This year as we tell the story of Passover, the concept of a plague will be rendered meaningful through our own experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. All of us have known the inconvenience of sheltering in place. Some of us have suffered illness and recovered; others are grieving, unable to offer final farewells to loved ones or feel the comforting embrace of family and community. This virus will forever alter our understanding of the word plague.
Three associations come to mind with respect to our traditional Passover story. The ultimate plague described in Exodus is the slaying of the firstborn. Although the cases of those stricken by the corona virus are no longer limited to elders, those older than 60 years are at a higher risk than younger people. I pray that we fare better than the ancient Pharaoh.
The Rabbis query about the penultimate plague, darkness. Why is this the plague that precedes the brutal killing of every first born? Our Sages teach that this darkness was the worst type of darkness. It was not just the absence of light. It was a palpable darkness that prevented one person from seeing another. We could not see our neighbors distress; we could not empathize with their suffering. This inability to empathize with one another and, certainly not with the Hebrew slaves, led to death in every family. We must isolate from one another so we reduce the spread of our tenth plague.
In Hebrew the name for Egypt is Mitzrayim. The word also means from narrow spaces. These days even our spacious homes begin to feel narrow, we are limited from go out and about, physically socializing. Our space is narrowed.
Our need for strict physical distancing does not mean that we ought to succumb to the plague of darkness. We can make social connections by using our technology. Schools are offering remote classes. Our congregation still has classes on-line and services using an interactive video platform. We are making connections and feeling one another’s pain. We are offering support and providing strength. Through our coming together remotely, we are maintaining a sense of community. We are redeeming our anxiety by transforming into a meaningful presence.
This year, for holidays and every day, make connections with others who need your touch. Use video chats and phone calls, text a photo. Let the technology serve our human needs to socialize.
When we transform our outlook, we will hasten redemption, as we flatten the curve of Covid-19. Observe all precautions for a joyful holiday season.
May God bless you with patience, strength, hopefulness, and good health.