Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Passover 5775) Open the Doors!
Pesach is a special time, when family, friends, and at times random
guests, gather to spend time together. This is particularly the case at
the Seder where there is interaction, sharing of ideas, questions, answers and participating in the Mitzvos associated with the Seder. Sharing our tradition with others is expressed right at the start of the Seder, when we make a proclamation welcoming anyone to join our Seder.
The following question occurred to me: At a later part of the Seder, after we have gone through almost all the steps of the Seder, we fill the cup of Eliyahu – Elijah the prophet – and open the door of our home and proclaim a hearty Boruch Habah – Welcome – to Elijah. We do this because tradition has it that Elijah, in some form, visits our Seder.
Also, when we open up the door we symbolically demonstrate that the Seder night is Lail Shimurim – the night of G-d’s special watchful protection over us. Our open door shows that we depend and rely on G-d’s protective shield.
Here’s the question: Why do we wait until the end of the Seder to open up the door? Why don’t we open the door of our homes in the beginning of the Seder when we are inviting our brethren in?
Perhaps the following approach will give us a deeper appreciation for the function of the Seder.
The word Seder means order. We go through the order of the fifteen steps of the Seder. As we conduct and experience the gradual progression of the Seder we become more spiritually and intellectually stimulated and elevated. As we follow the Hagaddah text, and ask questions and have discussion during the step of Magid, it piques our interest to examine our roots, our history, our travails and our solid belief in G-d’s power and involvement in worldly and daily occurrences.
When we speak about the long servitude and pain our ancestors experienced and that G-d listened to their outcry and responded by sending awesome nature altering plagues, we heighten our awareness of G-d’s intimate involvement in our lives.
We then eat Matzah and Morror, the same fare our ancestors ate on this night before they were miraculously freed from Egypt. We don’t only intellectualize at the Seder, we also go through a physical experience through the process of eating, ingesting, and tasting the Matzah, Morror, Charoses, salt water, and the cups of wine.
The steady and measured development of our spiritual growth leads us to the point when we are ready to appreciate opening of the doors of our homes, where we display our belief in G-d’s special protection and welcome Eliyahu Hanavi into our homes and lives.
There is additional significance to Eliyahu visiting our Seder at this point: Throughout the Talmud, whenever there is an unresolved question, the Talmud says Taiku. Taiku is an acronym referring to Eliyahu, also called Tishbi, the name of the town where he lived. We are saying when Tishbi comes to herald the Messiah, he will answer these queries. Thus Eliyahu is the one who will bring clarity to our unanswered Halachic questions.
Perhaps it is fitting that at this point of the Seder process, after we clarified our questions about our belief in the Almighty and our special bond with Him through our acceptance of the Torah, that we can appreciate and welcome Eliyahu who is the one who will eventually bring clarity to our unresolved matters.
One last thought: Rabbi Aryeh Levine (1885-1969) was known for his compassion and concern for every Jew. In the 1940’s when Jews were imprisoned by the British authorities who ruled Palestine, Reb Aryeh was one of the rare individuals who had permission to visit them. The prisoners loved and revered him.
During the intermediate days of Pesach, Reb Aryeh once visited the prisoners. “How was your Seder?” he asked, genuinely interested in their welfare. One of the prisoners smiled and quipped, “Everything was fine. We were able to fulfill all the requirements of the Seder except for one. When we came to the point of opening up the door, they wouldn’t let us open the door! We didn’t feel the true sense of freedom!”
Reb Aryeh returned the inmate’s smile and said, “You should know that wherever a Jew finds himself, he holds the key to the door of his freedom. We all struggle with the desires of our heart and to some degree feel imprisoned within our own bodies. When we open the door to our hearts and allow ourselves to gain control, we can then attain the ultimate and true spiritual and physical freedom!”
The Seder and Pesach experience is a key to open all doors!
Wishing you a most uplifting and enjoyable Pesach!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family