When the new Coronavirus virus arrived in full force in my home state of New York, I was worried, but hopeful. I thought if enough people limited social interaction, practiced safe hygiene and sought medical care, if needed, the virus would be controlled enough to allow us to gather for the Passover holiday.
Even as the number of infected persons ticked up, and the seemingly neverending month of March was finally in its last days, I still held out hope.
I thought, my family just has to drive for an hour, maybe two. We can be vigilant about handwashing and avoid hugging and kissing.
But, as I watched the numbers in my state continue to rise, and saw the news of how overrun the hospitals had become, I knew this pandemic wasn’t slowing down anytime soon.
With a heavy heart, I told my parents, my family wouldn’t be traveling to their house for Passover.
I agonized over this decision for days, thinking about how much I would miss the way my dad runs the seder, feeling sorry for my kids, who wouldn’t get to spend time with their grandparents, and bemoaning the absence of the seder that has been a part of my whole life.
But, I also thought about the health of my parents. I thought about my mother who, as an oncology nurse, is an essential worker risking exposure in order to care for the very ill. I thought about how I would be devasted if myself or my kids got my parents sick, potentially infected even more people. And even if that risk was low, it was enough to make me worry.
I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the holiday knowing there was even a tiny chance anyone in my family could get sick or do the same to others.
So, this year, for the first time, my immediate family will hold our own seder in our own home. We will use the haggadot, or Passover story books, I ordered from PJ Library, and perform the rituals of the seder to the best of our ability. We will prepare a meal that in no way will compare to the feast my mother prepares, but our bellies will be full, and our minds and hearts will be at peace.
This year will be hard. But, I am comforted knowing my people have gotten through much worse. The Jewish people have observed Passover through the toughest of times including, the Spanish Inquisition, in the concentration camps during the Holocaust, and during conflict after conflict in Israel.
Our strength has enabled us to survive from generation to generation. It us allowed us to continue to pass on the traditions and rituals to our children. And it will get us through this.
Still, many of us will be devastated because we aren’t having the Passover we wanted. Maybe you had a big trip planned, or just intended to gather down the street. Maybe now you are celebrating with just your partner and children, or maybe now you are celebrating on your own. Maybe you relish the opportunity to prepare your own seder, or maybe the thought of cooking a holiday meal fills you with dread.
Your feelings, no matter what they may be are valid. It is OK to grieve the loss of the Passover you wanted. It is OK to feel angry and upset. It is also OK to feel OK, or even happy about the change.
Those of us living outside of Israel have a saying we utter at the conclusion of the seder: “l’shana haba b’yerushalayim,” next year, in Jerusalem. This year many of us will be saying, “Next year, together.”
And, here’s hoping we will be.