The Intermediate Days of Passover
We are in the middle of Passover, and at the same time, we are perhaps at the highest peak, and the most critical moments of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a time that we will never forget.
People continue to die, sometimes, in conditions of loneliness and despair. Entire families are broken, like the Matza we broke this week during our Seders.
Our empathy and solidarity are with all those who are having a really difficult time. Most of us are only physically isolated. It’s not fun, but let’s be thankful for being alive, and stay home, as the children of Israel did at the time of Egypt’s tenth plague, to help stop this latest plague, the Coronavirus.
There are three Passover customs that are especially important to me that I want to share with you this Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach.
The first is that Passover is also called in our tradition “Chag Ha-Aviv”, that is, the Spring festival. On the full moon of the first month of the Hebrew calendar, the month of Nisan, we witness the strength and rebirth of Nature. Trees begin to bloom and plants grow. What seemed dry comes back to life. A whole teaching given by Nature, on how to face our moments of testing and challenges. How to find, from the deepest and even instinctive, resilient force to want to move forward and not fall into anguish or depression.
The second custom is the Matzah paradox. There are 5 forbidden grains to consume and to keep at home on Passover. Paradoxically, with one of them, we make the Matzah, the food that is a Mitzva to eat the first two nights of the festival. We cannot eat wheat flour, but we must eat wheat flour as matzah during the Seder. The difference is that in the Matzah the flour mustn´t rise. That would make the Matzah chametz, which is banned on Passover. The very idea of chametz, that is, what is inflated and oversized, makes me think, in these days of self-quarantine, what are the really important things in our lives? What is essential, and what is more than just an accessory?
Finally, the third custom in this Shabbat Chol HaMoed, is to read the biblical book of the “Song of Songs“, a work of love and eroticism that transcends time, even for those who throughout the ages have put themselves as guardians of morality. The book entered the biblical canon, as if asking for permission, based on the argument that it is really about the love between Israel and God. But the book talks about love. Period. Read it and you will see.
And this is the third key that I want to share with you this Shabbat: the key that opens the most closed doors and the most hardened hearts.
May we find the strength to be reborn as in Nature.
May we recognize what is truly important, and choose it above the mere accessory.
And may we be able to love, and find there the motivation to choose life, over and over again.