This Pesach will be a historic event for me. It will mark the first time in 25 years that I will be attending a SECOND seder. You read that right. Shmuel Sackett, Mr Zionist, will be eating Matzo, Marror and Charoses twice!! Allow me to explain.
My wife’s siblings have decided to spend Pesach together in New York. I have to admit that I tried everything possible NOT to do this… but I lost the battle. About 3 hours after Bedikas Chometz, my wife and I will board an EL AL flight to NY and yes, we will land on Erev Pesach at 6am. Thankfully, I heard that Dunkin’ Donuts will still be open so I will have plenty of time to eat that last yummy bit of chometz filled with custard and covered in chocolate glaze (that’s called “going out in style”!!). The plan is to take a nice nap and then come to Seder #1 all rested and ready to go. And then, 24 hours later – just like everyone else reading this article – I will sit and do it all over again.
Trust me that I can get 101 Rabbis to sign a letter why I should NOT have that second seder. After all, I live in Israel and am going back immediately after the Yom Tov. This qualifies me as a “ben Eretz Yisrael” and therefore I should keep just one day, so why am I going to do this? My reason is quite simple. If you have been reading my articles, you understand that my main theme in almost all of them is that we are a Nation. For 2,000 years we were exiled from our land where our “Nation” status was downgraded to “Community” status. It’s like we changed our Facebook status from the Jewish nation to the Jewish community of Lublin, Brisk, Latvia, Morocco or Istanbul. We were no longer one nation but a bunch of Jews scattered all over the world, each one with its own minhagim and traditions. It was in that bitter exile that things changed; from the style of davening to things we are permitted or forbidden to eat. All of a sudden certain Jews would not eat rice or chumus on Pesach while others did. During Hallel on Rosh Chodesh some Jews said a bracha while others did not. In certain communities hundreds of new customs were established and set in stone while in others, very religious Jews had no idea what their brothers and sisters were even doing! Some may look at this as the beauty of expression and individualism but I look at it as one of the biggest punishments our people ever received.
In private life, people have different likes and dislikes. There could be a family of 5 brothers where the first is a vegetarian, the second a vegan, the third eats no gluten, the fourth eats only organic food and the fifth eats everything that money can buy. That’s fine – they are still brothers albeit with different preferences in food. I am not talking about that at all. I am talking about brothers who don’t simply have different wants and desires but different laws and rules that separate them from each other. Things like this break families apart and keep them apart for hundreds of years.
This is what happened in the Galut, when Jews became “Ashkenazim” and “Sefardim” and wound up battling each other to this very day. Even within these worlds there are such different minhagim that in some shuls I feel like a real foreigner. How terrible is that? All of this had the potential to end in 1948 when, in Hashem’s mercy and kindness, He led his mighty soldiers to victory in Israel’s War of Independence. That victory was not just winning a difficult war. It was establishing a homeland for the Jewish people and giving an opportunity for Jews to return home after 2,000 years of being lost in the forest! Yet, what did most of us do? We either came home but made sure to pack our luggage with all the kitniyos restrictions and other European customs or we stayed in London, New York or Johannesburg and let others build the land of our fathers.
Dearest friends, this will be recorded as one of – if not the biggest – blown opportunity in Jewish history! We had the opportunity to reunite as a nation but we chose to remain as communities. How sad… how tragic! The seder night can change all of that. The seder night reunites us as one people and one nation. The Arizal writes that there is no greater time for “Simchas Ha’Shechina” (joy of the Divine presence) than the night of the seder. The Nesivos Shalom explains that the reason for this joy is that in addition to being redeemed, the seder night was the time we became the chosen nation of Hashem and there is no Simcha greater than that! (See Nesivos Shalom on Pesach, essay 6, section 3).
Therefore, I have decided not to be different while in NY. Since according to Halacha, Jews who dwell outside the Land of Israel keep two days of Yom Tov and two seders, I will keep those two days of Yom Tov and two seders together with them! I will not sit at a table where one has Yom Tov and the other does not. We are a NATION… we are ONE… so we will do everything together! If I am in NY for Pesach then I will do what every Yid does in that place. It will not be Chol Hamoed for my wife while her sister is keeping Yom Tov. I will not say Havdallah next to my brother-in-law who will be saying Kiddush and if he eats Maror then I will do so as well!
The only point I want to stress is that the same applies to each and every one of you when you come to Israel for Yom Tov. If I am going to sweat through two seders then you will keep one day of Sukkot. We will not have a situation where religious people are driving in Jerusalem while others are going to shul for their second day of Yom Tov. Remember what I wrote: One nation, one people in one land keeping the same Torah. We cannot allow ourselves to be in the same place but make believe that we are really not there. When in the USA it’s two days – for every one and when in Israel it’s one day – for every one!
Let’s unite and become a nation once again and stop the things that divide us. Next Year in Jerusalem… with one seder!!!