I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it until, after a full year, I was able to give one to someone other than my immediate family members. It began in the entry to my house after a couple of friends came to celebrate the first night of Passover with us. They walked in, we all made eye contact, then grabbed each other one by one in a lovely, warm, full body hug. Happy tears were shed as we stood for just a few minutes longer, smiling, looking into each other’s maskless faces, savoring the simplest of human experiences. At the end of the evening, I was exhausted by the sheer intensity of emotion and the close proximity of our friends.
Last year’s Passover holiday came on the heels of the local safer-at-home order. Plans were scrapped, we learned about Zoom and the tears that fell were tears of grief, fear and horror at what was then unfolding. Our little local family sat around the table and at one end sat my computer, with my son 2,000 miles away on the screen. I kept reminding everyone it was just one year, and we needed to endure so we could all be together again soon.
The pandemic evokes many biblical images and analogies. During the Passover seder meal, we are tasked with retelling the story of the exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom, and the beginning of the Israelites’ wandering in the desert. This past year has felt as if all of humanity has relived a truncated version of the story. We began with a plague. Mysterious, frightening and deadly. The promise of a vaccine brought a feeling of hope that we might leave the oppression of the disease behind us. For months we suffered the plague while researchers and scientists did the difficult work and regular people took a personal risk by participating in clinical trials. After many months, receiving the vaccine itself felt like an exodus. The weight of fear and anxiety slipped away. We wandered through the desert of disease around us, and emerged, blinking into the sun, taking tentative steps toward a new life. The hug that just weeks ago might prove deadly, now feeling like freedom itself.
Sunday evening marked the end of this year’s holiday. My kitchen has returned to its normal, everyday condition, leftovers fill the fridge and outside my garden is blooming. There is reason to celebrate. But just as in the annual telling of the exodus, let us remember the year without a hug and in the midst of the loss and our grief, savor what has returned and what will (hopefully) remain.
About Barbara Dab
Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner. Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world. The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .
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