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Passover in the Shadow of Covid

March 21, 2021 | by Emuna Braverman

We don’t need to return to “normal” in order to be happy.

Here we are approaching another Passover, another seder not quite like years past. Although many are vaccinated, although the restrictions are starting to lift, although the proverbial light seems to be poking out in the distance, we are still concerned, there is still legitimate fear.

Many families are still forced to spend the holiday apart, either due to the actual disease or the fall-out i.e. countries with such restrictive access that visiting or leaving and then returning have become if not impossible, a bureaucratic nightmare. So once again we are preparing for an unusual Passover.

It’s painful and it’s frustrating. And yet the essential lessons of the holiday remain available whatever our circumstances. And that is possibly the most important lesson of all. We tend to hitch our happiness, our growth, our opportunity to connect to God, to external circumstances. I would really enjoy Passover if my kids could be with me (how many times did you complain how much work it was having your kids home?!). I would really grow from the holiday if there were more people at my table to participate in the discussion… And so on.

We all have a story we tell ourselves about who we would be and how we would behave if only… but the very heart of Passover puts a lie to that rationalization. Two of the most important themes of Passover are our freedom to choose no matter the situation we are in and that whatever the physical/emotional circumstances of our life, it is enough (Dayenu). Instead of lamenting what’s missing this year, we should instead focus on what we have – on the gifts we are still receiving, on the opportunities that remain in front of us.

#We can’t wait for circumstances to change to be happy; we need to be happy right now.

Instead of deluding ourselves into thinking that we can only be happy/grateful when Covid is completely eradicated and our lives return to “normal”, we need to incorporate the wisdom of the Dayenu song into our daily lives – our situation right now (with all its challenges) is enough. We can’t wait for circumstances to change to be happy; we need to be happy right now.

Whatever the Almighty does for us is good and undeserved. We don’t merit anything; it’s all just love and kindness. “If God had split the sea for us but not taken us through on dry land, it would have been enough,” we sing. How is that possible? How would it be enough? If we’re only focused on achieving an end goal, nothing will ever be enough. We will have missed the point of the song. But if we can sit in the moment and count our blessings then I think we will be able to sit back and sing Dayenu at full decibel.

Of course we want things to change; not only do we not wish to live in the shadow of a potentially dangerous disease but people need to go back to work, children need to return to school. But until things do, we have a choice to make. We can wallow in self-pity, moaning about the dreadful year it’s been – and how it still hasn’t ended! – or we can say Dayenu and find our way to gratitude and appreciation even in the midst of a pandemic.

Passover reminds us that the freedom to choose which attitude to adopt is solely in our hands. And Dayenu illustrates for us which attitude to choose.


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