Dear Passover 2021:
We need to talk. It’s not you, it’s me. Well, actually it is you, mixed with the pandemic.
In 2020, we made it through with Zoom, multiple screens and a positive attitude. I rallied through, believing our quarantine was going to be short lived—the end was in sight. My 4-year-old was eager to sing and share what she somehow had learned through Zoom and YouTube videos. We decorated with frogs, plague masks and flowers. We did it. It wasn’t ideal, but we made it through.
At the end of the seder, when we got to “L’shana haba’ah b’yerushalayim” (“Next year in Jerusalem”), our house, and I think many others, sang, “L’shana haba’ah wherever we can be with family,” but yet, as we weed through the dark days of this never-ending winter, the reality of another Passover at home is just too much. It is too much work for this overly fatigued mama who views a successful day very differently now. Emotionally it is too much for me to grapple with. Another holiday away from my family. We are going into a second cycle, another year.
The grief, the fatigue, the disconnect from community, the high rate of death in our country and around the world; why do I even need to read the story of Passover when, in many ways, I am living through it in modern times?
Passover, during your seder, yachatz is one essential component. During yachatz, we break the middle of our three matzahs, take the larger of the broken halves and hide it as the afikoman. Many know the tradition of having children search for the afikoman at the end of the meal, for we cannot complete the seder until the afikoman is found. Kids run around and negotiate for a prize so the seder can be complete. It is light-hearted, fun and an excellent way to keep young kids engaged.
Yet there can be a deeper meaning. There is a tradition that the middle matzah symbolizes the heart. It is broken by living amid the injustices of our broken world and the immense suffering that is experienced around the globe. It is a time to pause and sit in the discomfort of that heartbreak.
And while most of the time we are unable to clearly focus on our heartbreak, or it is too much to explore, this year we could not cover it over and try to pretend it wasn’t there. We have had to face it head-on and we experience the deep mental, physical and emotional fatigue that has come from nearly a year in this pandemic. A year of isolation. Our hearts have been broken over and over again as we grieve what’s lost. Celebrations not had, vacations canceled, mourning in isolation. Having a 6-month-old who has only met most of her family on Zoom. The list goes on.
Usually on Passover, as part of our freedom ritual, we reconnect with our own broken-heartedness, but this year everyone is in it. We are all struggling as we watch the news, experience our own isolation and grapple with all the sadness around us.
Passover, I have always felt like your holiday is the most stressful, and that even though I love being home with my parents during the holiday, no one in that house is at their best. Yet I would do anything for the bickering, yelling and, at times, bland food that comes with your holiday. It would help me heal an incredibly broken heart.
But as we can’t do it in person, the loneliness is just too much for me to face this year. So, we are on a break and I will see you in 2022—with family. L’shana h’aba b’Ottawa (“Next year in Ottawa”), where my parents live.
A Pandemic Mom on the Brink of Breaking
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