Second pandemic Passover. Please discuss.
Matzah for One
I will gladly indulge this non-question because it’s most of what I’m thinking about, and now that seders are over and we still have several days of the holiday remaining, we have to do something with all that escaping-from-Egypt energy.
Here are a few specific ideas, and I hope they give you somewhere to direct your own thoughts and energy in the coming days. Also, since four is a good, thematically appropriate Passover number (four cups of wine, four questions, etc.), so here you go:
- Make food you actually want to eat.
One can easily fall down the twin rabbit holes of processed Passover foods and traditional foods you feel like you can’t live without. Both of these fallacies can leave you annoyed and unsatisfied as the week goes on. I fondly remember a Passover meal I attended in my early 20s, hosted by a vegan, where we ate nothing but a dozen different varieties of gorgeous roasted vegetables, and everyone was full and happy at the end.
Passover food does not need to be heavy or bland or made of matzah. You do not need to eat gefilte fish or macaroons if you do not actually enjoy them. Preparing more intentional meals can be a little more work, but I’m guessing you still have some pandemic-related free time on your hands, and it’s so, so worth it to create meals you feel good eating.
- See friends outdoors.
Unlike last year, this year we know about masking, we know a lot more about the virus and we’ve gotten much better at outdoor socializing. Make plans to take walks with friends, meet up in parks and even set up an outdoor meal as long as everyone can still keep their distance (or has been vaccinated). My family did an outdoor seder for the first time this year, and while it’s not something I could have previously envisioned, it was honestly really lovely.
As the weather improves, as long as you’re taking the appropriate precautions, seeing people in three dimensions away from a screen can really do wonders for your well-being (I want to make a Passover-related “signs and wonders” joke here, but self-referentially failing at making the joke is the best I’ve got.)
- Count the Omer.
Starting on the second night of Passover, during the seder (if your haggadah, unlike mine, reminds you to do so 0- note to self for next year), we start counting the Omer — the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. There’s been a lot of counting going on this year: days of quarantine, months of social distancing, case counts, death rates, time since seeing loved one and more.
Now, for the next seven weeks, we have a Jewish way of counting time. Even if this isn’t a practice you’ve connected with before, right now, when it’s so easy to lose track of days and to feel like the past year has been a blur, taking a moment every day to say out loud where we are in time can be a tangible, grounding opportunity.
- Think deeply and specifically about the themes of the holiday.
What does it actually mean to you to celebrate freedom? What would it really mean for you to work for someone else’s liberation? How do you personally make meaning of the concepts of peoplehood, oppression and miracles?
The seder gives us a framework for thinking about these questions, for remembering our ancestors’ suffering and for celebrating through storytelling, but there are days of holiday remaining. Just eating matzah without forging a deeper connection to these practices can make this a holiday about eating instead of a holiday of liberation.
Find something that stands out to you and think about it. Remember a cause that you care about, and do something about it. Find ways to make the holiday meaningful, relevant and of the moment.
I hope this provides some food for thought, thoughts about food and maybe a little distraction, too. Wishing you a chag sameach.