Seder Night in Seclusion: A Small Comfort

Gavriel Cohn,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Gavriel Cohn
grew up in the Jewish community of London. He is currently a student at University College London (UCL).

One of the most fundamental aspects of Seder Night is the requirement that “in every generation a person must see himself as if he is leaving Egypt.” Seder Night is meant to be a re-living of the Exodus. Every year each person at his Seder table must try to re-experience the epic journey of our ancestors from slavery to freedom, to experience it personally. Famously, the Brisker Rav remarked that he found it one of the most difficult commandments to fulfil.

Throughout the night we use 'props' to try and achieve this commandment. We eat the matzah "of our affliction", feel the bitterness of the marror, and taste the salt-water ‘tears’ of the karpas-dipping, for example. We also recline like royalty and drink wine like free men— all in an attempt try and recapture the Exodus, to re-experience the transition from slavery to freedom. This year, perhaps, the very bricks and mortar of our houses can be said to be another 'prop' aiding us to re-experience the Exodus. Moreover, in today's times, perhaps by secluding ourselves inside our homes, we can also be said to be reliving a part of the Exodus story, further fulfilling this obligation.

The night before the Jewish People left Egypt, Moses commanded them to take shelter in their homes, in order that they be shielded from the Plague of the Firstborns sweeping over Egypt. It was ordered that “no man shall leave the entrance of his house.” Our current predicament is, unfortunately, strikingly similar. We also stand quarantined in our houses in order to protect ourselves from a plague. Perhaps we could view our isolation as a re-enactment of what our ancestors did on the night before their freedom, a further fulfilment of the requirement to re-experience the Exodus story.

Furthermore, presently, we are secluded with only a small number of people. The Jewish People's condition in ancient Egypt on the eve of the Fifteenth of Nissan was similar. Our ancestors gathered together only within their own households, their immediate family.

It goes without saying that our present situation is an incredibly difficult one. For many, unfortunately, it has even brought heart-wrenching tragedy. At our Seder tables this year, however, perhaps this suggestion will provide some small measure of comfort: That through our very seclusion we are also, perhaps, mimicking the very first Seder Night in history, acting and feeling as the Jewish People did then. We are, in effect, re-living a crucial stage of their dramatic journey to freedom, and thereby further fulfilling this obligation to re-experience the Exodus.

May God guard us and save us from all malady and disease.