Lessons from my Bubbe this pandemic Easter


The good news is, you don’t have to sit next to Uncle Morty again this year and hear the same story about the time he found that heirloom stamp that was worth 300 times what he paid for it in 1987. You can mute it on Zoom.

The bad news is that there is always next year.

Pesach in a pandemic year feels a bit, well, redundant. The holiday, which begins at sunset on Saturday March 27 and lasts for seven days, celebrates, you guessed it, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This refers to the bread that Jewish slaves made to support themselves along the escape route from Egypt, which they did not have time to allow up. Hence, constipation matzah was born.

Easter is not as exciting as, for example, Christmas, which celebrates the birth with a large man bringing gifts into your home, or Holi, the beautiful Hindu festival of colors to celebrate love.

We Jews tend to be a more cynical people. The happiest holiday we have is Rosh Hashanah, the new year, and we celebrate it with an apple and continue with 10 days of apologies and then fasting. Or there’s Purim, where we drown out the sound of a bad man’s name by spinning metal ratchets that can cut off a finger.

Pesach commemorates the story of Jewish slaves who escaped from their Egyptian owners and ran through various landscapes such as the desert and a magical sea that parted so that they could cross and escape from their captors. It has been celebrated since at least the 5th century BC. C., but now it feels less strange than ever.

In a year where emergency mode has been our standard, learning about the pests that make up the Passover story while experiencing a real-life plague is a bit like looking in the mirror. Some of the plagues in Easter history – locusts, boils, livestock diseases – don’t feel half as bad as the Covid-19 contagion we’ve been struggling with. Can I trade you a deadly virus for a little hail? Gladly!

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Instead of Moses asking Pharaoh to free the Jewish slaves and wreaking havoc with 10 plagues, through the guy above, when he refused, we have Dr. Fauci asking the US government to implement 10 measures. to soften the forcefulness of Covid. -19. Instead of a burning bush where God speaks to Moses, we have Twitter. Everything is parallel.

My Bubbe, also known as a Jewish grandmother, lived to be 96 and never for a moment stopped bothering me. Sigh. She would have had some sage advice for those of us who are still on this Earth and going through a pandemic Easter. After all, she survived the last global pandemic in 1918, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the repressive 1950s, Vietnam, the 70s recession, 80s bad hair, and neon. and the troll. dolls in the 90s.

I channel it here for your benefit and education. Here are Bubbe’s best lessons for getting through a pandemic Easter.

Chicken soup really heals everything

In a year in which we have had to give up human contact and live in an almost constant state of panic over losing our health, our jobs, our sanity, Bubbe’s claim that chicken soup cures everything is not far off. Nicknamed the “Jewish penicillin,” chicken soup is a Passover tradition served at the seder, or food that is embarked on during the holiday. Herbaceous broth peppered with bright carrots and celery feels like the warm hug we haven’t had in over a year. Drop a matzo ball in there just in case and feel it sitting in your gut like a concrete brick for the rest of the day.

Don’t eat the seder plate

In the center of the Passover table is a seder plate, or a carefully arranged plate divided into six sections with symbolic food. The ritual elements – the cane bone, karpas (a vegetable immersed in salt water), chazeret (bitter herb), charoset (diced nuts and apples and wine), maror (another bitter herb) and egg – symbolize parts of the Passover story: sacrifice, tears, the bricks that the Jews laid as slaves. They really represent the suffering of the Jewish people as they endured slavery and then a life on the run to secure their freedom.

You will be hungry while you endure all the seder, or the ritual history and prayers, before it is time to eat, but I assure you, it is no fun consuming the items on the seder plate. Just admire it. From a distance.

Suffering is in the eye of the beholder

You can complain about being locked up and not being able to compete in that soccer tournament or meet your friends for happy hour at the new bar, or you can be thankful that you are alive enough to yearn for those simple pleasures we’ve had. abstain from. Bubbe says stop complaining or he’ll give you something to complain about. I can tell you from first-hand experience (hey, my tuchas): she’s not kidding.

Guilt will take you away

This is not an Easter tradition but a strategy to manipulate people into getting what you want. Guilt is a powerful lever that you can pull. Bubbe says all you have to do is purse your lips the next time you ask for something and add, “If you love me, you will …” at the beginning of any question (unless it’s your boss or the person who is next to you at the bus stop).

We must help each other

Moses wasn’t immediately interested in speaking out, but when urged to do so by the greatest influencer of the day, he stood up to help the most marginalized. Jews were slaves more than once throughout history. So were many other groups. We must see Easter as a reminder for all those who inhabit the majority identity categories to defend others.

Don’t question the gefilte fish

I have tried. Bubbe hit me over the head with a newspaper. Seriously though, what’s in those things?

Whether you’re celebrating Easter for the first time or the 68th time, this year brings the consecrated holiday to new relevance as we navigate a royal plague as we retell the story of how others long ago survived yours. Maybe a thousand years from now, people will sit around a table (on Mars?) And tell the story of the people on the great planet Earth in the 20th year of the 21st century who survived a plague with toilet paper and yeast Boot.

For now, however, we raise a glass during this pandemic Easter, as many have done for hundreds of years before us, and say “l’chaim” to life. And i mean it. Bubbe would have liked that part.

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