The Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, has undoubtedly changed the plans of Jewish families across the globe for Passover in 2020. Passover, in traditional Judaism, is a commemoration of the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. Additionally, its duration of eight days outside of Israel serves as an opportunity for families to get together, enjoy festive meals and travel. But this year, the whole dynamic of Passover has morphed due to the renowned worldwide pandemic; the Coronavirus.
The most significant changes pertained to two of the holiday’s halachic mandates. First, the Seder took place for most families as an intimate gathering of those residing in their household, as extended family was not permitted to the gathering given the quarantine’s “stay at home” rule. Nevertheless, many families got creative as the utilization of Zoom technology permitted them to bypass this restriction; they spent the holiday with one other after all. To many’s disbelief, the Jerusalem Post (3/25/2020) confirmed that senior Orthodox rabbis in Israel permitted the use of any electronic device that could broadcast Zoom seders, so long as it complied with certain rules, as they pertain to electricity, of Shabbat and Yom Tov. People’s ability to participate in religious services, during Passover, was significantly affected as well. “Stay at home” orders, “social distancing” rules, and the inability of 10+ people to gather at a time, synagogues and at-home minyanim were unable to accommodate masses.
There were other aspects of the holiday which were also hindered by the pandemic. Many travel plans were altered or canceled altogether; many planned to spend the holiday in Passover programs at hotels. When preparing for the holiday at home, many items were in low supply, especially those food items that are considered Kosher for Passover. Rabbis relaxed the rules of home preparation, especially those of Bedikat Chametz, as it became increasingly difficult to clean during such a crisis. When looking for activities to do, especially during the days of Chol Hamoed, families looked for ways to spend their time while remaining confined to their homes.
The full observance of Passover in 2020 served as a challenge for the Jewish people around the world. But, not even an 11th plague would deter our faith; nothing can restrain us from honoring the sacred holiday of Passover.