After more than two years of the Covid pandemic, let me share with you one of the crucial messages of Passover…and that is that we don’t need to return to “normal” in order to be happy.
We are now approaching another Passover, another not quite “normal” Seder. Although most of us are vaccinated and many of us have survived getting Covid, although the restrictions are lifting, although the proverbial light seems to be poking out of the dark Covid tunnel, there is still legitimate fear. No one really knows what the future of this virus has in store for us.
Most families are still forced to spend the holiday apart—at least not having the big Seders of the past. It’s frustrating and it’s painful. And yet the essential lessons of Passover remain as relevant as ever. For us this year, here’s the most important lesson.
We tend to hitch our happiness, our growth, to external circumstances. We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, after we have a baby, then another.
Then we’re frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough, and we’ll be more content when they are. Later we’re frustrated with the teenagers we have to deal with. We will certainly be happy when they go off to college and are on their own.
We tell ourselves that we would really enjoy Passover if our kids could be with us …that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together…when we’re able to go on a nice vacation…when we retire.
The truth is, there’s no better time to be happy than right now. Your life will always be filled with challenges. It’s best to recognize this and decide to be happy anyway.
The very heart of Passover puts a lie to our rationalizations. At the heart of the Seder is the famous song Dayeynu. Again and again, it tells us, “If G-d only did this for us and not that, dayeynu, it would have been enough for us.”
For example: “If G-d divided the Red Sea for us and not brought us through it to dry land, dayeynu, it would have been enough.” Enough? Of course not! “If G-d brought us to Mt. Sinai and not given us the Torah, dayeynu, it would have been enough for us.” Enough? What would Judaism be without the Torah?
What’s the point? The point is that it would have been enough to appreciate and thank G-d!
The lesson is that no matter the situation we are in—whatever the circumstances of our life—dayeynu, it is enough to appreciate what we do have and thank G-d for
His blessings. Instead of lamenting what’s missing this year, we should instead focus on what we have. And we must not wait for circumstances to change to be happy.
Happiness is a choice, and Passover implores us choose to be happy now.
Of course, we want things to change. We can wallow in self-pity, moaning about the dreadful two years it’s been—and how it still hasn’t really ended! Or we can sing dayeynu and find our way to gratitude and appreciation even in the midst of a pandemic.
So, my friends, stop waiting until the pandemic ends …until you finish school …until you go back to school …until you lose 10 pounds, until you gain 10 pounds …until you have kids, until your kids leave the house …until you start work, until you retire …until you get married, until you get divorced …until you get a new car or home, until your car or home is paid off…until spring, until summer, until fall, until winter…until you’ve sobered up or until you die …to decide to get rid of all the excuses and realize that there’s no better time than right now—this Passover—to feel the wonder and excitement of your being and the growth that comes with all your challenges and thank G-d for the gift of your life.
Chag Kasher v’Sameyach.
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis is the rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim and author of “Dancing With God: How to Connect With God Every Time You Pray.”