Rabbi David A. Cantor | Rabbinic Contributor
We are living through a moment of common narrative.
Narratives bind people together. Ask someone of a certain generation where they were when Israel declared its statehood, or Kennedy was assassinated, or Armstrong placed a foot on the moon, or the towers fell, and if you yourself had been there for that experience, you find that you have something powerfully in common. Ask any American how they celebrated last Thanksgiving and you can have a similar – if less profound – experience.
I have always felt that the Jewish observance of the Passover Seder created a common narrative that binds the Jewish people together. By reciting the same text on the same night while eating the same foods, and entertaining the same thought – what would it have been had I been a slave in Egypt – we create a commonality that links all Jews throughout time and space. I can say that I have the Passover experience in common with almost every Jew living anywhere in the world, and almost every Jew of every generation for the past thousand, or more, years. It is a powerful bond.
This past month and ongoing, all peoples of the world are sharing a similar experience. From Australia to Zimbabwe, Alaska to Florida, we are all finding ourselves living under a similar set of restrictions. We are all worrying about the same virus, and we are all wondering when life will return to what it once was before. This year we were all partaking in the Passover experience, huddling in our homes with the blood sealing the doors, waiting as the Angel of Death passed through our communities and made its selections.
We are now all one people, and in years to come the children who are yet to be born will not fully understand the conversations we have with each other when we talk about when we were living in the fear of the novel coronavirus.
For the Jews, that one night of terror had a profound impact, and its memory serves to continue to bind us together.
My prayer – if I am allowed to hope for something positive to come out of this collective experience – is that this time of social distancing will serve to bring all individuals and countries into a greater sense of belonging to one transnational people.