Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once said, “Passover is the story of the defeat of probability by the force of possibility. It defines what it is to be a Jew: a living symbol of hope.” It is often joked that most Jewish holidays can be summarized with something like, “They tried to kill us; we survived. Let’s eat,” and Passover is no exception.
It is fitting then, that we reflect on the story of Passover during this time, a time when the world is consumed with thoughts of COVID-19. The story of Passover recalls the narrative of the people of Israel leaving Egypt after 400 years of enslavement. In typical Biblical fashion, however, this event is complicated through 10 plagues, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and the very dramatic and miraculous splitting of the sea. It is one of the most well-known narratives from any religion, and remembering the Exodus is an oft repeated refrain in daily prayer.
All over Facebook are memes that talk about how ironic or funny or typically Jewish it is that we celebrate escaping from plagues and surviving plagues while in the midst of a plague. While there are comparisons that can be drawn between the Biblical plagues and the “plague” of coronavirus, a clear distinction is the ubiquitous nature of coronavirus, impacting everyone regardless of age, socio-economic status, nationality, race, or religion. Whereas the Jewish people were largely untouched by the Biblical plagues, virtually every community has been impacted by today’s plague.
Another distinction is the response of the people. In Biblical times, the general reaction to the plagues was one of fear and isolation, with one notable exception: It is said that the reason the Israelites (Jews) were not impacted by the plague of darkness is because they reached out and touched their loved ones, so they had light in their dwellings.
Rabbi Sacks also shares with us that, “Small acts of kindness can change and humanise our world.” In the midst of this worldwide pandemic, as opposed to during Biblical times, we have been surrounded by these small acts of kindness. While physical distancing and quarantines have prevented us from physically reaching out to each other, people around the world have found ways to humanize the world. We have seen neighbors shop for each other in order to protect those most at risk. We have seen thousands upon thousands of homemade masks created and distributed to those in need and donated to hospitals. We have seen millions of dollars donated to make sure kids are able to eat, even without schools in session. We have seen messages of hope and inspiration written on sidewalks and artists providing free concerts and teachers banding together to help students grow. We have seen teams who would be rivals sharing information to speed up the process of a vaccine and businesses around the country pivoting to provide much-needed supplies. We have seen strangers check in on each other so that no one is alone and a refining of what it means to be a community when there is no possibility of physical connection or proximity. Talk about humanizing our world.
The Jewish people have always thrived on the force of possibility. We created the concept of the “David and Goliath” story and have lived through example after example of the “underdog” coming out victorious. So, too, the Jewish people live off of the power of small acts of kindness, as if it is these acts of kindness that feed the force of possibility. It’s one thing to have hope. The Jewish people, however, act in the name of that hope, believing in that force of possibility and its power to overcome the probability.
We at Einstein Academy have been deeply moved by the force of possibility and hope that has driven all of these acts of kindness. We aim to inspire more of our kids and families to find their own paths of possibility and hope through these small acts of kindness as their own way to overcome probability.