Celebrating Passover a year after coronavirus pandemic

There were no guests or festive gatherings last Passover and there were many people who spent holiday completely alone.

Passover Seder. (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
Passover Seder.
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
Passover is all about freedom, a concept that has taken on new meaning for most of us, given what the world has been like over the past 12 months. While we can’t honestly say that COVID is in our collective rearview mirror just yet, things are moving in the right direction and the contrast between this Passover and last couldn’t be more stark.
There were no guests or festive gatherings last Passover and there were many people who spent holiday completely alone. Our synagogues were locked and we faced a devastating virus that left us mourning unfathomable losses, even as we had serious reasons to fear for our personal safety and that of our loved ones. Like the Egyptians living through the plague of darkness, we were completely in the dark, not knowing what the next day would bring as confusion reigned supreme for months on end.
Thank God, this Passover is a completely different experience, one where we can enjoy freedoms that we only dreamed of last year. We may have fewer people at our tables, but we aren’t facing total isolation. And while COVID is still with us, the accumulated medical knowledge and the slow but steady vaccination effort is turning the tide on the pandemic. As we emerge cautiously from our modern-day plague and share time with friends and family, the words of the Haggadah are coming alive in ways that most of us haven’t seen before, with God figuratively splitting seas for us and taking us from darkness to light.
But even as we savor our newfound freedoms, it is important to remember that there are people in our communities who have yet to be liberated from the chains that enslave them. Those who struggle with abuse, addiction, and other mental health issues are still very much in the dark, living the frightening life that we remember all too well from last year. For them, the plagues that haunt their existence remain an agonizing reality, and as we celebrate Passover, we need to keep them in our thoughts and do what we can to ease their pain.
Whether it is inviting someone who is going through a hard time to your Seder or for a Passover meal, or asking them to join you for a walk or a cup of coffee and a macaroon or two, do something to show that you care, even if it is just reaching out via text, WhatsApp or a phone call. And to reiterate a message that I share every year, if someone refuses an offer of wine, please respect their wishes – you never know what is going on in a person’s life and what kind of issues they may be facing.
We don’t always stop to appreciate what freedom really means in our day-to-day lives, but experiencing a viral outbreak of this magnitude certainly gave us all an opportunity to view the world through different eyes. As we sit down on Passover night and invite those who are hungry to come and join us, let us all open our hearts to those who are still being plagued with hardships and support them in any way we can as we take the time to truly contemplate what it means to go from slavery to freedom and from darkness to light.
The writer is the CEO of Amudim, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims and those suffering with addiction within the community. He has been heavily involved in crisis intervention and management for the past 21 years. For more information go to amudim.org.