Hope for After the Plague?  – Aerin Leigh Lammers

There are many topics that came to mind when deciding what to write about for this post, but to be candid, I am burnt out. Every idea that came to me seemed too cliche, too boring or too laborious to attempt. 2020 was a tough year, and 2021 has been more of the same. Every day, week, and month passes both too quickly and too slowly. None of us seem able to catch a break, especially when UW-Madison refuses to give us one.

However, there are brief pauses in the day-to-day monotony, slight glimmers of hope that pop-up now and again. For me this past week, the Jewish holiday of Passover or Pesach gave me the pep in my step to get through another week of zoom lectures. Pesach is the week long rememberance of the ancient Hebrews being liberated from slavery in Egypt. It is celebrated by large dinners called Seders on the first and second nights where we tell the story of Moses demanding Pharaoh to “Let my people go” (if you are looking to watch a fantastic movie and learn more about the story I could not recommend watching the Prince of Egypt enough). While recounting the story this year, I couldn’t help but feel the similarities between the predicament of the ancient Hebrews and being a college student today. Disclaimer: being a college student in the time of COVID is obviously not the same level of misery as slavery, but there are similarities that jumped out at me while recounting the passover story, and I wanted to share them with you.

For those less familiar with the story, around 4,000 years ago the Jewish people were enslaved in Egypt, and Moses, a Jewish man himself who had previously been raised as a son of the Pharaoh, came back to Egypt and declared that he is going to free the Hebrews from the bonds of slavery. He marched up to the Pharaoh, whom he used to call brother, and demanded that he “let my people go”, to which the Pharaoh replied “no”. This happened 10 times and each “no” brought about a new plague onto the Egyptian people. Finally, after the worst plague, the Pharaoh relented and let the Jewish people go free from slavery.

To me, it sort of feels like we, as a society, are the ancient Hebrews on the day that Moses shows up to free us. In our recent past, COVID has in some sense enslaved us, constraining our ability to live life to the fullest. But we’ve been given hope: with the vaccination rollout, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson are the proverbial Moses going to COVID and asking to “let my people go”.  And we are, just as the ancient Hebrews were, a little skeptical yet extremely hopeful that Moses’s pleas will work and free us from our less than ideal circumstances. Just like the Jewish people, we do not know how this story is going to end. We can only hope and continue to believe that someday we will make it to the metaphorical Promise Land of being able to leave the house, see our loved ones, and enjoy life without a mask.

So while Passover this year did not provide a literal break from the stress of school, it did provide a bit of hope that perhaps we are closer to the end of this plague than we realize. So now I turn to you and ask: have you all found hope through religious stories during this pandemic? If so, I would greatly appreciate you sharing below. As finals draw closer I think we all could use the encouragement and hopeful messages!

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