By Glen Sider
(A Self-Quarantined Jew Whose Mother
Would Never Let him Miss Passover)
Next year in Jerusalem is a familiar and comforting phrase for most American Jews. In that brief passing moment at the end of every Seder, at least one person at the table (reclining in his or her chair with their pants button open daydreams… ”Hmm, could the whole family actually go to Israel next year? That would really be something. Well, actually… I am not sure Grandma would be up to it and that would be really expensive.”
Well, its next year and most of us are not in Jerusalem. While that isn’t unexpected, did any of us reclining Jews sit before the sponge cake and think … Next year in front of the computer, in sweat pants? Alas, here we are… Passover 2020 in the COVID-19 era. Most Americans are separated from family and friends, many are self-quarantining in their homes, some states have banned nonessential travel and to put the real hard truth out there… many of us left our Haggadahs at Grandma and Grandpa’s house last year.
The other day, my sister Merrill called. We caught up on each other’s family news and then she made a great suggestion… “we should all FaceTime on Passover for a quick Seder since we can’t be together.” When that call was over, The Eleventh Plague was born! After all, it wouldn’t be right if Grandma couldn’t see her grandchildren on Passover… and who among us would feel whole if a year passed without dutifully fulfilling our roles as Leader, Participant or Group?
Some of us braved the supermarket, wearing an embarrassing combination of masks or bandanas on our face and purple dishwashing gloves or Ziploc bags on our hands. Some of us had groceries delivered, only to wipe each item down with an antibacterial wipe before it came into the house (I think we have discovered a new category of Chametz … unsanitized groceries!).
All that we are missing is a quick and easy way to remember our Exodus from the land of Egypt, so I offer this English-only, family friendly, egalitarian text as a way to fulfill our obligation – without sharing germs or leaving the house. Tonight, it is not the miracle of the oil which allows us to embrace our history but the miracle of technology. Despite these challenging times and the distance between us, technology allows us to be together ‘virtually’ and continue our traditions.
Oh and one final note… the government has asked Elijah NOT to visit our homes this year as he is considered a non-essential worker and they cannot spare the N95 mask he would need to do his job. Sorry Elijah… I hear that liquor stores are delivering now, so I guess you will have to order in and adapt – just like the rest of us!
Zissen Pesach to all.
THE SEDER BEGINS
Leader: Tonight, we come together with family and friends to recount the exodus of the Jewish people from the land of Egypt.
Group: Let our past be a beacon as we forge a better future for ourselves, our family, our community and for all people throughout the world.
LIGHTING THE CANDLES
Leader: May these flames shed light on our table and into our hearts so that we may see the way forward to better tomorrows. [The candles are lit ]
Group: Praised are all who follow our commandments and who kindle the lights of the Passover festival.
RETELLING THE STORY
Leader: Tonight, we retell the age old story of a Pharaoh in ancient Egypt who enslaved the
Jewish people, who took away their freedom and equality and replaced it with harsh tasks and overwhelming odds.
Group: God, upon seeing the suffering of the Jewish people, saved us from this terrible fate with an outstretched arm and a mighty hand.
Leader: During this time of slavery, God chose Moses to lead the Jews to freedom. Moses went
before Pharaoh and demanded… “let my people go” … but Pharaoh refused.
Group: In order to punish Pharaoh and make him open his heart, God sent ten plagues upon the land of Egypt. As the torah teaches us never to celebrate the suffering of others… even our enemies … we merely recount them.[Some remove a drop of wine from their cup with a finger for each plague, others simply recount them ]
Dam Blood Tzfardeah Frogs Kinim Lice
Arov Wild Beasts Dever Loss of Cattle Sh’hin Boils
Makat B’khorot Casting out the First Born
Oy Gevalt COVID-19
Leader: After the tenth plague Pharaoh allowed the Jews to leave Egypt, but as we left he changed his mind and sent his army after us. Seeing that Pharaoh’s heart was still cold and his troops unable to recognize right from wrong, God saved us once more.
Group: As the Egyptian army followed, the Jews came to the Red Sea, a seemingly impassable body of water. Miraculously, the waters of the sea parted and the Jews were able to walk across. As Pharaoh pursued, God released the parted water, washing away the Egyptian army and allowing us to find our freedom.
THE ‘FOUR’ QUESTIONS
Leader: Our children are no small part of this observance. We are here tonight so that they may learn from our past and help us build a better future. We read ONE question, whose FOUR answers shed light on the meaning behind some of this evening’s customs.
Child: Why is this night of Passover different from all other nights?
Child: On all other nights, we eat either leavened or Matzah, tonight – only Matzah.
Child: On all other nights, we eat vegetables of all kinds, on this night we eat bitter herbs.
Child: On all other nights, we do not dip vegetables even once, on this night we dip them twice.
Child: On all other nights, we eat in an ordinary manner, on this night we eat with special ceremony.
TOASTING TO ‘LESSONS LEARNED’
Leader: Tonight we pour one cup of wine, but take four sips to remind us of the importance of the lesson to be learned from the story of our exodus from the land of Egypt.
Participant: The first, for Thanks, signifies our appreciation for life, our freedoms and that we are surrounded by loved ones. [All take a sip ]
Participant: The second, for Responsibility, signifies our understanding that each of us must look inside ourselves for the courage to “truly see” the world around us. Only then, when we have shed our filters and bias, can we truly help others. [All take a sip ]
Participant: The third for, Engagement, signifies our commitment to removing our barriers and uniting to bring about freedom and equality for all. Just as we were freed from bondage in ancient Egypt and given the opportunity to start anew, so must we ensure that others have the same chance. [All take a sip ]
Participant: The fourth, for Hope & Faith, signifies our commitment to the idea that one day, everyone will be free. [All finish their cup ] THE SEDER PLATE
Leader: The items on our Seder plate and the Matzah before us, are symbols of tonight’s
Participant: Karpas, or parsley, reminds us of hope and spring’s greens. We dip these in salt water to remind us of the tears shed by all who have faced adversity while pursuing hope. [The group tastes ]
Participant: Marror, or horseradish, reminds us of the bitterness that can be found in our past, and even our present. We break Matzah, or unleavened bread, as a symbol of fellowship and eat the two together to remind us that sharing our bitterness allows us to emerge a stronger people. [The group tastes ]
Participant: Charoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, sugar, cinnamon and wine, reminds us of the hard labor and bricks used by the Jews in Egypt. We eat Charoset as we cannot appreciate the sweetness of freedom, until we remember the toil of our ancestors. [The group tastes ]
Participant: Zro’a, or shank bone, symbolizes sacrifice the strength and fortitude of our ancestors as they endured servitude in the land of Egypt. [Point to the Zro’a ]
Participant: Beitza, or hardboiled egg, was a regular festival offering brought to the Temple in ancient times. We eat Beitza to remind us that we were not always able to make such offerings after the destruction of the Temple. [The group eats an egg ]
THE SEDER CONCLUDES
Leader: The Seder service now concludes, its rights observed, its purpose revealed.
Group: Peace for us and all people. This is our hope, that next year all may be free. Bless this gathering, this meal, our community and everyone throughout the world who sees the good in themselves and others.
Leader: Let us all say…
THE FESTIVE MEAL BEGINS
What do you think … next year in Jerusalem?