Passover is a busy time of year and the preparation starts early. In the weeks before the festival we begin cleaning our house and removing the leaven.
Then it’s time to plan the seder menu: hors d'oeuvres, charoset, the main course, dessert, and all the little details in between. The one who is leading has a lot of planning to do including brushing up on seder tunes and get reacquainted with the Haggadah. Normally, this also includes inviting as many friends and family as possible to join in this holy celebration. However, this year, with the COVID-19 epidemic, things will be much different. There will be virtually no guests and for some of us, that may even mean doing the seder alone.
The book of Ecclesiastes states: “Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter under the heaven” (3:1). The sages teach us that everything is orchestrated by heaven. That means for whatever reason, HaShem, in his infinite wisdom, has allowed this season to come upon us. It also means that there is a lesson to learn and an experience that will help us grow. Social media and the news are replete with reminders that many people who are in quarantine are using this as a time for gluttony, substance abuse, and to binge-watch Netflix. However, for us as disciples of Yeshua, while there is no harm in enjoying some more home-cooked meals and catching up on a few shows, we should be seeking to use this time to grow. In the words of Bob Dylan, “You and I, we’ve been through that and this is not our fate. Let us not talk falsely now for the hour is getting late.”
How can we effectively deal with this coronavirus Passover dilemma and see isolation and lack of fellowship as a positive thing? Passover is the perfect time for spiritual growth. It is a time to physically and spiritually clean house. We don’t have to wait for the seder; this starts today as we prepare our houses and our hearts for the Passover season. With more time on our hands, the benefit can be two-fold.
First, take time as you clean the leaven out of your house to remove physical things you don’t need as well. The Master calls us to a life of simplicity and minimalism. He teaches us to stay focused on the kingdom and shun the accumulation of material things. Most of us in the West have too much stuff—possessions that we think are so dear but sit untouched for years. Think about the Israelites leaving Egypt. Imagine receiving the call to leave Egypt on foot with only a few days’ notice and having to make the decision about what to take and what to leave behind. What do we really need and what is just fluff? What would you take as you leave Egypt and what would you leave behind? Use this time to recycle, donate, and throw away.
Second, in addition to cleaning the leaven and junk out of our houses, we can take time for a good self-inventory. Normally, as life goes on as usual, we are caught up with the hustle and bustle of daily life. While fellowship with friends and family is important, sometimes these same people can distract us from taking a good look at our lives. Often, we actually like this because then we don’t have to deal with what is really going on inside. After all, we might see something that we really don’t like, but we need to. When we are left alone with ourselves, without the noise and distractions, we can truly get alone with God and probe into our hearts. That is when we can see ourselves for who we really are. Solitude and serenity are a gift. Take the time to be alone and find out what idols of Egypt you need to leave behind this Passover. This could be the year that you’re always talking about. This could be the year you really change.
OK. So, alone time is good, but what about the seder? In the wake of COVID-19 you are probably finding yourself with just you and your immediate family, you and your spouse or roommate, or even just you alone. Guests, or attending a big seder, certainly add to the seder experience and make the evening a lot livelier and fun. However, that doesn’t mean this year has to be a downer. Again, isolation can have its benefits. This is the year to focus on your house. How? If it’s you, your spouse, and your children you can take the time to slow things down and make sure the children stay engaged the entire time. It won’t be necessary to balance things out between young ones and more mature guests. If it’s you and your spouse or roommate, you can stop and discuss parts of the seder that inspire you and that you don’t understand.
If you’re alone, you are free to move through the Haggadah at entirely your own pace. You can stop and contemplate certain sections and even read through commentaries and teachings on the Haggadah as you go. There’s no rush and, frankly for most of us, nowhere to go. The possibilities are endless.
It is important that we don’t look at this year as merely a hiccup in what is otherwise a meaningful festive season. While it is easy to focus on the negative aspects, I encourage everyone to turn it into a positive experience. HaShem has placed this situation before us and it is up to us to find out what we are supposed to learn. In truth, this will most likely be one of your most memorable Passovers ever. God willing, next year we will all be in Jerusalem celebrating with Messiah.