At our Passover seders this week, we will ask the traditional question, “why is this night different than all others?” But we already know. Because of the social distancing needed to end the Covid-19 epidemic, we are staying at home rather than gathering for Seders in our customary way with extended family and friends.
This year, I will miss having my children and grandchildren and my father and siblings around the Seder table. In the week before the Seder you can usually find me busily cleaning my house of chametz and cooking more dishes than I can count and baking at least 10 kosher for Passover cakes, to be enjoyed by the 30 people around my Seder table. Throughout the eight days, I would usually be preparing food for different family members and they would certainly have gathered for our traditional Passover Shabbat dinner. This year, we will celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom, with just my husband and myself at home. This year, I have baked just one cake and like many others, we will be together with our family at our Seders virtually, by Zoom, rather than in person.
Covid-19 has changed everyone and everything. Unlike the 10 plagues of Passover, Covid-19 has not spared anyone. Throughout the world, this pandemic has brought suffering to humanity regardless of religion, race or ethnicity. As Hadassah members, donors and supporters, we recognize that this pandemic requires the utmost sacrifice by all our courageous healthcare workers, including those at the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO), who are at the front lines in Israel battling this deadly enemy as they treat those who have been severely affected. Hadassah Hospitals continues to fight to keep our medical teams healthy so they can be there for our patients. I am grateful to each and every one of one of our medical staff for their sacrifices. I am proud that HMO is the central research lab for all of Israel. Our physician researchers are testing experimental medicines to find a cure, or at least a drug that will lessen the suffering.
But there is good that can come out of this pandemic.
While no one wishes for plagues, the 10 Plagues on the Egyptians led to Pharaoh freeing the Israelites, which ultimately allowed them to journey to the Promised Land. This time too can have positive outcomes. The Israelites had to find new ways to move forward. They created the future for the Jewish people, and we too will come out of this pandemic with new ways to live our lives doing great things for the Jewish people and all humanity.
During this current crisis, there are small but important ways we can show compassion toward others. I have a few friends that are making masks for themselves and others. You can make sure your elderly neighbor has enough food or call friends who might be lonely just to chat, send thank you notes to your local doctors and nurses, and there are so many other creative ideas.
One of my favorite current examples of doing something personal to uplift the spirits of others comes from one of the multi-talented medical professionals at HMO. Internist Dr. Momen Abbasi has been drawing cartoons and sending them around to cheer people up. One of his images shows the coronavirus looking scared while a doctor, his face covered by a mask, points to screen images of colleagues as he tells the virus, “I am not alone! My friends have got my back!” Dr. Abbasi was initially torn between following his passions for art and medicine. Now in this moment of crisis, he has found a way to bring them together. He drew his first Covid-19 cartoon of a medical knight fighting the epidemic as a hat-tip to the medical teams in Hubei, China, who were the first to battle the virus. That kind of focus on taking care of others is a model for us all, even if we aren’t working in a hospital.
Through social isolation, we have learned to better appreciate what it means to hug our loved ones, and to value our families more. I can’t wait for those hugs! We are learning to savor and enjoy every moment and to look for all the positive ways, large and small, that we can help others. Like the Chinese, who are seeing a blue sky for the first time after their perpetual veil of pollution has lifted, I hope that when we are finally freed from isolation later this year, you will take the time to notice the spring and summer flowers and birds singing even more then before.
My Passover wish is, as we at Hadassah do every day and as the Jewish people have always done, that we continue to move forward through the desert of this pandemic and emerge into a new era focusing on all the ways that we can live a more positive, kinder and more thoughtful life. I hope that we will have more patience and a greater appreciation for those we love and for each other. I know that I will.
Wishing you a “Zissen Zooming Pesach,”
With Pride, Passion and Purpose!
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA)
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