President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin sent a special greeting on Wednesday to Israelis and to Jewish communities around the world ahead of Pesach which will be celebrated this year under the restrictions in place because of the spread of the coronavirus.
In his address in Hebrew, the President said, “Dear Israelis, this year we will mark Seder night in difficult circumstances because of the ‘corona plague’, the modern affliction that casts a dark shadow on us all. Suddenly, we realize how important the simple things that make up our daily lives are to us. Simple things like going outside, and breathing the spring air which is always part of Pesach; like the bustling and hurrying – that are so Israeli – of the preparations for the holiday; and like the gathering of the family, loved and familiar, together around the Pesach table.”
“Suddenly, when we are faced with ‘social distancing’, closures and isolation at homes, we feel even more clearly importance of the obligation to ‘tell the story to your children’, of passing on the story from generation to generation, from grandparents to children to grandchildren to great-grandchildren. This is our story, our anchor, what binds us together – even when we need to be apart. But despite it all, the holiday atmosphere is coming, it is upon us and it is unique and moving. Despite it all, we will set the Pesach table, we will make the Shechechiyanu blessing for getting to this moment and we will tell the story to those who are sitting with us as well as to those who are no less close, but need to celebrate the holiday with us from afar.”
“In describing the suffering of the people of Israel in Egypt, in the Book of Exodus, we read that ‘the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.’ In these days, my dear ones, we are all praying, together or separately, young and old, secular and religious, for the better days ahead. We all ask ‘remember the covenant of our forefathers’. Chag Pesach Sameach, a happy Pesach. To next year, together. Am Yisrael Chai, the Jewish people lives.”
The president also recorded a greeting in English, in which he said, “Dear sisters and brothers in Jewish communities around the world. Chag Pesach, the Passover holiday, is a time of joy and renewal, a time of gathering around the Seder table, sharing the story of our people and asking the question ‘ma nishtana halayla hazeh – why is this night different from all other nights?’”
“This year, however, is different from all other years. This year, we are all facing the challenge of corona and the challenge of distance from our family and loved ones. But despite the distance, Pesach reminds us that the Jewish people are all one family, with shared history, shared values and a shared destiny. And, as we gather around the Seder table, here in Israel we will think of you and will be praying for your communities. Passover is the holiday of freedom – Chag haHerut. Even when we are forced to stay in our homes, we still have the freedom to appreciate the most basic things in life: our families, our health, our history and tradition. We must pass on these values to our children, to our children’s children, from generation to generation, as we say in Hebrew ‘mi dor le-dor.’ I wish you all a happy and healthy Passover and may we all be together next year in Jerusalem. Leshana haba’a beYerushalayim. Chag Pesach kasher v’sameach. Am Yisrael chai.”
The president also posted a video on social of him reading the Hagada for children. He spoke to the children about his childhood memories of Pesach in Jerusalem before the establishment of the State of Israel.
“Even if we are not celebrating Seder night in the same way we do every year, but with just our closest family, do not forget the special Pesach traditions and songs. Apart from that, remember that the smaller the Seder, the greater your chances are of finding the Afikoman! See you soon, dear children. I wish you a happy holiday of freedom and may we all get back to our normal routines soon. And, of course, don’t forget to pick up the phone or Zoom to Granny and Grandpa, Saba and Savta, to wish them Chag Sameach and send a big, big hug from afar. Next year in Jerusalem. Next year, together.”