In the Suburbs: Savoring the beauty and warmth of Passover virtually
Take a deep breath! Can you smell the heavenly aroma of Passover charoset (a delicious mix of apples, honey, cinnamon and sweet wine)? Or perhaps chicken soup with matza balls as it simmers on a warm stove? And perhaps the familiar scent of a hot brisket or turkey.
Now imagine yourself in yours, your mother’s or your grandmother’s home, surrounded by your beautiful family and seated around the seder table. The seder is the traditional Passover service that we celebrate on the first night of the holiday Wednesday. We always open our Haggadahs, the Passover prayer book, and begin with the Kiddush prayer over wine and the prayer of Shehechiyanu, acknowledging the specialness of the holiday. Then the seder continues with the basic question of this holiday of freedom from oppression and of rebirth, “Why is this night different from all other nights?’ That question is part of the Four Questions and are generally recited by the youngest member of the family.
But now, instead of enjoying our traditional Passover seder we are forced to return to the reality of Covid 19. For millions of us around the world, this year and this night will be different than all other nights because a pandemic blocks us from savoring those heavenly aromas, that are the essence of this holiday, and blocking us from being together around a seder table unless we are living in the same house and sitting 6 feet apart.
Tonight will be different than all other nights because we can’t celebrate in the same place with prayers and laughter and hugs. And any salt water we serve at our meal won’t remind us of the bitter tears our responses cried when they were slaves in Egypt, but will be our own bitter tears, because we have been isolated by Corona, an 11th plague far more deadly than those when Moses was trying to free the Jews from a brutal Egyptian pharaoh.
At first, when I thought about a Passover without family and friends, I was depressed, angry and alone. Then I chatted with some close friends across the country on line and learned that they planned to fight Covid 19 like Moses fought Pharaoh for the freedom of his people. The plan was to go virtual. “Heck,” our friends said. “We’re using Zoom and Google for distance learning, meetings and chatting. Why not use technology to embrace family and friends around the country and conduct a brief virtual seder to truly celebrate the holiday?”
As I thought more about the idea, I realized that it would take more than just a zoom invitation. If we were to have our grandson Lucas from Beacon Falls, Conn. and our other grandson Abdiel from Ann Arbor, Michigan do the four questions, they might need copies from our Hagaddah or something but they could get those online. And if we read a little bit of the Passover story, our close friend Judy, who is joining us from Trumbull, may need to receive something from us. Our daughter Stacey from Beacon Falls and our daughter Jeri and her husband Gervasio from Ann Arbor.
Then my wife and I talked about the seder and we decided that we would arrange to deliver local care packages to our friend Judy and our daughter Stacey and our grandsons. For the care package, my wife has created her wonderful Charoset, with a mix of apples, walnuts, honey, cinnamon and sweet concord wine. She has prepared a delicious brisket along with string beans and peas; a box of Matzah for each recipient and a chocolate chip brownie recipe we discovered in last Sunday’s Daily news.
Right after the seder ends, I’ll be doing a doorstep drop off of Judy’s package and a quick meet and greet of Stacey and our grandsons in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express in Shelton. That was easier than trying to have them over and having to keep a six-foot distance between us.
Right now I have to ask you to please excuse me as I prepare for our allocated 40-minute seder, which probably won’t last that long. One prayer that won’t be eliminated will be the traditional Dayenu prayer. Dayenu means in so many words, it would be sufficient and those words certainly sum up what we’re trying to do tonight.
It is certainly appropriate that we will be able to get together on Good Friday, which is still part of the Passover holiday. In a little while, we’ll ask our guests from around the country to use their imaginations and all of their senses as we try to create the atmosphere of our traditional Seder. We fully intend to send around virtual hugs, laugh and cry during the various parts of the seder, visualize the scrumptious food, tell the important story of our release from the 400 years of bondage in Egypt and say loud and clear, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
We fully intend to make this Passover Seder one of the most different nights in our history and vow to beat this virus.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears on Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.