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Tomorrow we will be celebrating Pesach, the Festival of our Freedom. On the night before the Exodus, the Israelites gathered in their family units to eat a lamb, and smeared its blood on their doorposts to shield them, protecting them from the Angel of Death. It was a long, dark night of danger, a night of watching, and waiting to see whether they would be spared the destruction wreaked on the Land of Egypt.

Now, too, we find ourselves at home in our family units – for some facing the isolation of being entirely alone; for others, dealing with the challenges of confinement with family members and children. To shield ourselves, to save lives, and to protect our NHS we follow the Government guidelines; and yet we hear the wings of the Angel of Death beating closer and closer. There is surely not one of us who does not know of someone who has been battling the virus, or sadly, knows of someone who has died as a result of becoming ill with the virus. This modern-day plague strikes without discrimination. As I write these words, our Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being treated in Intensive Care at St Thomas’s.

Yet we know that most people suffering even moderate to severe symptoms of Covid-19 will recover. Just last Sunday night a friend in their 80s gave a moving account of his near-death experience with Covid, the excellent treatment he received in hospital, and his safe return home less than a week later. We wish Boris Johnson, and all those battling Coronavirus, a full and speedy recovery.

Pesach is also Zman Cheiruteinu, the Season of our Liberation. As we chant the Mah Nishtana at our seders this year, whether in small family units, with extended family and friends through Zoom, or connected together by Zoom at our 2 SWESRS Communal Seders on Wednesday and Thursday night, let us reflect on what Liberation or Freedom means for us this year… Maybe liberation from the rush of our busy lives; or the freedom to do more of what we love doing, like reading or painting, walking, cooking, gardening or enjoying nature during our daily exercise; maybe the opportunity to be in better touch with family and friends; even, the freedom to participate in SWESRS services online.

At its most fundamental, Pesach is Chag HaAviv, the Spring Festival, with a promise of rebirth and renewal. Even as we face the continuing challenges ahead, and prepare ourselves for the inevitable worsening of the general death toll as we approach the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK, may we have the courage and resilience to keep going, supported in the knowledge that we will come out of this. And hopefully, as the acts of kindness in our own community, and the selfless dedication of our country’s front-line workers continue, we will all emerge more compassionate, more appreciative, and more connected to each other.

I wish you all a Chag Pesach Sameach!

Stay well and safe, and stay connected,

Rabbi Lisa