Chag Pesach Sameach: a Passover message from Calgary Jewish Federation’s President and CEO.

(Calgary) – The following Passover message was sent to the Jewish Community from Calgary Jewish Federation President Yannai Segal and CEO Adam Silver:

Chaverim – Friends,

As we recite the Ma Nishtana at this year’s Passover Seder it is inevitable we will be reflecting not just how this night is “different from all other nights”, but how it is also different from all other Seder nights before it. For most, this Pesach will be the first celebrated without extended family and friends. For many, it will be the first Seder hosted at home. For all of us, Passover in a time of social and physical distancing will be a new and unique experience. Rather than dwell on the downside, we should seize the opportunity and use this new experience to connect to new aspects of the Pesach story and message.

This year, we should more easily connect to the feeling of that first Seder in Egypt, where families huddled behind closed doors and marked doorposts, anxious for their future as the Plague of the Firstborn spread throughout the homes of their oppressors. We can also connect to the idea that the Paschal lamb was always intended to be eaten in small cohesive groups. The Jerusalem Talmud interprets the concept of Ein Ochlim Achar HaPesach Afikoman as a prohibition against replicating the Greek and Roman customs of seeking out epikomion (after-parties at other homes after our own Seder). We should consider why the rabbis instituted this limited form of social distancing as a means to add meaning to our Passover experience.

For those of us that have lived a semi-charmed life in the West under general prosperity, with a strong community, and with the freedom to practice our faith, this year is an opportunity to connect to those whose ability to celebrate Pesach has not been as effortless as ours. We can begin to feel what it might have been like for a family huddled quietly in a corner, observing a secret Seder under communist oppression. We can get a taste of what Passover might have been like for a new immigrant family, celebrating their traditions together as best they could as the only Jews in a small town in Western Canada. We can feel for the disadvantaged and for the lonely and unconnected, for whom this year is not so different from others, for whom Seder night is not so different from all other nights.

And let us make sure that we take these lessons as a springboard to increase our connections with those who are isolated, those members of our community who need assistance and support. In the future, we must recall this year’s “different” Seder and tell our children and their children about the importance of connection and community and how we can not take these concepts for granted.

Wishing you a Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach.

May we all find meaning, connection, and continued strength during the coming week.

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