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Passover’s 4 Lessons for Today

March 18, 2021 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

Practical insights that empower us to stand strong despite the challenges of the pandemic.

What better way to overcome the challenges we are facing today than drawing upon the wisdom of our past. Here are four lessons that empower us to stand strong despite the challenges of the pandemic.

1. Realize the Force of Seder, Order

We begin the night with the recitation of the 15 steps of the Seder. In Hebrew ‘Seder’ means order, routine. As we recall the miracles of redemption despite slavery and hopelessness, we call out the carefully arranged order of the night. Each step counts. Every act is significant. At the culmination of the night we have created a symphony of holiness and rebirth. Some steps we understand and some may be beyond our comprehension. Yet, we trust and believe that this is our sacred legacy.

This past year has been filled with confusion and chaos. We struggle to know what is normal. Is it normal to send children to school? Is it normal to go to work? Is it normal to kiss grandparents?

The Passover Hagaddah is teaching us to find seder, order in our lives. Passover night we utter the 15 steps towards discovering who we are. We begin with “Kadesh”—raising your glass and reciting Kiddush. Kadesh literally means ‘Be Holy’. Each of us has the ability to find that spiritual hidden spark that lies within. This is our starting point. We climb higher, one step at a time, until we reach the end of the night. This is what life is about.

Begin with the knowledge that no matter who you are, where you’ve come from, what your education has been – you are innately holy. Live life with seder, order. Don’t lose yourself to a life of mindless havoc. Wake up in the morning and know that you have real purpose. Create a routine. Get dressed even if you are not leaving your home. Wake up with a thought of thankfulness for your life and the people whom you love. Try to do one act of kindness a day. Set aside some time to study wisdom. Speak to a friend or family member each day. Every step becomes moments that are elevated from morning till night. The seder gives us a list of actions we will be taking so that we understand that a goal driven life grants us meaning. Every little step encourages us.

2. Loneliness is Toxic

As we recite the story of our people we uncover our matzahs and say, “Let all who are hungry come and eat. All who are needy come and celebrate.” What kind of invite is this? Here we are sitting down at our beautiful table and now we invite the poor to come and join us? Is this a joke?

The greatest poverty is poverty of the soul. The Hagaddah is asking us to look around our table. Before we begin to speak, before we eat our delicious meal, we are asked to see the pain that is right in front of our eyes. There is someone sitting beside you who is hungry. Someone needs a smile, an encouraging word, a message of hope. Don’t ignore the pain that has settled in their heart.

Many people have experienced a sense of loneliness this year unlike anything they have ever experienced before. There has been grief, sadness, and fear. Connections have been lost. It is possible to live with others and yet feel all alone. Take a good look around you. Open your heart and reach out to those aching for your love.

3. Plug Into the Blessing of Enough

One of the most famous songs of the Hagaddah is ‘Dayenu’ – ‘Enough!’

We speak about every kindness God has given us from the moment He brought us out of bondage in Egypt. We are asked to see blessings that are easily overlooked. Observing life through a lens of gratitude creates joy that cannot be taken away when going through tough times. It is a spiritual lens that becomes life changing.

An attitude of gratitude is the anchor we hold onto through turbulent times. We can either walk around saying, “This is crazy,” or we can focus on the good. Our forefathers experienced the suffering of Egypt and then the greatest of miracles at the Sea. Even they needed to be reminded of God’s constant kindnesses so that that their spiritual awakening would not diminish with time.

If we think about the past year, we can choose to either dwell on the hardships or we can contemplate the good that has come. Some of us may have to think hard but the ‘blessing of enough’ is waiting to be discovered. I know that I eagerly await every facetime call with my grandchildren. Perhaps these precious moments were not as appreciated before. Now I hold onto them as delicate sweets, savoring the laughter and conversations we share. Every Zoom class I give has connected me to thriving communities around the world. I have met my ‘family’ across the globe and am grateful for each soul who has become a part of my circle. I have found pockets of peace, taking long walks and thinking in the quiet that surrounds me. The blessing of enough.

4. We Have Strong Roots

At the Seder we have three matzahs and drink four cups of wine. Elijah’s cup adorns the center of our table. All this has deep significance.

We have deep roots that ground us. Heavy winds may be pushing us down but our tree remains strong. We have been given the gift of spiritual DNA. Fire of faith runs through our veins. Three matzahs and four cups of wine remind us of our three forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and our four matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Their courage and sacrifice has allowed us to survive against all odds. We have been exiled throughout the four corners of this earth. We have been hated, persecuted and vilified. I, myself, am born upon the ashes of the Holocaust.

I wonder sometimes: Where did my parents and grandparents find the strength to go on? How did they hold onto their faith?

The Seder table calls out to us: Know my children that you are not alone. You have been born through struggle. Those who walked before you created footsteps. You may stumble but you will find your footing and continue your journey.

Do not fear. Elijah is waiting to come, next year in Jerusalem.

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