If you want to look at the silver lining of the effect of the coronavirus, it is the outpouring of support by those who have volunteered their time and experience in trying to help others. For example, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday, March 29, reported that 75,000 retired health care professionals volunteered to join the healthcare force to deal with the coronavirus.
Sunday, March 29, was Tomchei Shabbos’ Passover delivery. It may have been at a different location than in the past, but the number of volunteers who were at the site and in cars waiting to pick up the packages and deliver was comparable to past years.
As of this writing, the Queens Jewish Community Council plans to go ahead with its Passover food distribution on Wednesday, March 31, also at a different location than in the past. They are also relying on many volunteers to help pack the food.
There are plenty of good reasons not to get involved, such as people could be putting themselves in harm’s way for those whom they don’t even know. Yet the health professionals and those helping Tomchei Shabbos and QJCC have accepted the challenge. Their selfless sacrifice is an inspiration to all, and should be a merit to those involved and the community to be healthy and overcome this challenge.
Although this will not be my last column before Pesach, I didn’t want to wait until my next article to make a comment concerning the holiday. For some, although Pesach is more than a week away, they are looking to it with trepidation, and thus now they need some chizuk.
It says in the Haggadah that at the night of the Seder people are supposed to feel as if they personally are leaving Egypt. It is hard for me to imagine that I was in Egypt and was present for the Exodus. Imagine how it must have been for Jews throughout the ages who were suffering persecutions as recently as in the Holocaust. How could they talk about being free people while being subjected to such torture and other deprivations?
I believe that, in order to answer the question, we need to look at other parts of the Seder. The Seder starts with the history of the Jewish People going down to Egypt and the trials and tribulations that they had while down there. The purpose is not merely to give background or to complete the narrative.
Imagine if you were in Egypt right before the plagues began. The Jewish People had been there for more than 200 years, and the situation was getting worse, with little hope that it would get better. If anyone had told you that within a year you would be leaving the country as part of a free nation, you would have thought that they were crazy. Most of the Jews at that time felt that way. Yet it did happen, with the help of Hashem.
The hope that we take from the Seder is that no matter how bad things seem now, they will get better. That was why Jews in the Holocaust and during other trying times were able to be part of the Passover Seder experience. They had faith that, just as in Egypt, ultimately, the Jewish People will overcome the suffering and emerge as a strong nation.
There are some people who are depressed, sad, or feel overwhelmed and hopeless because of the coronavirus. Many of us know people who have been hospitalized as a result. We need to remember the message of Passover – that this will pass – and with G-d’s help, the Jewish community will endure and remain strong.
Have a Happy and Healthy Pesach!