We know it’s going to be hard. After all, Seder night is possibly the most important night of the year for Jewish people to celebrate with families and friends. It’s all long tables, mismatched chairs and a few too many people than your living room can comfortably accommodate.
This year, however, reveling in our redemption from Egypt is going to be a rather solitary, and for many people lonely, affair.
In Israel, people are keeping to their very nuclear families until COVID-19 blows over, and in many other parts of the world flights and travel are banned, meaning that most of us won’t be able to spend the Passover holiday with our loved ones.
It’s at times like these that a common and very timely Israeli adage springs to mind: “We survived Pharaoh; we’ll survive this too.” We have no doubt that this will be the case, and in the meantime would like to take your mind off things with a few, unexpected silver linings to this plague-stricken Passover, as well as to wish you and your loved ones, near and far, a healthy and happy holiday.
1. You don’t have to decide where to do Seder
The annual ritual of causing mortal offense to one side of your family by celebrating Passover with the other is off the table this year, in what might be the greatest upside to this whole social distancing thing.
The dreaded question of where you’ll be doing Seder usually already pops up in September, when the side with which you’re not celebrating the Jewish New Year wishes to ensure that they’ll have you on Pesach.
Of course, that doesn’t prevent the issue from being repeatedly raised all the way through to April, as more information pours in on the whereabouts of your siblings, their spouses and that annoying cousin who’s taking off to Thailand to celebrate poolside.
This year, however, you don’t have to make up your mind. You really can’t go anywhere. Just don’t get too comfortable – expect mayhem come Rosh Hashana, when this whole balagan picks up again.
2. You don’t have to spend hours in traffic
In Israel, leaving for Seder night anywhere after 3pm is considered very risky business. Since everyone is having dinner at exactly the same time, the evening traffic is horrendous and usually makes us regret that we ever left the house.
Since nobody will be driving anywhere this Seder evening, the roads will be perfectly clear. Not that it will help us. But it’s still nice to think that the usual cacophony of stressed parents, cooped up kids and the odd miserable dog are all comfortable in their own homes. And you don’t have to worry about designating a driver after those four cups of wine.
3. You can skip the gefilte
Or those horrible coconut macaroons (really, why do they still make them?). Seder night usually means braving a taste or two of things you really don’t want to be ingesting. But since you don’t have to take anyone’s feelings into consideration this year, you can decide exactly what goes in your mouth. So if charoset with lettuce and matzah floats your boat – go ahead, have seconds and thirds. And if not – no one’s looking.
4. You’ll fit into your jeans
Following on the previous point, having a solo Seder probably means eating far, far less than you usually would, and that come the morning after you’ll still be able to do up your trouser zipper.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 means that there’ll be no one around to show this off to, but this can be simply resolved with a self-congratulatory photo on the family WhatsApp group, after which you can promptly change back to your comfy corona-time sweats.
5. You don’t have to cook for days on end
For a holiday that celebrates coming out of slavery, Passover sure includes a whole load of cooking. While Seder night is a wonderful opportunity to show your family love and dish up everyone’s childhood favorites, this involves a ton of work and a good amount of time in the kitchen.
Since most of the family won’t be present this year, it’s time to focus on you, and you only. Make your own favorite dish or two or perhaps just the easiest thing that pops into mind — and give a whole new meaning to freedom.
6. You don’t have to explain why you’re not married/pregnant/ pregnant again
For some people, the days running up to Seder night are filled with dread and fear over having to face the family and their line of questioning over life choices– and being grilled by your great aunt about why you haven’t yet found yourself a nice Jewish boy isn’t the pleasantest way to spend an evening.
A major plus side to this year’s plague-stricken Passover is that those nosy relatives won’t be at your table. If you’re including them on Zoom and they begin the usual Spanish Inquisition, you can promptly turn them off. By accident, of course.
7. You can mute your in-laws
Despite the above, there’s no escaping your in-laws on chag. Never before have your elderly relatives embraced technology so, and they are now experts when it comes to video chats, family conferences and other means of online communication.
Which is absolutely great, except that there’s really no need to conduct the entire Seder on Zoom with both (of course it’s both) sides of the family. But fear not. Just press “mute,” and if anyone suspects anything, blame the bad line.
8. Your house doesn’t have to sparkle
According to Jewish law, homes must be free of hametz, or leavened products, by Passover. Many take this as an opportunity to clean the house from top to bottom, bearing in mind not only the halachic obligation but also the eagle eyes of their upcoming guests.
While we have no intention of recommending anything regarding Jewish law, we do feel at liberty to nudge you in the direction of not turning your house upside down this year. Unless, of course, you’re looking for way to keep the kids occupied while they’re home from school, in which case a thorough cleaning operation sounds perfect.
9. You can sing your heart out
A downside of celebrating Seder with a large number of people is that inadvertently not everyone knows the same tunes to the Haggadah, so more often than not you find yourself not even recognizing your favorite parts.
Since this Seder night it will be you and perhaps a few others who can be disciplined into your way of doing things, you’ll be able to sing your heart out exactly as you wish. Day-dayenu, anyone?
10. Your kids’ cheeks will remain unbruised
A childhood Seder memory of yours truly involves a great auntie or two pinching my cheeks so very fondly and strongly that I spent the rest of the night hiding under the table. This cannot be a unique experience, with great aunties being what they are wherever they are in the world.
As upsetting as it is not to see the extended family this year, your children might be secretly relieved that their cheeks will remain unharmed this time. They’ll do well to remember they might get a double dose next year.