Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Passover 2020 Is For Everyone

The First Passover

A person doesn’t even have to be religious to participate in the transformational aspects of Passover this year. COVID-19 has forced us to all become more “Jewish” whether we acknowledge it or not.

We are all cloistered, for the most part, in our homes while a deadly pestilence makes its way through our population. In a very small way, we can understand why Jews have been observing Passover for close to 3,500 years. Once we make it through the crisis and get back to a more normal schedule and rhythm of life, we should remember this time as a time of testing, a time of resolve and a time of deliverance, just like the Jews have done every year since the first Passover.

The Jews had been held in slavery by various Egyptian pharaohs for hundreds of years. Moses, born a Hebrew but adopted into Pharaoh’s family, was banished and then returned to free his people. When nine plagues failed to convince Rameses of the power of the Hebrew God, Yahweh, a 10th plague was unleashed that killed the first-born son of every family in Egypt, including the first-born of every animal.

Only the Jews who brushed sacrificial blood of a lamb over their doors were spared as the Angel of Death “passed over” their homes.

The Great Pharaoh himself, despite all his perceived power and might, couldn’t protect his own son from the 10th plague. He finally relented and set his Jewish slaves free. The Jews had to leave quickly so all they could take were some belongings and unleavened bread which is commemorated each year in the Seder meal.

During Passover, Christians will observe Good Friday and then Easter Sunday during a week that has intertwined the two faiths for over 2000 years. Both religious observances address something important in the lives of human beings everywhere — the passage from bondage to freedom, from despair to hope and from death to life.

To Christians, Jesus was the sacrificial lamb who shed His blood not over the door frames of their homes but over the hearts, lives and souls of believers to allow them to “pass over” from death into eternal life.

Prior to the social distancing and shelter-in-place orders to protect us from coronavirus, if we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that we harbored certain aspects of our basic humanity that are not generally considered virtuous or admirable. We “hated” people who had different political views from ours. We worried too much about our financial health at the expense of our physical, mental, psychological or spiritual needs, because we said we would “get to it someday down the road.” We did not love one another with brotherly affection.

Perhaps this shared time of quiet while waiting for the pandemic to subside will allow us to shed whatever burdens we had in the past and make a new fresh beginning. A personal “Passover” for each of us.

There may be non-religious people who can turn on their internal goodness directional finder without any spiritual guidance or belief structure. If so, good for them; they are far better people than many of us. Humans are hard-wired to think of themselves and their families first due to thousands of years of genetic selection. If non-believers can figure how to love their enemy and turn the other cheek when wronged without any faith or spiritual help from above, well then God bless them.

Regardless of how we get there, Passover 2020 can be a time where we are all transformed in a way that makes us more thankful for what we have rather than complaining about what we don’t have. 

Post-COVID-19 can be a time where Americans act with more charity, grace and mercy towards one another than we have in the years before this trial.

(first published in North State Journal 4/8/20)
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