Fear and Hope – Passover 2020

By Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner
Director of Religious and Spiritual Services
Wilf Campus for Senior Living

We are living in the most interesting of moments. During this time, while preparing to celebrate Passover, we continue to face a worldwide pandemic, we are left wondering; what does celebrating a holiday look like this year? How do we celebrate alone? How do we celebrate when fear and anxiety tend to be among the most prevalent of emotions we are experiencing currently?

To answer the above questions, I want to propose one additional question. How did the Israelites feel the night of Passover, sitting in their homes, waiting for the Angel of Death to pass over their houses? The Torah doesn’t offer a direct answer. However, I think we can derive a response from the following two verses. Exodus 12:26-27 states: “And it will come to pass, when your children will say to you: What do you mean by this service? That you will say: It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, for that He passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.’ And the people bowed the head and worshiped.”  If we consider the final phrase, we see one aspect of their response, namely trust, faith, hope, seen through their worship. The Israelites had a sense of trust that staying in their homes was the way of being protected for that is what Gd had promised to them.  Yet, I would suggest that within those same words lives a fear.  They didn’t bow and worship before the Angel of Death passed over their houses, it was only in response to what happened.  We can imagine a certain cautious hope, mixed with some fear, as they awaited whether Gd’s promise to redeem them would happen.  Only when they knew for sure that Gd “delivered their houses,” did they find calm and complete trust.

During this time of uncertainty, we too are commanded to hunker down in our homes.  We are expected to quarantine to wait out the worst of this pandemic.  We are full of fear and worry, yet also maintain a sense of hope.  We have hope that what we do will mitigate the worst aspects of this pandemic.  We have hope that by staying home, COVID-19 will “pass over” our homes.

As we do every year, we work to see ourselves as if we left Egypt, trying to relate to all aspects of what it means to go from slavery to freedom.  This year, we can now add another layer, gaining a deeper understanding of how the Israelites felt the night of Passover, ready and hoping for the redemption.  May this Passover, which is much different than all other Passovers we have celebrated, be one of meaning and hope for a better tomorrow.  May we merit that our one year pause on communal celebration allow us to have many more years of celebrating with friends and family in health and happiness.