In this sliver of time between the end of Passover and spring break and the return to the new normal of working from home and remote learning, I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on what happened this year.
All the Passover dishes are packed up and put away, and as I was sealing the boxes, I wondered what next year’s Passover would be like. We never really know what is coming a year from now – or even tomorrow – but this time of year always has a sense of melancholy for me. As I’ve mentioned in a past post (“You never know when it will be the last time“), my mom died two days before Passover and since then it’s always in the back of my mind that she had no idea the year before that that would be her last Passover.
When I packed up my Passover boxes last year, which was to be the last Passover in our previous house, where we lived for 13 years, I of course had no idea what this year would bring.
Last year when Jews worldwide concluded their seders with the message “Next year in Jerusalem,” they would have been shocked to learn that the next time they pulled out their Haggadot, it would be under very different circumstances. Since Passover seders are usually a time to gather with family and friends, it was a bit of a shock when the realization set in that this year it could be dangerous to celebrate the holiday with others. Not to mention that it even felt dangerous to head out to stores to purchase the food needed for the holiday.
So this year’s Passover was indeed different from all other Passovers. In some places, including Jerusalem, there was a government order for people not to leave their homes. In many places around the world, the seders included only people who lived in the household, even if it meant people staying alone.
But, as has been shown in other times in history, our people are resilient and we made it through the seder and the holiday. In non-Orthodox circles, it was permitted to hold virtual seders – using Zoom or other video conferencing apps. There was also some leniencies when it came to other things, too, such as burning chametz (in some communities this is done as a group activity) and since synagogues were closed, not going to synagogue. Additionally, at least in the Conservative movement, an announcement was made that if you didn’t usually eat beans or rice on Passover, it could be done this year if needed, since it was difficult for some to get other kosher-for-Passover food this year. Our synagogue, and several others, livestreamed holiday services online on Facebook and YouTube.
Before the holiday started, we took a family trip to both my dad’s house and Ron’s mom’s house to deliver Passover foods and have a short conversation with them outside from a few feet away. Such a weird experience to stand outside their homes and avoid getting too close.
We ended up having a Zoom seder the first night with my dad, my mother-in-law and a couple of friends who we regularly used to spend Shabbat with before COVID-19 entered our country. (This required some trial runs with Zoom in the days beforehand as it would be a first for my dad and mother-in-law.)
When it came to telling the story of Passover, we moved the laptop into the living room where the 9-year-old and 11-year-old had a stage set up with their plushies to tell the story.
The second night we had a seder with just the five of us – sans computer on the table – which felt a bit more normal, although we missed our company. During that seder, we took a short walk around our backyard when it came to the part of the story where the Israelites were walking in the desert.
The rest of Passover was pretty uneventful, just a blur of matzah and creamcheese, although I did make a couple batches of matzah meal pancakes and Passover rolls. Many weeks ago we had discussed going away for a brief trip up north at the end of spring break, but of course that was out of the picture now. One highlight for the younger boys was a chocolate seder put on by our synagogue’s youth group. Usually it’s done in person, but this time they packed up all the necessary supplies (which included chocolate in many forms) and I picked up the bags in the morning then they had a Zoom chocolate seder in the afternoon.
So now, on the last night of spring break (it was extended to two full weeks this year), we are getting ready to go back to our new normal.
Nobody knows how long this stage will last. In some cities, including Phoenix, there have been rallies and protests demanding that cities reopen so everyone can go back to work. I was relieved to hear that the local protest was primarily people in cars, but in other cities they were in large gatherings, without social distancing or wearing masks. There’s a whole movement of people who think the reaction to COVID-19 is a huge overreaction and think social distancing is a big joke. It would be nice if they were right, but for now I’m going to go ahead and listen to those on the frontlines who are actual witnesses to the effects of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, on to another week at home, praying that this modern-day plague will end soon.