This year’s Seder, more than any in our lifetimes, will be in direct conversation with the previous year’s. We will be enjoying Pesach 2021 while thinking about Pesach 2020 (and while actively dreaming of Pesach 2022).
No moment in the Haggadah better expresses the arduous journey from last Pesach, and the aspiration for a peaceful path to next Pesach, than one remarkable line in the Maggid’s concluding blessing:
Blessed are you, Hashem our God, Sovereign of the Universe … who has helped us make it to this night on which we eat Matzah and Maror … So may [You] help us make it to future holidays and festivals, may they come to us with peace.
This blessing opens by thanking God for the distant past’s Exodus from Egypt (not exactly a shock!) and ends (again, no great surprise) with a lengthy prayer for the messianic redemption awaiting us in the eventual future.
But for two short clauses the timeline suddenly shrinks, and the scale of Jewish history moves not in centuries or generations, but from one year to the next: We bless God for bringing us from last Pesach to today, and we pray to God to guide us from Pesach of this year to Pesach of next.
Most years, I barely notice these words, because I take for granted that I “made it” to Pesach. The Seder is for praising God for the miracles of leaving Egypt, not the wonders of making it to my cousins’ house. And of all the bright hopes I have in mind for the future, doing a Seder once again, one year from now, isn’t very high on my list (especially while wrapping up Maggid!).
But this coming Pesach, my feelings are different. I’m thinking of the many we lost to the pandemic and who will not make it to this year’s (or last year’s) Seder. I’m thinking of all those who, due to heroic interventions by medical professionals, will arrive in peace to this upcoming holiday. I’m thinking of individuals in my community who finally received vaccines and now, after a year, will be able to celebrate with their families not just the Exodus from Egypt, but their long-awaited exit from isolation.
Every Seder marks an experience that began about 3,500 years ago; but this year’s Seder will also mark an experience that began about one year ago. While most of the Haggadah helps us dive into the former, it is the blessing at the end of Maggid that provides an opportunity to reflect on the latter.”
Ben Greenfield is rabbi of The Greenpoint Shul in Brooklyn. A version of this article appeared in JTA.
Friday, March 26, 2021
Nissan 13, 5781
Light Shabbat candles at 6:57 pm
Saturday, March 27
Nissan 14, 5781
Torah Reading: Tzav: Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36
Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24
Light Passover candles after 7:57 pm
Sunday, March 28
Nissan 15, 5781
Light Passover candles after 7:58 pm
Monday, March 29
Nissan 16, 5781
Yom Tov ends 7:59 pm