Seattle Lockdown – Day #24

Tonight on the evening of Seder, Jews around the world are supposed to gather with family and friends to retell the story of liberation that set us off on a journey toward a new type of community, united by a commitment to Torah. This year, we are consumed instead by the story of pandemic we are living through right now. The story of this crisis is not without parallels to the story we are instructed to tell during this season.

Tonight, we will join together as a community dedicated to remaining physically apart in order to defend ourselves against a new plague.

Our new plague is coronavirus. We take measures to combat that plague. Like our ancestors on the eve of their escape from Egypt, we remain in our houses. While our ancestors warded off the Angel of Death by putting lamb’s blood around the frame of their door, we ward off the virus by wiping our door’s handle with Chlorox.

But the virus is not the only plague we must contend with. The plagues of fear and isolation also threaten us. We are afraid of contracting the virus…although I am actually more fearful of passing it along to my more vulnerable friends. And our fears are ramped up by an uneven government response and by irresponsible news networks of every ideology. Confusion, hype, and falsehoods feed the fear.

The fear of isolation eats away at our resolve to maintain social distancing. We are unaccustomed to having our interactions with friends interrupted. Prohibited.

Our ancestors’ escape was facilitated by the miracle at the Red Sea. But we know that there will be no magical cessation of this pandemic. Our escape from this crisis will, instead, be the result of human beings uniting to take responsible actions. We all know the drill: stay six feet apart; wash your hands; don’t touch your face. Unlike our ancestors who were aided by a miracle from God, we are on our own.

Or are we? During our Seder, we follow the recitation of the ten plagues with Dayeinu, our litany of gratitude for the incredible gifts God gave to our ancestors and declaring that any one of them would have been enough. While the virus will not miraculously disappear, I cannot help but be thankful for the abundant gifts that help us endure the sacrifices we are making, and that give us hope and strength:

for the ability to connect with friends and loved ones virtually…

for acts of kindness and compassion in the most unexpected of places…

for the heroism of healthcare professionals, grocery clerks, delivery folks, transit workers, and all those putting themselves at risk to keep the rest of us healthy and functioning during these trying times…

for the gift of springtime, allowing us to get out of our homes and enjoy nature’s beauty and the company of friends (from a distance)…

for the comfortable homes that many of us are privileged to be “imprisoned” in…

for the reduction of air pollution and noise pollution as people stay at home…

for those leaders in our government and our communities who have the courage to make tough decisions and tell hard truths…

for the ability to access information to protect our health and the health of the community…

and for the messages of hope popping up all around us….

What can you add?

It is traditional to conclude the Seder with the words: “Next year in Jerusalem!”
Right now, I think many of us would be content to say: “Next year in each other’s homes!”

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