Peering Inward

The other day I was speaking to a respected woman in our community and she told me, “I think G-d is sending this virus as a response to all the negativity that has been so prevalent in society.” I told her, “Thank you, you just gave me a Drasha to use for this week!”

The virus has caused major havoc to our lives. Families are affected by illness, quarantine, death, loss of jobs and the downturn of the financial markets.  I think people are really thinking inwardly and reaching out to others in kindness. Hopefully with G-d’s help we will soon emerge from this as a better people, country and world.

Being on lockdown affords us the opportunity to focus on our personal lives and circumstances and gives us time to contemplate and make an assessment, which just a few weeks ago we were unable to do.

We now actually have time to reflect on the true blessings G-d has afforded us – without having to compare ourselves to others – since we are not noticing what others have.

Yes, we still have access to the media and we are exposed to what’s going on, but our normal pursuits and societal pressures are definitely modified and we have time to focus on the priorities of life.

In a class that I presented on zoom this week, I focused on when Kayin killed his brother Hevel, the first incident of murder recorded in the Torah. The underlying root that provoked this devastating deed was jealousy.

Recently, a Kallah – a bride whose wedding was reduced to a handful of relatives in her backyard, went with her father to Rabbi Yerucham Olshin of Lakewood Yeshiva. She bemoaned her predicament and how her lifelong hopes for a full blown wedding were dashed. She asked the rabbi for a blessing and guidance. The rabbi who is always on the mark with his immediate responses, was left without adequate words and remained silent for a few moments.

He then shared the following: Let’s face it, when a regular wedding takes place there may be some who harbor some envy that the girl or boy found their match while they haven’t, or perhaps something else at the wedding they wish for themselves – and may not be able to get. These underlying feelings get in the way of the completeness of the Simcha.

The rabbi turned to the Kallah and said, “In your situation, you are blessed that no one is harboring any jealously of you. This makes your Simcha complete!” “Please,” asked Rabbi Olshin, “I ask you to give me your blessing since it will be coming from such a pure source!”

In a certain way, we are basically sitting at the side – not comparing ourselves to what others have or don’t have. In this state we can raise ourselves to a level of purity – a level where we can achieve blessings for ourselves and share our blessings with others.

An idea struck me a number of years ago that I have reflected upon and shared at our Seders.

One year during the Seder, we had a knock on the door (not Eliyahu..) and our neighbor needed something from me which required me to leave the house for a few minutes. When I came outside – which I usually don’t do during the Seder – I noticed that he, along with another neighbor and I were all standing outside wearing a white Kittel, which is traditionally worn during the Seder. Here I was interfacing with others from different Seders and it dawned on me, that although I knew that everyone is experiencing the Seder and following the same Hagadah, laws, traditions and eating the same recipe for the Matzah etc., yet at my Seder and everyone else’s, we are focused on our family and guests and not what others are doing. Seder is the time to be focused purely on our unique responsibilities.

This focus started with the first Passover in Egypt. G-d commanded that on that night no Jew may step out of their home. They were protected by the blood of the Pascal lamb they had smeared on their inner doorposts and lintel – as G-d had commanded them to do.

Each Seder was held separately – for only those who were accounted for before the lamb was slaughtered, were allowed to partake in the lamb. Thus from the get go, the Passover focus was on the family and those who were invited to join in the Seder. It was a private moment for each family unit, yet all the family units of the Jewish nation were joined together by following the same rules.

This year, because of the precautions of spreading the virus there will be many more units of Jewish homes speckled across the globe experiencing the Seder. Many first time Pesach makers – including our children – will be gleaning from the memories and traditions of the Seders they spent with their parents and grandparents. This will be a meaningful time for all of us – a deep reflection that tradition lives and continues on.

This means Eliyahu Hanavi has to make many more house visits this year.

May he return to the Almighty and report positively about how despite the difficulties that His children are experiencing – they are following His command in an endearing and devoted way.

May this inspire G-d to send Eliyahu to herald the Redemption for which we are waiting, as we demonstrate when we conclude our Seder singing joyfully, “Leshana Habah Beyerushlayim – Next year in Jerusalem!