THE FOUR QUESTIONS ON SHABBAT HAGADOL
Rabbi Andrew Shaw
Chief Executive, Mizrachi UK
The youngest child now asks
Why is this year different from all other years?
In all other years’ people go away for Pesach or stay at home – this year we are all at home.
In all other years’ people have loads of guests to their seder table– this year we have none.
In all other years’ we either go to shul to sing Hallel or we pray at home – this year we will all pray at home.
In all other years’ we look forward to Chol Hamoed outings with family and friends – this year we will stay at home.
The parents answer them
We were slaves to our crazy 24/7 lifestyle but then came the Coronavirus which crippled our economy and put brave Doctors and Nurses on the front line to save lives. We prayed for the country and the world to get better while we remained locked in our homes, as together we tried to bring the outbreak under control.
However, we have also realised that we should be more grateful for what we have, that the earth is breathing better, that we are looking at our neighbours and friends with new found appreciation, that our prayers are less rushed and more meaningful, that we are spending more quality time at home with our loved ones and that we dare not come out of this crisis without making a change in the way we live our lives.
We are instructed in the Hagaddah to imagine ‘as if we were slaves in Egypt’. You may say that this year it will be a little easier, we have not really left the home for weeks, your friends appear on screens and not in person, your daily schedule is to move between various rooms in the house – but no my child, you are not a slave, you are free. Free to think, free to laugh, free to cry and free to appreciate all that you have. We cheer the entry into our house of fresh fruit and veg, juice and cereals – things we have always taken for granted. We realise the strength of community, to go shopping for those in isolation, to pray for others, to be positive and to always be there for us.
So yes my child, Pesach will be different this year but it still is Zman Cherutenu – the time of our freedom, because freedom is not just physical, it is also spiritual. Hashem redeemed us 3500 years ago in order to take us to Har Sinai and give us the Torah to transform us into a Mamlechet Kohanim v Goi Kadosh – a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. That mission does not change whether we are travelling around the world or whether we are isolated at home.
So Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach my child – it is still a beautiful world, just a confused and scared one at the moment – but hopefully it will realise that we are all Hashem’s children and that all He has ever wanted us to do is for all of us to stop worshiping the temporal and focus on the eternal. Which all began when we were redeemed from Mitzrayim and became the Jewish Nation.
So actually, this Pesach is not so different after all.