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My Personal Passover Miracle

April 16, 2020 | by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

For my wife and me, it was nothing less than a personal Passover miracle.

I have no way to understand the horrors of these past few weeks. But I don’t want to become deaf to the precious moments when we are reminded of divine Providence, of the remarkable gift of Godly love and intervention in our lives.

Let me share with you precisely that kind of moment that happened to me this past Saturday night.

My wife Elaine is an only child. Her father passed away during the intermediate days of Passover 49 years ago. I assumed responsibility for reciting Kaddish in the year that followed. I also made a firm commitment to her that as long as I’m alive I will recite the Kaddish for my father-in-law on his Yahrzeit, commemorating the day of his death.

I faithfully kept my word for almost five decades. But as the date drew near this year I was filled with a spirit of sadness. With every synagogue closed, with no possibility for joining a service in which I could utter the prayer we believe benefits the soul of our departed loved ones, I was profoundly depressed. Of course I tried to console myself with the thought that my failure to fulfill my promise was not due to any fault of my own. Yet a sense of guilt remained. No matter what the excuse, the simple fact remained: there would be no Kaddish for my father-in-law on the anniversary of his death.

On Saturday night, my wife and I made Havdalah, concluding the Sabbath. We lit a Yahrzeit candle as is the custom. And we silently wept for the missing Kaddish.

Before going to bed we decided to take one last look at the computer, to review the latest news to which we have become addicted. Just before clicking off we were intrigued by a link to the live streaming of an event that captured our attention. “Live from the Cave of the Patriarchs.”

We have been to the Cave of the Patriarchs many years ago, in Hebron, site of the burial spot of four of the most prominent couples for humankind and in particular for the Jewish people. There, according to tradition, are the remains of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah. From that holy spot we are assured our prayers ascend directly to heaven.

We clicked on the link. We were just in time to catch a video of a small group of rabbis, exactly 10 in number, properly spaced apart from each other to fulfill the requirements of social distancing, gathered for early morning prayers adjacent to the graves of our patriarchs and matriarchs.

They sang every word of the Hallel, the special prayers of praise from the book of Psalms recited on the holiday. The emotion was palpable. The mood was spiritually uplifting. It was exactly what my wife and I needed after a Yom Tov so bereft of its customary blessings of synagogue and family.

The program of prayer was almost over. Yet it turns out that of course the participants were not yet finished. There was one more prayer to conclude the service.

My wife grabbed my hand. I held on to her. We began to weep as we heard the cantor recite the words of the Kaddish. In unison we whispered the required responses. And we blessed God who miraculously made it possible for us to once again, in spite of the global pandemic, participate in a Kaddish I had sworn never to forget – a Kaddish, it turns out, at one of the holiest spots on earth.

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