Packing Our Timbrels

Packing Our Timbrels

I remember last year planning our Passover seder. I was deflated and sad, but also saw the opportunity for starting new traditions, having our kids decorate the house, hosting seder for the first time as a family. Never would I have imagined I would be doing the same a year later.

This one-year pandemic anniversary brings with it despair and grief, as well as a strange timelessness. Has anything even changed? Here we are again, setting up for a lonely Passover.

And yet, it is definitely not the same. Last year, we were as though at the beginning of the Exodus story, just crying out to God in our anguish. This year, take stock of how far we’ve come. Remember finding out about the miracle of one vaccine, let alone five or six arriving weekly by the hundreds of thousands? We are the Israelites packing our bags for the journey out. We don’t know what the new land will look like, we don’t know how long it will take to get there, and we don’t even know if all of us will make it. But we are starting our journey out of this narrow place of the pandemic, and we are packing our bags.

When the Israelites arrive at the other side of the Red Sea, Miriam takes out her timbrel and leads the women in song and dance. We are so close now I can almost taste that first Shabbat dinner when I will welcome friends into my home, that first hug from my sister after over a year and a half apart, the first notes of harmony I’ll sing in prayer. I’ll dance and I’ll sing, I promise you. Even if it’s six months from now.

How did Miriam think to bring her timbrel on such an uncertain and harrowing trip? She had the forethought, the faith, that there would be an end to the journey, and there would be a need to rejoice. Our journey out of this pandemic is becoming more and more certain as each day passes. Yes, there are many unknowns. Yes, it may be many months. Yes, this is so, so hard. This Passover, though, I want to invite us all to prepare for joy to come. Let it lift our spirits on this harrowing trip out of the narrow places, no matter how many empty chairs surround our seder plates. It is now possible, dare I say it, to plan for joy at the end of this long journey. Don’t forget to bring your timbrel.

Rabbi Julia Appel

Rabbi Julia Appel is Clal's Director of Innovation Training and Curriculum, helping Jewish professionals and lay leaders revitalize their communities by serving their people better. She is passionate about creating Jewish community that meets the challenges of the 21st century – in which Jewish identity is a choice, not an obligation. Her writing has been featured in such publications as the Canadian Jewish News and the Forward.

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