No Place Like Home

Friday, 3 February, 2017 - 12:23 pm

Pesach.jpgNo Place Like Home 

The Passover Seder is the most practiced Mitzvah by 21st century Jews in the United States.

In 2013 the Pew Research center found that:

Attending a Seder is an extremely common practice for the group. While only 23% of U.S. Jews said they attend religious services at least monthly, 70% said they participated in a Seder last year.

Participation in a Seder is more common among Jewish Americans than any of the other practices we asked about, including fasting for all or part of Yom Kippur (53%) – often considered the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.[1]

Why is the Passover Seder so important to the Jewish people, even more so than other practices? What message does the Seder capture that, consciously or subconsciously, speaks to so many Jews today?

To understand this, we need to look at the very first Passover Seder, recorded in this week’s Parsha. 

The first Passover Seder in history was celebrated not as a remembrance for an event in the past, but rather as a commemoration for an event that was about to take place in the near future. The Jews were commanded to prepare the Passover sacrifices and to celebrate with Matzah and bitter herbs on the night before the actual Exodus. But unlike the Passover offerings that would be offered in subsequent years, the very first Passover offering had to be offered not in one central location, but rather in the home of each family. Furthermore, each family was commanded to remain within the confines of the home for the entire night. They were commanded to place some of the blood of the Pesach offering on the doorposts and on the lintel of their home. As the Torah relates:

Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Draw forth or buy for yourselves sheep for your families and slaughter the Passover sacrifice. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop and immerse [it] in the blood that is in the basin, and you shall extend to the lintel and to the two doorposts the blood that is in the basin, and you shall not go out, any man from the entrance of his house until morning.[2]

Why the blood on the doorposts? Why the need to remain within the home until morning? The conventional answer is, that marking the entrance and remaining in the home protected the Jews from the plague of the death of the first born. The deeper interpretation, however, is that by using the doorposts and the lentil as part of the Mitzvah, the home of every Jew became holy. The commandment not to leave the home is because, as a result of offering the Pesach sacrifice in the home, the home became a miniature temple, and a haven of holiness. 

At the birth of the nation, as the people of Israel were about to emerge from Egypt as a distinct nation, Moses communicated G-d’s message to the people: the goal of Judaism is to transform every corner of life and every place on earth. The objective of Judaism is that spirituality and worship not be reserved for imposing monuments, towers or sanctuaries. Judaism seeks to transform each and every home into a place of spirituality, holiness, peace and tranquility. 

Granted, the intensity of holiness is, indeed, stronger in Judaism's most sacred space, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Thus, in subsequent generations the Pesach offering may only be offered in the temple in Jerusalem. Yet the very first Passover Seder, offered in the critical hours when our nation was being born, served as a symbol to teach us that the essence of Judaism is spreading holiness to every corner of the world, into each and every home.

Thus, intuitively, the Jew feels that to connect to the core of his Jewish identity, more important than experiencing the intensity of holiness in the Shul on Yom Kippur, he must experience holiness as it spreads to the home, where it engulfs in its embrace the totality of the Jew, his home, his possessions, his family and his friends..[3]




[2] Exodus 12:21-22.

[3] Adapted based on the teachings of the Rebbe, Likutey Sichos Bo, Vol. 26 Sicha 3. 

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