I hope you had a meaningful Passover. It certainly was memorable!
How many Zoom jokes did you share?
What dayanu, it would have been enough, of thankfulness did you add to the traditional list?
When Elijah came to your door, did you let him in? Did you make sure he was masked and gloved? Did he look like Bette Midler? (Did you watch the Saturday Night Seder?)
We started the first night's seder much earlier than usual so we could gather with family and friends on Zoom and light candles and recite Kiddush traditionally in the evening. Our seder included guests from Israel, Philadelphia, Nova Scotia and West Orange, NJ. Thinking I’d be a smart-aleck, I announced that I would give $1,000,000 to whoever found the Afikomen. After all, if I hid it in my house, who on Zoom would be able to find it?
Well, when it came time for dessert and I asked who found the Afikomen, my Aunt Judy in Philadelphia shouted that she had. Apparently, she took my cousin’s Afikomen cover, placed a piece of matzah in it and “found it”. I will be paying for this in many ways for many years.
The most meaningful part of the seder for me, however, was the beginning: “Ha lakhma anya, this is the bread of affliction. Let all in need come celebrate Passover. Now we are here; next year may we be in the Land of Israel. Now we are slaves; next year may we be free”.
This year, I broke down at these words. Why? Because for every person affiliated with Beth Tzedec that we knew of, (and we've reached out to nearly 1500 households since this crisis began), each one had a roof over their heads, food in their refrigerators, company for a seder Zoom if they wanted it and regular communication if they are lonely. As far as we knew, we fulfilled this mitzvah for those affiliated with Beth Tzedec.
And I broke down knowing that our members are also taking care of others in our community. We are providing food to shelters, vouchers to those who need it, delivering groceries and more. Our community is full of leaders at UJA, B'nai Brith, CIJA, every level of government and more.
Previously, I would recite these words and understand them metaphorically. Perhaps even more than that; we would always have guests in our home and we would always give tzedakah in honour of Passover. But this year, the words were more than metaphor. They were a clarion call in light of the current crisis. A call which we at Beth Tzedec continue to respond to.
We don’t know how long this will last. Nor do we fully understand the impact that this crisis will have on the future. Yet I am inspired and assured that we will continue to be there for each other and that we will continue to respond to the call of Ha Lakhma Anya.
After all, that’s just what we do.
Rabbi Steven Wernick