Passover is a process that involves connecting, coalescing into a nation, conscientiously identifying what matters most, embracing the comfort that order brings, elevating the senses in the joy of experience, being enlivened and challenged by the power of meaningful inquiry and finding hope in the
blossoming of spring.
Aging is also a process. Connecting past, present and future; committing to live each and every day; caring for self and others; embracing our imperfections and refining our character; daring to try new things, while honoring our established strengths; applying the wisdom of experience, while walking in humility; and the growth and change that happens when we become who we were meant to be are all pieces of the process.
Throughout the pandemic, aging in place has become the undesirable norm. Whether one is in assisted living, independent living, health and rehab or a hospital, the fullness of lives has been compressed into the utter here and now. This is where Passover and aging, as processes, converge.
This spring finds us once again in the grip of a plague. This is not a test. It is the real thing. This is not a memory recalled from pages of a book. It is our lived experience, as it has been for over a year. However, hope of healing and recovery from COVID-19 is in our midst with the administration of vaccines, masking and maintaining social distance.
Unlike last year, when Passover was passed over, Sun Health Communities plan to gather in small groups to read from the Haggadah and partake in the communal Passover meal. It will be a very different night because we are not free people, not yet. Instead, we are people who care about maintaining our tradition.
One of the most poignant things about this intersection between plague and freedom, youth and age, health and illness, breath of life and death, is that we don’t know very much. Our Jewish culture of inquiry and mining the question has helped us survive not having answers, but that doesn’t always generate peace and comfort. Not long ago, many of us had plans and we could see the future, touch it, count on it somehow. We blinked. Suddenly, illness and calamity altered our relationship with each moment, notably with the concept of future. Bending with the weight of the present, the weightless future is formed out of a great question mark, like a puff of smoke or a cloud. The Source of All Life holds the rest of the story we cannot know.
As the redemption and revelation of Passover approach, there has been much discussion about the confinement of the past year, losses of all kinds, the adaptations — some more or less successful than others, the incredible relief for those who have been fully vaccinated and the yearning to be liberated and in control of comings and goings.
Additionally, some of our residents carry burdens of worry about daily bad news, not just about the recent uptick in COVID cases, but about local and global unrest, about violent expressions of hatred. They want it to stop. They want to know who will put an end to it, and when that will happen. They want a kinder world for their children and grandchildren. The bandwidth of patience has been stretched to its limits and it is about to tear.
But we are stronger than we have been. As we inch closer to the 15th day of Nisan, we notice a new shape of our character; forged between the shifting tectonic plates of these pandemic times. For many, life’s priorities have been reordered. From this new vantage point, we may see the Exodus story entirely differently than in years past. The collective experience of our four cups of wine, the four questions and the lessons of the four children may fuse as a dynamic compass, reconfiguring our psycho-spiritual north, south, east and west.
When we gather this year around the Seder table, we will be able to imagine the sea of troubles parting before us, as it did for our ancestors. We will envision our march toward freedom, into the arms of our loved ones.
And together, we will dream of the sun shining in a timeless spring, for all our days.
Freedom is a precious process that demands navigation through obstacles. It requires unlimited endurance and pushes us to define what we want for ourselves and for others. It highlights what is most meaningful and teaches us to rise after a fall. It orchestrates opportunities for welcoming the stranger, loving our neighbors, honoring our elders, caring for the Earth and all of Creation.
It is something we choose over and over again. JN
Rabbi Mindie Snyder serves as the rabbi and chaplain for Sun Health Communities.