The dichotomy between communal worship and individual home observance has always existed. These days, we realize more than ever that engaging in Jewish ritual is more about satisfying internal spiritual needs rather than communal expressions of Jewish identity.
Normally our own Jewish practice is divided between our attendance at Temple, and what we do at home. Similarly, the first half of this week’s Torah portion, Sh’mini, begins with the priests carrying out their communal religious obligations, while the second half of the portion deals with Israelite dietary laws, which are normally carried out at home. No explanation is given for what makes certain animals unfit for human consumption, which foods are permitted and which are forbidden. Over time, resistance to violating these laws becomes, for some, an indicator of Jewish identity.
Although many of us participated in Zoom Seders, our isolation is making our Passover observances much more private, many of us “making do” with what we have on hand. This is not a year to feel guilty about not making Granma’s mandel bread, or not having enough matzoh on hand to last the seven (or eight) days. It is however, a year in which time and circumstances allow us to be more thoughtful and intentional about what we do and don’t eat as part of our Passover observance. We’re balancing nutritional needs with ritual observance. Having time to contemplate the spiritual meaning of a daily and routine activity like eating is a blessing and a chance to think about what we would like to do differently next year!
May this Passover be remembered not for what it lacked, but for the opportunity to bring richness of thought and intention into our lives.