Passover 2020 will not be the kind of Passover we know. Starting on April 8th and lasting till April 16th, normally this is a time for extended families and friends of the family to all gather together for the most festive (and lengthy) meal on the holy calendar. Throughout the meal of matzah, wine, bitter herbs and charoset, the story of the Exodus is told and reenacted through ritual and tradition. Doing these acts for collective memory in isolation, without the chance to gather and connect, is so strange and unfamiliar that there were those nonorthodox leaders in Israel and the Jewish world who even briefly considered rescheduling Passover.
There has been a certain shock among Jewish people both in Israel and abroad that their beloved holiday is going to have to happen this year under quarantine conditions. I live in the D.C. Metro area and for us the holiday overlaps the period that some predictions say we will reach our peak in the Corona curve. Israel has strongly enforced lockdowns in the small densely populated country. They are fining violators of the quarantine and even mandated that Israelis are not allowed more than 100 meters from their homes. As of this recording, their number of cases stands at 9,000.
As sad and scarey as it is that Passover can not be an extended family affair with large meals and even large gatherings, in a way this Passover closely resembles the very first Passover.
As you may recall in the story of the Exodus, on the night of the final plague, the Israelites were instructed to sacrifice a lamb as their Passover offering. They were to take the blood of the lamb and paint their doorposts with it as a sign to the angel of death that God-fearing Israelites were present. Every household who obeyed this command was spared, or passed over. Pharaoh only then would understand that God distinguishes between Egypt and Israel. But that same night God instituted the first Passover Seder dinner. Jews were instructed to eat the roasted meat of the lamb offering with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, or matzah. But they were to stay in lockdown. The bible says “Non of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.”
How much does this remind you of our quarantine conditions now? Each family sealed away in their own home. Trusting in God to protect them from the plague taking over the world outside. This was not a festive meal. But it was a sacred meal. And it was their chance to thank God for the miracle of his provision and deliverance before he even finished the final acts. What waited for them after the Seder dinner was also scarey in that it was into the unknown. But it whatever awaited, it had to beat bondage.
I pray that we use this season of Passover and our Resurrection Sunday as a chance to reinforce our covenant relationship with our God and Savior. We are not the first people in history to experience hardship or a quarantine. I am not trying to elevate our heroism by just staying at home. But I am trying to say that this could be a special moment for us all. God may be trying to get our attention. And all I want to do right now is listen, wait, and watch. God stretched out his arm then and he will do it again.