The four questions of COVID

Jennifer Baer works as the Director of Family and Teen Engagement at the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years. Born in Memphis, Tenn., she holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Texas in Austin and a master’s degree in social work from Washington University.

By Jennifer Baer, Special to the Jewish Light

Our Passover gatherings will look very different again this year when the holiday begins at sunset March 27. How ironic that we are celebrating the Jew’s escape from Egypt as we are limiting our own travel.  

I remember practicing the four questions just as my own kids do now.  They are much better at it than I was; I’m sure my relatives don’t miss my off-key version of them. When we observe Passover this year, some of us may be thinking “What day is today and how is it different than all other days?” Since I don’t really go anywhere, my Mondays are pretty much the same as every other day in the week, consisting of Zoom calls and webinars often taking place from the comfort of my own bed.  I thought that my headboard looked enough like the back of a chair and people would think I was calling from a cool looking sofa, until one colleague paused to ask, “Are you in bed?” Oops.  Good thing no one could see my four-legged office mate who was taking a break on my lap.

As we recite the four questions this year, I thought of a few we could add: 

Why is this seder different from all other seders?

1) On all other seders family and friends are physically sitting at an actual table together.  But on this night, much of our table may be virtual and be filled with each family’s version of “The Brady Brunch,” with squares on computer screens as people join remotely via Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.  I’m wondering if a year of practice will have helped my aunt, who last year kept interrupting at various points in the seder to ask, “Can y’all hear me?  Can y’all see me?”

2) On all other seders we say the blessing and wash our hands, but this year it isn’t just in the haggadah but is a commandment from Dr. Anthony Fauci.

3) On this night we as we recline as a sign of being free, we have to make sure we don’t accidentally doze off.  “Coronasomnia” is a new buzzword for the widespread phenomena of not getting good sleep due to the stress of the pandemic. Snoring at the seder table is definitely a faux pas. 

4) On all other seders we arrive fully dressed, but due to Zooming, we might choose pajamas and slippers in lieu of festive attire.  As long as you don’t stand up from the table, it’s really anyone’s guess what’s happening from the waist down.

Passover is about remembering hardships in our past which remind us to be grateful for what we have in the present. This year, once again, COVID serves as a reminder that we shouldn’t take our health or our freedom for granted. However, Passover is also called chag ha’aviv, the spring holiday, a time of renewal when our world turns green once again.  L’shana haba’ah, next year, may this dark period pass and may we all be able to gather around our tables together in health and peace.