Why is this night different from all other nights? This is the question we typically ask every Passover.
However, this year as Passover celebrations are being canceled worldwide as families are sheltering in place or quarantined due to the Coronavirus outbreak there are also other questions being asked. Since the outbreak coincides with the holiday season, I would like to pose a few questions for us all to consider.
Why is this time different from all other times in our lives? What kind of people should we be and how should we respond?
Epidemics are not unique to human history, but the current outbreak is probably one which will be an unprecedented event in most of our lifetimes. I don’t think anyone living today has seen the entire world begin to shut down and we pray and hope that it is not an event that repeats itself anytime soon.
We do not yet know the full extent of the impact the Coronavirus outbreak will have, how many lives it will effect, how it will impact the world’s economies or cause shifts in global politics.
We cannot answer these questions yet, but we can answer one question.
How will we allow this crisis to shape our lives?
The mighty works of God surrounding Passover and the events which the Jewish people witnessed helped form the collective identity of the Jewish people. We know at a later Passover, the disciples of Yeshua also witnessed the mighty works of God through the death and resurrection of Yeshua and these experiences formed them into a community of followers who would be the beginning of the body of Messiah.
Experiencing an event like nothing ever seen before can create a community and shared identity. Times of great stress and uncertainty can have an amazing unifying effect. As we are in this time of social isolation and uncertainty, we have a choice how we will respond and this response will define how we recount our experiences during the great lockdown of COVID-19.
I cannot help but think how a central aspect of the Passover seder is to retell the story to our children.
What story will we tell from the Coronavirus outbreak?
Will it be one of societies thrown into disarray and panic, stripping the shelves of stores bare?
Will it be a story of people selfishly dismissing the warnings of our medical experts and leaders and continuing to live life normally in restaurants, parks and beaches, thus enabling the virus to infect more people?
Or will it be one of people singing together on balconies or of people volunteering to help the elderly and those more at risk?
Will it be about our prayers and compassionate support for the doctors and nurses who are on the frontlines and at times cannot go home to their families because they are working around the clock trying to save others?
Or of the unsung heroes such as employees at the grocery stores and pharmacies, and delivery people who continue to show up at their minimum wage jobs that have suddenly become vital to preventing society from totally collapsing, even at the cost of putting their lives on the line?
Or people sewing medical masks by hand to meet the shortage our medical professionals are facing?
As we approach the Passover season, it seems an angel of death is once again in the streets. But like the people of Israel at that time, we can trust that God will bring us through it. Like them, we look forward to a promised land.
I believe it is always good to remind ourselves, of the following:
This earth is not our permanent home. “… acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth. But as it is, they yearn for a better land—that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” – Hebrews 11:13, 16
As precious and important as life on earth is; it is nevertheless wise to see things through a spiritual and eternal lens. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
I have encouraged all of my adult children to spend time with their children discussing this pandemic according to the age level of the child, praying, sharing Bible verses and helping our dear grandchildren understand that they can put their trust in God, the creator of heaven and earth, who loves them.
Here some verses I share regularly. I trust they will encourage you.
God is with us and for us! “For God Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” so that with confidence we say The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.” – Hebrews 13: 5b, 6a
The Ruach Ha Kodesh will help us overcome fear! “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
We can rest in our Heavenly Father’s perfect love for us! “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” – 1 John 4:18a
God will help us make good and wise decisions! “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all without hesitation and without reproach; and it will be given to him.” – Jacob (James) 1: 2-5
After Exodus came Sinai, but we don’t have to wait for God to reveal his will to us. He has already revealed His will to us in the Scriptures and through the love, grace and mercy He pours out upon us through the life, death and resurrection of Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of all.
Stay healthy, be strong, draw close to God, increase your prayer and time reading the Word, help others as you can, and share hope and good news with those who do not yet know the love and salvation of Yeshua.
Let us all take this time to renew our faith in our loving heavenly Father, and reinforce the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself as we wait for God’s deliverance!
P.S. We continue to pray for you according to 3 John 2, “Loved ones, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.“
Your feedback is always appreciated. Please feel free to contact Rabbi Stewart with any questions, comments or prayer requests you may have.