Every time I open my refrigerator I can smell it. That pungent, spicy horseradish root is permeating the space and wafts out the fridge door every time I open it. Passover is coming and my maror (bitter herb) is ready.
Passover this year will not be like any celebration before for any of us. Like many families in this time of physical distancing and social connection, my wife and I will celebrate the first Seder (Passover ritual meal) at our table without anyone else in person. We will be using an online platform to connect across the miles with close family and dearest friends, familiar faces at our Seder table now seen only via screen.
This is going to be hard. And that maror on our Seder plate is a reminder that Jews know hard and bitter times. Without a long recounting of thousands of years of history, I can say that Jewish creativity and innovation is also a part of the history of Passover . The Seder is our annual retelling of the Exodus. This narrative is not a story of people who lived long ago, it is my story, it is our story. In every generation each individual is obligated to see themselves as though they went out from the Narrow Place/Egypt. We have known bitter times and narrow places. This Passover is happening while our world is in a narrow place and we will make it through.
I also have a confession. I don’t like horseradish. I don’t like it in any form, even wasabi. I always eat enough to fulfill the obligation for the bitter herb/maror moment of the Seder is sanctified with blessing, I think this year I might eat a little extra. I want to allow myself the sensory experience of the fire in my sinuses. And those tears in my eyes? They may or may not be from the horseradish root. We shall see.
This Passover is definitely going to be different. May you embrace all of the feelings as you gather for Seder this year, however you are gathering. May you and all of those you love know safety and good health. May this time of physical distancing come to a conclusion when it is safe, so that we may all be together again.
Our Seder always concludes with the prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem!” To this I add, “next year around the table with those we love!” Amen.