In the midst of these unique and unsettled times, many of us are preparing to celebrate important, even joyful, holidays. Millions of people around the world are marking Holy Week, leading up to Easter this Sunday. The Jewish holiday of Passover—eight days commemorating the Hebrew people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt—begins this evening. For many reasons, now seems like a fitting time for all of us, whether we are religious or not, to take a moment to pause and reflect on our world and our place in it.
Holidays are, by definition, different from other days. They ask us to change our routines, to eat special foods, and to spend our time in unusual ways. This week, when Marta and I celebrate Passover, we know it will feel different from previous years. We will be thinking of all those who are ill, who are caring for those who are sick, and who have lost loved ones during this difficult time. And although we will miss gathering with friends and family members, as well as the delightful services and sedarim organized by the Slifka Center, knowing that Jewish and non-Jewish people have celebrated this same ritual for thousands of years—many in far more trying circumstances than our own—gives us hope. Remembering those Passover celebrations throughout history reminds us of our connections to one another, across time and space. And it strengthens our resolve to focus on what is most important in life and work.
What we see, as clearly as ever, is a Yale community that has rallied together and demonstrated its finest qualities during this pandemic. Our frontline healthcare workers and first-responders are laboring around the clock to help others. Critical staff members are sustaining the university and its operations on campus, while many others have made significant adjustments in order to work from home. Yale faculty members and students are engaging fully in the shared endeavor of online teaching and learning, to wonderful results. Our public health experts, scientists, and scholars from across disciplines are steering us through this crisis. And our neighbors and partners in New Haven and throughout the state and region are showing a tremendous spirit of cooperation and goodwill as we work together to do what is best for our communities.
Each of you has made enormous sacrifices, and you have demonstrated courage, resolve, and professionalism. You have done so while experiencing disruptions in your personal lives and while caring for children and loved ones. These sacrifices have not gone unnoticed, and they will not be forgotten.
As part of the Passover Seder, we ask The Four Questions, beginning with, “How is this night different from all other nights?” Not only this night, but this period of time will be different for all of us. But it may also be an opportunity for us to connect, to learn, and to give thanks.
So today, Marta and I give thanks for all of you and for Yale’s mission of light and truth, which has never been more urgent or vital. We see each day that our work has the power to alleviate suffering, to care for our neighbors, and to find answers that can save and improve lives. Together, we are writing new chapters in Yale history, and I know that your remarkable efforts are laying the foundation for an even stronger Yale to emerge when this crisis is over.
This week will be different, but may we also find in the difference a measure of strength, beauty, and encouragement to sustain us in the days ahead.
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology