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Hope Springs Eternal

Hope Springs Eternal
By Rabbi Shlomo Tenenbaum

Last year, a few days after Purim, I was invited to a milestone birthday party for a friend. Between the good feelings everyone had for the celebrant, and the fact that catering and presentation was the nicest I can remember experiencing, it was a truly beautiful evening. I prophetically said, “This is the party to end all parties.” Little did I know that this was, literally, the party to end all parties that year. What a year! In The ARK, we had over 120 clients at a Purim party. Then, while planning our public Pesach sedarim, our world imploded.

Lockdowns, isolation, illness, deaths … a year later, as we approach Pesach, there is hope. The Torah calls the month of Nissan, during which Pesach falls, Chodesh Ha’aviv, the month of spring’s rebirth. We were born as a nation on Pesach, united with G-d and independent of our oppressors. Thank G-d, we have a vaccine that will alleviate much of our COVID oppression. Lest we take it for granted, in 1918, there was no vaccine and the death toll was staggering. I was once officiating at a funeral in an older section at Waldheim and noticed a row of dozens of graves of young children. At first, I thought an orphanage must have burned down; then, I saw the dates in 1918.

The ARK, amazingly, never closed one day during COVID. We retooled to create a safe environment for our clients. The amazing ARK team stuck to our mission to care for our community. Especially now that our clients are in greater need than ever before, both materially and emotionally, we could not abandon them. Many of The ARK staff have not taken one day off this entire year. I officiated at nearly 80 funerals since the pandemic began. How did we do it, when many other organizations closed their doors? It speaks to the incredible dedication of our dream team of professionals. We all drew from the message of Pesach, that there is always spring after the cold, hard winter.

At the beginning of every seder, we read “Let all those who are hungry come and eat.” The Kleuzenberger Rebbe asked, “What kind of person didn’t make any arrangements before the holiday and is just wandering the streets on seder night?” The answer is, Pesach instills in us the hope and faith that everything will be all right, even when we procrastinate or are negligent, because we have a loving parent, G-d, who looks after us.

I’ll end with a story that happened about eight years ago. The night of our public seder, we discovered that the refrigerator holding food for more than 150 participants had shorted out. All of the food was spoiled. We turned to the congregants at Bnai Reuven, where we were holding the seder, who committed to 150 meals in under two minutes.

It is times like this that we see the best side of ourselves. Our client’s needs have been extraordinary, but, the community response has been even more so. G-d willing, next year in Jerusalem, celebrating Pesach with our oved ones and COVID behind us.