By: Avrum Rosensweig

In 2019, when we read the Haggadah and said, “we were slaves in Egypt” we didn’t really mean it. How could we? For many of us, our lives were magnificent, full of blessings. Nothing slave-like about it. However, in 2020, when we sit at our Seder table and utter those same words, our understanding of them will be different.

Why? Because during this period, the Coronavirus plague has meant that an aspect of our existence is indeed chained to the ground. We are unable to interact with loved ones and invite them to our Seder. We’re uncertain of our future. Many decisions about our safety and that of our loved ones are being made for us. There is an aspect of these times which reflects the limitations of slavery.

Life has changed.

In 2019, when we sat around the Pesach table and pronounced, “those who are hungry let them come and eat” most of us didn’t really mean it. Our doors were closed, guests had been invited and those who were hungry were not in earshot of our pronouncement. But at our Seders in 2020, during the Coronavirus plague, when we repeat those words, we’ll mean it. We will because having temporarily lost our own ability to interact with others, to break bread with our neighbour, might just mean we’ll be driven by the desire to lighten the load of people with low incomes and people who are hungry. Because in our own way, today, we are hungry. Hungry to be seen, to be heard, to be hugged. Hungry ourselves, perhaps, because we have lost all or some of our incomes. No doubt, we appreciate more so, what the vulnerable members of our society suffer from – being invisible, not being invited.

And within this shift of our reality, struck by an eleventh plague, we are compelled to re-evaluate our responsibilities to ourselves, our family and our community.  We ask ourselves, how bad do I have it? How bad does the other guy have it? What can I do to make their lives better?

And within that, our mind goes to the concept of tzedakah (charity). How much can I truly give? We consider with that the ancient Jewish custom dating back to the Jerusalem Talmud called kimcha d’pischa (flour for Pesach) – the obligation to give to the needy so they can eat. Our mind ponders the reality that so many of us have lives that are good, solid, full of milk and full of honey. We realize not only can most of us continue to share our resources, but that now is the time to reach even further.

Regardless of the downpouring of bad news and the spread of illness, we cannot modify our Jewish caring, our empathy and our kindness. We cannot. When asked to help this Pesach and subsequently, we must remember that we too were strangers, that we were indeed slaves in Egypt. We must be clear, that those who are hungry are out there, and we must invite them in.

Be safe. Be healthy. Be loving and kind. Pesach tells us this, clearly and has for many centuries. We are the Jewish people. We are givers. We are generous. We are beautiful. 

Chag Samayach. Refuah Shlaimah (a full recovery) to the world.

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