I don’t know about you, but I give zero fucks this year if my Seder is “good” in the traditional sense of the word. I wore a mask to the grocery store and grabbed 3 items from the emaciated Passover end cap. I have 10% of the items I’m supposed to have because the grocery stores are having shortages and I have no desire to work hard to make things appear normal. This year, I’ve decided I want to weave the story of this pandemic into the Seder, let it have a place at the table like Elijah.
I got the idea when I realized there was no gefilte fish at the store. And suddenly I thought, “you know what, we’ll use canned tuna. And it will be symbolic of how we had to adapt in 2020. We will discuss the symbolism of adaptation.
If you are a very strict religious person and this doesn’t appeal to you, please, no worries, read no further. All my life I’ve played fast and loose with rules regarding ceremonies and I understand this is not for everyone. Please have a wonderful Seder and I apologize in advance if I have offended you.
For everyone else, these are a few I’ve thought of. I’m all ears for more ideas.
I would like to try some new one-year-only traditions:
- We honor what is missing: whether it is friends and family, or apple juice instead of grape juice, at Pesach, we will tell the story of why these people and things aren’t here. Passover is the story about the Exodus from Egypt, but it’s also the story of celebrating a holiday the same way for thousands of years. A lot of it is explaining why the things on the plate are on the plate.
- This Haggadah supplement has two stories from the internet from Jews holding Seders during the holocaust. By reading these stories, we get a true appreciation of the holiday, and puts our minor sacrifices into perspective. Our ancestors did not only suffer in Egypt, we suffered during World War II.
- We fold a single piece of toilet paper and speak to it as a symbol of the transformative power of scarcity; how we appreciate things more when they are gone.
- My niece was adopted from China when during the SARS epidemic. At the 2020 Peach, we will acknowledge that when we scapegoat a country for a plague, we claim that we can blame a government and not its people. But we always fail at this. At this Pesach, we accept science and explain that this is no one’s fault and no one is doing this pandemic to us.
A Hasidic Parable
A Hasidic Parable
When the great Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.
Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: “Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer,” and again the miracle would be accomplished.
Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: “I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient.” It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.
Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: “I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient.” And it was sufficient.
God made man because he loves stories.
— Elie Wiesel, The Gates of the Forest
As I was the youngest, it was decided that I would ask the Four Questions, the Ma Nishtanah. I knew them well since, as the youngest in my family, I had always been the appropriate candidate. Here in the forest I interpreted the answers to the questions somewhat differently. In answer to the question, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’ I replied, ‘Because last Passover all the Jews sat with their families at tables beautifully set with matzah and goblets of red wine. Last year, each of us had a goblet on our plate and listened to the oldest person in our household conduct the seder. Tonight, in the forest, our lonely and orphaned group, having miraculously survived, remembers our loved ones who were taken from us forever.’ Tears fell from our eyes. After this, we continued to keep the traditions of all the Jewish holidays, which gave us the courage and the will to survive. With God’s help, we would eventually live in this world as free people.”
– Michael Kutz, If, by miracle