Here on my island, as on everyone’s, the week has been crowded with holidays. Wednesday was the first night of Passover. Good Friday followed apace. And today is Easter. We have been in the midst of a curiously long correlation between Passover and Easter. Some years, due to the Hebrew calendar, the holidays may be separated by weeks, but for the last few years we have recreated a semblance of the biblical synchronicity.
With the exception, possibly, of Good Friday, which is suited for solitary contemplation, the social distancing may be most keenly felt this weekend of all the ones we have suffered so far. Both Passover and Easter are inherently social holidays. They are celebrations of the highest order – on the one part of the victory over subjugation and on the other of release from the constraints of the mortal world. They are meant to be rung in en masse, with songs of jubilation and celebration and with the shared experience of the best uplifting nature of religion.
This year, the sharing will be muted and distanced.
Earlier this week, I participated in an online Seder, the traditional Passover meal. It was oddly effective and deeply affecting all at once. The ritual was there and the bonhomie that always accompanies the familiar rites. But Passover represents that most sacred of things, the shared table. After the singing and the glasses of wine, we quietly turned off our cameras and went back to our confinement meals.
There will be many options today available on this wonderful online world that we all now inhabit. The church where I sing will host a service on Facebook (with music prerecorded, including a socially distanced choir). It will be spirited and welcoming, as the church’s pastors always are, and I look forward to the soothing and inspirational words of their messages. But the joy that rings through the holiday will be tempered by the strange emptiness of our confinements, echoing like the choir’s music in the empty church.
When this is over, when we can come off our island and greet each other with handshakes and hugs, maybe it will be time for another round of celebration. Let us again break out the Manischewitz and the matzoh, the chocolate bunnies and the soaring songs of joy. Surely that time will be worthy of a repeat celebration.
[This Post was adapted from a essay originally published on Facebook the day listed above]