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Thought for the Day: Pesach 2020

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To express gratitude sincerely, we must admit that we could not have succeeded alone

In her historic address to the nation last night, Her Majesty The Queen expressed her deep gratitude to NHS staff and all of the key workers who are risking their lives every day on the front line in the battle against Covid-19. Their care will also be needed for the Prime Minister, now that Mr Johnson has been admitted to hospital. 

The Queen’s sentiments follow two remarkable mass displays of public gratitude, heard right around the country, when people came out on the streets to say a thunderous ‘thank you’ to the heroes of the day. 

Gratitude is a key element of the Jewish festival of Passover, which commences tomorrow evening, although this year, every one of us will be in our own homes, rather than sharing the experience with family and friends. We will still, as always, raise our cups and thank the Almighty for the gift of freedom we attained when delivered from slavery in Egypt some three and a half thousand years ago. 

The Hebrew word for ‘thank you,’ is ‘modeh’, which means ‘admit’. This is because, in order to express gratitude sincerely, one needs to acknowledge that one could not have succeeded alone. That is why it is sometimes difficult for people to say thank you, as it is hard to admit one’s reliance on others. Indeed, that is what makes this rare unanimity of thanksgiving so extraordinary. All of us feel immense gratitude to those who, right now, are placing themselves in harm’s way for our benefit.  

But, gratitude for our freedom is not the full story of Passover.  

Jewish tradition teaches that our freedom is of no value unless it is accompanied by responsibility. 

I have no doubt that the heroes in our hospitals would readily trade the public displays of gratitude of recent weeks for more people behaving responsibly through following Government instructions to protect ourselves and others. 

It is heart-rending to read the pleas of NHS staff on social media: “We have gone out to work for you, so please stay at home for us.”

Staying at home is not easy, but it is the best way to show our appreciation to the medical staff to whom we owe so much. It is a religious and moral imperative to do so. The Talmud teaches, “If you save one life, it is as if you’ve saved the whole world”. Every single one of us can now achieve this lofty objective in a very simple way. All we need to do is stay at home.