Dear J Family,

There is a Jewish folktale about a poor farmer and his family who were having trouble. The family had four children and lived in a one-bedroom house. As the children were growing older, this one-bedroom house just seemed too small for the family. They felt overcrowded sharing their small house and it led to much fighting and disharmony.

The farmer’s wife went to their esteemed Rabbi and asked him for advice. He told her to bring the cows into the house to live with them. This obviously didn’t help so she returned to the rabbi. Next, he told her to bring in the chickens and then the goats and then their donkey. Finally, the woman, exasperated, went back to the rabbi and he said, “I have one final piece of advice: remove all the animals.” With all the animals now gone, the family gained a new appreciation for their house which seemed enormous and family harmony returned.

I’ve been thinking about this story a lot recently, as we all are staying at home with our families. Most of us don’t have many farm animals in our house, but at the same time, we certainly are living a more restricted lifestyle. We all are looking forward to the day when those restrictions are lifted and like the farmer’s family we can “get the animals out of our house.”

On Passover, many will soon recite the following reading:

In every generation, each person must look inward as though they personally were among those who went forth from Egypt.

During this year, when all of us are forced to stay home, it is easier for many of us to relate to this passage. While we are not quite in the same situation as the Israelites, freedoms have been taken from us. The COVID-19 pandemic is horrible, and our hearts and prayers go out to all those who are sick and in need of healing. Surely, all of us wish that this never would have happened and it could have been avoided. However, if there is any silver lining to this madness, perhaps it is that we will all emerge with a better appreciation of our freedom and liberties.

My hope and prayer for us all on this Passover is that we take this precious time with our immediate families to tell the story of our ancestors and dedicate ourselves to a new sense of gratitude and appreciation once we emerge and become free once again. As we also read at the seder,

This year we are slaves, next year we will be free.

Chag Sameach

Happy Holiday to All,

Rabbi Brad Horwitz
Director, Jewish Engagement & Adult Programs