Ma nisthana ha Layla haze? (Engels)

Dit artikel door Maxime van Gelder van Maccabi Nederland is in het Engels. Maccabi is een internationale sportvereniging en het artikel wordt ook onder de verschillende Maccabi verenigingen wereldwijd wordt gedeeld.

During Pesach (Passover) the Jewish people all over the world celebrate the Exodus of the enslaved Jewish people from Egypt, led by Moses.

Before the Pharaoh let the Jewish people go, the Egyptian people had to face 10 plagues. It seems that after +/- 3500 years we have found a new 11th plague, called the coronavirus. This virus impacts all families and also impacts the way Jewish families will celebrate Pesach this week.

Traditionally the youngest child at the table is invited to ask the most questions. A special song, called Ma nishtana ha layla haze exists to aid the child with these questions. The phrase means: what is so different on this night?

One of the most obvious differences is that due to the coronavirus, families are not physically together. At special moments, which for years we celebrate in togetherness, this hurts.

Jewish festivals are about coming together with family and friends and about inviting others to join. Jewish festivals are not built for social distancing, they are about social engagement and coming together.

Pesach is about sharing the story of liberation mi dor ve’dor (from generation to generation). Pesach is about kids asking questions to the elderly and vice versa. To have an open dialogue about symbolism, attributes, freedom and so forth. The power of a conversation is mainly determined by the quality of the questions being asked.

True Freedom

My rabbi, Rav Menachem Sebbag, sent out a message on Facebook in which he wrote that perhaps true freedom starts with the awareness that everything we have is vulnerable.

True freedom is the possibility to adjust to certain situations and to stay strong despite though times. True freedom is the power to take individual and collective responsibility for all dilemmas that come our way. Perhaps the essence of freedom lies in the understanding that while we are physically confronted with limitations, nothing and no one can limit our minds. True freedom can be found in our minds, hearts and souls.

Today most of us are imprisoned in our homes, yet we’ve never been so free and had so many possibilities to connect with the world. Imagine if this crisis occurred just 15 years ago, how lonely we would be without smartphones or the ability to video-call our loved ones. We are able to decide whom to call, whom to spend time with and hopefully have more time to find deeper meaning in what and why we do the things we do on a daily basis.

Questions to be asked

To help us and to deal with the situation I would like to share 4 very powerful questions from my friend Robert Benninga. Perhaps these questions can be helpful in this period and be the beginning of a meaningful conversation.

1. If I could learn something from this situation, what could I learn?

2. If this happened for a reason, what could that reason be?

3. If there is a contribution in this, to the lives of others or my own, what could the contribution be?

4. If there is something nice, positive or optimistic about this, what could that be?

I would like to close with a few lessons from Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (former chief rabbi of the UK) which he shared during a webinar called “Emerging from crisis, stronger.”

He was asked the question how he thinks and hopes we will come out of this crisis. He answered to that question as follows:

  1. Vulnerability, I hope that we realize and remember that we are all vulnerable.
  2. Humanity, let’s not forget we’re one humanity. And let’s hope that after this corona crisis more people realize that we’re one people-hood. Although very diversified, simultaneously united.
  3. Focus on the WE, not on the I. Let’s wish and work for it that after this period we’ll have more sense of belonging and the feeling that we’ve been through something together. Let us build something new together.

I wish all of you, celebrating Pesach or not, freedom, health and meaningful conversations with the people you love.

Maxime van Gelder (30) advises and helps organizations in the field of transition to electric transportation. Van Gelder is also vice-chairman of Maccabi NL, the largest Jewish sports club in the Netherlands.