fear, despite what our larger cultural norms say. The trick is living with our fear, acknowledging it and still moving ahead
because its danger lies in its ability to
To the Israelites who kvetched out of fear but kept going, kept journeying, I say, “
- great job!” And to all of us, when fear comes, when feelings of deprivation come that are rooted in fear, it is OK. When feelings of anxiety come, it is more than OK. And all that matters is that we keep breathing. That we take another step. And another.
Step by step is how we get to the Promised Land, though it is unknown how long it will take us. When will this time of physical distancing end? When our ancestors left Egypt and headed for a new, better place, they were not given a timeline for when they would get there.
The Promised Land is an idea more than a place, a hope more than a fulfillment. It is upon us (
) to envision a promised land, envision a better future
even if you cannot see it in the distance, even if it is not in your immediate future. We must keep envisioning a future that is beyond what we can see in front of us. We must not despair. We must not give up. No matter what the timeline.
And while we are envisioning a promised land, let’s take this opportunity to consider the kind of future we want to live in. Can we imagine a Promised Land where the most vulnerable are the most protected and cared for, instead of their being treated as the most dispensable? Can we imagine a Promised Land of mutual care and responsibility?
May the lessons Passover holds lift us up well beyond the seven or eight days of our holiday observance.
(safe) holiday from my family to yours!