Passover & Holy Week as Archetypes in a Time of Plague

There are many approaches to reporting on the coronavirus. The media for the most part gives us the numbers of affected, projections of the infections to come, numbers of dead and backups at funeral homes, even cemeteries (thus a need for giant refrigerated trucks to store dead bodies), needs of those at the front lines, and what we can do and need to do to stay as safe as possible.  What the government, locally and federally, is and is not doing to make us safer and much more.  That is all useful and even necessary information.

Map of the COVID-19 outbreak as of 14 May 2020, on Wikimedia Commons. See the World Health Organization’s situation reports for updated information.

But humans do not live by information alone.  It is also necessary to listen deeply to the deep stories, the holy stories, of our courageous workers on the scene today.  And also to the holy stories of our ancestors, for a pandemic is not just about struggle and fear, anxiety and death, and the grief that accompanies all that.  It is also about making community happen. And what comes next after the pandemic subsides.

Our souls also need attending to at this time of a species emergency (and this plague is a warm-up for the emergency bearing down on us from Climate Change, another species wake-up call).

Rabbi David Spinrad of Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, VA, created “The Middle Matzah Haggadah: A Digital Telling for a Time of Brokenness,” a 23-minute digital Haggadah. In short video clips, Rabbi Spinrad and other clergy and Jewish leaders walk viewers through each part of the seder, from start to finish.

So it seems appropriate in this Passover season to recall the promise of Liberation from “Egypt” and the “Pharaoh” (“Let my people go”) and of the hope that resides in the human breast for that kind of redemption.  To re-tell the sacred stories that surround this mythical meal of remembrance of good times past, times of deliverance. 

Humans need hope to survive just as we need courage and a sense of the common good and a common working for the good of all to survive.  Thus we celebrate the courage and generosity of the workers who are daily trying to stem this virus or to assist those struck by it while we look to the future.

We also celebrate those who by staying home are contributing to the common good. 

“The Good Samaritan Heals the Traveler,” painted by Nicolaes Roosendael.
In the Frans Hals Museum; on Wikimedia Commons.

Also this week Christians and others make a point of remembering Jesus’s Last Supper (understood by many over the years to be a Passover Supper) and Good Friday. A rabbi and teacher of deep love and compassion, who was executed by the Roman Empire for stirring up hope that went beyond the boundaries of the imperial agendas, that focused on the poor and the forgotten and those without a voice.  And who did so not by sentimentalizing love but in the tradition of his Jewish ancestors and the prophets, insisting on justice being integral to love (hesed).

A current bill before Congress proposes that we give the Pentagon next year $103 billion to create advanced new nuclear weapons. This money would pay for four million ventilators!

Surely among the lessons to be learned from these Holy Days is this: that values of the empire are not necessarily the values of humanity. As Jesus said.

See Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, pp. 4-35.

Banner Image:  The Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. On Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

How do these lessons from Passover and Jesus’ teachings on compassion apply to you and yours and to the larger community, our entire species, that is struggling with a pandemic today?

What other lessons from Passover stories and Jesus’ story can you add to these?

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3 thoughts on “Passover & Holy Week as Archetypes in a Time of Plague”

  1. Avatar

    Jesus’ suffering and condemnation happened because his work of giving aid to the poor and powerless was not acceptable to the powers of the time, both empirical and religious. Same thing going on today: the poor and the downtrodden are ignored, forgotten and cruelly treated. Those who work selflessly and bravely to bring about change and to give of themselves ( and there are many) at the risk of their own lives, can’t even get the equipment they desperately need for themselves!
    All their compassion, caring and love, is not in vain, and thank God for them: they are being as Christ was . . . and many of them have followed him to their own cross and have died.
    Thank God also, for all the people waking up and doing all they can to see to the needs of the forgotten ones and are serving them mightily!

    I appreciate you’re pointing out the fact that we still have climate change to deal with when the Covid19 is over. We need to realize that the need for change will last for a very long time. And we need to keep our eyes and our hearts glued to the God within who will always be there for us through it all! God bless us all, and a Happy Easter to all!

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Greetings, Vivian, and Happy Easter to you as well. Thank you for noting the similarities between Jesus’s sacrifice and suffering with the health care workers, first responders, and essential workers during this Corona virus pandemic. And yes, many have died. One of the most profound messages of Jesus’s crucifixion is a stark demonstration that through it, the Christ came to know the pain of betrayal and the abuse of power, as well as the pain and suffering that humans can feel. The sacrifices of those in service these days is real and holy.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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