Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Empty Seats and Extra Seats at the Pesach Seder

My wife asked me today what I think of the idea of leaving an empty place at the Seder table (link) for Gilad Shalit and the other soldiers in captivity. I must say that I think about them daily and their plight must be a terrible one and just as bad for their families.

Nonetheless my instint is that this is not a "Jewish" response. I do understand the sentiment of feeling in a more tangible manner at the Festival of Freedom, that there are Jews who are not free. And yet I am racking my brains to think of any parallel in our literature to something of this vein.

(If you can think of anything - please do post in the comments section!)

After a google search I do realise that this "Empty Chair" thing has been popular for many causes (link, link , link)

My instinct was that when we wish for something good to happen, for evil and torment to stop, we do mitzvot, we pray or give tzedaka or perform greater mitzvot. Rather than leave an empty chair at the Seder, maybe we should fill a few chairs at the Sder, inviting guests.

Did Yishayahu not tell us that : "Zion will be redeemed through Justice AND ITS CAPTIVES THROUGH TZEDAKA"

Remember the Rambam's comments?

"You shall rejoice on your festival.' Even though the Torah here is describing "simcha" in terms of the Chagiga sacrifice ... the celebration of the family is included too. For children, one buys food treats, for women one buys new clothes and jewellery - all in accordance with one's budget, and men eat meat and drink wine
... and when one eats one must include the stranger, the orphan and widow and all the poor who feel neglected. One who closes his front door, eating and drinking with the family, but does not feed the poor and the outcast letting them share his drink, this is not the "celebration of mitzva" (simchat mitzva) but rather a self fulfilling indulgent celebration."

So maybe we should ADD a chair for extra guests rather than an empty place at our tables.

Comments anybody?

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