This week is the double portion of Vayakhel-Pekudei. In addition it is also Shabbat HaChodesh, the fourth of five Shabbatot where we add an additional supplement to help prepare us for the festival of Passover. As many of you know, Passover is scheduled to begin the evening of March 27th with the first seder. In the reading for Shabbat HaChodesh, Ezekiel was speaking to a group of Israelites who were in exile in Babylon, and he was reminding them and preparing them for what the festival would look like upon their return to Israel and the rebuilding of the Temple. It is both prophecy and preparation for a time to come.
In reading his words, I cannot help but think of our current situation. Sadly, it looks like once again, Passover will have to look different because of the pandemic. As we begin to think about seder, we would be wise to look to our ancient ancestors and the first observance of Pesach.
According to Exodus, the Israelites slaughtered a lamb, used the blood to cover the lintels of their doorposts to ward off the melech ha’mavet, the angel of death, and they ate their matzah and lamb with maror. They were dressed in their robes with their sandals on, prepared to leave, but also huddled together during a time that was both scary and transformative. Despite their fear, or perhaps in the face of it, they managed to create a new tradition that would ultimately become the seder we know and love today.
With this in mind, it continues to be incumbent upon us to think of new ways to celebrate the festival of Passover in our own homes, hopefully safe from the modern iteration of the melech ha’mavet. This means we will need to once again hold our seders virtually or in small gatherings rather than with the multitudes gathered around our tables. It is once again reminiscent of the ancient Israelites who hunkered down rather than venturing out.
One day soon, especially with the growing number of vaccinations, we will be redeemed, and will be able to venture forth again. Until that time, it is incumbent upon us to continue to keep each other safe. Ezekiel spoke of celebrating Passover again to a people who were without hope. His words inspired them, and they eventually did return to Israel, rebuild the Temple, and observe Passover. So too, we find inspiration in his words and comfort in each other. Our seder tables will be filled again, but not perhaps this year. That is ok. Far more important is that we all be healthy and safe so we can celebrate Passover not just this year, but for many years to come.
In the meantime, I wish you a meaningful and hopefully healthy and safe Shabbat. And if you are able, please do join us for our virtual service tonight. For even in times of uncertainty and stress, we can find hope, inspiration, and comfort in the celebration of Shabbat.
Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff