Another Pandemic Passover

By Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman

As I prepare for Passover, it’s hard to muster the energy for another Zoom seder. We have marked the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.

My memories of last March, just before most institutions shut down, are still vivid. On Monday, March 9, the Madison Jewish community celebrated Purim together. Some people opted to touch elbows instead of shaking hands. We heard reports that some congregations in New York were calling off their Purim celebrations. Here in Madison, no one suggested that we not gather or that we wear masks. Social distancing was not a familiar term. During that next week, I decided not to attend my rabbinical convention in Puerto Rico. By Friday, we learned that schools would close, presumably for a few weeks. On Saturday, I attended our intergenerational services and looked around at a mostly empty room. I soon learned that “canceled” is spelled with only one “l.”

It’s hard to believe that a full year has passed, that I would lead High Holiday services on Zoom from the kitchen with the pretty blue wall adjacent to my office. Or that I would watch my niece’s bat mitzvah on a screen from Madison, celebrate Chanukkah in the snow, officiate at tiny outdoor weddings and funerals, or wear an N95 mask and face shield when I went to Hospice.

We all have memories of this past year. Some involve stories of disruption and inconvenience, of exhaustion and uncertainty. Some involve stories of fear, illness, and death. We are all grieving — even if our losses have been relatively minor. With the uptick in vaccinations, we might see glimmers of hope, but we still bear the substantial weight of loss. Over 500,000 Americans have died of Covid.

It’s important to acknowledge our stories and to share them with others. As we get ready to celebrate another Passover on Zoom, alone, or in small groups, we need to find ways to acknowledge our losses, along with the injustices we witness all around us.

During the Passover seder, we quietly and reflectively break the middle of our three matzahs. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the brokenness of our world. We give ourselves space to grieve. We reflect on how our society has failed the most vulnerable among us and how we could have done more. We move through the rituals of the Passover seder so that we can draw on our ancient stories and infuse them with new perspectives. We pray that in the next year, we will experience some healing and that our society will become a bit more whole.

Laurie Zimmerman is the Rabbi at Congregation Shaarei Shamayim.

Disclaimer: The From Our Rabbis feature seeks to provide a platform representing the diversity of our community clergy. The views, information, or opinions expressed in the From Our Rabbis articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Jewish Federation of Madison.