Every Passover is special, of course. In addition to our old (but still relevant!) online collection of links and tidbits and nuggets that we’ve shared over the years, see below for some tweets and thoughts we’re putting together this year for what makes Passover 5782/2022 different!
EXODUS FROM COVID
One of the things that’ll make this Passover (5782/2022) different, is the Exodus from Covid. Ah, you might say, Covid isn’t totally eradicated yet! That helps the analogy, because the Exodus from Egypt wasn’t finalized when they left. The Jews still had residual Egypt, traces of it, variations you might say, that took 49 Days of semi-isolation (spiritual preparation & growth) in the Wilderness, leading up to Sinai.
Indeed, as the Alter Rebbe insists, we are still on that journey, continuing to exit & transcend our personal & collective Egypts, Passing-Over our limitations & boundaries (which share the same Hebrew root word as Egypt) shedding the viral load of exile, & working our way, step by step, mitzvah by mitzvah, and Passover by Passover, towards the ultimate Redemption.
All that is from a Chassidic lens. But also practically, for many people this may be their first Passover in 2 years to visit family, to enjoy a Seder with guests, or experience it as a community. No doubt this will make Passover2022 different for them, hopefully better!
FIRST SEDER ON SHABBAT
Variations in dates & scheduling adds much spice to the Jewish calendar. One thing that makes this Passover (5782/2022) different is that the first Seder falls on Friday Night, the first day of Passover2022 is on Shabbat. Obviously this adds convenience to working folks as its less days to take off from work, usually travel plans are easier over a weekend. And for us running Chabad houses, we save costs (in times of rising costs) having Shabbat & holiday meals on the same day.
But there’s more to a Passover + Shabbat combo! Shabbat & holidays are actually opposites in terms of scheduling. Shabbat is fixed, built into creation itself, established by G-d; whereas in Temple times the new months & (thereby impacting) its holiday dates were influenced by the courts, the people. So while Shabbat is from G-d, Jewish holiday dates are (somewhat) influenced by people. Shabbat is fixed, the holidays can be a variable. When Passover begins on #Shabbat it combines the two, from above & below, in a special mystical union.
Having the Seder on a Friday night when we usually have the Shabbos meal reminds me of a story my Zeide R’ Moshe Rubin would like to tell. There were two men in a synagogue (they were Kotzker Chassidim) who would study together each evening. On the eve of Kol Nidrei, one said to the other: “Let’s go daven Maariv” (using the term for an ordinary weeknight evening service). A half a year later on the eve of Passover, one of the two said to the other, “Let’s go eat supper.” An man who overheard these statements was incredulous! Kol Nidrei is no ordinary weekday Maariv! And the Passover Seder is much much more than a weeknight supper! The men explained: “In Kotzk we were taught to see every evening prayer like a Kol Nidrei and to view every supper as a taste of the Passover Seder!”
The message for us (especially this year when the first Seder falls on Friday Night) is to try and see and experience our ordinary weekly Friday Nights as something of a Passover Seder. Think of how we can take the Seder’s focus on interactive educational experience, its meaningful and memorable elements, and much anticipated eagerness – and incorporate aspects of that, obviously down to size and scale, for a regular Friday Night. How can we take our Friday Night Shabbat dinners and kick them up a notch, take them to the next level?
RISING COSTS AND LIMITED SUPPLY
One of the things that makes Passover of 2022 stand out is the rising costs for holiday essentials, inflation hits Passover hard, and in some cases/places, limited supply issues, too.
Hopefully (& thanks to many charitable organizations & communal support systems) all will be able to celebrate Passover in a truly festive & ample manner, but it is, first of all, important that we recognize this reality and do our (even small) share in helping to alleviate it for others.
It also may shape this Passover of 2022 with creativity, adaptability & flexibility to make things work (perhaps differently) under the circumstances, indeed as we learned in the first Passover of Covid. In some ways this shopping and spending realignment & re-envisioning can be an Exodus of sorts, it can be liberating! It reminds us what is truly core & essential, can help us redefine what we consider to be necessities, gives more realistic appreciation of the Passover Seder’s beloved “Dayenu” song!
IMPACTS OF WAR IN UKRAINE
May the war be over by Passover! But Russia’s invasion certainly shaped the period leading up to Passover, the world’s eyes are on the war there. A big impact of the shelling has been an outpouring of refugees to western Ukraine and neighboring countries such as Poland, Moldova, Romania and Germany. We have all seen videos, heard voice notes, watched the news and followed these developments. Many of us have contributed in support of these communities in crisis, both those remaining in Ukraine and those who fled.
It’s been some time since we have been so attuned to the plight and needs of refugees – people who left everything behind, who packed up their own lives in a suitcase, and are now living in temporary circumstances until they can go home or be resettled. In a way this can remind us of and lend modern meaning to the Jews of the Exodus, who as the verse describes our faithful trusting following G-d and Moses into the unknown Wilderness, leaving everything they knew behind, starting life again anew.
There’s a verse from Deuteronomy (4:34) that we say deep into the Haggadah, just before the section when we say the Ten Plagues: “Or has any god performed miracles to come and take him a nation from the midst of a[nother] nation, with trials, with signs, and with wonders, and with war and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great awesome deeds, as all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?”
Basically, one of the great miracles of the Exodus and indeed of Jewish survival (and thrival!) over the ages despite persecution, is our distinctiveness as a people, that despite all of our differences how we identify as a people. Yes, we were in Egypt for centuries, but we never became Egyptians, we were always Jews. G-d took one nation right out of the midst of another.
This was one of Putin’s miscalculations about Ukraine. He never imagined they would fight so hard to stay Ukrainian. After all, many are Russian speakers and they’ve been part of the Soviet Union for so many years. Did they really have a separate identity? How deep was being Ukrainian to the average Ukrainian, he thought. He thought most wouldn’t care one or the other whether they were under Russian or Ukrainian rule. But he miscalculated. He read Ukrainians wrong. Ukraine ran deeper in Ukrainians’ identity than he ever imagined.
This is an important lesson for Jewish people in today’s battles against assimilation and indifference. Most Jews today are not faced with violent antisemitism, we are not persecuted for our beliefs. But there’s a friendly subconscious attempt to assimilate us into the broader culture, to strip away at what makes us Jewish and different. No one is really forcing this, it is just kind of happening on its own, its due to the circumstances of the freedoms and acceptance and norms of Western culture and civilization.
As we approach Pesach, seeing Ukraine stand up strong and proud for being Ukraine, and valiantly resisting attempts to be swallowed whole by a larger neighbor, reminds us that as Jews we ought to do the same.
ISRAEL’S COALITION COLLAPSE OR STALEMATE
Nothing’s sure in Israel politics, but Naftali Bennet’s cobbled-together coalition seems to be on the verge of collapse or at best a stalemate. The coalition now stands at 60 members – which is one shy of a majority after the defection of Knesset member and coalition chair Idit Silman. This was the coalition that seemed impossible before it actually came together, and yet managed to survive and keep it together far longer than all the pundits predictions. All this going down the week before Passover, and the issue at stake for the Knesset woman in question seems to be related to Chametz (if only as a straw that broke the camel’s back)!
Politics aside (though in Israel, where it all hits home harder, its much harder to think “Politics aside”) what’s the Passover message for us? How can this be a current events lens with which to view Passover, Chametz, Exodus, Haggadah etc?
For one thing, Idit Silman’s resignation letter has the following statement: “I will not abet the harming of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the people of Israel.” It is a matter of political commentary and discussion as to whether her taking issue with the current health minister’s leniency in Chametz over Pesach in hospital settings is the issue that changed her mind, was it the straw that broke the camels back, or an excuse for a political position – but regardless, the statement itself (taken alone, without its political context) is an important Passover message. Passover is when our identity was first forged as a people, and preserving and bolstering that identity (as we learned above from Ukraine) is essential to our continued survival and thrival as a people.
And in regard to the Chametz issue itself, here’s something quite interesting that’s true for Jews in both Israel and around the world, America included: Jews seem to be deeply invested in Passover observance. American supermarkets (outside of religiously observant communities) say they do 40% of their Kosher business in the lead-up to Passover. Many who do not observe Kosher all year do so with great diligence and dedication on Passover. There are some areas of Jewish values and Jewish observance that have stuck more than others with the Jewish people, and Passover is certainly one of those things! The Seder is one of the most widely observed Jewish ceremonies. And its a holiday when family customs are especially adhered to, tradition reigns king!
Without wading into Israel politics, the fact that Chametz (or some issue regarding it) became a national issue (even as many do see it only as the straw which broke the camels back or as a political excuse or whatever) is most fitting! Chametz is indeed a national issue for the Jewish people! It is something so many of us do actually observe and care deeply and go to great lengths to do something about – to rid ourselves and our homes from even the most minute bit of Chametz.
more coming soon!