Rules and gratitude underscore this Pesach

Dear Friends,

Many rabbis and Jewish leaders have drawn parallels between the COVID-19 pandemic and the holiday of Pesach which we now enter. In past columns and classes I have shown how Pesach, the time when our people recognized God’s dominion over the universe, extends its message into the current situation where many are becoming cognizant that it is God, not we, who control the world.

I’d like to offer a totally different insight, one sparked by my dear friend Rabbi Sholey Klein, director of Dallas Kosher. Today, on my daily “corona” walk with my wife, Rabbi and Mrs. Klein came out to say hello (from across their yard, many fold the 6-feet guideline!). They were very concerned to see how we are, as our family all contracted COVID-19. 

We were, thank God, able to tell them that we are fully recovered and are now considered to be safe to go out and no longer contagious, according to the Texas Department of Health with whom we consulted. We were especially happy to say that since we strictly followed the guidelines and quarantined ourselves from the time that we returned from a trip to New York a few weeks prior — where we probably contracted the virus — nobody in our community contracted it from us. Rabbi Klein was elated, seeing how important it is to keep to the guidelines, and here “the proof was in the pudding”! He said, “This is a story that needs to be told”!

Although it’s not always the most fun thing — to adhere to strict rules, to be quarantined, to treat yourself almost as a leper — rules pay off and perhaps lives were saved by our adherence to the regulations. I have friends and acquaintances from Los Angeles, Chicago and the East Coast who, tragically, are no longer with us and others in intensive care over this malady. It’s real! Rules matter!

Passover is, famously or infamously, a time of rules. Cleaning (and cleaning and cleaning) and ridding our homes of chametz, any leavened material, changing over our dishes, purchasing the Pesach products and all the cooking. Eating specific amounts of matzo, bitter herbs and drinking a minimum size cup of wine…four times.… And the list goes on. 

We sometimes ask ourselves, why so many rules? Does it really matter? Does God really care about all these rules and details?

And, in the midst of this pandemic, we suddenly see the importance of details, and rules. All it takes is one invisible microbe to make the difference; the rules are keeping it away. All it takes is to leave off one dot from the address and that all-important email will not make it to your boss to decide in time whether or not to purchase that company, perhaps costing you your job. Just a dot! Details!

Just a little bit of leavening in our possession; did we properly observe Pesach…or not?

Another thought my wife keeps emphasizing during our walks: appreciation. We are so fortunate, after what we just went through, to have our health, our family, to be in our home and to have each other. There are so many families who have had those things, which we often take for granted, suddenly ripped away from them with almost no warning. 

Pesach is about appreciation, ending the seder story with Hallel, the song of thanksgiving and appreciation to God for getting out of Egypt alive. We were a newly born nation which has, over the millenia, endured so many attempts to destroy us up until today, as we proclaim in the “vehi she’amda” song. 

Let us sing the song of appreciation throughout this Pesach, as we joyously observe its rules together with the newly imposed COVID-19 rules upon us. With this may we all enjoy the next Pesach, healthy and happy, in Jerusalem!

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