Welcoming the Stranger on Passover

Now that Purim is over, the Jewish community is busily preparing for Passover. As a matter of fact, the Torah reading cycle and the various Sabbaths that anticipate Passover actually have us preparing for weeks – long before Purim even begins. And with the anticipation of Passover comes a proliferation of special seder events, such as the ubiquitous chocolate seder for kids, and, more significantly, the various women’s seders that take place in communities across North America.

Passover is an excellent time to reach out and welcome the “stranger.” It is part of the moral imperative of outreach in Judaism, which is especially poignant for Passover. It is on this holiday that we begin the seder by saying “Let all those who are hungry come and eat.” This doesn’t have to mean just hungry for food – it can also mean hungry for the richness of the Jewish community.

That is why it is important as we plan our home seders, particularly specially themed seders for women, that we make sure to include all of the women in our Jewish community. We need to extend a special invitation to those who are not Jewish but are living in our midst, raising Jewish children. While we welcome the “stranger,” we should make sure they don’t feel like a stranger. Rather we should let them know that they are indeed invited around the table.


  1. What about when we open the door for Eliyahu? Remember that prayer? Not exactly welcoming.

    Comment by Dave — March 30, 2008 @ 9:22 am

  2. That is why he Rabbis raised that custom to sacred levels-way beyond its original intent.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — March 30, 2008 @ 2:28 pm

  3. Curious:

    1)What was original intent of the custom?
    2)Who “raised” it from this original intent?

    Comment by marc — April 7, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

  4. My sense is that you know the answer and are digging for another reason.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 7, 2008 @ 3:52 pm

  5. I actually don’t know the answer. Was it not in the original hagaddah text?

    Comment by marc — April 8, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

  6. The custom emerged from those who wanted to make sure that there were no unfriendly folks waiting outside of the door in order to listen to what was going on inside.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 8, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

  7. Was it instituted later than the rest of the seder? I have never heard that.

    I also think Dave might be incorrect if he is indicating that the prayer we say about G-d punishing our enemies is related to the opening of the door. I think the two are distinct. The door is to welcome Eliyahu who will announce Moshiach. The prayer is a prelude to Hallel. Their juxtaposition indicates some relation, but they are not one in the same.

    Comment by marc — April 9, 2008 @ 10:10 am

  8. They are indeed related even if they are now poetically separated,

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 9, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  9. …and with regard to when they were instituted? I have not found any info on this, but you indicated above there was some change over time.

    Comment by marc — April 9, 2008 @ 10:38 am

  10. The custom is usually traced to the Middle Ages and the period of time in which the blood libel against the Jews was raised. People would “plant” babies in the courtyard of Jews in order to accuse the families of the blood libel. Jewish people would look out their doors to make sure that this was not happening.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 9, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

  11. See, you learn something new every day!

    So if this was its original intent, in what way has it been “elevate” as you indicated above?

    Also, do Sefardic Jews not say this prayer, since it’s related to European blod libel? I have a sefardic haggadah at home but have not opened my Pesach boxes yet to check.

    Comment by marc — April 11, 2008 @ 11:18 am

  12. The Rabbis always elevate things to sacred level. That is why it is not about the blood libel any longer and not about the messianic future. There are a number of customs within the Sephardic community that include opening the door or going outside but they do not have the same original connection.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 11, 2008 @ 11:26 am

  13. When you say “The Rabbis”, to whom are you referring and in which century? Sephardic rabis also, or only European ones?

    Pardon me, but it sounds a bit accusatory…I hear ringing in my ears of “The Jews”.

    Comment by marc — April 24, 2008 @ 11:19 am

  14. The generally accepted practice is the use the term Rabbis (with an initial upper case “R” to the refer to the sages) All other rabbis are referenced with a lower case “r.” And it is not accusatory at all.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 24, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  15. The Sages lived centuries b/f the rabbis to whom you are referring who instituted this custom (post 10). In post 12 you use a capital “R”. That is why I am confused. To who are you referring when you say they “elevated things to sacred level.” ???

    Comment by marc — April 28, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

  16. I am referring to those Rabbis/rabbis understood by our tradition to be included in the sacred texts. I dont think that the specific dating of this particular implemented custom makes a difference in the scheme of Jewish history.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 28, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

  17. I am referring to those Rabbis/rabbis understood by our tradition to be included in the sacred texts. I dont think that the specific dating of this particular implemented custom makes a difference in the scheme of Jewish history.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 28, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

  18. It makes a great deal of difference b/c by saying
    “The R(r)abbis” you merely use a tactic of attacking them personally without indicated whom you are attacking or addressing the substance of what you are claiming they did. Perhaps you are wrong and this text was, when originally inserted, done with the exact same intent we are meant to have when reading it today. But how is anyone to be able to verify or dispute your claim if you refuse to cite actual facts and the individuals supposedly responsible for changing things?

    Since Chazal lived 1500 years or more prior to the insertion of this paragraph into the ashkenazi hagaddah, you cannot be referring to the Rabbis (with a capital ‘R’). Therefore, you must be referring to the rabbis of the middle ages or later. Soooo, out with it. To whom are you referring and what did they do? (And, further, what is it you indicate in post 12 that they “always” do?)

    If you don’t have any evidence, the saying “the R(r)abbis” is really no different than saying “The Jews.” And we all know the ugly road that leads down…it’s bad enough when the non-Jews do it, but I would expect much more from my brethren…especially from a rabbi.

    Comment by marc — April 29, 2008 @ 10:58 am

  19. I am not going to debate this with you because it is based on a misperception. When I used the term rabbis raising something to a sacred level, it was not an insult. It was a description of what takes place throughout rabbinic history. And I am not going to debate when with you when you comments, as always, are littered with insults.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — April 29, 2008 @ 11:14 am

  20. No insults in my comments and no misperceptions here. At first I was just asking for a clarification. Now it is all too clear what you meant when you said “The Rabbis.”

    Comment by marc — April 30, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

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