On Passover, Social Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


Who would have expected that living in isolation and working remotely could actually foster stronger connections than being together in person?

Thanks to platforms such as FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp and Zoom, each of us is able to interact and cultivate a sense of community – without the need for physical proximity. Regardless of how long we are encouraged to distance ourselves from one another, I would be surprised if many of the innovations used in response to this situation don’t continue once we are able to convene once again. This seemingly paradoxical concept reminded me of several other apparent contradictions related to Passover.

Our feelings associated with Passover are often in contrast to one another. Few holidays are as widely observed or as distinctively celebrated. The thought of Passover may evoke feelings of warmth and fondness. It also may increase levels of anxiety associated with the restrictive nature of the holiday and its intense preparation. Sometimes, it’s a combination of all of the above.

Passover’s traditions are contrary to other Jewish traditions. A few weeks ago during Purim, we were encouraged to drink in excess in order to block out the memory of Haman and his plot to end the Jewish people. On Passover, it’s the opposite: We are directed to drink at least four cups of wine as we remember the incredible story of our exodus from Egypt, our acceptance of the Torah and our journey back to Israel.

Another contradiction comes during the seder itself: We recline to represent comfort and freedom – while arguing over how destructive the plagues must have been and reclaiming our connection to the tribulations surrounding our historical slavery and exodus from Egypt. We drink wine in celebration, yet limit our food consumption to the simplest of foods.

Even the plague of “burning hail” seems to be an oxymoron.

Today we find ourselves living in unprecedented times. We feel the need to connect with our community and be part of something greater than ourselves moreso than in many years. The oxymoron of today is that being by ourselves is a reminder us how much we really need one another.

As we conduct our seders this year, in person or virtually, each of us has the opportunity to more fully appreciate the miraculous journey of our people, the importance of being part of a caring community, and a new appreciation for what our ancestors endured.

May this pandemic come to a swift end and all who are ill experience full and speedy recoveries. May our community and the world learn to better appreciate the importance of a smile. And may we accept a shared responsibility for each other and our planet.

Thank you for being such an important part of our community. Please know that you are not alone. Visit our Federation resources page for helpful information and innovative ideas to celebrate Passover, as well as numerous opportunities to connect and engage even while we are physically apart.

Wishing you a safe and meaningful holiday and a restful Shabbat.

Chag Pesach sameach,

Behzad Dayanim

Executive Director, Friedman Commission for Jewish Education
Chief Learning Officer, Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County

Read Behzad’s previous blog posts here.