Written by Rabbi David Fain
Our Pesach celebration is a reminder of the call to action, even small actions.
As many of us are now weeks into hunkering down into our houses, we have all experienced a sense of Egypt, having been displaced from our daily routines. We are all longing for redemption for better days.
When thinking about Pesach and the virus, I was drawn to the scene in the Torah right after the Jewish people make the Pesach offering in Egypt. The Torah continues as the Jewish people are hunkered down in their houses saying (Shemot 12:12-13), “For that night I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and I will mete out punishments to all the gods of Egypt, I the Lord. And the blood on the houses where you are staying shall be a sign for you: when I see blood I will pass over you, so that no plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
In some ways with the cornovirus outside and the orders to stay home, we are like the Jews the night before the exodus, hunkered down.
I imagine for the Jews that night there was fear, anxiety and uncertainty. There was also the unknown: What would be the next day? Where would the new journey take them? Many of us have probably been feeling the same the past several weeks.
There is growing anxiety and fear across our country. There is also anticipation and excitement with the hope that social distancing and medical research will soon bring about a solution.
However, there is one significant difference between the Jews in their houses in Egypt and us today. In the verses above, the salvation only comes from God. The Jewish people are passively involved. In the verses, God takes all of the action and brings about the redemption. Notice how many times in these verses alone I (God) is mentioned.
The biblical commentator Rashi says the Jews were not totally passive in their redemption. Rashi asks why it was necessary for the blood to be on the doorposts. He answers that it was a sign to God that the Jews were involved in doing God’s commandments.
When there was a plague outside, the Jews needed to take some action.
People across Detroit have started to put sayings of encouragement and community in their windows to encourage everyone to keep going.
Our Pesach celebration is a reminder of the call to action, even small actions. We can all do our parts by connecting with each other through phone calls and Zoom, by supporting those working tirelessly in the medical field and by praying.
Although we may feel now more than ever as if we are in Egypt and a plague is on our doorstep, redemption is just around the corner, and we all have a part in ushering it in.
Rabbi David Fain is rabbi at Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit.