The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How I Really Feel...

...About going away for Pesach.

Despite making fun of Yonason Rosenblum's recent column in Mishpacha Magazine, I happen to agree with him, fundamentally, that going to hotels for Pesach is not a good thing. Where I disagree with Reb Yonason, and the point of my parody, was with his suggestion that going away for Pesach is one of the biggest problems in Yiddishkeit. It's not. Just like Shiny Shoe music is a bad thing, it's also not the end of the world.

This is what I wrote a few years ago about preparing for Pesach:

The Holiest Week of the Year

My Rebbe is always very excited during the week before Pesach. He often says that it is the holiest week of the year because observing Jews are moser nefesh cleaning, cooking and preparing for Pesach in many other ways. In a society where things have become so easy for us, it is good for our children to see us break a sweat serving the Ribbono shel Olam. (My lower back is still recovering from Sunday's garage cleanup. My holy wife is a pack rat, the daughter of pack rats. There was a lot to throw out).

But the mesiras nefesh (self sacrifice) is greatest among the people who stay home for Pesach and not only have to clean, but have to figure out how to convert their kitchens and cook for Pesach while at the same time ensuring that their families don't starve in the days leading up to Pesach.
Many of our kids' friends have literally never been home for Pesach. They've never seen their mothers work like dogs to make sure everything is ready for Pesach. They've never seen their fathers pitch in with the cleaning, the shlepping, the grating of the maror. They've never had to help. They've never had a seder in their dining rooms.

I don't really think about how extravagant or goofy some of the hotel programs are. I'm sure some are more than others (certainly many of the advertisements are ridiculous, taken in context of what Pesach is supposed to be about). That's really not my issue.

I just think it's sad that a large portion of an entire generation of kids has never experienced Pesach where and how it was meant to be observed. At home. With your family.



  • At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't mean to compare going to a 5-Star resort in the Carribean with going to Yerushalayim, but "going away for Pesach" is actually the most basic and fundamental rule of the holiday.

    Back when we had a Bait Hamikdash, everyone "went away for Pesach" by being oleh regel.

    And if one family isn't big enough to eat an entire korban pesach, we should join families together -

    וְאִם-יִמְעַט הַבַּיִת, מִהְיוֹת מִשֶּׂה--וְלָקַח הוּא וּשְׁכֵנוֹ הַקָּרֹב אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ, בְּמִכְסַת נְפָשֹׁת: אִישׁ לְפִי אָכְלוֹ, תָּכֹסּוּ עַל-הַשֶּׂה.

    - the Torah endorses communal sedarim!

    Growing up in a family that stayed home for Pesach every year, and shared our sedarim with the same family every year (one by them, one by us), I completely and totally understand your feelings, and agree with them. Preparing the house, converting the kitchen, making the seder - these are all great activities for families, no question.

    Even now, going away on ocassion (depending on where my parents or my in-laws are going, without any specific consistency) feels strange.

    But Pesach, originally, is a communal holiday with the intention of travelling and convening in big groups.

  • At 11:16 AM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    I understand all that but there is no aliyah l'regel these days and I would hardly compare going to Scotsdale, Arizona, for example, to hiking to Jerusalem.

    There is also a very big difference between "communal" seders (such as what one might experience at a hotel) and a communal seder that was contemplated by the Torah. I suggest that having a seder at home with relatives or another family is much closer to the Torah model.

  • At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Different Stroked for different folks. I have both been away (always with a private seder) and been home for Pesach. They each have different pluses and minuses. This is certainly not an issue that is as important as say Shiny Shoe Music.

  • At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My parents are staying home this year for the first time in close to 20 years and I am very excited to join them.

  • At 3:18 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    Anon 12:14

    Nothing is as important as shiny shoe music.

  • At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


  • At 5:31 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    Anon 5:26


  • At 12:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    aliyah l'regel and shiny shoe music--who knew the topics could be combined. There must be a gematria to support these ideas.Brad

  • At 7:15 AM, Blogger Commenter Abbi said…

    Hmm, my mom didn't make her first Pesach till I was 22 but until then, we always went to one grandparent or another, or another family member.

    I don't think it's necessary to see your mother break a sweat to get a true taste of the holiday.

    The most meaningful part of pesach for me growing up, aside from the great singing at the seder, was actually putting pesach away and watching things literally fly as my grandmother had her traditional (and totally justified) post pesach meltdown. Fun times!

  • At 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Agree with you 100% - posted this comment at R' Horowitz

    I am a mother. I have been working myself to the bone. My husband and I are weary with exhaustion. Only 2 days left to the seder. The lists and shopping are done and now just work, work, work.

    Would you recommend that I go to a Pesach hotel? Of course, why shouldn't I "enjoy" my yom Tov? Well, that would be the worst thing. I have had a chance to turn the last two months of my life into Avodas Hashem. Every sore muscle, drop of sweat and minute of lost sleep are counting to my Olam Haba. I don't have to have lofty spiritual thoughts to connect to Hashem. Neither me or my husband has to concentrate to be koneh our Yom Tov. Our efforts are enough that we are connected. We are told L'fum Tzarah Agra. Why would I give up this opportunity for a few days of rest?

    As for the time with my children, If I were in a hotel, I would be shmoozing with friends, my kids would be screaming and pulling at my skirt. i would want to go to a shiur and leave them with a babysitter. They would be at the children's program instead of with me. I would keep them up either too late at night or leave them in their room alone.

    Instead, my 2 year old runs to get me a potato to peel and we discuss shapes. He sits munching on an apple as I explain how to check eggs. My five year old and I check the romaine, prepare salt water and discuss why Totty goes to shul while Mommy watches the baby. this is their holiday now too since they put in the work aside from the coloring and pasting they did in school. They see how we drop everything we are doing, literally, to run do a chesed. We laugh and sing and cry and spend time together working together. They see that challenges are things to make us stronger not to run away from. The key to keeping this time sane has been to turn off my cell and regular phones. It's amazing how much calmer the family is when it's just us. As for Mothers & Bubbies being Shmatas, they don't need to be if Fathers & Zaidies would pitch in. When everyone views the Yom Tov as team play and not as "when can I get my nap" it is the most beautiful time of the year.

    As for not being together with my whole extended family, I am not sure if that is such an issue. Leil HaSeder is our chance to transmit our mesora to our children. I don't need to transmit that mesora to my nieces, or great-grandparents or third cousins. Just to my kids. If being together helps with that, great. if not I would rather be at my or my parents' seder where we focus on our kids.

    Pesach is a stressful time. I am lucky to have a part-time job so I could do a lot of work with the kids. But attitude and preparation make the difference. It's not about "why should I be the one to do it" but rather "I'm so lucky that I can be the one . . . "

  • At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anon 1:45

    Very nicely and well put.
    Ayein Od b' about bentching.
    You can read it here:


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