Rabbi Stanley R. Miles
I write this D’var Torah during Chol Ha’moed Pesach, the intermediate days of Passover. The Four Questions have already been asked, but perhaps we need an additional question this year.
Mah nishtana HA SHANA HA’ZEH? Why is this YEAR different from all other years?
Sadly, during this year, 5780, this is the ultimate rhetorical question for all humanity. The coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has turned our entire planet upside down. Now, more than ever, every living person is on a frightening voyage aboard spaceship earth. Our final destination is still a huge question mark. We are frightened, and rightfully so. May our fear not lead us down the path to panic, but to safety and survival for our families, our neighbors – indeed, all humanity.
I am a student of history, particularly American history. During the bleakest days of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt harnessed the technology of radio. Through his Fireside Chats, he calmed a frightened nation, sharing hope and reality.
Today, in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we are fortunate that Gov. Andy Beshear has assumed this responsibility every single day at 5 p.m. His words and demeanor bring us hope as he reminds us through word and sign: “We will get through this together.”
At the outset, I was apprehensive about Passover this year. During the previous weeks of isolation, I missed being among people. In Judaism, it takes a minyan – a quorum of 10 people – to create a community for prayer. It always did – until this year.
The pandemic, so far, has led many people, not to panic, but to stimulating creativity. Our congregational rabbis and cantors are working overtime during this crisis to keep us connected with our Judaism and each other. Thank G-d for the miracle of Zoom and other technology. By means of these resources our minyanim survive. Via Zoom, many of us enjoyed the company of family and friends for Passover seder. Through the medium of YouTube, stars of stage and screen created a hip, entertaining and poignant Saturday Night Seder to benefit us in the battle against the coronavirus and COVID-19. If you haven’t watched it yet, you still can by going to YouTube and searching Saturday Night Seder.
Hopefully, by Passover 2021, our current experience will be a sad memory. Please G-d, we will not be mourning the loss of a dear one.
May the worldwide struggle to cure this pandemic serve to bring us together as human beings of every faith, nation and ethnicity, striving together for the survival of all.
(Stanley R. Miles is the rabbi emeritus of Temple Shalom.)