Many people’s plans for Pesach this year have been completely
upended by the coronavirus pandemic. What would you recommend these people think about as they sit down to the Seder to celebrate the holiday of freedom?
At this time of crisis, we pray that Hashem will bless all of us with good health and well-being.
The Haggadah tells of five sages who observed Pesach in Bnei Berak. They lived in the generation following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The situation was exceedingly bleak.
The Haggadah describes them as mesubin, reclining. They acted as though they were noblemen. They studied Torah all night, as though everything waere right in the world. They dreamed of a new redemption.
By their example, they were teaching: Yes, the reality outside is frightening – but we are not afraid. We have a vision, a grander reality in our minds. We foresee happy Jewish families around their Seder tables; we foresee flourishing Torah study; we foresee the reconstitution of the Jewish state.
The students witnessed their rabbis’ sense of a larger reality. “Our teachers, we now see that there is a new dawn. You are leading us through the darkness of night.”
These sages taught their generation – and all future generations – not to lose heart at times of crisis. With Hashem’s help, we will overcome.
Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Eliezer were the elders; Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were of the next generation; Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah was younger. The students who attended them were younger. When all the generations can confront shared problems together, a new day will dawn.
As our sages of old envisioned a better future, so let us look forward to a new and blessed dawn.
— Rabbi Marc D. Angel, director of
the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals
* * * * *
Jews have been observing the Pesach Seder in both difficult and good times. When we had a Beis Hamikdash, we came to Yerushalayim and shared with family and friends eating the Koran Pesach. In times of persecution with difficulty we has a little matza to eat, Despite the wide variety of contexts the basic message of the Seder remained consistent. We identify with and re-enact the foundational national experience of the Jewish people Hashem’s taking us out of Egypt. Even when we are restricted and can not leave our homes we still acknowledge our freedom. Unquestionably without the presence of generations the transmission component of the Seder will be missing. The danger of the Coronavirus creates fear and anxiety but our knowledge that through out the world and for thousands of years Jews have been reciting the same Haggadah reminds us of our common bonds. The Jew doesn’t only live in the present he is a part of all of Jewish history. Observing the Seder is a statement of identification with that history and trust in Hashem.
— Rabbi Yosef Blau, mashgiach ruchani at
YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
* * * * *
Following the Health Department’s directions, my wife and I will be making our Seder this year sans children or grandchildren (even those who live down the block), so I believe I am qualified to answer this question.
First, the basic message of Pesach is that Hashem took us out of Egyptian servitude to be His servants, totally submitting to His will. Being a servant of G-d is the ultimate freedom. When things are going the way we want and like, it’s easy to comply with G-d’s will.
The true test of one’s loyalty – are you really Hashem’s servant? – comes when circumstances are difficult. When a person sits at the Seder alone and realizes that he is submitting to G-d’s will, he is fulfilling the purpose of the Seder and should do so with an inner joy and satisfaction.
Just as we desecrate Shabbos to save a life with the rationale that desecrate one Shabbos so that the patient can observe more Shabbosos, similarly, having the Seder alone is a precaution to preserve one’s health, not to be infected with coronavirus. One should think I am separated from my family this Seder in order that I can enjoy many more healthy Sedarim with them in the future.
Additionally, one can focus on ideas and lessons in the Seder not possible to focus on when inundated with family and little children and use this as a preparation for more meaningful Sedarim in the future.
In any case, a person should muster up all the strength he has to overcome any sadness and fulfill the mitzvah of “Visamachta bichagecha” – to rejoice in the Yom Tov, to rejoice in the fact that one is healthy, and to rejoice in all the good Hashem has bestowed upon us despite the difficult times we are experiencing.
Chag kasher v’same’ach.
— Rabbi Zev Leff, rav of Moshav
Matisyahu, popular lecturer and educator
* * * * *
That one little bug can end all of our great plans and concepts – that alone is worth speaking about. The fact that Hashem runs the world in every aspect – which ultimately is the theme of Pesach – is also being brought home to us in a very real way.
But having just recently been released from the hospital, I think I can offer a perspective on this question that might be very insightful. And that is: Baruch Hashem, I will be alive and well at this year’s Seder.
Even though it’s true that it will be very different than previous Seders, and different than I had anticipated, the reality is that if we’re well and healthy, there’s a tremendous amount to appreciate and thank Hashem for.
— Rabbi Ben Zion Shafi er, founder of The Shmuz