On Wednesday night, Jews around the world will be observing the Biblical Passover holiday commemorating a Passover unlike any other in the 3,332 years since God brought the descendants of Jacob out of slavery in Egypt. The night is so unique that even Prime Minister Netanyahu called it “fateful.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a heightening of the Health Ministry restrictions due to the coronavirus. Netanyahu announced that all of Israel will be under a total curfew from 6PM Wednesday until Thursday morning at 7 AM during which no one may leave their home. Netanyahu noted the import of the night:
“We are in a fateful week, for the world and for the State of Israel,” continued the prime minister. “It is fateful because in the battle to block the coronavirus, these days will determine the direction—progress or retreat, and for many people, life or death.”
“There is a real possibility that if the positive trends in Israel continue, we will gradually exit the lockdown after Passover,” he said, noting that the most at-risk populations will need to keep the quarantine as much as possible.
“In every generation, we have overcome challenges, and it seems that in the past 100 years, we have not seen a challenge such as this. But I know that even though this is a global challenge being experienced by all humanity, I know that we are getting through it together, and that we are getting through it successfully,” he continued. “Together, we are writing a hard chapter, but it is a great chapter in the history of our people and state.”
The aspects of the lockdown relating to the holiday were not lost on Netanyahu as he blessed everyone that “we should get through this trouble together and emerge from quarantine to freedom.”
Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the observance of the holiday in many ways but this year is unique in several aspects which make it similar to the original Passover to an unprecedented degree. The highlight of the holiday is the seder ritual in which traditionally the family gathers to retell the story of the Exodus and partake in a festive meal. This is patterned after the korban Pesach (Passover sacrifice) which the Jews would bring to the Temple to be prepared and then to be eaten in social groups in Jerusalem.
But this Biblically mandated ritual was patterned after the one-time-only seder that was performed in Egypt the night before the Israelites left Egypt never repeated. After keeping a lamb in their homes for two weeks, the Jews slaughtered the lamb, painted their doorposts with the blood, roasted it and ate it. The angel of death was roaming the streets of Egypt, killing all the firstborn, and the blood on the doorposts was a sign that kept death at bay.
The Passover holiday is preceded by weeks of intensive cleaning and the holiday is absolutely immersive, the exclusion of leavened food products requiring a drastic change in eating habits. This year, all of the preparations were carried out under the cloud of social distancing and the actual seder, normally a social event similar to Thanksgiving, will be severely curtailed with the explicit exclusion of family elders.
But the unusual elements of this year’s observance are precisely the aspects that make this year most similar to the proto-Pesach observed in Egypt so long ago. Dr. Rivkah Lambert-Adler, the senior features article writer for Breaking Israel News, posted her comments on this on her Facebook page, noting the following similarities:
1) Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a total curfew from a few hours before the Seder until the following morning, so everyone in Israel must be home on Seder night. This is exactly how it was the night before Hashem took us out of Egypt.
2) There is a plague raging outside our homes, exactly as it was before Hashem took us out of Egypt.
3) This year, the Seder is the exact same day of the week that Jewish tradition teaches the original Seder was held (and obviously the same Hebrew date).
May we all merit to live to see the Final Redemption!
Dr. Adler noted that her post generated a powerful response.
“Nothing I said was original,” Dr. Adler told Breaking Israel News. “Many people from all over have been noticing these similarities.
But Dr. Adler wasn’t the only journalist who noticed the similarities. Israel’s most popular tech blogger Hillel Fuld couldn’t help but state the obvious in a sarcastic Facebook post saying: “Nothing biblical about all of Israel having to stay in their homes on Seder night so the plague skips over us and we are protected. Nothing biblical about that at all.”
These compelling similarities were also noted by Rabbi Shlomo Katz, the rabbi of the Shirat David community in Jerusalem.
“That seder in Egypt, the Jews believed to the highest degree that they were leaving Egypt the next morning,” Rabbi Katz told Breaking Israel News, noting that the Jews had packed their bags, baked matzot for the trip through the desert, and bade farewell to the Egyptians they had served for hundreds of years. “That is what has been missing from our Passover seder for 2,000 years; the knowledge that the redemption will actually happen tomorrow, the day after the seder. That is the last tikkun (fixing) that has to be done by us tonight.”