Pesach begins on Wednesday evening.

Please stay home.

Please do not invite family and friends to join you in your home for seder.

Please do not go to someone else’s home for seder.

Please stay home.

I know that it’s impossible for many of us to imagine Passover and the seder without our people – without family and friends. Yes, our tradition teaches us to open our homes and our hearts at this time of year. Agreed, physically distancing ourselves from folks is not who we are as a people.

But, at the foundation of our faith is the fundamental value known in Hebrew as Pikuach Nefesh – Saving a Life. The Shulchan Arukh, the Jewish legal code compiled in the mid-1500’s, teaches us that “for someone who has a dangerous illness, it is a commandment to break Shabbat for him.” Traditionally, we don’t work, drive or use technology on Shabbat. But, none of these restrictions apply when it comes to saving a life. The code continues, “one who hurries to do this (to break the restrictions of Shabbat to save a life) is praised. One who asks questions about this is a murderer.”

How blunt is that!? It drives the point home: our job is to save lives. If you question, challenge, look for loopholes and exceptions and/or simply violate standards, protocols, rules and medical experts, it is as if you are taking a life. Our tradition makes it explicitly clear: no religious gathering is so essential that it should threaten the health of participants.

If our tradition teaches us to break Shabbat to embrace Pikuach Nefesh, we must do the same for Passover.

This does not mean, however, that we can’t gather online for a Passover seder and create sacred space together virtually. Many of us have registered and will come together for our Ramat Shalom seder Wednesday evening at 6:30pm. It’s not too late to join us on Zoom. Simply click here. Even in more traditional Jewish communities, some (not all!) will be using Zoom on Passover.

If you can’t get everything you’d normally require to keep Passover this year, please don’t stress. This Passover, we must adapt. Certainly, our ancestors had to do so as they fled Egypt and we must do the same this year. Be flexible. Be kind to yourself. And if the kugel or the soup or even the matzah doesn’t meet your regular Passover standards, still give thanks that we’re able to celebrate this holiday – albeit very differently than what we’re used to.

No matter what you decide to do, I ask that you allow our concept of Pikuach Nefesh to guide you. Keep yourself safe. Keep those you love safe.

COVID-19 knows no borders and it has hit our synagogue family. To those fighting this virus physically – you are in our thoughts and prayers. To those who have lost loved ones to this pandemic, we stand with you. We will do whatever we can to help you and your family. Of course, this virus is affecting all of us emotionally, spiritually and financially. To every single one of you, Cheryl, Abby and Jonah join me in sending you love. light and strength. Together, as a community, we will get through this.

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