In a world afflicted by plagues and devoid of autonomy, the ancient Israelites enslaved in Egypt longed for little more than fundamental safety and freedom from suffering. Today, whether you have lost your job, feel unsafe in your home or are eating Matzah of your own volition, your pain is also valid.
What makes this Passover different from all other Passovers? For one, many seders have saved a seat for a special new guest (and no, I’m not talking about Elijah). This year, Zoom joined the party, enabling extended families to safely come together from across the street or across the globe.
Vital to any traditional seder are the Four Questions, asked to remind us why this night is different from all other nights. We eat matzah (or “bread of affliction”), an unleavened bread representing what Moses and his followers ate upon fleeing Egypt in such haste that they couldn’t wait for their dough to rise; we eat bitter herbs as a reminder of our time in slavery; we dip fresh vegetables twice in salt water to taste the tears we cried as slaves in Egypt; and we recline to embrace the luxury of freedom.
In honor of the adversity our ancestors endured, we reflect on the notion that normalcy is gone — if at least for tonight. As we need no such reminder in the age of COVID-19, we can sheepishly crawl even further into the dwellings of our ever-compounding heap of intergenerational trauma. Like any true Jewish holiday, Passover invites us to ruminate over the past, and immerse ourselves in gelt (stop perpetuating a stereotype — I meant guilt!) and obsessive-compulsive neuroticism. But then, we are called to emerge from the depths of newfound knowledge (read: crippling self-awareness) and spring toward decisive action in pursuit of freedom and revolution.
For now, appreciate what you have and make as much out of it as possible — without quite leavening it. Raise your flat food game by making Matzah pizza, or bend the rules and stack that cardboard higher than sourdough with Matzah lasagna. Count every socially acceptable spelling of the word — here goes nothing — Hanukkah. Wherever you are, consider the countless ways to give back. Challenge yourself to find your own sense of personal freedom in these unprecedented circumstances. Don’t cross the Red Sea until Israel lifts its travel ban, but do have faith that someday the yeast will rise again.
Nicole Rovine is a senior in the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. She can be reached at [email protected].