By Simon Lawrence

To our dear Perth community; we are living in very strange and unusual times. However, the Jewish people have lived in strange and unusual times throughout our history. We are, by our very nature, ‘different’. We are known as the “ivrim”, named for Avram Ha’ivri, who came from the other side (of the River Jordan), homiletically understood as ‘being different’. Haman in the megillah “accuses” us of ‘having different laws from other people’. This has always been a badge of pride for us rather than a badge of shame. Yes, we are different. Not better, but different. Yes, we have different laws and rules, and yes, we eat different foods and have different celebrations on different days. We should be proud of that.

In these strange and different times, as we get ourselves ready for the seder, we will need to be just a little bit more different this year. When we say ‘ma nishtana’ at Pesach 2020 – “How is this night different from all other nights?” we may be thinking in our hearts “How is this year different from all other years”? Our seders may be quieter than usual, but let us try to have hope and faith in our hearts as we say, yes, this year is different from all other years, just as this night of seder is always different from all other nights and we Jews are different from all other people.

Perhaps different is good? ‘Different’ gives us an opportunity to reflect on all that we have, to appreciate and celebrate life, to remember the miracles that God has done for us in the past, to thank him for the ‘geulah’, the redemption from Egypt. We remember (in ve’hi shemada), the ongoing promise of guidance through generations of challenges as Jews, for ensuring that our Torah has stayed the same and our people have lived. For our emergence as a people from the ashes of the greatest of human tragedies, for the birth and development of our wonderful state of Israel, for the strength of the Jewish world in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Yet, in some ways, this Pesach will be the same. The Hagaddah will be the same one that Jews have recited for centuries. We will eat matza as we did last year, we will, no doubt, eat matza balls in our chicken soup and sing the same songs. We will remember the Exodus in the identical manner that our forefathers have done for generations.

Different yet the same.

Let us thank God for what we have and for the blessing of being different yet the same.

Every year, we pray that next year will be ‘different’!

‘Le shana baba biyrushalayim’, - next year in Jerusalem!

And this year we will sing this as we have for generations but let us also use our seder night in 2020 as a time to pause and pray for an end to this terrible disease.

Each year we recite, “This year we are slaves, next year we will be free people.”

This year, perhaps consider also including; 

“This year, the world is in a crisis, may next year be one of health and happiness for the entire world.”

Finally, let us give thanks to our community leaders and organisations who have acted with such “seichel”, common sense and understanding in the face of enormous pressure over the last few weeks.

Health and happiness to you and your families.

‘Chag Kasher ve sameach’