Seder, alone

Well, that was odd.

A SUGGESTION for the Seder: Leave an empty chair at the table for the person who cannot attend, but at the empty place setting, includes items they would have brought. (photo credit: Courtesy)
A SUGGESTION for the Seder: Leave an empty chair at the table for the person who cannot attend, but at the empty place setting, includes items they would have brought.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Like hundreds of thousands of other Israelis, our Wednesday night Passover seder was fundamentally different than any other seder we have ever experienced. Instead of the house full of our kids and guests, instead of hubbub and noise and songs and arguments and tension and laughter, this year it was only me and my  wife: a quiet date night at home – just the two of us – with matzah, sweet haroset and bitter herbs.
That's it. No one else. And I feel lucky. Unlike thousands of others, I was not completely alone.
So the seder was odd, certainly, but not as bad, nor even as sad, as I feared.
It was odd engaging in a ceremony purposely geared towards children, without any children around the table. It was odd retelling a tale where plagues play a prominent role, while living in the midst of a plague. It was odd reciting the phrase about enemies in every generation raising up to destroy us, when the enemy on this particular seder eve was not out to destroy the Jews, but everyone, everywhere.
It was odd that I did not have to admonish anyone thumbing through the Haggadah during the first part of the seder service to see how many pages were left before we ate. It was odd being able to read the commentary in the Haggadah as we were reciting it, without anyone nudging me to keep things moving. And it was odd that the job of asking the Four Questions fell on my wife, since she was the yougnest one at the table.
Odder still, was when I hid the afikomen for her to find.
“What present do I get?” she asked, when she found the broken half of the middle matzah after the meal.
After having already spent about a month alone together in our apartment, I joked, “Two weeks away, just the two of us.”
Ironically, of all the seders I have experienced – as a child with my parents, in college at the homes of strangers, as a father and then father-in-law with my kids and later their spouses – this is the one I will surely remember the most.
 I have fond memories of the other seders, warm impressions that will always remain in my mind. But I don't remember specifics. I can't recall the specific seder of 1970 with my folks, nor the one in 2000 with my kids.
But I will always remember the Corona Seder of 2020, alone at home with my wife: the one where at precisely 10 PM much of the neighborhood and most of those in my building -- people thirsty for some communal connection while locked each in their own home -- took to their porches to sing a few seder songs.
The coronavirus has upended lives and wreaked havoc for hundreds of millions of people around the world. In the process, it has also shown that so many things that we thought were simply impossible to do without, are – well – possible to do without.
It is possible to study without going to class. It is possible to get medical attention without physically seeing a doctor. It is possible to go a week without eating out in a restaurant. It is possible to live without sports or live entertainment. It is also possible to have a seder, without all your loved ones around. It's not optimal. It’s not preferable. But it is possible.
Passover is a holiday that gives the Jewish people historical perspective: where we were, where we came from, where we are today, and what we hope for tomorrow. On this particular Passover the coronavirus has added an additional layer of perspective on top of all that: what is important, what is essential, and what we are able to do without.
Hopefully, however, we will only have to sit through this lesson once, and that next year one of the things that we will not have to do without is friends and loved ones around the seder table. I understand the perspective, I get  the point, I’ve even internalized it. Now I'm ready to move on.