The eight-day festival of Passover starts on April 8th this year, right as we are approaching the height of the coronavirus epidemic in New York State and the United States. The coronavirus is not that different from many other plagues people have lived through in human history. Although I am not Jewish and have never before celebrated Passover, for some reason this year I was drawn to the story and celebration of Passover. I hope that no one misconstrues this as cultural misappropriation. I found the spiritual themes from Passover to be encouraging, providing guidance as I, like so many others, face an uncertain future and so many new restrictions.
The Passover story originates from the time when the ancient Israelites led by Moses, a great abolitionist, obtained freedom from Egypt after being slaves in ancient Egypt for over 400 years. Pharaoh was reluctant mostly due to the economic burden. He would lose a very large workforce if he agreed to free them and let them go. According to the book of Exodus, God eventually inflicted ten plagues on Pharaoh until he finally agreed to let Israel go. Even after their release, Pharaoh and his men hostilely pursued the Israelites as they were exiting Egypt. The Israelites were in such a hurried state of flight, that they did not even have time to allow dough to rise to make leavened bread or yeast bread. They baked 'unleavened' bread or flatbread to take with them instead. The Israelites crossed the Red Sea and finally obtained liberation.
It's a symbol of the faithfulness of God in the Jewish faith to establish them (as promised to Abraham). The Feast of the Passover became an everlasting memorial of faith. This 'passing over' by faith is what the Passover is about. The Passover is also a turning point in Jewish history, as it meant that now the Jewish people would come into their own land. The Passover is a season of coming into our own, by faith. Do we have faith? Do we believe as Americans that we will pass over in this difficult time?
Today during Passover, people remove or clean all grain that could be fermented or leavened from their cupboards as a remembrance of the Passover out of Egypt when the Jewish people did not have fermented or leavened bread. This historically included wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt and others. For many, this is a time to clean their kitchen, their house, their diet and even their life. The Passover is a season of cleansing. The purpose of cleansing in some health practices is to obtain healing. Cleansing heals. As we face severe social restrictions we are at home basically all day. This strains family members or friends, and for many, issues are probably coming up. Some of us need to remove the leaven that is in our conscience. Jesus talked about the 'leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy' (Luke 12:1). Perhaps this Passover Season 2020 can be a time to remove social and spiritual leaven as well. Some will just clean their house or their car.
We do not have to be of a certain faith or any faith tradition to practice this. Yet, as Americans we can all meditate on the fact that we will get through this, much like the difficult journey of leaving ancient Egypt. The coronavirus is not that different from the plagues of Egypt or other plagues that human beings have faced so many times in history. At this time, we must focus on faith to pass over as we believe for the future. We must pass over. We must improve our health and response to the coronavirus. We must go forward and believe in order to be established in liberation, health and well-being.