The 2013 Pew Research study found that the
Passover Seder is the most practiced mitzvah by 21st century Jews in the United
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.
|70% of Jews 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.
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 parshah, which was not
celebrated as a remembrance for a past event, but as a commemoration for an
event that was about to take place. 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 offering on the doorposts and lintels of their homes.
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
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 lintel 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 Passover 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
|The home became a miniature Temple|
Israel were about to emerge from Egypt as a distinct nation, Moses communicated
G‑d’s message to them: 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
traveling Tabernacle and 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 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.