Ma Nishtana 2020

This year, as in every year at this season, I ask myself where the story of the Exodus intersects with my lived experience.  How am I Pharaoh? How am I Miriam? Where is liberation happening? Where is there still slavery?

In 2020, we will encounter the holiday as our ancestors did on the very first Passover described in the Torah – hunkered down in our homes as a great plague wreaks its destruction on the world around us.  Like our ancestors, we may also be experiencing intense fear and anxiety to witness humanity so thoroughly humbled by an invisible power; a great reminder of our vulnerability. We can only hope that on the other side of this trial we too will find positive transformation.

This crisis exposes all of the ways that our society has failed the most vulnerable among us.  It exposes the arrogance and folly of extreme individualism, which conceals our deep interconnectedness.  It also demonstrates our ability to stop our daily lives for sake of a collective need, and it calls us to make sacrifice, and be creative, courageous, forgiving, and patient.

If only humanity will learn these hard lessons now, perhaps as we rebuild we can make this moment a turning point for the good.  Perhaps this plague will force us to restructure our world according to more sustainable, compassionate values, which turn out to be the key to our own liberation.

And meanwhile — I will really miss gathering in person this year!  This is hard! The Seder is so physically grounded, so tactile and sensual, so much about big gatherings in person, that even a virtual experience will surely include many painful compromises.

And yet, when we ask, Mah Nishtana? What is different, this night from all other nights, this year from all other years, I think it’s important to remember that we are not the first generation to face a difficult Passover.

This year is challenging, scary, inconvenient, and a number of other unpleasant adjectives.  But come April 8th, the moon of Nisan will be full, Pesach will arrive, and we must make the best of it, just as our ancestors have made the best of seder nights in times of great difficulty.

We will miss gathering with family, friends, and community.  Some of us are mourning losses and facing very tough impacts from the corona pandemic.  This is a scary time, but that makes it all the more important to remember the ways that we are still free and blessed, as the holiday arrives.

Next Year In Person!!!!!

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