Pages from a Haggadah
By Rabbi Josh Feigelson, PhD

In this moment, as many are rethinking how to observe important religious holidays, Rabbi Josh Feigelson, PhD, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality shared this reflection on celebrating Passover during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can we celebrate our holiday of freedom when we are confined? That’s a question I’m hearing a lot this year, and one I ask myself.

In answering it, I consider that the first Passover seder was held before the ancient Israelites left Egypt. Still slaves, not yet free, they huddled in their homes and painted their doorposts with blood to ward off the last and most severe of the ten plagues (killing of the firstborn). And what did they do inside? Ate, sang, and told the story of their freedom—a story which had not yet happened.

Passover has always been a holiday requiring imagination. “In every generation one is obligated to see oneself as if they personally went out of Egypt,” instructs the Talmud. The key words here are as if: An act of imagining is always required. For most of my life, as for many American Jews, the imagination required was to see ourselves as slaves and captives, to imagine ourselves into that reality. But for the Israelites at that first seder in Egypt, as for Jews at many other points in history, the imagining was anticipatory: it involved imagining what it would be like to go out, to be free, and to recognize the spiritual freedom we may have even when our physical, economic, and political freedoms are constrained.

So this year I find myself once again imagining a past and a future—a past of seders celebrated in similar and even far more challenging conditions, a future of seders that celebrate a redemptive spiritual and political liberation of all people. I aim to respond to the invitation of the moment, which frankly is no more and no less than we do every year.

The Institute for Jewish Spirituality, which has pioneered the development and teaching of Jewish mindfulness practices for over 20 years, is offering free Resources for Challenging Times, including resources for a mindful Passover, a guided meditation and meditation starter kit, weekly Torah studies on texts relevant to this moment, and more.