Coronavirus and Passover: It doesn’t have to be as bleak as you fear

“It’s important to look at what Passover represents as a whole, which is the idea that faith can transcend anything and that hope can be found everywhere,” said Mendi Baron.

SPECIAL SEDER boxes include a fully loaded Seder plate (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
SPECIAL SEDER boxes include a fully loaded Seder plate
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Many of us have still not fully wrapped our mind around the fact that we won’t be spending Passover with our family and friends this year. Ironically, we all know the part when we sit at Seder and ask “how is this night different?” Well, it’s going to be very different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make meaningful and positive memories.
“It’s important to look at what Passover represents as a whole, which is the idea that faith can transcend anything and that hope can be found everywhere,” says licensed clinical social worker Mendi Baron. “Our forefathers and mothers marched out of slavery with no idea where they were headed or how they would get there and just threw their dough on their backs and marched – also following a severe plague! We are, first and foremost, a tough, hopeful, and stiff-necked nation.”
Baron goes on to underline that it’s important for us all to remember that this too shall pass and that we will come out the other side stronger and better for it. “As a therapist and an Orthodox Jew these ideas are not just for a speech in synagogue, I have noticed that these concepts of hope and faith actually carry people through great challenges and provide a basis for decreased mental and emotional stress.”
Adding to this, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, director of the Tzohar Center for Jewish Ethics and a founder of the Tzohar rabbinical organization in Israel, explains that the underlying concept behind Passover is that of freedom and independence. “Even as we are so closely linked to and dependent on our families, our independence is also as individuals. This understanding can give us some level of strength during this year when so many of us will be apart from our families.”
SPECIAL SEDER boxes include a fully loaded Seder plate (Wikimedia Commons)SPECIAL SEDER boxes include a fully loaded Seder plate (Wikimedia Commons)
So how exactly can we honor Passover this year?
It would be easy to let the holiday pass and no one should be judged for it, but Baron is quick to underline that there is greater fortitude and honor in saying “I WILL celebrate and I will make sure it’s even more meaningful.”
“One way to make it more meaningful is to remind yourself the ways in which Passover is relevant today,” says Baron. “So much of religion relates stories and struggles of the past, yet today, we are in the midst of unprecedented global chaos. Plagues? We got ’em. Death? We are being spared of it daily. Family? Faith? Heck, it’s being tested now more than ever. We may not have a pharaoh telling us we can’t follow our faith, but literally everything else is getting in the way from food access, to school and synagogue access, to support when you need it. Coronavirus and fear might well be the modern slave master.”
Inspired to celebrate? We hope so! Now the key is to feel connected even if we’re physically distant. “Ask family and friends who were supposed to be with you to send in questions, stories, and recipes that you can prepare before the Seder and share during the Seder,” says Rabbi Benjy Myers, the educational director of the Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary Program. “After yom tov, call with the answers and share the reactions to those stories. Were you supposed to be a guest? Call your hosts and ask what you can send to still be involved in the Seder.”
RABBI BENJY MYERS (Courtesy)RABBI BENJY MYERS (Courtesy)
Lastly, for decades people have left an empty chair at the Seder table for a variety of reasons (to honor IDF soldiers held in captivity, the fifth son who didn’t show up for Seder…), this year Rabbi Myers suggests leaving an empty chair, but making sure that the place setting is full of what the person or people would have brought. “Leave an envelope in their place with the questions they sent and periodically throughout the Seder reach into the envelope. Make sure the person knows that this is the plan so that as they sit at their own Seder, they are still emotionally attached to yours.”
IF COOKING is what’s standing between you and Seder, we have a solution for that too.
Adopt-A-Safta, a charitable organization pairing young internationals and Israelis with lonely Holocaust survivors is offering special Seder boxes (kosher for Passover) with all proceeds going to benefit Jews in need. Priced at NIS 180 per person (free for Adopt-A-Safta Survivors), the kits include a fully loaded Seder plate (haroset, maror, roasted egg, etc.), fun beginners English/Hebrew Haggadot, a box of matzah, multiple sides and salads, a honey and rosemary marinated chicken or veggie crusted quiche entrée, and cutlery. See all the options at SederBox.eventbrite.com. Pick-up is available from Central Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or Gett Delivery can be used.
If you’re looking to cheer up a loved one (or yourself!) Yoffi has special Passover-themed gift boxes, many of which are on sale and all of which are kosher for Passover (except the salts). Delivery is NIS 14 (no minimum) and requires 1-3 days no matter where in Israel you are located (worldwide shipping also available). Ready-to-gift boxes include things like olive oil, halva and tahini. Israeli Food Direct also offers worldwide shipping on kosher-for-Passover options including frozen foods, soups, cakes, and biscuits. Delivery is next day and the cost depends on location.
This Seder will be one we’ll talk about for decades to come, so let’s make it a positive one to remember!