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Erev Pesach 5781 ~ March 26, 2021

A new meaning to an age-old custom of the Seder has evolved for Passover this year. It is one that truly makes a great deal of sense. Traditionally, when we recite the Ten Plagues, we take our pinky and dip it into our wine cups, take out a drop and put it on our napkin or the saucer on which we have placed the wine glass or cup. As the rabbis teach us, we must not be over celebratory of the defeat of our enemies, especially when life has been lost. Rabbi Simcha Cohen teaches that at the Seder, “We celebrate the Exodus from Egypt, not the downfall of the Egyptians.” As it is written in the Book of Proverbs: “If your enemy falls, do not celebrate, if he trips, let not your heart rejoice.” (Proverbs 24;17) 

This Passover, as we sit down around our tables, some of us will be fortunate enough to have loved ones sitting next to us, and others may have friends and family sitting at a virtual Seder. And then there will be others who will be alone this year, either for lack of being able to connect to our virtual world or, sadly, because of having an empty chair due to the loss of a loved one, and an empty heart. 

During this year’s Seders, we can’t help but be mindful of the many who have lost their lives this year due to this dreadful disease: the countless front-line workers and caregivers who gave their lives so that others could live, and all of those who have died in these last 12 months and for whom we could not mourn as we would have wanted.

At end of end of the reading of the 10 plagues this year, some are suggesting that the pouring out of the wine from our cups should also represent the pain we experienced during this past year. While I like this thought, may I suggest instead that, after the 10th plague, we pause for a moment, reflect upon those who have passed away, those who are sickened by Covid-19, and those who have an empty chair at their table. If we know of someone, we should mention their name and then take a drop of wine and drip it on our napkin or saucer. It represents the pain and the tears so many of us experienced this past year.

In a similar vein, other customs have evolved such as leaving one empty chair at the table, and lighting a yahrzeit candle and placing it next to the cup of Elijah. One represents our grief; the second our hope. And then there is Miriam’s Cup, which is a representation of our hope for today.

Whatever custom or understanding we bring to our tables this year, they all come to remind us of today and the promise of redemption for a not-too-distant tomorrow.

In that regard I wish you a chag kasher, sam’each, b’ivriut, a happy, kosher Passover, in good health.

Fri, June 24 2022 25 Sivan 5782