Above: 19 staples in my left thigh
Two years ago I described this sacred Jewish season as “The Lost Passover!”
It was the first time in my entire life that did not attend a Passover Seder. Instead I was fighting for my life at the Hospital of Central Connecticut. A strep infection of unknown origin centered itself in my left rear thigh and was poisoning my body.
“Come home today!”
My doctor called Vickie who was tending to her mother in San Francisco at the time and said, “You had better come home today.”
It required surgery to drain, nineteen steel staples to close the wound and massive doses of antibiotics administered intravenously for six weeks after my surgery.
The only acknowledgment I was able to give Passover was to attend Yizkor services at the Hebrew Home and Hospital Rehab Center of Greater Hartford, where I spent a week after my release from the hospital. At Passover’s close, my son Ben smuggled in a pizza, so I could end the festival-long period of not eating leavened products in style.
Then I endured months of physical therapy to learn how to walk again and gradually return to normal activities.
By the end of summer, thankfully, I felt fine.
The following Passover I signed on to be the Rabbi on a cruise from the Port of Bayonne, NJ to the Bahamas and back. The sea did not part as it did for our ancestors, but as I conducted the Seder, our ship sailed comfortably atop its waves.
Now, another year later, I only remember this life-threatening incident when something or someone reminds me of it. Those days in the hospital and in the rehab center, the weeks being tethered to an IV antibiotics dispenser, and the sometimes-arduous PT routine are a blur.
This year, we are blessed to be in Sanibel where I am rabbi of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands. My health is restored to the point where I just completed a 13-1 season as part of the number one duo on the Beachview Tennis Club Blue tennis team.
More importantly it was my privilege to conduct a Seder for 176 people on the first night of the Passover Festival.
My two-year journey from “The Lost Passover” to the one I found awaiting me in Sanibel now seems like a dream. But the photo at the top of this essay will always remind me that it was not. That photo reminds me that every day is special. Every day is a sacred opportunity to try to make some small difference in some small way in somebody’s life.
Turning a communal dinner into a journey participants make from slavery to freedom, from degradation to dignity is a privilege I no longer take for granted.
The privilege is not just in leading the rituals. The privilege is helping people understand that during the Seder we re-experience slavery and our journey to redemption in order to help–in whatever way we can—others make the same journey.
Slavery abounds in our world:
Human trafficking, addiction, thoughtless greed, sweatshop conditions in many countries, homelessness, disease, lack of affordable health care, gun violence and abject poverty, are just some of the forms of bondage that afflict so many even today.
We shall not all cure cancer or make peace between warring nations, but if we put our mind to it, each of us will find something we can do.
To that let me add: If there is something you are thinking of doing to help another person in any way, do it today. My lost Passover taught me that tomorrow may be too late.